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Haunting photograph shows Rolls Royce pioneer’s last moments before he was killed in Britain’s first ever fatal air crash
- Previously-unseen image shows Charles Rolls’ final few seconds before his death
- Rolls’ plane snapped in two 80ft in the air causing him to plummet to the ground
A photograph showing Rolls Royce pioneer Charles Rolls’ last moments before he was killed in Britain’s first plane crash have been uncovered after 113 years.
The previously-unseen image, captioned ‘Rolls plane 1910 fatal flight’, shows Rolls’ final few seconds before his Wright Flyer plane snapped in two 80ft in the air, causing him to plummet to his death.
The 32-year-old British inventor was piloting the aircraft as part of the Bournemouth Air Races in front of a large crowd before the tail of the plane broke off during a sharp manoeuvre.
The haunting image was found among an Edwardian photo album containing other snapshots of the innovative event, which took place at Hengistbury Airfield in Southbourne.
It is believed that after the harrowing crash cameras were confiscated and even broken so it is probable this sobering snap was one of the last ones taken from that fateful day.
A photograph showing Rolls Royce pioneer Charles Rolls’ last moments before he was killed in Britain’s first plane crash has been uncovered after 90 years
The photo was found among an Edwardian photo album containing other snapshots of the innovative event including a snap of aviator Claude Grahame-White’s plane
Rolls became the first British powered aviation fatality, despite having experience of over 200 flights in the Wright Flyer, which was later recorded as only the 11th aeronautical fatality worldwide.
Months before his death, he was the first man ever to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel via aircraft, taking 95 minutes.
The Bournemouth International Aviation Meeting involved trailblazing British and French pilots competing for large cash prizes.
A French rival who flew before Mr Rolls escaped injury after crashing in treacherous, gusty weather and later warned the pioneer not to fly, advice that was horrifyingly ignored.
The week-long event was one of Britain’s earliest aviation meetings with 19 licenced pilots on display.
The picture, likely to have been taken by a box brownie camera, is part of an Edwardian photo album containing other snapshots of the innovative event.
Measuring 3.5ins x 2.5ins, 16 of the black and white images show early planes in the air with the other unique photos of the aircraft hangars as well as crowds that descended on the coastal ground to watch the innovative occasion.
Charles Rolls’ (pictured) Wright Flyer plane snapped in two 80ft in the air, causing him to plummet to his death during the Bournemouth Air Races in 1910
The album was found during a routine house clearance by Robert French of Richard Winterton Auctioneers, of Lichfield, Staffs. He described his amazement at the find.
He said: ‘When you look at the flimsy nature of many of these flying machines, it’s amazing to think of the courage and faith demonstrated by the pilots.
‘By 1910, flying had captured the hearts of many people in England as a wonder of the modern day and the Bournemouth aviation meeting must have been an incredible spectacle.
‘Photography was still in its relative infancy, with ownership of a camera and taking pictures far from routine for most people.
‘It’s also believed that officials confiscated cameras following Charles Rolls’ crash.
‘With remarkably clear images of aircraft up in the sky and of crowds watching down on the ground, these historical photographs are an evocative tribute to those magnificent men in their flying machines.’
Alex Keller, of Richard Winterton Auctioneers, added: ‘These photos are a layman’s insight into what it was like from the ground during this display.
‘It must have been a really good experience seeing these flimsy aircrafts take flight. It’s amazing the courage these guys showed to get up in them’.
The lot is up for auction on November 6 at the Lichfield Auction Centre.
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