Captain Edwin Tufnell Hayne DSC DFC, Royal Air Force, died in a flying accident on 28th April 1919 when his plane suffered engine failure after taking off from Castle Bromwich aerodrome. He was a flying ace, credited with destroying 15 enemy aircraft during the war. He continued his RAF career after hostilities ended, flying with No.14 Aircraft Acceptance Park (AAP) from March 1919.
According to his obituary in the IEE World War I Honour Roll, he was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 28th May 1895. He was educated at King Edward VII School, Johannesburg (1906-8) and St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, Cape Colony (1908-1911).
In January 1913, he entered Faraday House Electrical Engineering College, London, intending to take the four year course in electrical engineering. He spent the second year of his course with Messrs. Plenty & Son Ltd., marine engineers, of Newbury, Berkshire. Following the outbreak of war, he suspended his course at Faraday House at Christmas 1914 and, on 7th January 1915, joined the Armoured Car Division of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a Petty Officer (motor cyclist). He trained with the 12th Squadron, which was equipped with motor cycles carrying machine guns.
His squadron was posted to Gallipoli in August 1915 and he returned to England in February 1916, being discharged in March when the decision was taken to disband the Armoured Car Division.
He immediately applied to the Admiralty to rejoin the RNAS in the flying branch and was appointed Temporary Probationary Flight sub-Lieutenant on 5th July 1916. After training at Cranwell, Lincolnshire, he graduated as Aeroplane Pilot on 20th December 1916 and his commission as Flight sub-Lieutenant was confirmed. He qualified as 1st Class Bomb Dropper and was posted to Dover Air Station on 22nd January 1917.
At the end of January 1917, he was ordered to France and served with “A” Flight no. 9 Squadron (Sopwith Camel) in the Dunkirk area before joining no. 3 Squadron (Sopwith Scout). After three months’ service on the Somme he was granted 14 days’ leave.
In the autumn of 1917, his squadron moved to Bray Dunes (seven miles east of Dunkirk) and was frequently engaged in aerial combats during the Third Battle of Ypres July-November 1917. This included a special mission on 16th August 1917 to attack an enemy aerodrome at Ghistelles, five miles south of Ostend. A report of his success (destroying three aeroplanes, a wagon and horses, shooting a guard at a railway station, and stampeding a column of horse transport on the road) reached the newspapers and, sending a cutting from the paper with a letter, he noted that the press “are, of course unable to describe my feelings while it lasted. It reads like eating bread and honey.” He flew below 1000ft for the duration of the two-hour flight.
He was promoted Flight Lieutenant in November 1917 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His squadron returned to Woolmer, Kent in November 1917, returning to France in January 1918. On the merger of the RNAS with the Royal Flying Corps on 1st April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force, he was transferred to the RAF with the rank of honorary Captain and his squadron became the 203rd Squadron.
He took part in much of the fierce aerial fighting during the Battles of the Lys in April 1918 when the Germans tried to capture Amiens. In July 1918 he was granted eight weeks’ leave of absence with light duty in England as being temporarily unfit for air work.
In September 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with the following citation:
During the recent enemy offensive [Operation Michael] this officer carried out forty-eight special missions. Flying at extremely low altitudes he has inflicted heavy casualties on massed troops and transport. In addition he has accounted for ten enemy machines, destroying three and driving down seven out of control; in these encounters he has never hesitated to engage the enemy, however superior in numbers. On one occasion he observed ten hostile aeroplanes harassing three Dolphines; he attacked three of the enemy, driving one down in flames
In March 1919 he was posted to No. 1 Aircraft Acceptance Park (Technical Wing, Midland Area) in Coventry but shortly afterwards was posted as a Testing Officer to No. 14 Aircraft Acceptance Park (Technical Wing, Midland Area), Castle Bromwich.
On 28th April 1919 he tested a Bristol F2 (serial F5098) two-seater biplane that had been repaired after developing defects a month earlier so had been returned to workshops for an overhaul. He made a successful test flight in the aircraft and then returned to the aerodrome and collected a Major from the Royal Army Medical Corps as a passenger. On take off, the aeroplane only reached an altitude of about 200 feet. Captain Hayne attempted to land but, at about 70 feet, the aircraft nosedived and crashed to the ground. He was killed instantly and his passenger, Major Maurice Nasmith Perrin, aged 32, sustained serious injuries and died four hours’ later without regaining consciousness. Major Perrin is buried in Weybridge Cemetery, whilst Captain Hayne is buried at St Mary and St Margaret’s churchyard, Castle Bromwich.
The Acting Commander of his old Squadron described him as “A very daring and resourceful pilot; he has proved his superiority over stronger forces of the enemy on many occasions. An excellent officer.”
His parents, Tufnell Ward Hayne and Emily Ethel (née Doveton) had married in Johannesburg on 8th June 1894. Tufnell, the son of a solicitor, was born in England in 1863. Edwin was the eldest of the couple’s three sons. Their youngest son, Brian Doveton Hayne (1918-1942), was killed in Egypt during the Second World War whilst serving as a Sergeant with South African Forces.
Captain Edwin Tufnell Hayne is commemorated on the Woolmer Aerodrome Memorial (RAF Woolmer) and at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown [renamed Makhanda in 2018], South Africa.
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