Wednesday 30 June 1915 – We Lost 294

by greatwarliveslost


Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers

The torpedo boat destroyer HMS Lightning (Lieutenant D Cavendish, survives) is sunk when it strikes a mine in the English Channel.  Fifteen members of the crew are killed.  On the same day an explosion on HMS Egmont kills three members of the crew of that ship.

The 8th and 9th Australian Light Horse hold Walker’s Ridge and Russell’s Top on Gallipoli against an attack.

Today’s losses include:

  •  A Scottish aviation pioneer
  • A man whose brother will be killed in April 1918
  • The son of a member of the clergy

Today’s highlighted casualties are:

Flight Sub Lieutenant Preston Albert Watson (Royal Naval Air Service) is accidentally killed at age 34.  He was a Scottish aviation pioneer, who is sometimes said to have been the first true aviator. He is supposed to have made and controlled motorized flight with a heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903 – thus predating the Wright brother’s flight.

This claim has however been discredited by the aviation historian Charles Gibbs-Smith in the book “The Aeroplane”. The man behind the “Powered Flight Before the Wrights” myth was Preston’s brother, James, who made the claim in 1953, 50 years after the supposed flight. James would later clear up the issue in an article, which was published in the December 1955 issue of the magazine Aeronautics, explaining that the aircraft in question had been an un-powered glider.

The actual date of Watson’s first powered flight has not been fully established some evidence seems to point out that the flight could not have been earlier that 1910 as his second aircraft, powered by a 30 hp Humber, was produced that year.  The story of him acquiring an engine from Santos-Dumont could not have taken place earlier than 1909, since the engine fitted to his first aircraft was a 1909 – 1910 Dutheil Chalmers four cylinder 20 hp engine. The Curator of Aviation and the French Musee de L’Air at Le Bourget in Paris verified this from photographs of the engine fitted to his first aircraft.

Preston Watson seems to have built three aeroplanes, one in 1909, one in 1910 and the last one in 1913. Only the last two got airborne under their own power. Two grainy photographs are the earlies showing one of his aircraft in flight. These pictures are found in the 15 May 1914 issue of Flight magazine. These show his second machine in flight at Errol in Perthshire in 1912.

There is no substantial evidence to support the claim Watson flew anything in 1903, the eyewitness accounts cannot be relied on for accuracy or consistency since they were made at least fifty years after 1903. He was only 22 years old at the time, and never made such a claim himself.

  • Lance Corporal Samuel Thomas Tabrett (East Kent Regiment) is killed in action. His brother will be killed in April 1918.
  • Sapper Teesdale Walton (Royal Engineers) dies of wounds received in action. He is the son of the Reverend R Walton.