Avro Avian G-EBVZ; What Price Glory?

‹ Return to Air Crash Sites

Avro Avian G-EBVZ; What Price Glory?

This is one of the saddest crash site stories as it resulted in the death of a child, a bystander watching as the aircraft came in to land.

On Sunday 25 March 1928 a huge crowd had gathered on Hough Hill in Stalybridge. The attraction was the promise of an aeroplane landing in a field above the town to deliver a can of film containing the First World War comedy drama “What Price Glory?” (a silent movie, but one which received notoriety after lipreaders pointed out the foul language the actors were using!)

It was a publicity stunt organised by the manager of the New Prince’s Cinema, Milton W Parker. The job of delivering the new movie was taken up by Walter Samuel Browning, a man who, according to the Official Notices to Members of the Royal Aero Club, had only the week earlier been granted his Aviator’s Certificate.

Milton W Parker and Walter S Browning are the villains in this story.

Initially 20,000 people had turned up at 2pm for the event, but Browning circled above the field in his club aircraft before realising he was unable to do the job; the field he had agreed with Parker as a suitable landing place was too small at less than 200 yards long and too dangerous with the people crowding around and sat on the walls at the edge. The fog didn’t help either, so Browning turned back to Lancashire Aero Club at Woodford to find someone who would be able to land a plane there and make the delivery.

The heroine of this silent drama is Miss Winnifred Sawley Brown. She was 29 years old and a more experienced aviator than Browning. Making a social visit to the aerodrome, Miss Brown had been approached by Browning who asked her to undertake the job, adding that the delivery of the film was urgent.

So in her Avian G-EBVZ – a birthday present from her father two years earlier, she flew the 11 or so miles north to Stalybridge to deliver the can of film, with Browning as a passenger. And although the pilot had her headset on and could hear her passenger, Browning hadn’t bothered, evidently deciding there was nothing the female aviator could tell him that was of any importance.

Miss Brown flying Avian G-EBVZ

The crowd had reduced to 12,000 by the time Avian G-EBVZ appeared overhead. Miss Brown circled the field a few times with mounting anxiety about the spot pointed out by Browning and at the surging crowd, the people oblivious to the danger an aircraft might pose. Among these was a group of children including 7 year old Jack Hood, known to all as ‘Jackie’. The kids were on the far wall, which had a second, higher wall, just behind it. That wall has now gone, but the ruined inner wall on which they were stood is pictured above.

Miss Brown made a few attempts at landing, but pulled up quickly each time because of the crowd in front of her. To avoid hitting the people with the wheels of the aircraft, her final approach was made long with the wheels touching the grass halfway down the field. It was dead calm in the shelter of the walled field and her Avian simply floated over the grass, not slowing down at all.

Miss Brown quickly decided to try to abandon the landing and put the power on again, trying to lift the plane over the crowd of people at the end of the field. As the Avian roared towards them, the crowd just thought it was all part of the show, and threw their hats into the air.

Alas the aircraft struck the inner wall and came to a halt against the outer wall. In addition to young Jackie Hood who died of severe head injuries, six other children who hadn’t been able to get out of the way quickly enough were treated for injuries and shock, including Jackie’s older sister Edith. Jackie was from the Stamford Park area of Stalybridge and had attended the Hob Hill Day School. I understand his family emigrated shortly afterwards.

At the inquest a month later, Winnifred Sawley Brown was completely exonerated. She had not been told that the field would be so small, and also that far from being urgent, she had not been told that there was no film in the can anyway! It was a bad trick to play on the people, Milton Parker admitting the plan had always been for the movie to be delivered by road, old film being too flammable to risk carrying by aircraft.

As for Browning, when asked about the difficulties posed by the chosen field, he dismissed Miss Brown’s skills, adding that he would have been able to land a plane there. To which the coroner replied, “So why didn’t you?”

