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Narrative:Per a report in the "Monmouth Guardian 1 May 1914":
|Date:||Sunday 26 April 1914|
|Type:||Lee-Richards Annular Monoplane No.2|
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1|
|Aircraft damage:|| Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||Shoreham Airport, Shoreham, West Sussex, England -
|Phase:|| Initial climb|
|Departure airport:||Shoreham Airport, Shoreham, West Sussex (EGKA)|
|Confidence Rating:|| Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources|
"Mr. Gordon Bell fell 100ft. at Shoreham on Sunday morning" (Sunday 26 April 1914) "in Mr. Cedric Lee's 'secret' aeroplane, which is circular in design. The machine appeared to sideslip and then dive to the ground. Mr. Bell was badly cut."
During the pioneer years before the First World War, Cedric Lee and G. Tilghman Richards in the UK built and flew a series of aircraft having a novel flat ring-shaped or annular wing. They built both biplane and monoplane types, and in 1913 their first monoplane proved to be an early example of a statically stable aircraft.
The 'secret aircraft' was the second Lee (or Lee-Richards) Annular Monoplane. Tim Webb & Dennis Bird, in their book on the history of Shoreham Airport, tell the tale of its demise as follows:
"On 10th April 1914, Gordon Bell made the first hop in the second annular monoplane, and then made a number of flights without incident. However a fortnight later disaster struck again [this is a reference to the crash of the first annular monoplane]. At around eight hundred feet he got into difficulties, and descended in a flat spin. As Charles Gates said, "he came down like a frisbee". The aircraft was a total write-off, but remarkably Bell survived. A later enquiry revealed that on of the elevator eye bolts had come out, jamming the elevators hard down. Fortunately for Bell the cushioning effect of the air fifty feet from the ground had freed the jammed elevator, and it righted itself before pancaking".
Lee produced a third annular monoplane. When that made a heavy landing, whilst being demonstrated to Winston Churchill at Shoreham, Bell reached the end of his tether. According to Webb & Bird:
"Bell then told Cedric Lee that he would not continue with test flying, and if he wanted to, he could fly the b***** thing himself!"
Lee did, but lost control and pancaked into the mud of the adjacent River Adur (it must have been low tide). And whilst Webb and Bird say that ended the story of the annular monoplanes, this is correct only vis a vis the monoplanes. Half a century later a replica of the Lee-Richards Annular Biplane, the original of which dated from 1911 and was the predecessor to the three monoplanes, was built at Woodley (Reading) by Denton Partners for the 1965 film 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines'. It is currently on display in the museum at Sywell, Northamptonshire.
1. Jarrett, P.; "Circles in the Sky", Aeroplane Monthly, (Part I) September 1976 Pages 493–499, (Part II) October 1976 Pages 526–531, 553.
2. Lewis, P.; British Aircraft 1809-1914, Putnam, 1962,
3. Monmouth Guardian 1 May 1914
Photograph of the Lee-Richards Annular Monoplane No.1 circa November 1913:
Lee-Richards Annular Biplane replica,built for the film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines," at Newark Air Museum, Winthorpe, Notts.,19/09/14
||Dr. John Smith