Air Crash at Hopeman

Air Crash at Hopeman

Flying in 1914 was still a very risky business, relying on the skill of the pilot and the reliability of the machine, this latter never terribly well assured.

These factors were amply illustrated to the people of Moray in October of that year when a seaplane dived into the sea near Hopeman, thankfully with no major casualties.

The event was reported in The Northern Scot of 23 October 1914, the report giving a valuable insight into the dangers of flight and the public’s curiosity, given that planes were then relatively uncommon in the skies of Moray. The report also neatly captures how conjecture and rumour could easily spread following such incidents.

Hydroplane at Hopeman

Machine falls into the Sea

Yesterday afternoon a British hydroplane (No. 859) fell into the Moray Firth about a quarter of a mile from Hopeman, and provided the inhabitants with one of the sensational incidents of the war. The event caused an extraordinary sensation in the usually quiet little town.

The great majority of the people of Hopeman and district had probably never seen a flying machine at close quarters, and when the hydroplane appeared from the west about one o’clock, and circled over the houses there was tremendous excitement. The whole population turned out to watch the movements of the strange visitor, and some of the inhabitants were even inclined to believe that the dreaded German invader had at last arrived, and that very soon bombs would be raining down on their defenceless homes. Fortunately they had nothing to fear on that score. The hydroplane proceeded in the direction of Clashach port, about a mile to the east of Hopeman, and then executed a circular movement, bringing it back again to the town. Its progress was watched by hundreds of people from Burghead, Hopeman, Cummingston, and the surrounding district. When about a quarter of a mile out from Hopeman harbour the machine was observed to fall heavily into the sea. It was afterwards ascertained that the engine had become overheated. Fortunately the machine was flying low at the time, and beyond one or two broken stays, little damage was done. The two occupants escaped unhurt.

Three small boats at once proceeded to the rescue. On reaching the machine it was found impossible to bring the boats up to it. One of the crew, however, swam from the boats to the hydroplane and succeeded in attaching a rope to it. A great crowd awaited its arrival a short distance to the west of the harbour, and many willing hands helped to drag the machine up the beach. During the afternoon the hydroplane was an object of interest to hundreds of curious visitors.

WW1 seaplane
A WW1 Sopwith seaplane which may have been the same type as that which crashed off Hopeman in 1914.