IN a field known as ‘Dollyman’s Farm’, in Rawreth, just past where an electricity substation stands today, two lowly propeller blades from a plane can be seen.

They may initially appear to be graves but in in fact they are war memorials. They are there to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice made by two young pilots who were stationed at local aerodromes, (Rochford and Stow Maries) and who fatefully crashed over the field during the First World War.

Both men were members of the Royal Flying Corps, which was formed on on May 13, 1912 with the motto “through adversity to the stars”. Both would hold true to this motto until their untimely deaths on the fateful night of March 7/8, 1918.

The story of the tragic pilots - Captain Alexander Bruce Kynoch and Captain Henry Stroud - has been shared many times but historians today are doing everything they can to ensure their sacrifice is never forgotten.

Mike Davies, chairman of the Rayleigh Town Museum and fellow colleagues from the Rayleigh Through the Looking Glass historical group, are currently heavily involved in restoring the memorial to the two pilots.

Mike explained: “At this time air raids were taking place over London and the Germans were mainly using two planes. First was the Gotha bomber, now in its 5th version, with fuel tanks in the fuselage, three machine guns which gave cover either side as well as below (a previous weak spot), and its Mercedes engines gave a top speed of 87 mph with a range of 500 miles.

“Its partner was the very impressive plane the Zeppelin Staaken RX1V nicknamed, the giant, for very good reason. Its wingspan was 138 feet which was greater than that of a Lancaster bomber (only 102 feet) in the Second World War.

“The plane could accommodate eight crew, including a mechanic to make running repairs in flight if needs be.”

Mike added: “First introduced on September 17, 1917, only 13 such planes had been manufactured by the end of the war. Designed by Ferdinand Von Zeppelin and built at Staaken, a town just outside Berlin. It was a formidable foe with its four Mercedes engines, six machine guns, seven bombs, and in addition there were two bombs strapped underneath each weighing 2,200 pounds.

“Not one of them was shot down during raids over England, although two crashed on their return journey home.”

The night of March 7, 1918 was to be the first German raid of the Great War, which took place on a moonless night.

The German planes mainly used the River Thames as a navigational aid while aircraft from local airfields, such as Rochford and Stow Maries, would use the Southend to London, Liverpool Street railway line as their route to London if the Germans were ahead of them.

Defence units were scrambled from a total of 10 airfields to try and intercept and destroy these planes before they could shed their bombs on the capital.

First in the air on that fateful night was Captain Alexander Bruce Kynoch of 37 squadron based at Stow Maries airfield near Maldon. He took off at 11.29pm followed by Captain Henry Stroud of 61 squadron based at Rochford airfield ,who was in the air just one minute later at 11.30pm.

Mike added: “Navigational equipment at that time was very basic and consisted of a map strapped to the thigh and a torch, sometimes held in the mouth.

“Their instructions were ‘find and follow the railway and you will soon locate the German planes’.

“The two British planes were unaware of each other and when both were over what was then the Fanton Hall Farm estate (which then stretched over both sides of the railway line and consisted of some 1250 acres, farmed by a Mr. W.W. Wilson, they collided, crashed into the field and both pilots were tragically killed instantly.”

Mike described what happened next: “Once the bodies had been removed Mr Wilson immediately enclosed the two crash sites with a fence and a nine foot cross was placed on each spot with a propeller blade as a mark of respect.

“When the new A130 duel carriageway was built the preferred route through the farmland could not be used due to precise location of one of the monuments and the road was moved several metres to the east.

“Travelling along this road today the nearest bridge to the site is named Monument Bridge with Captain Stroud’s memorial at the bottom of the embankment.”

Mike and fellow volunteers from the Rayleigh Town Museum and Looking Glass have conducted research into the pilot’s lives.

Captain Alexander Bruce Kynoch was born on the January 5, 1894. His family came from North Finchley. He was a Captain in the Duke of Wellington Regiment, and had served in Egypt but obtained his flying certificate in May 1916 and then graduated as a Flying Officer at Brooklands on Christmas day 1917.

Mike said: “Not unique but nonetheless tragic, Captain Kynoch was not due to fly that night but took over at the last minute from a colleague who was unwell.

“Captain Kynoch was flying a BE 12C registration number 3208 and if you ever visit Stow Maries aerodrome you will see this monument to the pilots who were killed in WW1 from this airfield and Captain Kynoch’s name is first on the list.”

Captain Kynoch is buried in the St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery in North London. Captain Henry Clifford Stroud, was born on July 25, 1893 and served in in the Northumbrian Royal Engineers. He obtained his flying certificate in August 1916 and then graduated as a Flying Officer also from Brooklands on the 27th September 1916.

Captain Stroud is buried in St. Andrews Church in Rochford along with four other pilots from the First World War.

Mike added: “Originally each grave had a propeller but, after 4 had been lost— perhaps I should say stolen--the last one for pilot John Sheridan was taken inside the church for safekeeping, where it remains to this day.

“Also inside the church there is a plaque in memory of Captain Stroud which was arranged by his father Professor Henry Stroud.” Mike and fellow historians from the museum are working on the restoration of the memorials as they are a significant part of our local war heritage.

“ I hope they will always be a fitting tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“The significance of these two memorials has been recognised as both have just been awarded Grade 2 Listed status by Historic England.”

To commemorate the centenary of the tragic crash Mike and colleagues visited the Rawreth field memorials to last week to lay wreaths.

You can find out more thanks to the museum’s extensive archives which available for viewing in the Rayleigh Town Museum. Visit for details.