LoginRegister About us Contact us Terms & Conditions

News & Information

Memories of WW1 - Buckets & Spades special edition
published by on Sat, 12/04/2014 - 12:06

The next edition of Buckets & Spades will be dedicated to those who lived through World War One.

If you are working on any research for Memories of WW1 we need your project to be ready for the END OF MAY!

Have you thought about investigating what your relatives did between 1914 and 1918?  It is not too late to start and their story could be included in Buckets & Spades and our special Open Day in July.  It does not matter how small the research project is we want to know!  We already have some interesting stories to tell.  One of our members is working on research for an ancestor who dug trenches in WW1, others have nurses and land girls in WW1 and of course we do have soldiers and sailors.  Does anyone have a link with one of the early RAF pilots?

Do tell us your ancestors story especially if they have links to Weston-super-Mare and the surrounding district.

If you are working on a project please do contact Caroline Morris who is collating all the projects.

News TopicMemories of WW1
  login or join us now to post comments

Comments ..

Submitted by on Sun, 13/04/2014 - 7:34
I will try to send my write up on the above to Caroline but his father William Washer (born 1841) was from Marsh Farm (40 Barton Road) Berrow.

It is copied below

1. CHARLES WASHER (Marsh Farm, Berrow, Somerset) 1799-1866
Born: 1799.
Family: Five brothers and three sisters all born in Berrow (see above).
Married: To Elizabeth Washer (Nee Hawkinas).
Died: 1866 buried in Somerset.
• The local paper the Bristol Mercury Bristol, England, 4th Apr 1874, Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries - Married "Gabriel Palmer, of ,layliold-houss, Ltighbridge, auctioneer and estate agent, married. to Priscilis, third dautghter of the late Mr. Charlee Washer, n . of Marsh-farm, Berrow".
• Greatx4 Grandfather of Laura.

• 1) Jane Washer (born 1833) (the eldest) may have married into the Cook family. she had two boys and two girls. One Emilie Sherrin lived at Swansea and the other at Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset
• 2) Elizabeth Washer (born 1835) married a Gilling and settled at Auckland NZ. She received £60 from George Washer's estate. Her daughter got £92 from Priscilla Washer's estate in 1923. Herbert, George and Bessie her children got £108 from Edward Washer's estate.
• 3) George Washer 1836, Eldest son stayed in Berrow and died a bachelor.
• 4) Edward Washer 1838, 2nd eldest son - Edward Washer married with no children. Owned or lived on? "Ham Farm" possibly on Ham Road at 3.3 miles inland from Berrow near Brent Knoll (see above). He was married but had no children. In 1918/19 during the war (aged 80) Edward sent a letter to his four Washer siblings who went to NZ asking them to please return to Brent Knoll to keep the Washer family name alive in Berrow. Edward said he would make it worth their while to return to Brent Knoll but none of the four NZ Washers took up the offer. Edythe Washer in a typed letter said Edward owned a nice house in Brent Knoll village.
• 5) Priscilla Washer 1839 (5th eldest) married a widower (Palmer) who already had son John Palmer and daughter named Sarah Palmer. Charles Washer her brother (#6 below direct line) who immigrated to Mangere, NZ married this Sarah Palmer his non blood relative. Charles then travelled to NZ in 1876 aged 32 with his wife Sarah (nee Palmer) and their 4 eldest children
• 6) Charles Washer 1844 - Direct line and wife Sarah left for New Zealand in 1876 on the Clipper ship Dunbritton (see below).
• 7) William Washer 1841 3rd eldest son born 1841 (established the Waikato /Horotiu Washers' which later moved to Whakatane). Denise Washer in New Plymouth is related to these Washers. The Horotiu Washers' owned the farm land on which the Horotiu AFFCO Meatwork's now sits. The Te Puke Washers' were large cattle traders (there are two separate Washer roads one in Te Puke and another in Horotiu, 5km north from Hamilton). The large Te Puke cattle farming/trading business was unsuccessful financially in the 1950's so they had to fall back on their stud bull auction house business in Whakatane. The Horotiu/Te Puke Washer's eldest son went to Gallipoli (below).
• 8) James Washer 1846 left Berrow for Cardiff, UK 20km away across Bristol Channel. He had one daughter (Mrs Millie Tiplin) who then had two sons (Jack and Gilbert) and they all lived at Cardiff.
• 9) Sophia Washer 1848 - married into the Hodges and lived at Brent Knoll Somerset and had 6 children. Two children (Frank and Ada) both drowned. One married but had no children. Gertrude had three girls. Nellie and Anne lived at Brent Knoll and Annie was blind. remained in Brent Knoll, Somerset
• 10) Alfred Washer born 1851 established the Tauranga Washers' who owned the GM car dealership in Tauranga in the 1950's. The Tauranga Washer's owned the large GM car dealership in Tauranga, NZ in the 1940's. Seven children George, Alf, Fred, Victor, Harold, Charlie and Ethal. There was a Washer (maybe one of these sons) who owned a very popular pie cart on Shortland Street in central Auckland in the 1950's.
• 11) John Washer 1855 - the youngest went to San Francisco, USA. His children were Charles and Myrtle and then by another marriage had a son Edward C. Washer.

