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NigelS

Capt. Keith Lucas, RFC; DSc. FRS – Aero Boffin

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NigelS

Capt. Keith Lucas is buried at Aldershot Military Cemetery. His non CWGC grave marker gives details of his career both before and during the war.

post-5512-1253659717.jpg

KEITH LUCAS

CAPTAIN IN THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS

FELLOW AND LECTURER OF TRINITY COLLEGE

AND DOCTOR OF SCIENCE IN

THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

FELLOW OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY

-----------------

IN PEACE HIS POWER OF SCIENTIFIC INSIGHT

AND HIS SKILL IN MECHANICAL CONTRIVANCE

HAD ENABLED HIM TO OPEN NEW PATHS IN

THE STUDY OF THE PROCESSES OF LIFE

------------------

IN THE WAR WHEN THE FREEDOM OF MANKIND

AND THE CAUSE OF TRUTH WERE AT STAKE

HE DEVOTED HIS THESE GIFTS TO THE SERVICE

OF HIS COUNTRY IN DEVISING NEW MEANS

FOR GUIDING THE FLIGHT OF AIR-CRAFT

AND FOR STRENGTHENING THE WEAPONS

OF AERIAL WARFARE

------------------

IN MID-AIR OVER SALISBURY PLAIN

HE WAS KILLED ON OCTOBER 5TH 1916

IN HIS 38 TH YEAR

His Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) entry, and other sources, relate that pre war he was an outstanding scientist researching physiology (specifically in 'physico-chemical properties of nerves and muscles'(!) in which, by 1914, he was considered to be leader in that field) with an aptitude for developing instrumentation of ‘remarkable ingenuity, elegance, and precision’. As well as carrying out teaching and research, he was also a director of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company. On the outbreak of War he joined the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough where he investigated complaints from the Western Front that the existing aircraft compasses were of little use. Through his researches he discovered that errors were being caused by vibration and, more significantly, the vertical component of the earth's magnetic field when an aircraft turned off a northerly course which lead to the development of the RAF Mark II compass. He also worked on bomb aiming devices, developing the first type to use gyroscopic control, and developed the 'photo-kymograph' to accurately measure aircraft oscillations. In 1916, Having previously used the services of a test pilot for his airborne experiments, he decided that it would be of benefit to his work if he could fly himself. Tragically, while undergoing training at Upavon, he was killed when his plane collided with another on the 5th October.

In an earlier thread there is a picture of an accident stated as being at Charter Alley (near Tadley, Hants, Map ref SU 595 575) involving one of the planes said to have been involved in the collision:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...st&p=491140

and a reply giving:

My BE file has :-

4174 CFS Upavon by 3.7.1916 and crashed after collision with 5389 5.10.1916 (2Lt GPL Jacques killed).

5389 CFS Upavon crashed 5.10.1916 after collision with 4174 (Capt K Lucas killed).

If my interpretation of this is correct Lucas would have been piloting 5389 & Jaques 4174 (the aircraft shown in the photo); a further photo of the same accident, but from a different viewpoint, which clearly shows 4174 on the tail is given on another forum ( http://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/forum_topic...e=Winged+Heroes )

I'm wondering whether these two photos are not of the accident in which Lucas & Jacques were killed but an earlier one from which 4174 was recovered; the photo doesn't, at least to my inexpert eye, appear to show collision damage and does look more like a forced but comparatively 'soft' landing (although the fact the plane is inverted could have resulted in a death.) Charter Alley is quite some distance from Upavon but probably not so distant that it couldn't have been the site of the accident if a cross country training flight was involved, although the grave marker does say 'over Salisbury Plain'

A letter in Flight International of the 6th March 1971, relating to Upavon, from Lord Balfour of Inchrye about his service there gives:

…..I joined about July 1916 from flying Morane Bullets in France. Major Mills commanded. Capt Mayor, part pilot, part scientist, Lt Lindemann (Lord Cherwell), Capt Tizard and Lt Garnett (scientist) were part of the gang. Lucas, of the Lucas compass fame, had been killed very recently in a collision between two B.E.s over Jenners Firs....

Jenner's Firs is near Upavon (Map ref SU 175 544), and would be a more likely site for the fatal collision, although an 1927 version of his ODNB entry gives 'Lucas met his death when flying near Aldershot..' (the current version gives: 'he attended a flying course at Upavon, where he was tragically killed....')

Unfortunately, none of this information is from primary sources, so could be wrong (particularly the information given about the photos), which doesn't help; Does anyone out there have any further knowledge of 4174's history, the accident shown in the photos, or the fatal events of October 5th 1916 which curtailed the life of a scientist who could have gone on to make further advancements in both physiology and instrumentation?

NigelS

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mickdavis

4174's inverted photo certainly doesn't look fatal and I agree there's no evidence of a collision. Jacques was in 4174 and Lucas in 5389. in the fatal accident. The fact that Lucas was buried at Aldershot (he wasn't native to Hampshire) suggests that the accident took place near Farnborough (otherwise he'd have been buried near Upavon or his body would have been returned to his family). Balfour was pretty accurate in his recollections but Jenner's Firs would seem unlikely, yet he suggested Lucas with the CFS. CWGC has Hampshire Aircraft Park as Lucas' unit (there wasn't such a unit - the Southern Aircraft Depot is the nearest possibilty). I'm tempted to think that the collision occurred shortly after take-off on a collection flight of 5389 from Farnborough, with 4174 (recorded as being with CFS in July) being the transport machine.

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Doc2

There is a small aviation museum at Farnborough (the old Balloon shop buildings) which has a decent collection of information on people who died in early aviation in the UK, with emphasis on those who died in test flights and aircraft development at Farnborough. I suspect they might be able to help you out with some more information. He will certainly appear in their roll of honor of early flight deaths.

http://www.airsciences.org.uk/museum.html

Doc

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