View Full Version : Irish Free State Aeroplane Incident Septermber 10 1934

14th May 2013, 15:51
Strictly not RAF but I know a few Irish people are on this site

Can anyone ID the aircraft in following incident and confirm the details?

Wednesday 12 September 1934
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser
"Two men were killed and a third was seriously injured when a Free State Army 'plane crashed in Dublin on Monday afternoon and caught fire. The two dead men are Lieutenant Arthur Russell, the pilot, and Private Daniel Twomey. Both were trapped in the burning 'plane. Sergeant Patrick Canavan, who was in the cockpit, attempted to jump clear with a parachute. He received severe burns and other injuries. The aeroplane nose dived into tall trees in the front garden of Mr. Justice Meredith's and then fell to the ground.

Aeroplane 1934

"The Irish Free State Lieutenant Arthur Russell and Private Twomey were killed and Sergeant Canavan was seriously injured when an aeroplane of the Irish Free State Air Corps crashed in Dublin on Sept. 10. The machine caught fire on impact"

Another Source

"Capt Arthur Russell, brother of Colonel of the Air Corps Charles died on September 9 when his light aircraft crashed in Terenure, upon the roadway opposite the home of his brother, and witnessed by him"

I know the accident was 10 Sept and assume the "September 9 when his light aircraft crashed" is also inaccurate but I assume Terenure, Dublin is correct

The question I have is did "Sergeant Patrick Canavan" actually use his parachute, but did not have enough time and was injured in the actual plane crash?



14th May 2013, 16:16

Irish Air Corps.

Fairey IIIF Mk.II - Serial - ? - Delivered 10-3-1928 - Crashed at Terenure 10-9-1934. (believed to be Fairey c/n. F.968, ex-S1262 ?).

Wings Over Ireland:The Story of the Irish Air Corps.
Earl Shilton:Midland Publishing Ltd.,1996.


14th May 2013, 19:55

There's also a report in The Times on 11 September, which confirms the accident as being on the 10th. It's a bit more detailed than the entries so far posted, and includes the following:

"Lt Arthur Russel, one of the Free State Air Corps' best airmen, was testing a new Fairey machine over the outskirts of the city (Dublin) when, at a height of 500 ft, the machine went into a spin. The pilot righted it at 200 ft, but it went into another spin, and the machine crashed into the garden of Mr Justice Meredith, who has just been appointed vice-president of the Saar Plebiscite Commission."

There's a reference to Canavan trying to use his parachute - the same as you already have.

I can send a copy should you wish.


14th May 2013, 22:05
Name(s): Lieut. Arthur Russell (pilot). Killed.
Pvt. Daniel Toomey (observer). Killed.
Sgt. Leo Canavan. Injured.
Date: 10.9.1934.Papers not scanned?
Type of aircraft: Fairey IIIF Mk.II (F968).
Location: Terenure Rd. East, Dublin

It seems the aircraft was never issued with an Irish Air Corps serial.

Information from P J Cummins and no doubt in his recent book.

The irish Times dated January 26th 1935 quotes from Leo Canavan who attended the inquest into the crash.

The deaths of the two men are registered in the North Dublin district in January 1935, the transcribed index on ancestry.com calls Toomey 'Denal'.

He and witnesses state that Canavan was pulled from the wreckage, so I guess no parachute used!

Tony Kearns
14th May 2013, 22:12
Hello Paul, Col, Brian and Dennis
Yes the date was 10 th. It was on a test flight following a 20hr inspection and flown by Lt Arthur Russell with Sgt Leo Canavan and Pte. Dennis Toomey.
The Court of Inquiry stated that it was flying at an unsafe altitude and over a thickly populated area. It stalled and crashed after hitting a tree ending up between numbers 31 and 33 Terenure Road (a West Dublin suburb) Leo Canavan was pulled from the burning wreckage suffering horrific injuries resulting in long periods of hospitalisation. He stayed in the Air Corps in a civilian capacity and I met him many times at Baldonnel but we never discussed the accident

The Fairey Aviation Company originally quoted for the supply of four 111F but only one was purchased by the Air Corps. It was never allotted a serial number and during its service carried the constructors number F968 on the fuselage side.

Lt Arthur Russell was a brother of Col Charlie Russell second in command to Major General Mc Sweeny the first OC of the new Air Corps. The Lt was considered a good pilot but succeeded in walking away from six other flying accidents prior to the fatal one. There was no attempt to use a parachute, too low and too late.
Tony K

15th May 2013, 08:50
Col, Brian, Dennis and Tony

Thanks for all you input to this, I had wondered if Sgt Leo Canavan should be in my pre-war bale out list but no he should not - But at least the whole story is now on the web site hopefully if someone else needs to investigate in the future.


peter brewster
1st August 2014, 05:36
My dad was 7 years old and saw this happen he told me that the pilot was showing off to members of his family he was hedge hopping when the crash happened. He remembers the army taking the burnt out cockpit away on a lorry. Some years later my dad told the story to his father in-law and hetold my dad that Canavan’s face was so badly burnt that he never left the base and if he did he would put a mask over his face my grand dad was a medic on the base at the time.

Michael Dixon
2nd August 2014, 18:51
Hi All

I spoke to Leo about this crash around a kitchen table in a house on the Lower Crumlin Road, Dublin, in the early 1970's.

Regarding the discussion on baling out, Leo described the events immediately after the crash as follows.

The officer pilot had been flying low to impress his family and neighbours when they struck the trees, there were no manoeuvres as such to blame for this incident .

The Fairey hung up on the trees, and almost immediately caught fire. Leo was partly thrown clear of the wreck, but held in place against the burning fuselage by his parachute straps which, both by his position and injuries, he could not release.

The two other crew were dead upon impact, as far as he could judge. He said his abiding memory was the smell of burning flesh as the flames consumed their remains. Soon the flames reached him and he began to burn also, particularly his fingers as he vainly attempted to free himself from the straps, and he reconciled himself to dying.

Fortunately both straps burned through, and he fell to the ground where he was assisted by some passersby. At this point he was only semi conscious.

Subsequently Leo became an early member of the Guinea Pig Club, and ending up with some of his toes refashioned into fingers by a pioneer plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe and others!

In spite of what must have been horrific injuries he had a splendid sense of humour and extremely gregarious. And in spite of the obvious injuries that both his poor hands had endured he wrote clearly and precisely in an almost copperplate script.


2nd August 2014, 21:16
Peter and Michael thanks for your info on this incident we now know why the parachute was mentioned in the original new story and it was good to get Canavans own story

Very interesting

Canavan Dermot
14th April 2015, 22:19
[QUOTE=paulmcmillan;101692]Peter and Michael thanks for your info on this incident we now know why the parachute was mentioned in the original new story and it was good to get Canavans own story

Very interestinG

2nd March 2017, 18:42
Hello Michael Patrick Leo Canavan was my grandfather my dads name was Leo he was two years old when my grandad had this crash he told me the earliest memory he has of his dad was him walking through the door and he was like a mummy