William Charles Washer was born at Marsh Farm (40 Barton Road Berrow) - the Horotiu/Te Puke Washer's (#7 above) eldest son went to Gallipoli as outlined below.



1915 WASHER, Sapper William Charles Reg # 4/865 is the eldest son of Mr. William Washer, Horotiu, Waikato. His early years were occupied in farming and he also spent a few years dairy farming in the Taranaki district. Later he resided in Dunedin, taking over the management of the Calcutta and Foochow Tea Co. at 146 George Street, Dunedin, in which business he was well known. He went to the Gallipoli with the front reinforcements.

14 Feb 15 Enlistment Address: 520 George Street, Dunedin, New Zealand (just down the road from his work address and where he lived at 250 George Street, Dunedin).

At the age of 23 William signing up for the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces 4th Reinforcements draft as advertised in the paper. He was classified as an “A” pass health wise.

April1915 Assigned to the 4th Reinforcements 2nd Field Company which undertakes training at Trentham including trench warfare and building pontoon bridges across the Hutt River and by 17th April considered fit for service.

Figure 24: 2nd Field Engineers, Trentham NZ (William C Washer is likely to be in this photo)

Embarked at Wellington on 17th April on one of three ships in a convoy - totaled 2,254 men for Port Suez. In Albany Australia on 29th April they allowed ashore for a 3hr route march and are put back on the ships.

All 3 NZ troop ships arrive in Egypt and the troops train for 5 days after which they leave for Gallipoli on 30th May 1915. They know that one week of fighting in Gallipoli has already cost the Allies 10,000 casualties.

3 June 15 to 6 August Took up positions at Monash Valley, Gallipoli - digging water wells and assisting building a pier.

Also grenade manufacturing - the various types of tins originally tried had now given place to the green fuse tin from the 18-pounder guns. These tins were stout, and about the size of a condensed milk tin. Two holes punched in both top and bottom allowed passage of the wires, which were joined across the top after loading had taken place. A dry guncotton-primer or half a stick of gelignite was placed in the tin, surrounded by unexploded Turkish cartridges, and the whole equipped with a detonator and a five seconds' length of fuse.

One portion of Quinn's Post known as the "Racecourse" (the most dangerous place in all of Gallipoli) had been so consistently harassed by the Turkish bombers, that on arrival of the 2nd Field Company, they found it temporarily abandoned—a fine opportunity to show the mettle of the new sappers. After building chicken wire grenade bomb screens little by little, with two or three men at a time working lying down, enough earth was scooped up to allow kneeling room. All dirt removed was filled into sandbags and dragged back for further use. From this slow laborious beginning the work progressed rapidly, gaining in speed as more room became available, until gradually the trench was sufficiently deepened and widened to enable work to be done in comparative comfort. Sandbags filled with gravel from the beach were built into a breastwork in which a steel loophole plate was fitted, with a crack shot posted to keep down the heads of too inquisitive Turks. Day and night the work went on till four steel loophole plates had been placed in position, and a section of the trench provided with overhead earth cover.

Figure 25: William Washer "Racecourse", Quinn's Post the most dangerous trench in Gallipoli

"The Racecourse" was a key position at the end of the Anzac line and it was fortified by 2nd Field Company in June and July 1915. It was overlooked by Turkish positions on three sides, and subjected to incessant sniper activity, and to grenade bombardment from Turkish positions only 15 metres away. The Turkish name for the position was Bomba Sirt (bomb ridge). ‘Men passing the fork in Monash Valley’, wrote Charles Bean, ‘used to glance at the place (as one of them said) as a man looks at a haunted house’ as for months a constant trickle of wounded would come down from this spot.

