A Fatal Air Accident In Golders Green

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago
A Fatal Air Accident In Golders Green
A Handley Page O-400, similar to the one that crashed. Photo: Wikicommons

"Pull us out, pull us out!" came the cries. But while the fire of the plane wreck raged on, there was little that Mrs Raymond could do.

Raymond had just become the one and only eye-witness of Britain's first ever fatal scheduled passenger flight. She'd also been lucky: "I thought at first it was going to crash into my house," she later recalled.

The plane did, however hit someone's house.

The plane crashed into a house and garden in Basing Hill, less than 400 metres from Golders Green station. Image: Google

Shortly after departing Cricklewood Aerodrome around noon on 15 December 1920 — and almost certainly blighted by mist — the Handley Page O/400 clipped the top branches of a "sturdy oak" in the garden of a Golders Green house on Basing Hill. The plane ricocheted, ploughing into the roof and back wall of a house of the elderly Miss Robinson.

Then, according to a report from the Dundee Courier, "the aeroplane... crashed into the little back garden, digging an immense hole and demolishing a short woden [sic] fence and scullery of the house, and immediately burst into flames."  

From the Dundee Courier, 15 December 1920. © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board

No one on the ground was harmed, but some on board the plane weren't so fortunate. Although four managed to free themselves from the craft before it went up in flames, both pilots, and two of the four passengers were killed. The heat was initially too fierce for the Hendon Fire Brigade to approach, and, as Raymond's account suggests, the deaths must have been slow and agonising.

Manufacturer Handley Page had cut its teeth making craft in Creekmouth, before moving to the roomier Cricklewood in 1912. It had only started operating London to Paris flights in 1919. One year later, it had already written an unenviable chapter in the history of aviation.

Last Updated 14 February 2017