The 'flying circus' tragedy: When two children were killed by a plane in a Leeds park

A park in Leeds was the site of an aviation disaster 80 years ago when two young boys were killed during an air display.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 11:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 12:41 pm

In June 1933, a company called National Aviation Displays Ltd held an air 'pageant' for the public in an area of Middleton Park known as the Clearings.

The event was advertised as Sir Alan Cobham's Flying Circus - named after a famous aviation pioneer of the day - and several aircraft took part, some of which gave flights to spectators.

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The Leeds Mercury carried a photo of tragic Fred Smith

One of these was a Handley Page airliner, registration G-ABYX. It was descending to land in windy conditions and hit a down draught close to the viewing enclosure. While skimming just above ground level, either a wheel or the tailfin collided with two young boys standing just outside the viewing area.

The victims, 12-year-old Frederick Smith and eight-year-old Leslie Taylor, who had cycled from their homes nearby, were killed instantly by the impact, while their friend, Fred Hooper, narrowly escaped when his boot was torn off by the plane.

The aircraft landed normally without the pilot being aware of what had happened. It remained operational until 1935, when it seems to have been retired from service.

The 'circus' toured the country during the early 1930s, and as many as 14 aircraft were included in the entertainment, flown by skilled daredevil pilots. For many in the crowds, this would have been their first experience of flying.