Victims remembered 100 years after crash

Lord Mayor of Oxford Alan Armitage lays a wreath by the plaque at Airmen’s Bridge, Wolvercote

The wreckage of the plane

First published in News Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

A bugler sounded The Last Post yesterday to remember those killed in the county’s first air crash.

Pilot Lieutenant Claude Bettington, 30, and his senior, Second Lieutenant Edward Hotchkiss, 28, died 100 years ago when their plane crashed near the toll bridge at Godstow Road, Wolvercote.

Yesterday’s special ceremony at noon, organised by the Wolvercote Local History Society, was attended by more than 100 people keen to mark the milestone.

Society president Ann Spokes Symonds organised the event after Jericho resident Paul Hornby wrote to the Oxford Mail calling for the occasion to be observed.

Yesterday she said she was pleased with the turnout and added the remembrance event had helped spread the word of the tragic event a century ago.

She said most villagers had known about the plaque, but not necessarily the full story.

She said: “History is very important.

“We had people of all ages here, which was good. And I think they were glad to know a lot more about it.”

A commemorative plaque was installed on Airmen’s Bridge in 1913 after a fundraising effort from more than 2,000 people, including villagers.

After the ceremony – which was attended by representatives from RAF Brize Norton and the Royal British Legion – Lord Mayor of Oxford Alan Armitage laid a wreath by the plaque.

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Participants then toured an exhibition about the crash at The Trout pub. Peter Davis, 65, of Bampton, loaned a piece of wood salvaged from the wreckage.

He said marking the event had helped renew interest in the story of the crash.

He said: “The people of Wolvercote have always known about the tragic event but with all the publicity recently there has been a wider audience in Oxfordshire.

“It was the first air crash in Oxfordshire and the first loss of life to aviation in Oxfordshire.”

Daphne Robbins, 83, of Headley Way, donated the wood to Mr Davis after appealing for a new owner through the Oxford Mail in 2005.

It had been found by her father-in-law Edward Robbins when he was 13.

She said: “We are glad it’s now somewhere it’s been recognised. It could have been thrown out as rubbish.”

Lt Bettington, whose family came from New Zealand, died after he was flung from the aircraft, and Second Lt Hotchkiss died in the wreckage.

Lt Bettington had served as a young officer with the Royal Artillery before joining the Royal Flying Corps.

Second Lt Hotchkiss was Chief Test Pilot for the Bristol Aircraft Company.

The plane had set off from Salisbury.

Gillian Chapman, chairman of the local history group, said she was surprised by the turnout, adding: “We couldn’t have envisaged that.”

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