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Oxford Inscriptions: Airmen’s Bridge, Wolvercote


Airmen's Bridge plaque

IN DEEP RESPECT FOR THE MEMORY OF
LIEUT. C. A. BETTINGTON & SECOND-LIEUT. E. HOTCHKISS,
OF THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS, WHO MET THEIR DEATHS
IN THE WRECK OF A MONOPLANE 100 YARDS NORTH OF THIS SPOT
ON TUESDAY SEPT. 10, 1912.
SYMPATHISERS IN OXFORD AND WOLVERCOTE TO THE NUMBER
OF 2226 HAVE ERECTED THIS STONE AS A TRIBUTE TO THE
BRAVERY OF THESE TWO BRITISH OFFICERS WHO LOST THEIR
LIVES IN THE FULFILMENT OF THEIR DUTY.

The above plaque is in Wolvercote, on the bridge on the Godstow Road (near the Trout pub) that was originally called Toll Bridge but renamed Airmen’s Bridge in honour of the two airmen who died here.

Claude A. Bettington, the pilot, came from New Zealand.

At the time of the 1911 census Edward Hotchkiss (28) was an aviation pupil, living at the Craven Arms near Ludlow with his widower father, Henry Hotchkiss (71), who was director of the Ludlow Brewery, and his sister Helen (32). He became the Chief Test Pilot for the British Aircraft Company.

The Bristol Coanda Military Monoplane they were flying was due to land on Port Meadow, but crashed after a wire came loose and tore a hole in the fabric of the starboard wing. Bettington (30) was flung to his death from the aircraft, while Hotchkiss (28) died in the wreckage.

This accident took place before the First World War, and hence local people were shocked at this unusual accident. The 17 airmen who died while training on the Port Meadow flying aerodrome during the First World War had to wait a hundred years before their free-standing memorial was unveiled in 2018:

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013