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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 28060
Last updated: 28 September 2020
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Time:11:30 LT
Type:Blériot Spad 33
Owner/operator:Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes
Registration: F-ACMH
C/n / msn: 3029.9
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:English Channel, 3 miles off Folkestone, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Croydon Airport, Croydon, Surrey (EGCR)
Destination airport:Le Bourget Airport, Paris (LFPB)
Blériot Spad 33 Berline F-ACMH, Cie Messageries Aeriennes: Written off (destroyed) 3/6/22 when crashed into the English Channel, about three miles off Folkestone, Kent, while performing a flight from Croydon to Paris. All three on board were killed:

Paul Ernest Morin (pilot, aged 35) killed
Paul Carroll (French national) killed
Dr Gordon Ley (aged 36) killed

On 3/6/22, Spad "Berline" F-ACMH, owned by Cie des Messageries Aeriannes, crashed into the sea about three miles off Folkestone whilst flying from London to Paris. The pilot and two passengers were killed. The aeroplane had taken off from Croydon at 10.30am and passed over Lympne about 45 minutes later, flying south east at around 1,500 feet.

Eyewitnesses stated that, after crossing the coastline, the machine turned to port and circled twice over Folkestone without any appreciable change in altitude before heading back out to sea. The wreckage of F-ACMH was lost (including the body of the passenger in the cabin) but the pilot's corpse was picked up in a mutilated condition, as was the body of the English passenger who had been seated alongside him.

The pilot, Mons. P. Morin, had graduated for military service in November 1914 and, up to demobilisation in 1919, had flown for around 800 hours. Before commencing employment on the Channel Service he had flown Company machines for 33 hours. The two passengers were a Mons. Paul Carroll and a Dr. Gordon Ley.

The Spad had been flown from Paris on 29/5/22 on its first journey since being modified, and had landed at Lympne owing to a broken oil pipe. After repairs he had continued his journey to Croydon on 1/6/22 - no repairs or adjustments were carried out there, but before starting on its last, fatal flight, F-ACMH had been examined and passed by a ground engineer and the fuel tanks filled.

Whether or not this problem had any bearing on the accident is open to conjecture - the official investigation decided that there was insufficient evidence to determine the cause. There was an additional note appended to the AAIB report:

"During the course of the investigation no evidence was found to support a theory which has been put forward in articles and statements appearing in the Public Press."

The "theory" being that the crash was caused by one of the passengers (Dr. Gordon Ley) shooting the pilot (Paul Morin) in the head. However, according to a contemporary newspaper report ("Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald" - Saturday 24 June 1922):

Last week-end a good deal of space in the London newspapers was devoted to a sensational French theory as to the cause of the air crash off Folkestone on June 3rd, when M. Paul Ernest Morin, the pilot of a French aeroplane, and two passengers. Dr. Gordon Ley, London consulting surgeon, and M. Paul Carroll, a Frenchman, were killed. The French theory put forward was that Dr. Gordon Ley suddenly went mad and shot the pilot in the head with a revolver.

All that is known in Folkestone in connection with the disaster goes to repudiate the suggestion. Indeed in official circles the theory was hardly considered seriously. Mr. Henry W. Watts, who, as Deputy Coroner, in the absence Mr. G. W. Haines, held the inquest, when interviewed on the point, said:

"There was not a scrap of evidence given at the inquiry to support the theory that the pilot was shot. It was clear to me that it was a case of accidental death, and I have received no information since to lead me to alter my opinion, although I believe that two doctors have since examined the body at the instance of the French authorities."

Mr. Edwin J. Chadwick, the Coroner’s Officer, whose duty it was to examine the bodies, also strongly rejects the theory. As to a bullet wound being found in the head, he says that was out of the question, as the body was decapitated and the head was not recovered from the sea. Nor was there the slightest trace of a bullet wound anywhere in that part of the body which was found.

A Director of the Messageries Aeriennes told the representative of a daily paper on Monday that when the bodies of Dr. Ley and the pilot were recovered the company, which could not reopen the inquest (held at Folkestone on July 6th, when a verdict of "Accidental Death" was returned), had a private autopsy at Folkestone conducted by Dr. F .J. Lidderdale and Dr. H. W. L Molesworth in the presence of the French Consul. In their report the doctors say that "some portion of the lower jaw and one parietal bone (one of the two large bones which, in human beings, form the larger part of the top and sides of the skull) were all that remained of Morin’s head, which appeared to have been severed with great violence. There was no trace of a bullet."

There was a grisly post-script when a severed head was found in a fisherman's nets ("Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald" - Saturday 01 July 1922)

The motor-boat F.E.65, owned by Mr. Cook, of 65, Dudley-road, when trawling off Hythe about 4 a.m. Monday, fished up the remains of a man's skull. A part of the lower jaw was missing, the cranium was empty, and there was no flesh adhering to the bones. The question that first arose was whether the skull was that of the French air pilot, Monsieur Paul Morin, who was decapitated in the recent air crash off Folkestone on Saturday, June 3rd, but Dr. F. J. Lidderdale, who, with Dr. H. W. L. Molesworth, made a post-mortem examination of the headless body, came to the conclusion that it was not the head of the pilot, being of the opinion that it had been in the water seven or eight months. The matter was reported to the Coroner, but he decided that it was not necessary to hold an inquest"


1. Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 24 June 1922
2. The Aeroplane, 7 June 1922, 28 June 1922 and 5 July 1922
3. British Medical Journal, 10 June 1922.
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/4/C54:

No photo of F-ACMH has been found; however, below is a picture of the identical sister ship F-ACMB in 1921 Avion SPAD

Revision history:

27-Sep-2008 01:00 ASN archive Added
09-Nov-2017 07:36 Sergey L. Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Country, Phase, Source, Damage, Narrative]
09-May-2018 23:10 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
09-May-2018 23:19 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
09-May-2018 23:19 Dr. John Smith Updated [Embed code]
09-May-2018 23:21 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
26-Feb-2020 19:57 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
26-Feb-2020 19:59 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]

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