Miss Winifred Sawley Brown

http://www.afleetingpeace.org/index.php/women-pioneers

In 1930, flying the same Avian, Winnifred Sawley Brown won the 750 mile King’s Cup Air Race (which still takes place), a surprise to all as her entry as “one of the fairer sex” had been largely ignored. The next woman to win the race would be, according to Cunningham, in 1981. I have been unable to confirm this though, can find no record of there being a race in that year?

The site is very different now. The field is beneath a housing estate, but the wall on which the group of children watched the events remains. In the photo above, the Avian approached from the right, so the now demolished wall against which it came to rest was just to the left.

An Avro Avian at Manchester, this is G-EBZM

Most of the known details regarding this incident were researched by Pat Cunningham and presented in Peakland Air Crashes – The North, 2006
Additional info from the Stalybridge Reporter.
www.tamesidereporter.com/

37 comments on “Avro Avian G-EBVZ; What Price Glory?
  1. rob of rochdale says:

    What a superb documentary Ian!

    I know it’s tragic subject matter but it’s riveting stuff to read mate.

    Well done for posting this, most interesting read I’ve had for a while!

  2. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/9809244@N05]
    thank you very much!

  3. andyholmfirth says:

    Compelling read and so tragic an event.

  4. mick cooke says:

    yes ian great story, and a great landscape as well
    all the best

  5. cgullz says:

    what an incredible slice of history. the description was so well written i felt i was watching a movie of the events. exceptional work Ian.

  6. Mustang Koji says:

    Excellent writing, Ian. You have many talents for which we are grateful. May the soul of Jackie Hood rest in peace…

  7. SolarScot. says:

    really interesting and very sad

  8. **Hazel** says:

    Wow, Ian, what an amazing story, so sad for the people of the village!! What a trick to play!!
    Such a pretty landscape belies the tragedy which occurred in it’s midst!!!!!:-(

  9. gastephen says:

    Such a tragic tale.

    ~ Graham ~
    Drop by my photostream!

  10. Richard Tierney says:

    Local history long forgotten brought to life yet again Ian. One wonders at all the local history long forgotten, never known by today’s generation, still there to be seen and or rediscovered.. I can remember my Dad telling me about Sir Alan Cobham arriving with his small group of aeroplanes, in the 1930’s landing in a field to the South of Bolton and running a flying circus and taking people up for pleasure flights in an old Avro 504K.. no crashes but one can get a sense of the wonderment of "normal" folk seeing these "intrepid" aviators 🙂 Some 20,000 people turned up to see an aeroplane! Can you imagine kids today getting excited about what today is an everyday occurrence?

    Great research and presentation once again Ian… here in the NW we have a long and proud history of being right there in the forefront of aviation and its development. Lancashire Aero Club then at Woodford now at Barton, Eccle, is the oldest private flying club in the UK

  11. EverydayTuesday says:

    Very interesting (and sad), indeed. Great piece!

  12. C J Paul (chris) says:

    man brilliant work again ian.
    got something in my i and feeling cold now will be back later.

  13. Mark McKie says:

    What an amazing story Ian,Well done mate.

  14. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/16208144@N06] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/27872776@N04] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/7717915@N02] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/11563376@N03] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/25464991@N04] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/7949465@N06] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/50742523@N05] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/16400953@N02] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29730035@N04] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29551624@N03]

    Many thanks everyone, and thanks for taking the time to read it – there was a lot to get through.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/7749921@N04]

    Cheers Richard. Can you imagine that, a bunch of aircraft turning up and offering pleasure flights! Must’ve been really exciting. Quite agree re; local history, we have loads of history all around us. I love finding stuff out, people at work mention a bomb falling during the war, or a neighbour mentions a plane crash up the road…. Bit of searching around in the library and the internet and it all emerges!

  15. Pleasureprinciple2012 says:

    Ian, cracking story again, read through it twice. A well presented bit of research and story telling, makes it very easy to go through and to want to keep on reading, am off to check up on the links you gave, beats sitting watching the old box these days!

  16. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/25405934@N07]

    Thanks Colin, you read it twice?? Yeah, there’s nowt on TV is there. Only occasionally I see something worth watching. We’d be very bored without t’internet.

