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Portrait photograph - Frederick James Horrell, Royal Flying Corps

Frederick James Horrell
Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Identifying number: 
Author: simbath_63

Portrait photograph - Frederick James Horrell, Royal Flying Corps

Fred Horrell was the first person to lose their life in military aviation history in New Zealand.  He was born at Woodend in 1890 and attended Rangiora High School. He then worked on the family farm. In October 1914, with the outbreak of World War One, he left New Zealand with the 1st Canterbury Mounted Rifles. On 21 August 1915, he was wounded in the thigh and shoulder at Gallipoli, and was evacuated from the Peninsular. On recovery, he re-joined his unit in Egypt.

In February 1917, Fred was granted a commission to train as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After training in Egypt and England, he was posted to No. 56 Squadron in July 1917 flying SE.5a fighters. In September 1917, after three months of combat, he was hospitalised with “shellshock” (what would now be called ‘Post-traumatic Stress Disorder’). He returned to duty in England but was seriously concussed during a crash whilst instructing a pupil on 7 July 1918. On his return to New Zealand in 1919, Fred returned to his life of farming, but continued to attend annual refresher courses at Wigram as a member of the territorial New Zealand Air Force.

On the afternoon of 17 March 1926, Horrell took Lt P.A. Turner up for a type handling demonstration of a Bristol Fighter during the 5th refresher course at Wigram. They were also accompanied by one of the Mess waiters, Lewis Reid. Over Papanui he performed two loops. During the second, the aircraft spun into the ground in the gardens of the Methodist Orphanage, narrowly missing a room containing the children, who were having a meal. Fred was killed instantly and Reid died on the way to hospital. Turner later recovered from his injuries. Frederick Horrell’s grave lies in the Anglican Cemetery in his home town of Rangiora.

This photograph was presented to the Officer's Mess at RNZAF Station Wigram in his memory on 5 May 1926 by his fellow officers, where it hung for many years.


Date on item: 
05 May 1926

Author: simbath_63