Pilot Officer Noel Arthur Ireland
On 30th September 1931, the tricky Bristol Bulldog claimed a life when No.23 squadron’s Pilot Officer Noel Arthur Ireland failed to recover from a spin while practicing aerobatics.
It was reported at the time that, “The pilot may have been climbing too steeply.” The Bulldog Mk.IIA (K1674) plummeted to earth near Coulsdon Rise in the garden of a house called ‘The Mount’.
The ‘Western Daily News’ reported on the crash on the 1st October 1931:
“The pilot appeared to be trying to straighten out the machine after having looped the loop, when it dived at a tremendous speed to earth. It came to rest a crumpled wreck in the back garden of a house. The pilot had evidently made some attempt to leave the machine, as he was found on one of the wings with his parachute partly open. It is believed that the machine came from Kenley Aerodrome.The machine missed the house in the garden of which it fell by about 20 yards.”
“Gloucester Citizen” had this to say on 30th September, 1931:
“The machine missed the house in the garden of which it fell by about 20 yards. An eye witness said it got suddenly into a spin and came down like a falling leaf. Mrs. Piggott, of Downs Rd, Coulsdon, said that she saw the pilot climb on to one of the wings as the ‘plane was coming down, and he was clinging to the wing when it crashed.”
PILOT OFFICER NOEL ARTHUR IRELAND was born in Chile, in 1904, to parents Sydney Richard Ireland and his wife Hilda Margarita. The family returned to England in 1910 and the 1911 census shows them living at 1 Bushmead Ave, Bedford, with one servant and a governess. Noel’s brother Anthony was born in Peru and had a successful career as a stage and screen actor on both sides of the Atlantic.
Pilot Officer Ireland arrived at Kenley only three days before his fatal crash, having been posted there straight from the flying school at Grantham. The inquest into his death recorded a verdict of ‘death by misadventure’. Full service honours were accorded at Ireland’s funeral at St. Luke’s, Whyteleafe, with his coffin draped in the Union flag, placed on an aeroplane trailer drawn by an Air Force lorry, followed by members of his squadron. His Father was also buried at St. Luke’s in 1941 and his brother joined them in 1957.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.