Today we are remembering Second Lieutenant Kenneth Wastell.
23rd March 2018 marks the centenary of his tragic death following the collision of his plane into the spire of St Ives Parish Church. - -
At 6.30pm on Saturday 23rd March, 1918, the spire of St Ives Parish Church was hit by an aircraft. Most of the spire was demolished and the pilot of the aircraft was killed. The bombing of two world wars caused great devastation, but All Saints' is still the only parish church in this country to have actually been hit by an aircraft. 100 years later, we still do not know why the crash happened.
The pilot was Second Lieutenant Kenneth Wastell. He was just 19 years old and came from Birmingham. He was flying a De Havilland DH6, serial number C5453. This type of aircraft was used for training at Wyton from about 1917. The plane was flying north-east when it hit the spire. It’s wreckage fell into the north aisle. Most of the church spire collapsed into the south aisle. Newspaper accounts agreed that the pilot had landed his aircraft on Hemingford Meadow. One story claimed that he had asked directions to the Royal Flying Corps airfield at Wyton (It was quite normal in these early days of flying for pilots who had lost their way to land and ask for directions!). However, it is more likely that this account was a cover- up for the fact that the airman was carrying a passenger against regulations whilst he was still learning to fly. An eyewitness, Freddy Favell (aged 15), said: 'We watched as the plane landed on the meadow opposite and a member of the RFC got out. He had come to St Ives for a Saturday night out. He was a sergeant. The pilot then turned the plane round, revved the engine and took off'. So why did he hit the spire? The Board of Enquiry dismissed mechanical failure and blamed the accident on pilot error - maybe bad visibility or inexperience?
We shall never know for certain. - - #pilot #churchspire #stivescambs #localhistory #socialhistory #rafwyton #houghtonandwyton #memorial #centenary #commemoration #history #heritage #huntingdonshire #huntingdonshireheritage #lieutenant #kennethwastell #ww1