The second Blériot 155 which crashed near Tonbridge

Submitted to the Folkestone Herald

This month, John Simpson tells the little-known story of an airliner crash a few miles from Lympne in the 1920s.

On April 18, 1926, an Air Union Blériot 155 was bound for Croydon after taking off from Le Bourget, Paris. There were thirteen people on board – 11 passengers, the pilot and a mechanic.

In poor weather and with engine failure reported over the English Channel, the aircraft registration F-AIEB and named Wilbur Wright, made a forced landing at College Farm, Hurst, near Aldington, Kent.

During the descent, it cut through the roof of a barn and hit three piles of trees, before crashing to the ground, narrowly missing a farmer and two farmhands.

The farmer and his workers helped rescue the survivors by carrying them into the barn on improvised stretchers using farm hedges.

Two survivors had managed to escape from the wreckage unaided, but the others were seriously injured mainly from multiple broken bones.

Ambulances came from Lympne, Ashford and Hythe airfield, taking the injured to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone.

Two people were confirmed dead – an Italian Hugo Rizzi and Robert Blaney of Boston, Massachusetts – and the French pilot, Mons De Lisle, died the following day from his injuries.

The survivors included seven from the United States, four from the United Kingdom and the French mechanic.

The inquest at College Farm on August 19, 1926 returned verdicts of accidental death for all three, with the passengers dying of punctured lungs.

Of the two Blériot 155s built, the other was also lost, in October 1926, on the same course, coming to failure at Leigh, near Tonbridge in West Kent.

All on board were killed, after the plane caught fire over the English Channel and failed to make an emergency landing at Penshurst airfield.

The Lympne Airfield History Society meeting on 5 July was the last at Lympne Castle. Rob Beale told the story of Westenhanger Aerodrome, which opened in 1909 and predates Lympne Aerodrome. It was also used during World War II.

The company’s search for a new home has been successfully concluded. Meetings will now take place at Lympne Parish Church, next to Lympne Castle, with a small entrance fee to cover room hire.

The next meeting will take place on monday september 12, but will revert to the first Tuesday of the month from November. The subject and presenter have yet to be confirmed at press time.

For more information about Lympne Airfield History Society call 01303 265078 or email [email protected]

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