William Rowland Ding

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At about 6 p.m. on 12 May 1917 a daring young aircraft test pilot contracted to the Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Company Ltd. crashed to his death, witnessed from Soldiers Fields by 1,000 spectators

Originally an engineer, Ding was 28 years old in April 1914 when, after just three hours practice, he gained his pilot's licence. He then logged up 35,000 miles in the three months to the outbreak of World War One

Ding was considered to be a brilliant pilot and was acknowledged to have flown more types of aircraft than any other British airman

Something of a showman, postcards of Ding sold widely and personal appearances at events like Northallerton Carnival, he

drew large crowds

It should have been a routine first test-flight in a brand new B.E.2c built at the Olympia Works; a single engine two-seater biplane designed for light bombing and reconnaissance, not aerobatics

Flight magazine reported that the inquest evidence “showed that after climbing to a height of 1,500 ft the machine banked very considerably and looped the loop twice; then the wings on one side of the machine collapsed.

Ding crashed onto a fence separating a field from a footpath known as Loners Lane connecting Oakwood Grange Lane to North Lane (now ends at Oakwood Green)

His body was recovered bravely from the burning wreckage by a local doctor, Major Secker-Walker RAMC, who carried it to his nearby home at Oakwood Grange

Ding was a married man with a family

A memorial in the form of a propeller mounted on a stone plinth was erected at the crash site but after a while it ‘went missing’ and is said to have been ‘rediscovered’ at a pub in Leeds. It can now be viewed at Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills

David Morrow, a resident of Foxglove Avenue, remembers that during the 1980s children would play on large stones lying in the grass at the south west corner of Foxglove field. These are no longer evident. It seems possible they might have been part of the plinth left there when a site was cleared to build houses between Loners Lane and Foxwood field



Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c PDF 0.5 Mb

YouTube Video of B.E.2c 347 taking-off

by Wings  - 2013


Oak Leaves ODHS

Part Eight- Autumn 2008

Rowland Ding, Dare-devil Pilot of Soldiers’ Field PDF 0.3 Mb

by David Hanson


FLIGHT - Fatal Accidents  [PDF 0.2 Mb]

© FLIGHTglobal - May 24 1917

Ding, a forgotten hero? [PDF 0.1 Mb]

© BBC North -10 May 2007

Memories of pilot William Rowland Ding by Eric Suddell [PDF 0.2 Mb]

© BBC ariel - 18 February 2014

William Ding’s life and death as a test pilot [PDF 0.2 Mb]

© BBC News -3 June 2014

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2


Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills

Olympia Works



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