First Canadian military aviator killed in the Great War

Friday, February 5, 1915

In Hutments, Lark Hill, Salisbury Plains

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “After weeding out unfits, Battalion about 100 under strength; received draft from 17th Battn. to complete.  Draft arrived with papers in very bad shape, and some of the men very little better than those we had cast.  Ordered to leave officers behind to bring numbers down to establishment, so sent Lieuts. Brotherhood, Pearce, G.W.Stairs, Gavin L. Stairs, Leprohon, Heuston to reserve at Tidworth, greatly to their disappointment.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY:  The Battalion history explained:  “As a result of the adoption of the four company system, the battalion had been left with a surplus of officers.  These officers, together with the Base Company, were ordered into reserve at Tidworth Barracks.”   [2]

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM FREDERICK NELSON SHARPE, ROYAL FLYING CORPS:  One of 3 members of the original Canadian Aviation Corps. , he was the first Canadian military aviator to give his life in the Great War.

05 Feb 15“London, Feb. 4. – Lieutenant William F. Sharpe of the Canadian contingent, attached to the Royal Army Flying Corps, was killed this afternoon while making his first flight unaccompanied.  The accident happened at Shoreham, where he had been under instruction for about a fortnight.  Piloting a Maurice Farman biplane, he made a flight up the Adur Valley.  He was descending, and when he had about reached the ground his machine was seen to tip nose downwards abruptly and then fell in a heap.  When assistance arrived Sharpe was still breathing, but he died almost immediately.  His machine was smashed to pieces.  [4]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Feb 5, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,
[2]    R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg . 22.
[3]   “Canadian Aviator Killed at Shoreham, Lieut. Sharpe Loses Life While Descending In a Farman Biplane,” The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, Friday, February 5, 1915, pg. 1, col. 2
[4]   Ibid



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