Walter Keymes Francis Goodall Warneford


Walter Keymes Francis Goodall Warneford was the son of Walter Wyndham Hanbury Warneford, and grandson of Rev Canon John Henry Warneford.

He was born in Crewe [19th July 1895].

He was baptised at All Saints' Church, Dudwell [3rd September 1895].

Following in his father's footsteps he became a pupil engineer with London & North Western Railway at Crewe.

He later joined the Kite Balloon Section of Royal Naval Air Service, and was acting Flight Lieutenant in October 1914.

After further training at Anglesey and Barrow he was made up to Flight Lieutenant on 25th June 1915.

In September 1918, he took command of Airship NS11 and began to rack up many hours of endurance. First 28 hours 15 mins and he then set a British record of 61 hours 21 mins.

On 9th-13th February 1919, he set out on a mine-hunting patrol, flying 4,000 miles in 100 hours 15 mins thereby establishing a new World Endurance Record.

In June 1919, he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

On 6th July 1919, the British Airship R34 landed in Mineola, USA to complete a 108 hour 12 mins Atlantic crossing from East Fortune in Scotland, beating Warneford's record.

3 days later, R34 set off for home at East Fortune and a hero's welcome, but weather conditions and change of orders meant that the airship was diverted to Pulham, Norfolk, England, the home base of the NS11.

On the evening of 14th July 1919, Warneford and a crew of 8, with ample supplies of petrol, set out in the NS11. It has been suggested that Warneford was out to regain his record. At 8 mins past midnight, radio contact with the NS11 was lost. Some time later, the NS11 was spotted over the villages of Holt and Letheringsett in Norfolk, and over the Glavon Valley heading towards Cley Next The Sea. People reported the airship as being almost stationary for a while and the engines were making a loud noise before moving off towards the North Sea.

At 1.45 am, a massive explosion was heard out at sea and a maroon went up calling out the Cley Lifesaving Rocket Brigade. Wreckage began to come ashore, but no bodies were found until 16 days later when the body of Coxwain C. H. Lewry [age 26] was washed up at Sheringham.

This was the only body ever recovered from the NS11.

An Official Court of Enquiry was held, but the findings were inconclusive.

There is a plaque in memory of Captain Warneford and his crew at All Saints' Church, Dudwell [Ref 2592], and they are remembered on a War Memorial [Ref 84874] in Earlestown, Newton-Le-Willows

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:13 / 15th May 2021 / 5051

Page Ref: MMW2372

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