The Turks had only to advance a few metres, capture Quinn’s, and the whole Anzac area could be lost. Periscopes were used to survey the surrounding area, although they were prone to being damaged by rifle fire. Chicken wire nets on poles were erected in front of the trenches to stop grenades and steel rifle firing slits built by 2nd Field Company in June/July 1915.

In his official history, the Australian historian, Charles Bean described the holding of Quinn's Post as amongst the finest achievements of the Australian force. At Quinn's from 3am to 5am on 19 May 1915, (c.15 days before W C Washer and the NZ Wellington Regiment arrived at Quinn's Post) ten thousand Turks were shot down as Anzac rifle and machine-gun fire poured into wave after wave of men. Official historian Charles Bean described the attacks at Quinn’s Post as ‘exceedingly gallant’ because ‘the Turks who made them must have climbed out of trenches already crowded with dead and wounded’. That morning an estimated 7,000 Turks were wounded, with 3,000 dead in front of Quinn's Post. A truce was arranged for 24 May 1915 to bury the dead, and Turk and Anzac met for the first time in no-man’s-land.

3 June 15 ANZAC Cove William Charles Washer admitted to ANZAC Cover field hospital with dysentery (many of the troops at Gallipoli had dysentery).

6 Jun 15 William Charles Washer discharged from field hospital ANZAC Cove - July is very quiet for the Canterbury and Otago Battalion's (They held the Russell Top trenches)

Major Overton leaves for Alexandria, Egypt to buy fresh food. Because of the poor sanitary conditions and diet, a quarter of the Canterbury Regiment’s 320 men are now unfit for service (dysentery) despite remaining on duty.

6th August William Washer was involved in the major battle for the summit of Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli which was the next major battle for the NZ Mounted Rifles post action in May 1915. Chunuk Bair was the 2nd highest point on the whole Gallipoli peninsular ridge line.

The Wellington Battalion was part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Infantry Brigade along with battalions from Otago, Canterbury and Auckland. Together they were ordered on 6th of August to advance up Chunuk Bair with the aim of capturing it by the following morning. It took hours for them to make their way up the savage gullies and scrub covered slopes in the dark. They finally reached Rhododendron Ridge which was 500m below Chunuk Bair at 4am. They had orders to press on to the top but were exhausted. By 6am it was fully light and any movement brought a hail of fire from the Turks. The New Zealand commanders argued about what to do next. Colonel Malone, the Wellington commander (Malone owned 2,000 acres at Stratford, NZ), believed that it was senseless to attack now that it was light on 7th August. The Brigadier in charge, General Johnston, felt they should obey their original orders, and ordered the Auckland Battalion to charge up the slope. Only one quarter of them made it 100m up the slope where they found an empty trench near the "Pinnacle" (See photo below).

The Wellington Battalion was ordered to go next, but Colonel Malone refused to send them out in daylight and there was a large argument. He was threatened with arrest, but wouldn't budge. His men may well have shot anyone who tried arresting him. Finally General Johnston backed down and the Wellington men remained in the relative safety of Rhodondendron Ridge. A new attack was planned for dawn the next day. Malone told his men to get some sleep but few could.

The 1st and 2nd Field Companies formed part of the Right" and Left Assaulting Columns respectively. Their particular duties were to be the removal of mechanical obstacles, the consolidation of positions captured, and above all to find water. The 2nd Field Company was employed digging wells in the Aghyl Dere, though no supplies of water were carried forward to the summit of Chunuk Bair till darkness fell.

The order of battle placed the Wellington Battalion on the right of the line, the Gloucestershire Regiment on the left, with the Welsh Pioneers forming the second line; the Auckland Mounted Rifles and Maori Contingent in the third line; the Otago Battalion to be in reserve at the head of Rhododendron Ridge (See photo below).

Figure 26: NZers attacked along Rhododendron Ridge to Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli

The above photo is taken from Chunuk Bair (700ft above sea level, 7km from the coast, and the 2nd highest point in the whole Gallipoli Peninsular. The NZers over 3 days fought from "Tabletop" Peak in the background and its "Apex" along the top of Rhododendron Ridge past the "Pinnacle" (mid photo) and up the last very steep 100m to the summit of Chunuk Bair. Chailak Dere Valley is on the left with the NZ HQ being down at the foot of the valley. On day one about 300 of the Auckland Battalion were shot between the Apex and the Pinnacle with only 100 making the 1st Turk trench near the Pinnacle.

