#1607 – Reginald Warneford
Brompton Cemetery, 12th May 2016.
I’ve posted a lot of images of graves and tombstones over the last couple of weeks, but the cemetery in Brompton holds some interesting tales as well. The cemetery is the final resting places of notable names such as Emmeline Pankhurst and and Richard Tauber, but there are also other interesting characters like Reginald Warneford.
Warneford was initially posted to 2 Wing on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent but was quickly (7 May 1915) posted to an operational unit with 1 Wing at Veurne on the Belgian coast. Over the next few weeks, Warneford was involved in attacks on German troops and guns, as well as actions against enemy aircraft. His aggressiveness and effectiveness led to his being given his own aircraft and a roving commission.
On 17 June 1915, Warneford received the award of Légion d’honneur from the French Army Commander in Chief, General Joffre. Following a celebratory lunch, Warneford travelled to the aerodrome at Buc in order to ferry an aircraft for delivery to the RNAS at Veurne. Having made one short test flight, he then flew a second flight, carrying an American journalist, Henry Beach Newman, as passenger. During a climb to 200 feet, the righthand wings collapsed leading to a catastrophic failure of the airframe. Accounts suggest that neither occupant was harnessed and were both thrown out of the aircraft, suffering fatal injuries. In the case of Newman, death was instantaneous.
Warneford died of his injuries on the way to hospital. He was buried at Brompton Cemetery, London on 21 June 1915 in a ceremony attended by thousands of mourners. The grave lies in front of the eastern colonnade.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, Somerset, England.