Airliner Cavalier Disaster -- Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Hamilton BM
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 32° 17.663 W 064° 47.020
20S E 332051 N 3574463
Quick Description: A plaque in the north end of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Hamilton commemorates a hero of the 1939 Cavalier airliner disaster
Location: Bermuda
Date Posted: 2/28/2015 3:10:26 PM
Waymark Code: WMNEKP
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member cldisme
Views: 1

Long Description:
During the late 1930s, a luxurious flying boat called the Cavalier made regular trips between Hamilton Bermuda, Long Island New York and London England. The service continued until the Cavalier experienced a mechanical failure and landed at sea on the Bermuda leg of the trip. Three people perished and 10 survived, but this disaster spelled the end of the Cavalier airliner service.

A plaque in the north end of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Hamilton commemorates a Bermudian hero of the 1939 Cavalier airliner disaster, Bobby Spence, who served as a steward on board the Cavalier.

The plaque reads as follows:

"In memory of Robert James(Bobby) Spence
Who perished in the disaster of the air-liner Cavalier
After he had exhausted his strength in saving others
21st January 1939"

For more on the aviation history of Bermuda, see here: (visit link)

On Google, I found the following article from the Lawrence Kansas Journal-World: (visit link)

"Lawrence (KS) Journal World January 24, 1939, page 2


Reason For Crash Of The British Airliner Cavalier Is A Mystery

New York, June 24. (AP) Why the luxurious British airliner Cavalier crashed at sea with the loss of three lives remains a mystery today as 10 survivors described how they sang and shouted to keep their courage alive until their epic rescue.

They told the story of a 11-hour ordeal spent clinging to life belts in the Atlantic wastes -- a chronicle of gallantry with both comic and tragic overtones - after receiving a hero's welcome on their arrival late yesterday.

The ice crusted tanker Esso Baytown, which snatched them from a watery grave Saturday night, after the world had all but given them up for dead, was surrounded by whistling tugs as it plowed up the choppy channel.

Airplanes dipped in salute in the frosty sky, and the crowd of 2000 cheering persons waited at the pier.

Of the five men and five women survivors, only the widows of two of the victims, Mrs. Donald Miller of Lincoln, Nebr., and Mrs. John Gordon Noakes, of New York - showed evidence of strain. Mrs. Noakes fainted. Weeping, she was taken to a private hospital area. The others refused medical treatment.

Survivor's jubilation on their arrival was reflected in the faces of the members of the Baytown's crew, who rode a lifeboat to their aid after they heard cries in the stygian night.

“We are without stars, moon or sextant-- in complete darkness, ”said Stanley Taylor, a seaman who stood in the lifeboat's bow.

“I heard a woman's voice say, "thank God," as we came up to them. Then they started to sing again. I was too busy to notice what it was they were singing. Something religious. I don't know the name.”

Oddly, none of the fortunate 10 could recall what they sang.

Pretty Mrs. George Ingham, of Hamilton, Bermuda, said the survivors agreed to hold a reunion Saturday on the liner Monarch of Bermuda, which will carry them to Bermuda, their destination when the accident occurred.

Reports that icing conditions as the huge 19 tonne plane flew through squalls were responsible for its four motors quitting were denied by first officer Neil Richardson.

“The Cavalier had carburetor heating devices” he declared. “It’s a complete mystery to us how it happened.”

Richardson added that it was not particularly unusual for all four motors to fail almost simultaneously for brief periods in flight, but “you get out of it by working the throttle.”

A board of inquiry will be convened at Hamilton to investigate the disaster, Capt. Griffith Powell transoceanic flyer and executive of British Imperial Airways announced.

Although the disaster involved foreign operated plane, the Civil Aeronautics Authority at Washington disclosed it had decided to ask the British Air Ministry to permit an official American observer to be present at its investigation.

Capt. M. R. Alderson, the slim little pilot who was dazed by the crash 300 miles southeast of Cape May, New Jersey, said the plane's fuselage was ripped open by the impact and sank within 10 minutes.
“Making a dead stick landing,” he explained, “we hit the water so hard the whole of the ship split and the water rushed in. It came in with such force I was washed toward the hold.”