  17. bill_fawcett says:

    Just a superb account of a sad incident! Well done.

  18. pasujoba says:

    Done a great write up on it Ian , and it was worth doing afterall as you very clearly demonstrate:-)

  19. Keartona says:

    One heck of a riveting story. Very sad for the family of the child.
    Both the film and the aeroplane would have been so novel to people of that age. I can just imagine the curiosty but also the naivety of the bystanders.

  20. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/55833562@N00] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/32431958@N07] [http://www.flickr.com/photos/27955898@N07]

    Thanks guys.
    You are right Andrew, they must have both been technological wonders, moving images and flying machines!

    There was a programme on BBC4, The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon. Edwardian film makers who would record silent movies of local people then charge them to watch them. People paid gladly for the novelty. Wouldn’t be allowed now, we’d want paying!

    If anyone’s interested, this is the documentary on BBC i-player, dunno how long it will be available for. Or just search YouTube for Mitchell & Kenyon.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0074r81/The_Lost_World_of_...

  21. And who am i says:

    Ian the Hill in question i look upon everyday from my Kitchen window. I have walked up to the Trig point many times. But never new of the tragedythat happened there.

    I cannot make out which side of the hill it is on? Is it the Matley Lane side?

    Thanks
    Andy

  22. And who am i says:

    Ian the Hill in question i look upon everyday from my Kitchen window. I have walked up to the Trig point many times. But never new of the tragedythat happened there.

    I cannot make out which side of the hill it is on? Is it the Matley Lane side?

    Thanks
    Andy

  23. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/42423575@N00]
    Hi Andy,

    It’s slightly misleading when I say Hough Hill, this place is about 500m west of the trig point.

    Cunningham paced out the distances and arrived at an exact grid reference of
    SJ 96284 97461.

    Please see Google map here, the spot where Jackie Hood and his pals were stood is marked B.

    Miss Brown brought her Avian in from the south, and the field is now beneath Winchester Road.

    maps.google.co.uk/maps?saddr=Stalybridge,+Tameside,+UK&am…

  24. And who am i says:

    Cheers Ian. Know where it is now.

  25. And who am i says:

    Cheers Ian. Know where it is now.

  26. f3liney says:

    Ian, I have to say what you do on here is excellent. Properly researched crash site stories, sensitively approached and very well written. Keep up the good work.

  27. stuant63 says:

    Tragic story – but what a fascinating read. Brilliant write up and great research as ever – great stuff Ian. So very sad that it was all just a stunt with an empty film can.

  28. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    Wonderful.

  29. terrymace says:

    An easier-to-follow link to Winnie’s biography is here:

    http://www.afleetingpeace.org/index.php?option=com_content&v...

  30. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/76655820@N06]
    That’s a much better link Terry, cheers. Will post in the in main text as well.

  31. Dave T says:

    I grew up on an estate within a few hundred yards of the crash site and still live in the town today.

    I am about to publish an article as this week was the anniversary of the crash and it is a long forgotten story in many parts of the town.

    I’m interested to know if you researched the little boys family and their background in the years before the crash? There is reference to him living in the Stamford Park area and attending Hob Hill School which still stood when I was a kid. Who were his parents? Had they been in the area a long time? Along with many other questions I have in my head.

    I will be investigating as much as possible and would appreciate any pointers. Should I find anything you may be interested in I will post again here.

    Thank you for keeping an old memory alive.

    Dave T

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for commenting. I will take a look at the few resources I have, see if there is any more about the boy’s family, but I think I added what there was. Where is your article being published? Feel free to link to it or copy it here and as you say, anything else you find would be very welcome.
      Ian

  32. Dave L says:

    Only just seen this Ian – a very sad tale but excellently covered here as usual, fascinating stuff and an episode probably not known to many including current locals ?

    Keep up the good work

    Dave

  33. Graham Summers says:

    Hi Ian, Well done on presenting a tragic tale in such a fantastic way. As others have mentioned , it is the telling of stories like this, which stops them disappearing forever. and not least RIP To those affected by this tragedy, especially Jackie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*