On 8th August 1915 shortly after 03:00am, following a naval bombardment of the Chunuk Bair peak, the Wellington Mounted Rifles running 16 abreast along Rhododendron Ridge followed by the Gloucester's reached the summit of Chunuk Bair virtually unopposed. The preceding barrage had driven most of the Turk defenders away as the ground was too hard and rocky for deep entrenchments. There were only a few Turks at the top who were taken prisoner. The NZers from Chunuk Bair could finally see the Narrows to Istanbul which was the Allies objective set on the 25th April 1915.

However Chunuk Bair was easily under fire from Turks on a nearby Hill Q which had not been cleared by the Indian Regiment who had got lost. The slope of the Chunuk Bair was so steep that the Turks could get within 22 yards (20m) of the trenches on top without being seen.

The Wellington Battalion dug themselves into an existing trench and also dug another 50 yards below, as they knew the Turks would attack them once daylight arrived and the haze lifted. Once the Turk attack came, the fighting was very intense and by 6.30am (3.5hrs into the battle) most of the NZ soldiers in the front trench were dead. The below sums up the fierce fighting which continued all day.

"We were just shooting heads as they came up over the rise 20 yards away and then using bayonets, no bayonet charges, just a mad whirl in the trenches. A Taranaki man named Surgenor next to me was hit in the head but he kept firing his face covered in blood, until he got hit in the head a second time which knocked him back into the trench. This time I thought he was killed, but he partly came to soon after and loaded rifles for me to fire. At the time I was using three rifles and each was burning red hot".

Colonel Malone was killed by misdirected shell fire and a memorial gate was erected for him in Stratford.

The 100 remaining men out of 400 from the Auckland Mounted Rifles climbed from the Pinnacle to the top of Chunuk Bair at 4.30pm on the 8th August.

The Otago Battalion, and Wellington Mounted Rifles were also ordered to relieve the Wellington Battalion at dusk on 8th August in the forward trenches on Chunuk Bair and the Otago's all made it to the summit at night with no losses.

Figure 22: Ion Brown, The battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915 - NZDF

The Otago's described what they saw when they arrived on Chunuk Bair we came across an area 100 yards in width where men lay dead and dying, and equipment and rifles were strewn in all directions. The Turks lined the far ridge only some 20 yards away, and they were pouring fire into the frontline trenches at point blank range. Accompanied by the screams of Allah, Allah, some would rush forward to throw a bomb. The rear reserve trench was full of dead men, and the odd wounded man who raved in delirium for water that was not to be had. There were now a total of 583 men garrisoned on that crest. At the very most the depth of the trench was only to be 1 metre, with a few sandbags on the parapet. The earth they dug away consisted of a sticky mass of blood, soil, ammunition and gear of all sorts. They sifted through it for usable ammunition and bombs and the rest went into strengthening the parapet. All the time the shadowy outline of the enemy were popping up into view on the crest-line and for a brief moment they were a target before the bomb was hurled towards them. The Turks had started to place the bombs inside socks in order to gain further throwing distance.

Of the 760 Wellingtons who had arrived on Chunuk Bair crest in the morning on the 8th August only 49 were capable of fighting that evening. The remnants of Wellington Battalion withdrew at 10.30pm on 8th August only 70 weren’t badly wounded when the unit withdrew, 107 were dead and 394 were missing most likely killed. The Welsh Battalion lost 417 men and the Gloucester's 350 men.

At night it was now decided by the Otago Battalion to extend the original line to the right. Under this arrangement the forces committed to holding the defenses of Chunuk Bair were disposed as follows: Two-thirds of the strength of Otago Battalion holding the left front of the line; Wellington Mounted Rifles next in order to the right; and one-third of Otago Battalion's strength, represented by 4th Company, occupying a flanking position on the extreme right.

A day remarkable for the fierceness of the struggle was succeeded by a night perhaps even more desperate. No food reached the Otago Battalion garrison; there was no possible chance of getting the wounded away and the already exhausted defenders, though constantly menaced by the enemy, were forced to exert themselves throughout the night in an endeavour to deepen the shallow trenches - a difficult business owing to the hard rock formation.

