Capt Hugh Evelyn Watkins

1910 photo

The alphabetic register has him as "Capt". There is a Harold E Watkins who never made Capt, he resigned his commission and re-enlisted. There is a Hugh Evelyn Watkins who was a Capt in Essex Regt, and is only Capt H E Watkins on TNA MICs, however he was gazetted out as Major.

1881 Sep 21 (from RIC register) Born Kensington, London . His father was an army officer

1882 Sep 3. Baptism

1902 Feb 27. Commissioned 2nd Lt in 3rd Essex

1903 Dec 12. Promoted Lt in 3rd Battalion Essex Regt,

1910 Gains Aviators Cert

He flew Capt Maitlands biplane, and had intended to fly this machine in the Baron de Forest £4,000 Cross-Channel Prize contest. The machine was to have flown from Shorncliffe, fitted with a special compass, and with ‘wireless telegraphy apparatus’, by which Watkins hoped to be able to keep in touch with Capt. Maitland, who would be following the flight on a tug. Unfortunately an accident while experimenting with the machine eliminated him from the competition, eventually won by Thomas Sopwith.

1911 Pilot for Mawson's Antarctic Expedition. Mawson decided on the Vickers No. 1 – the first aircraft produced by the newly-formed aviation department of the marine engineering firm Vickers Ltd. The design was licensed from France – the designer was Robert Esnault-Pelterie – and the fuselage was built in France and shipped to England, where its English-built wings were fitted by Vickers. Bought early in 1911 for £955 4s 8d, the monoplane had a wingspan of 47 feet, length of 36 feet and a cruising speed of 48 knots. It was driven by a 60 horsepower, five-cylinder, air-cooled, semi-radial ‘R.E.P.’ engine. Vickers Limited were later to let payment of the account to lapse because of Mawson's dire financial position after the return of the AAE. In 1911 (only eight years after the Wright brothers’ first powered flight), aircraft were a novelty everywhere. Mawson hoped to use it to raise funds through a series of promotional flights around Australia, believing that this could add thousands of pounds to AAE coffers.

The new aircraft was tested at Vickers’ new Dartford airfield and at Brooklands, Surrey, before being crated and shipped to Australia aboard the steamship Macedonia, accompanied by the Antarctic veteran Frank Wild. Its pilot (Lieutenant Hugh Watkins, an experienced aviator and balloonist) and mechanic (Frank Bickerton) travelled separately aboard SS China.

Watkins in Australia Aug 1911

On arrival in Australia the plan was to do a number of demonstration flights. On taking off from Adelaide’s Cheltenham Racecourse on 4 October, a wing was damaged on landing and repaired by Bickerton. Early the next morning Wild and Watkins decided on one last test flight before beginning fund-raising joyrides. The crash happened during this flight. Wild was in the front (passenger) seat when Watkins experienced difficulties soon after takeoff. At 500 feet the Vickers began to side-slip, losing altitude rapidly. Watkins seemed to have things under control, but around 150 feet the aircraft struck turbulence, dropped suddenly and hit the ground, damaging its wings beyond repair.

The accident brought a sudden end to Mawson’s Antarctic flying ambitions, but he could consider himself lucky. In the benign conditions of suburban Adelaide Watkins found the aircraft difficult to handle; he would have found it next to impossible in windswept coastal Antarctica. Neither he nor Wild had been seriously injured, and with the South Australian governor due to be the first passenger, the affair could have ended in disaster. Accidents were common in these early years, with death the frequent outcome.

After the crash of the aircraft during a demonstration flight in Australia, in which he was slightly injured, he returned to the UK. The plane was damaged beyond repair.

Mawson decided to salvage the plane by converting it into a motorised sledge. He fitted the skis, and removed the wings and most of the sheathing to save weight. In his official account of the expedition, The Home of the Blizzard, Mawson wrote that the advantages of this "air-tractor sledge" were expected to be "speed, steering control, and comparative safety from crevasses owing to the great length of the runners". No longer needing a pilot, and believing him to be responsible for the crash, Mawson dismissed Watkins The aircraft was shipped to Antarctica for use as a tractor and abandoned there. Its remains were discovered in 2010.

1912 Mar 1. Injured in a flying accident

1914 Sep 16 Commissioned Lt in 3rd Essex. A Militia Regt

1915 Feb 28 Capt HE Watkins, Essex Regt, reported wounded

1917 Apr 239. Capt H E Watkins restored to Essex Reg establishment

1920 Sep 24 Gazetted out as Major

1920 Dec 8. Joined ADRIC with service no 1198. Posted to L Coy

1921 May 20 to 4 Jun on Leave

1921 Aug 5 to 2 Sep on Leave

1921 Sep 16 to 29 Sep on Leave

1921 Oct 21 to 10 Nov Suspended

1922 Jan 20. Discharged on demobilisation of ADRIC

1939 Register Living at The Oatsheaf Hotel , Fleet U.D., Hampshire, England . He is proprietor with daughter Joan E Watkins and Wife Helen (who later remaried a Mr Loring. ) This is exact date of birth of ADRIC man

1942 Sep 26 Died London




WO 339/8424