The Pilot is Beyond the Reach of a Court-Martial



The Pilot is Beyond the Reach of a Court-Martial


An extract from Tee Emm magazine about a pilot that died doing unauthorised low flying. It refers to a dozen other accidents where pilots and crew lost their lives doing low flying.



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SO runs the comment of A.O.C. Group on the finding of a Court of Inquiry held to determine the cause of an accident to a Hampden. The Hampden was wrecked by crashing into a tree during unauthorized low-flying, and this low-flying was, in point of fact, a show-off dive on a house near the aerodrome. For this wilful breach of discipline resulting in an accident the pilot would probably have been court-martialled. But he wasn’t. No court-martial for him: even the A.O.C. had to admit that. For by that crash he had written himself off as finally as if he had put a bullet through his brain, though of course, considerably less tidily.

Well, that’s one way of avoiding courts-martial. Rather a selfish one though; for it comes very hard on a lot of innocent people. The people, for instance, who sweated to make a highly intricate aircraft, armament, and fittings, only to be turned into mere scrap; the people, many in devastated areas, who saved their shillings to buy that bomber so that they could give the Hun a little of his own medicine; the other three people in the aircraft who weren’t responsible for breaking the regulations but who were killed just the same; and, of course, the pilot’s young wife, who lived in the house he was beating up and was thus able to see it all beautifully.

That pilot, as the A.O.C. said, is now beyond the reach of a Court-Martial. He is also beyond all possibility of being able to bomb a German town, shoot down a German aircraft, take German lives, or help to reduce German resources in any way. Instead, all on his own, he has destroyed a British aircraft, taken British lives, and wasted British resources. Why? To show off to his wife, and to prove to himself that Flying Discipline meant nothing to him.

After all, you must admit that flying regulations are not made up for fun, or just to annoy and restrain high-spirited pilots. No, they are instituted to preserve, as far as possible, valuable crews and aircraft when not engaged in fighting the Hun – so that they may be ready and on the spot to fight him when required. Those who pay for the aircraft, make the aircraft, pay for and train the crews could legitimately have a sense of grievance if all this is wantonly wasted by an unfortunate accident. And there are too many of these “unfortunate accidents.” Not ordinary accidents due to bad luck, bad judgment, bad weather or other causes which can never be entirely eliminated; but accidents, due to sheer carelessness or disobedience.

Reading the following from reports of Courts of Inquiry on a dozen recent accidents, all of which occurred within a couple of months or so.

“This accident was due to unauthorized low flying….” “The aircraft was being flown contrary to instructions, below the prescribed height.” “… not at the time on the duty for which he had been detailed … flying low in the vicinity of his home.” “…. exceeding instructions given by his Flight Commander.” “The cause of the accident was deliberate disobedience of orders.” “… carrying out unauthorised low flying.” “This is a clear case of unauthorised low aerobatics.” “This accident was due to the carrying out of a training exercise in a manner that contravened the order given.” “… incompetently performing unauthorised aerobatics at an altitude less than that laid down.” “The undisciplined action of the pilot is most reprehensible.” “There was no justification for the accident for which sole responsibility must rest with the pilot.”

Just a sample covering about two months. But the cost to the country of those dozen accidents was thirteen aircraft and twenty lives….

Thirteen aircraft and twenty men fewer to smack at Germany – with not even the smell of a dead Hun to show for it.

Courtesy of Tee Emm



Great Britain. Royal Air Force, “The Pilot is Beyond the Reach of a Court-Martial,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 25, 2024,

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