Blackburn Iris III Aircraft
On the morning of 4th February 1931, a Blackburn Iris (S 238) from 209 Squadron took off from Mount Batten flying boat base to undertake a training exerecise with fighter aircraft from Roborough airfield.
Wing Commander Charles Tucker took over the controls from Flt Lt. Ely to land the plane on the flat waters of Batten Bay just to the south of Mount Batten. Instead of a graceful landing, the Iris nosedived into the water at approximately 70 mph. The aircraft hit the water under the pilots seats, the tail came up and the mainplane crashed into the sea. After a pause one of the aircraft's floats surfaced followed by the tip of the rudder. Wilfred Little, a harbour pilot and Harry Hole were sailing nearby and were the first on the scene of the incident and rescued two men clinging to wreckage. The Mount Batten station commander and Aircraftsman Shaw (T.E. Lawrence) arrived in an RAF launch wh saved two more. Eight of the twelve people on board perished in the crash and six bodies were never recovered, two of the crew are buried at Ford Park Cemetary.
The weather at the time of the crash was fine and the sea calm. There was no mechanical fault in the plane and the cause was found to be pilot error as the Court of Inquiry showed that Tucker was a qualified pilot but not proficient in flying boats (1,2).
All aircraft in UK waters that have crashed during military service are protected by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
If you have any more information about this ship then please contact us.
A Blackburn Iris flying boat
(1) Wasley G., 2006, Mount Batten - The Flying Boats of Plymouth, Halsgrove, ISBN 1 84114 495 9, p48
(2) RHLPA, 1995, Acquisition and Early Days of Mount Batten from Naval and Military Records, RHLPA, P9
British Pathe, Our Navy of the Air, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/our-navy-of-the-air