Folkestones ‘Few’It is a rarely told, not unknown, nor forgotten, part of Folkestone’s First World War history. Untold and overlooked. Theses are just some of the few who took part in the air war. The first is from Folkestone’s Old Cemetery and is named on the War Memorial. Not all are on the War Memorial. This is Folkestone and they do things differently here.This is the grave of Leslie Cecil Wraight. I went up to the cemetery yesterday to have a chat with him. A task I found impossible, they are tree clearing and you can’t really shout in a graveyard. I like the inscription on his grave,“Now peace reigns over the countryside.Our thanks are to the lads that died.Clever, and noble, loving and kind.A beautiful memory left behind.”This is from the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – Saturday 22 June 1918. Lieut. Leslie Cecil Wraight, R.A.F., second son of Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Wraight, of 31, Albion-road, Folkestone, formerly of Ashford, has been killed in an aeroplane accident at Lincolnshire. He was the younger brother of Mr. Clarence Wraight, who is well-known in the district as a professional roller skater. In an earlier stage of the war Lieut. Wraight was in the Kent Fortress Royal Engineers. The funeral took place yesterday, the deceased being buried with military honours at Folkestone Cemetery. (As reproduced on the Sussex History Forum at , http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/) As far as I have been able to ascertain there was only one aircraft accident in Lincolnshire on the 17th June 1918. A Sopwith Camel suffered engine failure on take off at RAF Scampton, and crashed killing one.(http://www.bcar.org.uk/world-war-one-incident-logs) This must therefore have been Leslie Wraight.There is another grave close by where Leslie Barron is buried. Leslie the son of Sydney and Mercy E. Barron, of 12, Beachborough Villas, Folkestone. Served in France, the Dardanelles, and Palestine, before returning to the UK. He died on the 28th July 1918. The inquest into his death was held in Lincoln. Possibly this was near where his flying accident occurred. If so he must have been flying an Avro 504. Two crashed on the same day, but it is not possible to narrow it down to a particular aircraft. Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – Saturday 03 August 1918 (As reproduced on the Sussex History Forum at , http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/)“Second Lieutenant Leslie Barron, R.A.F., son of Mr. S. Barron, of High-street, Folkestone, and 1, High-street, Hythe, was killed whilst flying a new type of machine at an English aerodrome on Sunday. He was 22 years of age… …Lieutenant Barron was buried with full military honours at the Cemetery on Thursday, the first part of the service being held at All Souls’ Church, the Rev. J. W. Davisson officiating. The body, conveyed on a float drawn by a motor, draped with the R.A.F. colours, was followed by a detachment of the Corps to which deceased belonged, including eight pilots. A large number of Canadian soldiers followed also. The chief mourners were deceased’s father and mother, Mrs. Floyd, Mrs. Rowlands, and Miss Rowlands. A party of Canadians fired three volleys over the grave, and the buglers sounded the “Last Post.” There were many wreaths.”Not buried in Folkestone, but someone who would have known the Old Cemetery is Allen Sandby Coombe. He was the Son of Dr. and Mrs. Sandby Coombe, of “Brownswood,” Cherry Gardens, Folkestone. He was killed in a flying accident possible while flying an Avro 504. He was a probationary Flight Officer, and 504’s were the aircraft they trained on. Coombe died when the plane he was flying crashed into Chingford Reservoir. Allen Coombe is buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery (from the find a grave web site) He does not appear to be named on the War Memorial.Another whose name is not on the War Memorial is Folkestone’s “Ace” Dennis Henry Stacey Gilbertson. The son of Albert Stacey and Ethel Hoole Gilbertson, 62 Shorncliffe Rd., Folkestone. Gilbertson was killed in action on the 4th September 1918, and is buried in Villers-Aau-Tertre Communal Cemetery. He was just 21.Gilbertson scored his first victory on the 30th May 1918 when he shot down an Albatros DV south-east of Albert., a month later he shot down his next, followed by two on the 1st July 1918. His last was a Fokker DVII on the 4th September 1918. Gilbertson was also killed in the same dogfight, although not by the pilot he shot down.Another pilot, also not named on the War Memorial is Captain Durham Donald George Hall MC. The son of Mrs Hall ( possibly remarried and known as Gaskell), White House, Broadfield Road Folkestone Captain Hall’s MC was gazetted 11th December 1916” For conspicuous gallantry in action. He has flown in the worst of weather and often at very low altitudes On one occasion he flew very low and under heavy fire to range our artillery.”Hall was wounded during a ground attack mission on the 26th March 1918 and died the next day. His death was reported in Flight Magazine 11th April 1918.Eustace Bertram Low R.F.C., the third son of the Rev. A. E. and Mrs. Low, of St. John’s Vicarage, Folkestone, killed on active service on March, 24th, 1917, aged 18. His death was reported in Flight Magazine 5th April 1917 as being ” accidently killed on active service”. Eustace Bertram Low doesn’t appear to be on the town’s War Memorial either.Note on War Memorials.There was no hard and fast rule about War Memorials-nothing was written in stone, so to speak. Each community decided who and why a name was listed. Some of the reasons included, – there was no one left to put a person’s name forward, no one knew until after a memorial was dedicated that they had died, no one liked the person and therefore saw no reason to put a name forward. In Folkestone, if a person was named on a memorial elsewhere in the town, their name was not on the town War Memorial. Not sure if all of the pilots mentioned are named on other memorials in the town.Author: Peter Anderson (WW1 Blog)
The ‘Friends’ are a volunteer group formed to protect, preserve and promote interest in this lovely old Victorian cemetery.