His face cut and still pale, he declined to comment on why the motors went dead.

Survivors varied at most points in their recital of what happened to the three who were lost, but the heroism of four persons – Richardson, Radio Operator Patrick Chapman, Mrs. Edna Watson of Bermuda, a passenger, and Robert Spence, a Steward -- stood out in most accounts. Spence was the third victim.

The other survivors were Ms. Nelly Tucker Smith of Bermuda and Charles Talbot of Brookline Massachusetts, passengers, and David Williams, the second steward.

Terror had wiped away details from the memory of most survivors, but most agreed that Miller, president of a Lincoln, Nebr. department store, had been struck by a wing of the plane as he floundered in the water and sank immediately. His wife could not reach him.

Noakes, who was standing when the plane crashed, received a severe head injury. Spence, apparently internally injured, tried vainly to keep them afloat after helping other passengers from the plane and warning them to grab life belts.

Mrs. Watson for long supported Capt. Alderson, who lapsed into unconsciousness and became semi-delirious.

“Mr. Noakes, who seem to be badly hurt held onto me but I lost him somehow after a while,” First Officer Richardson said. “I don't know what became of them.”

“Spence was with me when he died of exposure. He also seemed to be injured. I don't know how long it was after we landed in the water that Spence died.”

Unable to don the Lifesavers-- survivors varied as to whether there were four, six or nine in the water, although each was capable of keeping three persons afloat -- the group formed “a daisy chain” in the water using the lifeboat as a raft. The water was warm because the aircrew landed in the Gulf Stream, where temperatures is some 20 degrees warmer than the rest of the Atlantic.

For more than 10 hours, bobbing about in the waves, they clung to the improvised raft, singing occasionally to bolster their hopes of rescue. About 8pm -- after more than six hours in the water -- they sighted lights of the distant boat. It passed. Their hopes fell.
Then at 10:45pm the Esso Baytown hove out of the dark, and Radio Operator Chapman risked his life to swim across open seas to intercept it.

“Richardson followed me to make a disturbance in order to keep the sharks away,” he said. “there were naturally a lot of sharks there because there were three bodies in the water. I saw one shark."

“Everyone was fairly comfortable because the water was warm and our one great fear was sharks. Naturally we didn't say much about it."

“The men got rid of all their clothes except underwear and the women discarded most of their clothes.”

“Richardson and I swam out to about half way between the ship and the other survivors. The ship sounded their siren when it heard our shouts.”

A little more than an hour later, a lifeboat from the Baytown Esso had brought the last of the survivors aboard. Overwhelmed by joy at her rescue, one of the women pushed her hand against the tanker's bulkhead, a seaman said, and exclaimed, “thank God! That's solid!”

The women apparently stood the long immersion as well as did the men. Mrs. Ingram said that one of the things they speculated about was their appearance in wet clothing and with their cosmetics washed off.

Joseph R Miner, stroke on the lifeboat, said the women “didn't seem any more weary than the men,” but he added, “they were all in pretty bad shape.”

Like most tragedies, the Cavalier disaster had its lighter moments.
Baytown crew members said Richardson told them that to keep afloat better he had thrown away his pants containing his money and all his papers. Two hours later the pants floated back to him.

Talbot, 23, a former Harvard athlete who hung onto life belt with only one arm because the other had been broken in a skiing accident, grinned on his return and said the salt water had been “so good for my arm” that he had taken it out of the cast.

“The most amazing thing of all,” Mrs. Watson said, “was the way that man Richardson was swimming around us in the circle, keeping us all together, kicking and splashing to keep away the sharks, shouting almost continuously in the hope he would be heard.”
Disaster Date: 1/21/1939

Memorial Sponsors: Anglican Bishop of Bermuda

Disaster Type: Technological

Relevant Website: [Web Link]

Date of dedication: Not listed

Parking Coordinates: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
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