Sergeant Cecil Alfred Arthur Fell
On 13th February 1930, Sergeant Cecil Alfred Arthur Fell of No.32 (Fighter) squadron, Kenley, was killed in a flying accident, having jumped from his Armstrong Whitworth Siskin (J9190?)when the controls became jammed. He failed to deploy his parachute for reasons that remain obscure.
Cecil Alfred Arthur Fell was born on 30th December 1902 and baptised in Bilton, Warwickshire in January 1903. His parents were John and Minnie Rebecca Fell. John had been a Colour Sergeant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at Budbrooke barracks, before serving as Sergeant Instructor to the Old Volunteers for many years. During this time, he lived at the Old Barracks, Northgate St. Subsequently, he worked for 23 years as a school attendance officer in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
At the time of his death, Sergeant Cecil Fell was living at 40 Money Rd, Caterham.
On the afternoon of his fatal accident, Sgt. Fell had flown Sgt. Arthur King, one of 32 Squadron’s carpenters, over to Biggin Hill, to examine a damaged aircraft. He was going to return later to pick him up, so on leaving the dual-control Siskin, Sgt. King strapped his parachute in to the rear cockpit, and Fell returned to Kenley without incident. It only took about ten minutes for King to complete his work at Biggin and Fell returned to collect him, but to King’s surprise, he didn’t land, but flew past at about 15-20ft off the ground. King thought the pilot’s gestures indicated that another party would pick him up later, and felt no alarm when he saw Fell make a turn to the left and head back towards Kenley, because the Siskin seemed to be flying well and under control.
At Kenley, Fell flew round and round the aerodrome, and at 4.15pm, Flight Lieutenant Charles Frederick Le Poer Trench was instructed to go up and fly alongside Fell. The witnesses on the ground at Kenley had realised that something was jamming the controls of Fell’s aircraft and surmised the parachute in the back had come loose and fallen onto the controls in the rear cockpit. Trench directed Fell to perform a loop in the hope that the parachute would fall out, but Fell was unable to comply. Finally, Trench directed the other pilot to climb and head towards Epsom, where the countryside was open and there would be less chance of civilian deaths from the crashing machine when he baled out. They climbed to 6000ft, but Fell dived to the left, and although at first he seemed to be under control, at 2000ft the aircraft dived again, vertically, at which point the parachute in the rear seat fell out. Just after, Fell leapt from the Siskin but failed to pull the ripcord of his parachute – a Doctor at the inquest put this down to blind panic. Pilot and aircraft plummeted into the ground next to the tennis court at Admiral Goodenough’s residence in Coulsdon, where the force of the impact hammered the Siskin’s engine 6ft into the ground. The spare parachute that had caused the accident was found about 50 yards away. Tragically, Fell had jumped between 1500-1000ft – if he had pulled the ripcord, he would have survived.
Stanley James Bloss, a gardener, of ‘The Cottage,’ Parson’s Pightle, Coulsdon, was in the grounds when he heard the aircraft crash nearby. Running to the scene he saw the pilot lying 30 yards from the crash, and immediately sent word to the aerodrome for an ambulance and fire engine. He felt the tremor of a pulse, and sent his boy for brandy, but the dying pilot couldn’t take it, so he soaked the corner of his handkerchief and moistened Fell’s lips. By the time the fire engine arrived, there was no sign of life. Cecil had suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull and broken back.
Extensive tests and enquiries were undertaken at Kenley to ascertain how the parachute had become loose, but all agreed that it had been secured to Sgt. Fell’s satisfaction before he took off. At the enquiry into the accident, the coroner returned a verdict of accidental death and commended Mr. Bloss for the prompt aid he had rendered to the deceased pilot.
Here is a report on the incident from “Aeroplane,” 26th February, 1930.
“An inquest was held at Kenley on February 17 on the body of Sergeant Fell, who was killed on February 13 in a flying accident. Sergeant King said he saw Sergeant Fell flying towards him in a two-seater Siskin about 20 feet from the ground. The parachute in the rear cockpit was strapped in to the satisfaction of Sergeant Fell. Asked of the parachute could become mixed up with the control, Sergeant King said that depended on chance. F/L Trench said he saw Sergeant Fell flying round and round and though that something was jamming his control in the back sear. The speaker flew up alongside him and made signs to him to perform cpertain evolutions which would drop the parachute out of the back seat. Sergeant Fell tied to loop but failed. Sergeant Fell finally made signs that he was going to jump and followed the speaker to a height of about 6,000 feet. Suddenly Sergeant Fell left the other machine and dived down to about 4,000 feet. Then the machine went out of control and Sergeant Fell left his machine with his parachute. F/L Trench said that he landed and motored to the spot where the machine fell. He found that Fell had not pulled the parachute cord. The control had been jammed by something which might have been a parachute or a cap. Dr W. Stalker said that he thought that the strain had caused Fell to lose control of his mental facilities. That would account for his not pulling the cord of his parachute.”
Sgt. Fell was laid to rest in Overleigh Old Cemetery, Cheshire, on Wednesday, 19th February, 1930.
Rest in Peace, Sergeant Fell and thank you for your service.