Shortly after 4th Otago Company had taken up the position which formed a defensive right flank, Turk movement was observed to the front, but there was some doubt as to its origin. Lieut. J. E. Cuthill accordingly moved out to the front and was able to convince himself that the Turks were massing for attack. This Turk assault was eventually delivered in considerable force; but our men withheld their fire until the enemy had advanced to within 15 yards of the line, when it was so well and truly delivered that the enemy was most sanguinary repulsed. When beaten off the Turks retired behind the ridge and reformed for a further effort.

As daylight broke on the 9th August considerable numbers of Turks appeared to the right rear, and at the same time a determined attack, proceeded by a storm of hand thrown bombs, was delivered against the Otago Battalions and Wellington Mounted Rifles front on the summit. The enemy's apparent intention was to drive in the front and then attack the NZ garrison in the flank as it withdrew. The first line of NZ trenches was entered, but the enemy was subsequently driven out, and the occupants of the rear trench, temporarily changing their front, dealt with the enemy threatening the flank. This attack was thus beaten off; at all other points the enemy was equally unsuccessful.

We fought on, half expecting any minute to be helped or relieved by a relief force. It was not to be the case on this day. The wounded lay dying and moaning and some tried crawling back towards the rear, often only to be shot when they were exposed on the rear slopes.

As the fighting position became visible to the artillery and Naval observers, a vicious shelling by howitzers and large naval guns commenced. The shelling reached a crescendo that had never been seen during the whole campaign, and the shells roared and shrieked up from behind and burst on a continual shattering crash on the few yards of the battlefield that separated the opposing forces. Those Turks, unfortunate to be on the receiving end of the bombardment, were flung high into the air together with earth, equipment and sandbags. But the dead were rapidly replaced by fresh comrades.

It was then pointed out to the Commanders that two battalions would be required to hold the position on the summit with shallow trenches; and it was urged that the relief should be effected that night. The outcome was that orders for relief were issued at 8 p.m. on the 9th.

The NZ Chunuk Bair summit holders, which had been decimated by Turk fire and attacks for two days and nights were in turn fully relieved by 2am on 10th August by the 6th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. These fresh UK troops were 3 hours later that morning at 5.30am massacred and driven off the summit on 10th August by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk)'s very large massed attack from the direction of Hill Q using 6,600 Turkish soldiers. These Turkish soldiers in some places were amassed at night in secret in trenches only 30 yards from the summit.

Figure 27: Rhododendron Ridge looking up to the summit of Chunuk Bair

ON 10th August 1915, the NZers below Chunuk Bair at 5.30am heard a tremendous burst of fire lasting ten minutes and a flood of 6,600 Turks then came over the summit and down Rhododendron Ridge. The NZers repulsed this charge mainly using 10 machine guns (set up the prior day). Of the c.2,000 fresh British troops only a handful made it off the Chunuk Bair summit.

NZ 2nd Field Company outlined - Thousands of enemy were then forced to retire back up the steep slopes of Chunuk Bair in full view of every man on our side able to fire a shot, and only a mere handful ever crossed back up over the ridge.

The Turks held onto the summit of Chunuk Bair for the rest of the war.

The NZ Mounted Rifles who had held out for 2 days and nights on the captured summit until they were relived on the evening of 9th August now virtually ceased to exist as a fighting unit. The Auckland Mounted Rifles only had sixty-six men from a strength of 310 all ranks that had started the battle. The Canterbury Mounted Rifles lost 105 men around forty per cent of their strength. The Wellington Mounted Rifles, had sixty-seven men left from 760 all ranks.

Mid Aug The old Turkish well at No. 2 Post had always been a mainstay of the water supply system, but now it became one of the most important features of the whole local situation, since by pumping 20 hours a day enough water could be obtained to supply approximately two Divisions. On several occasions the overworked engines broke down. Fortunately the New Zealand 2 Field Company included men who could be relied on to make a job of any engine that could move at all, but their ingenuity was severely taxed. New bearings were filed up out of spare parts of abandoned service pumps, then the cylinder rings burnt on to the piston and had to be broken off. New rings were made by cutting up a Turkish 4.5 shell with a hacksaw. Luckily these were exactly the right size, and a supply was kept in stock thereafter.

