Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Lieutenant Charles George Gordon Bayly, 56th Field Company, the Royal Engineers, and Second Lieutenant Vincent Waterfall, 3rd Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment, both attached to 5th Squadron, the Royal Flying Corps, were killed in action when their plane crashed at Enghien in Belgium, having been brought down by anti-aircraft gunfire.
Lieutenant Bayly was the great-nephew of Gordon of Khartoum, after whom he was named, and both his grandfathers served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. He was educated at St. Paul’s School in Hammersmith and attend the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Lieutenant Bayly had trained as a pilot in 1912 and then attended the Central Flying School at Upavon in May of 1914.
Second Lieutenant Waterfall was one of eight children and attended Brighton College. He attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, being commissioned in January of 1912, and obtained his Flying Certificate in April of 1913 at Vickers Flying School, Brooklands. He was noted for having a lively and enthusiastic personality, and loving speed whether in planes or cars - he won a competition flying the former and was known to drive car around the countryside at the then-high speed of 30 mph in the latter.
At the outbreak of the Great War they both joined 5 Squadron, and then flew to Maubeuge in France on the 12th of August, it having been decided as the assembly point for the British Expeditionary Force eight years earlier. Field Marshal Haig told a meeting: “I hope none of you gentlemen is so foolish as to think that aeroplanes will be able to be usefully employed for reconnaissance in the air”, but by 1915 they were essential. It is sad to note that the average life expectancy of a new Royal Flying Corps pilot was just seventeen days. Eight hundred and sixty officers and men of the Royal Flying Corps were at Maubeuge with twenty planes. They were tasked to confirm rumours that German troops were advancing through Brussels towards Mons.
On the morning of the day of their deaths, Second Lieutenant Waterfall.flew with Lieutenant Bayly as observer. They reported that a body of German troops was on the Mons-Soigne Road and heading towards Silly – this was the opening stages of the Battle of Mons. The returned to base and then set off again to observe the progress of the advancing Germans, flying low over a small group of German troops on the outskirts of the village of Labliau, near Enghien. A German officer, Captain Walter Bloem, wrote: “Suddenly an airplane flying over us…I order two groups to shoot him, and soon, it seems that everyone is firing. The airplane began a turn, as if he wanted to take a southerly direction, but it's too late: he slumps, made several twists and falls like a stone about a mile from here. Around me, I only hear murmurs of satisfaction. Later three hussars shout us that later they found the plane in a field. I ask them, "What happened to the pilot and the observer?" "Both are dead, sir."’
A young boy witness reported that as vast numbers of advancing German troops passed the smouldering wreckage of the first British plane to be shot down, with the bodies visible, they removed their hats and saluted. Some fired a volley over the wreckage and then hastily covered the bodies in soil. Local people placed flowers over the makeshift graves. A local landowner later exhumed the bodies, placed them in zinc coffins and hid them in his distillery cellar so that they could eventually have a proper burial. In 1924 they were recovered and re-interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Tournai, Belgium.
Vincent, born in Grimsby and raised in Burgess Hill, was 22 years old. On his gravestone are the words: Loved and honored by all who knew him.
Charles, born in South Africa and raised in England, was 23 years old. On his gravestone are the words: Who stands if freedom fall? Who dies if England live?