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Squadron Leader Edwin Rowland Moon

Wednesday 29th April 2020

On this day, one hundred years ago, Squadron Leader Edwin Rowland Moon ('Rowland') lost his life in a ‘plane crash into the sea at Felixstowe. He was 33 years old. His body was brought back for burial at Southampton where a wooden propeller marker, unique in the cemetery, rests on his grave. He was a pioneer of powered flight in this area, with a first such flight in 1910 in his own aircraft, Moonbeam II, at, what is now, the northern part of the airport at Southampton. In the First World War he served mainly in East Africa, with the Royal Naval Air Service. He later became a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force. He held the D.S.O. and Bar, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal with Oak Palm.
In East Africa, for an act of humanitarianism in trying to save the life of his Observer, Flag Commander the Hon. R. O. B. Bridgeman, he was awarded The Royal Humane Society Silver Medal. A fault with their ‘plane’ led to a forced landing behind German lines and an attempted escape down a river infested with crocodiles and mosquitoes. Cdr Bridgeman died on a raft the pair had managed to construct. In September 1918, the French awarded Edwin Rowland Moon their Legion of Honour with the rank of Croix de Chevalier.
When circumstances permit, FoSOC will hold a commemoration at the Old Cemetery to mark the centenary of Squadron Leader Moon’s death.
FoSOC are incredibly grateful thanks to Sarah at Royal British Legion, Woolston Branch for kindly supplying us with the lovely poppy wreath to mark the centenary.
In a letter to 'Flight' magazine, published in June 1910, Rowland referred to Moonbeam II as: '..a monoplane, built rather on the lines of the 'Santos', though of light steel tubing..'. We understand this to be a reference to Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer, and his aircraft, the Santos-Dumont Demoiselle, developed between 1907 and 1909, the fuselage being built from bamboo. For the 1965 feature film 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines', reproductions were built of a number of aircraft dating from 1910. One of these was a flying replica of a Demoiselle piloted, in the film, by the amorous Frenchman, Pierre Dubois (Jean-Pierre Cassel). Although there are differences between the two aircraft, we can - through the film - gain an impression of what it would have been like to see Moonbeam II in the air at Eastleigh in 1910.
Many thanks go to Bruce Larner for obtaining the wreath and photos of Moon’s grave and for Solent Sky and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum for extra photos from the Moon’s archives.