21 Aug 1915 Hill 60 was important because it had 2 fresh water wells at the base of it but unfortunately it had not been made secure on the 6th August when the British and Australian Brigades had walked over Hill 60. The Turks had counter attacked and by the 12th August had dug strong trench fortifications all over Hill 60 linking into Chunuk Bair 800m away.

At 3:30pm on 21 August the Battle for Hill 60, Gallipoli began with the idea being at 3.30pm the Turks on Hill 60 would be looking straight into the sun. A total of 3,985 Allied troops attacked making it the largest Allied attack on Gallipoli.

Heavy naval artillery was used but as the Turks had nowhere to run they just bunkered down in their well built fortifications and most survived.

After the blow of a whistle the 119 remaining men from the Canterbury and Otago Regiments charged straight at Hill 60 which was a shallow hill 200ft high crisscrossed with Turkish trenches and 800m of no-man's land. On their flanks were the 18th Australian Division 4th Brigade with 500 men, Connaught Rangers with 700 men and Maori Battalion with 100 men. The Canterbury Regiment suffered sixty per cent casualties, among them Major Hutton in command who was hit by bullets four times as he went over the top. He was replaced by Major Hurst, from the 1st Squadron, and they succeeded in capturing 150 yards of the first Turkish trench (on the 60m contour line) within fifteen minutes of going over the top.

On either side of them the rest of the attack failed, with the Australian 18th Division having 363 casualties. This left the Otago Mounted Rifles in the Turkish trenches isolated from the rest of the force. Not having the manpower to continue the assault, they were ordered to dig in and hold the position. At one point fire from the Otago Mounted Rifles’ machine-guns sets alight clothing on the body of a Turk. The resulting scrub fire almost forces the Canterbury Regiment out of their trenches. Many of the wounded lie on an area the size of a cricket ground and are caught in the scrub fire with exploding bullet pouches. During the night of the 22nd/23rd a 800m communications trench is dug from the old front line to the new trenches captured by the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles. On 28th August the survivors are sent out to attack the second line of trenches on Hill 60 with large losses again.

Figure 29: Beneath Hill 60 Gallipoli Aug 1915.

29th August - The CMR is relieved from the position on Hill 60 by troops of the 19th Battalion, AIF and the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade. The CMR and the rest of the NZMR move into trenches at the rear of the Hill 60 position. Of the 16 officers and 280 other ranks who were with it on 6 August, only one officer and 39 other ranks remained.

Figure 28: Hill 60 Gallipoli today

The Allies had to leave Gallipoli in December 1915 as it was going into winter (snowing), the Turks held the high ground, they had lost too many men and the Turks had just taken possession of the latest artillery from Germany.

At the end of Gallipoli (6 months) on a total beach head area of 400 acres the Turks put their casualties at 251k including 86k dead, the Allies had casualties of 140k with Britain 21k dead, France 10k dead, Australia 8,709 dead and NZ 2,701 dead.

23 August 1915 William Charles Washer was admitted to a hospital ship HS Arcadia off ANZAC Cove - lost right thumb and finger probably from Hill 60 above.

10 Sept William Charles Washer arrived in Manchester and worked in the Command Centre in London on general duties.

17 Nov 1915 William Charles Washer after recovering in London left Plymouth on the ship Rotorua for New Zealand.

   login or join us now to post comments

Submitted by on Fri, 18/04/2014 - 7:18
Albert Washer was the father of Alan Washer the gifted fighter test pilot who crashed his plane into an empty school play ground near South Hinksey, Berkshire (just south of Oxford) on 12th June 1940 (1 year into WWII).

Born: Alton (on parents farm NZ) 11 Oct 10; New Plymouth Boys High School - Archibald Clark, wholesalers, New Plymouth. NZ Army/TF; Embarched for UK mid- 1929 selected for RAF SS Comm; RAF Uxbridge/Depôt as Pilot u/t & SS Comm 13 Sep 29, 5 FTS 28 Sep 29, Pilots Badge, 13 Sqn (Atlas) 9 Sep 30, CFS 28 Sep 31, 2 FTS (various a/c types) as FI 16 Dec 31, sent to Malta & Hal Far Stn Flt (various air craft types) as FI. 18 Mar 32, to UK & Depôt 27 Dec 33, CFS (various a/c types) as FI 20 Jan 34, Res 27 Aug 34 [attained Flt Lt rank]; Bristol Aeroplane Co as test pilot c.e.35 [&/or FI at 'Bristol Flying School' (aka 2E & RFTS) for first 3 yrs?], Baled out when Wellesley caught fire (uninjured) 13 May 38, [relinq RAF Comm 27 Aug 38], kaa 12 Jun 40 (Beaufort). St Mary's Churchyard Cemetery, Berrow, near Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England. Son of Albert Edgar & Lena Washer (née Hellier), Westown, New Plymouth.

