CWG: Second Lieutenant Harold Hatcher

Second Lieutenant Harold Hatcher

Harold Blake Hatcher was born on 11th February 1895, one of nine children to Robert Hatcher and his wife Ellen. Robert was a draper, and brought his family up in his home town of Taunton in Somerset. At least one of his children followed him into the cloth business, and, after he died in 1908, this seems to have fallen to Harold’s older brothers, Arthur and Ernest.

After leaving school, Harold became a dental student. Initially studying with Kendrick’s in his home town, he was about to begin training at Guy’s Hospital in London when war broke out.

Harold joined up in May 1915, and was initially assigned as a Lance Corporal to the 6th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, before being transferred to the Middlesex Regiment.

In November 1917, he was badly injured in while fighting at Bourlon Woods, as part of the Battle of Cambrai. It was while he was recuperating that he transferred again, this time to the fledgling Royal Air Force.

Second Lieutenant Hatcher gained his wings in June 1918, and soon became a flying instructor. It was while he was working at RAF Fairlop in North West London, that an incident occurred. A local newspaper picked up the story.

Many in Taunton have learnt with sincere regret of the accidental death whilst flying of Lieutenant Harold Blake Hatcher of the Royal Air Force, third son of the late Mr Robert Hatcher of Taunton, and of Mrs Hatcher, now of Bristol.

The accident in which he met his death on Monday was a triple fatality, two other airmen being killed at the same time, Second Lieutenant Laurie Bell, of Bournemouth, and Flight Sergeant AR Bean, of Burslem.

At the inquest… it was stated in evidence that while Lieutenant Hatcher and Sergeant Bean were flying at a height of about 500ft, Second Lieutenant Bell, who w flying a single-seater, dived from a position some 700 feet higher, his machine striking and cutting clean through the double-seater, which folded its wings, hovered a few second, and then crashed to the earth. The three men were instantaneously killed.

A verdict of Accidental Death was returned.

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 7th August 1918

Further witness testimony described how the Sopwith Camel, piloted by Bell, cutting the AVRO airplane it in two. Hatcher fell out of the wrecked two-seater as the Camel’s wings slowly folded into a V and fluttered free following the fuselage to the ground. All three airmen lost their lives. Bean was found in a sitting position, still strapped in the front half of the AVRO’s fuselage, his instructor’s body was found unmarked thirty yards away in the grass where it had fallen. The wingless Camel crashed close by and Bell was found to have almost every bone in his body broken.

The accident took place on 30th July 1918. Second Lieutenant Hatcher was just 23 years old.

Harold Blake Hatcher lies at rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in his home town of Taunton, Somerset.

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