Ralph Oliver Lashmar, who was Captain of the J.S. White's Somerton Works Fire Brigade and Fireman of Cowes Fire Brigade, died in an air crash alongside his younger brother Allan Frank on 7 September 1916. They were aged 29 and 24 respectively.
Ralph and Allan were two of ten sons of Mr and Mrs William John Dennis Lashmar of 1 Upper Moor Green Road, Cowes. Ralph was born on 4 November 1887 and Allan in 1892. Two further brothers, soldier Donald and sailor Bertram were also to lose their life during the war. Ralph and Allan weren't in the Armed Forces but they were in the service of the country's war effort as employees of J.S. White's where in addition to being a pioneering aviator Ralph was Captain of the Somerton Works Fire Brigade; where a fifth brother lost an arm in another accident.
Ralph, married to Amy Mildred and living with her and their two young sons at Shrewsbury, Coronation Road, Cowes, was initially employed by White's as a marine turbine fitter.
On the afternoon of Thursday 7 September the two brothers, both accomplished young pilots certified by the Royal Aero Club (Ralph had briefly served with the Royal Flying Corps and Allan had briefly served with the Royal Naval Air Service), were carrying out a second flight trial in landplane Serial No. 9841 that was destined for the military.
They took the aircraft to 6000' above ground level and were then seen to have shut down the engine and glided down to 600' and restart the engine. Ralph pulled the aircraft in to a circle in the descent when suddenly the aircraft pitched into a spiral dive and crashed into Ruffins Copse off Cockleton Lane, Northwood. Local dairyman William Wyatt on his way home from Newport, who witnessed the events, dashed to the scene but soon realised there was nothing that could be done for the brothers although both Dr Denton from the town and the Military Hospital at Parkhurst despatched help.
The article of the IW County Press that reported the outcome of the inquest stated that Ralph had qualified as a pilot at Windermere and then returned to test flying for White's; He had a great passion for flying, in which he evidenced marked skill, intrepidity, and resource, and previous to Thursday he had not had a serious accident.'
The inquest found that two government inspectors had surveyed the wreckage and found no mechanical or structural faults. During the inquest it was remarked by the Foreman; Ralph Lashmar had tested hundreds of new machines, and I consider him one of the finest pilots I know.
In summing up the Coroner stated; No doubt the deplorable occurrence was the result of an accident, but we have not been able, from the facts available, to arrive at the cause of the accident. The machine was carefully tested and examined before the flight, and the pilot was most experienced and competent. I take it that the jury shall decide that death was due to an accidental fall.
The jury immediately and without further consultation returned the verdict of accidental death.
The County Press report of the funeral is extensive and reflects the respect that was due to the pioneering young men. Shutters were closed, blinds were drawn, flags were at half-mast both ashore and afloat and a respectful fly-past was conducted.
Rest in peace Captain and Chief Pilot Ralph Lashmar and his brother Pilot Allan Lashmar.