The Times, 14 May 1938

The second of the Air Ministry’s long-range
monoplanes, intended for an attempt
on the world’s long-distance record, was
lost yesterday. It took fire in the air
during a test flight near Bristol. The pilot,
Flight Lieutenant C. A. Washer, escaped
by parachute and landed safely, but the
other occupant. Mr. P. H. Warren, a test
observer, failed to get out in time and was
killed when the machine struck the ground
in a field at Alveston, near the main road
between Bristol and Gloucester.
This aeroplane, a Vickers Wellesley
Bomber, prepared specially for long•
range experimental work, was out on a
test flight from Filton when the accident
happened. and both the occupants were
employees of the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
The engine, a Bristol Pegasus
XXII, and the special installation were
the responsibility of the Bristol company,
but the air-frame and its main equipment
were the work of Vickers (Aviation)
Limited. Fire is understood to have
occurred in the aeroplane when it was at a
height of about 3,000ft. The cause of the
fire cannot at the moment be precisely
ascertained, but it is said not to have been
due to any fault in the engine or its

Fire in the air is very rare occurrence, and
there has been no previous known case in a
Wellesley. Nevertheless, the accident is of
particular importance, both because the
method of construction used in the Wellesley
is of a new and secret type and because the
loss or the other long-range Wellesley off the
coast or Northern Scotland on the morning of
February 24 still remains unexplained. In the
latter case the wireless messages from the
machine, which had been engaged on a flight
round England from 11.50 the previous night,
ceased suddenly at 8 a.m. and nothing further
was heard or seen of the aeroplane until a
wheel identified as belonging to it, was found
on the Norwegian coast. This was not
sufficient to suggest the cause of the disaster,
in which four lives were lost.
In yesterday’s accident the test pilot left
the aeroplane when it became evident that the
fire could not be put out. Why the observer
was unable to get out is of his cockpit in time
to use his parachute is not clear. In this type
of aeroplane, pilot and rear gunner occupy
separate cockpits with a communicating tunnel
between them. Both have sliding transparent
covers, The Wellesley was the first type of
aeroplane to be built on the geodetic system
of construction, which gives a remarkably light
structure and enables a big, useful load to be

There are a number of documents on Alan Washer held on a file at Personnel Records, NZDF, Trentham.

Figure 46: Bristol Beaufort Mk I L4443 that killed Alan Washer the fighter test pilot in 1940

Alan Washer (Albert Washer's son) was test flying a Bristol Beaufort Mk I L4443 from Bristol which caught fire over Oxford during engine cooling trials. His two senior flight training officer crew members bailed out safely over the Oxford built up residential area and he crashed it into an empty play ground.

Alan crashed is plane on 12th June 1940 which was 1 year into WWII but only 4 days into the Battle of Britain which ended end on 15th Sept 1940 - so it's unlikely he was involved in the Battle of Britain despite the shortage of pilots.

   login or join us now to post comments

Submitted by sylv38 on Thu, 15/05/2014 - 13:04

My father was born in 1895 so was old enough to go to war but had a problem with his eyesight so was sent from his home in Colchester to work at Woolwich Arsenal small arms factory. He never said what he did there but only left in 1919 after  the war. I guess he had lodgings somewhere in London ,  because he visited Kew Gardens at the end of the war where he met my mother !

Sorry I have no more details but thought this may be helpful   

Sylvia Claridge   (nee Fisher)

   login or join us now to post comments

Forthcoming Events

Society Meeting
Tuesday, 27th October, 2020 19:00 - 21:00
Society Meeting
Tuesday, 24th November, 2020 19:00 - 21:00
<- View calendar for more

Recent Comments

Dead Man's Penny WW1
16 hours 2 minutes 26 seconds ago
Location in photo from 1920s
1 day ago
Location in photo from 1920s
1 day ago
2 days ago
2 days ago
2 days ago
2 days ago
6 days ago
more comments

Website written and designed by:
Weston IT Solutions
Copyright (c) 2018