Walter George Cotterill Jones

Walter George Cotterill Jones
Born in 1879 in the tiny village of Llanwnog, mid Wales, to Evan Jones and Mary Jane (née Davies), in 1881 Walter, his mother and older brother Thomas, were living with her parents, all lodging at the Coach and Horses, Llanidloes. It seems Walter's father died some time before 1891. By then Mary is a widow and charwoman, sharing a cottage with her sister, Walter and younger brother Edward, in Llanrhaiadr. There is no trace of older brother Thomas.

Walter joined the Northants Yeomanry some time before 1899. He served for almost three years in South Africa throughout the Boer War. In 1901 Walter was stationed at Bulford Military Camp, listed as a private.

Some time before 1911 Walter left the army. The 1911 Census shows he occupied two rooms in Carlisle Terrace, St. Ives, employed as a representative for the rather strange combination of a cake and manure manufacturer. He wrote his name as Walter George Cottrell-Jones, although Cottrell was actually one of his middle names. The spelling on St Ives War Memorial is 'Cotterill', a hang over from how his name was shown by the Army.

At the outbreak of World War I Walter again joined the Northants Yeomanry and fought in France. He was promoted to Sergeant some time before late 1916.

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed in 1912. During WWI its main job was observation of the battlefield. Although armed, carrying out an offensive role was awkward because the propellor arc and other obstructions such as wings and struts had to be avoided. Enemy aircraft were superior and German pilots had been trained better. The loss rate amongst British pilots was 1 in 4 killed, similar to infantry losses in the trenches. By the time of the first major air actions over the Battle of the Somme the RFC was expanding rapidly, putting great strain on recruitment and training of pilots in late 1916.

BE12 biplane
The aeroplane in which Walter was killed, a BE12 biplane
Prior to July 1916 applicants had to already possess a pilot's licence issued by the FAI and be of officer class. After that date appeals went out to infantry and artillery units for men to transfer to the RFC, or what some called the Suicide Club. After a cursory interview and medical examination the trainee underwent a few hours of dual instruction training before going solo. Most learning took place flying without instruction. Parachutes were not used until 1918.

Walter was one of those who applied to join the RFC. He passed his flying test at Hendon Aerodrome, as reported by the Hunts Post on 27 October 1916. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 105 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. There's no evidence that Walter flew in France. Possibly he was stationed in England, employed in home defence against bombing raids by Zeppelins.

On Sunday 17 March 1918 Walter was flying a BE12 biplane from Andover, Hants, over Ramridge Farm, Weyhill. Flying at a very low altitude, he lost control of the aeroplane which side slipped to the ground and caught fire on impact. Walter was killed in the accident, aged 39yrs. The subsequent enquiry decided the accident was 'entirely due to carelessness on the part of the pilot'. News of his death was reported in the Hunts Post of 22 March 1918, with details of his military funeral on 29 March 1918. Walter is buried in St. Ives cemetery.

Do you have a photograph of Walter or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1881 Census
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census
Casualty record
Commemorative Certificate

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