Pilot Officer Richard Griffith Pace
On 20th July, 1927, Pilot Officer Richard Griffith Pace of No.32 squadron, Kenley, became the first pilot to lose his life at Holbeach ranges, The Wash, Lincolnshire, when his Gloster Gamecock (J7907) crashed during target practice, after failing to pull out from a dive.
The accident was reported in the Blyth and Ashington News, on 25th July, 1927:
An eye witness said he saw the machine in flight with its machine gun firing at a target. It had done several dives and was flying towards the sea when it began to lose height. The engine was opened out, but the machine went forward at the same angle and crashed. “I saw the machine flying towards the sea,” said Flight Lieutenant John D. S. Denholme. “The next time I looked I saw what I took to be a cloud of smoke rising from the ground. Immediately after it, I saw a parachute collapse beside it. When I arrived on the scene the pilot was lying unconscious about fifteen yards from the aeroplane.”
The inquiry into Pace’s death, held at Lynn Hospital, recorded a verdict of ‘death from misadventure.’
Holbeach ranges had been established in September 1926 as an air gunnery and bombing range attached to the R.A.F. Practice camp at Sutton Bridge, where 32 squadron were temporarily based on 20th July, 1927.
Earlier in the same day, Flying Officer Andrews of No.19 squadron, had become the first pilot to crash at Holbeach ranges, but he survived and went on to serve at Kenley with No.23 squadron the following year.
Richard Griffith Pace was born 7th May, 1905, in Leyton, Essex, to Harold Everett Pace, a medical practitioner from Hackney and Elizabeth Pace (nee Griffiths) from Anglesey. Richard was one of three children – his brother Harold was working as a tobacconist in 1939 and his sister, Gwendoline was unmarried.
The details of Richard’s enlistment and early service are unknown, but he doesn’t appear on No.32 Squadron’s personnel list dated 31/12/1926, so presumably he joined the squadron after that date, although a Pilot Officer Griffith accompanied Pilot Officer Arthur Leslie Holden on his Christmas Day, 1926, flight between the spans of Tower Bridge – could they be one and the same?
Two months prior to his fatal accident, Richard had been involved in the formation flying collision that resulted in the death of Pilot Officer Arthur Leslie Holden. Holden had asked the two pilots either side of him to close up. Richard Pace, was flying in the starboard position and stated that, “We closed in to about half a span. The weather was very bumpy when Holden’s machine appeared to swing towards me. Then a gust of wind threw my aircraft towards his. I felt no actual impact, but on looking round saw Holden’s machine diving towards the ground.”
Richard Griffith Pace was just 22 years old when he died and was laid to rest in St. Mary the Virgin, Waltham Forest.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.