Acting Pilot-Officer David C Preston 1933-53


Acting Pilot-Officer David Charles Preston, 19, of Lincolnshire, crashed and was killed while on a solo training flight from RAF Clunto, Ardboe, Co Tyrone, on the afternoon of Wednesday 6 May 1953.
The Percival Prentice aircraft he was flying crashed into a field at Crosslands, north of Swatragh, Co Derry. An inquest was held at Magherafelt, Co Derry, on Friday 8 May 1953. A verdict was returned that death was caused by shock and haemorrhage due to fracture of the skull and multiple injuries.
David Preston was born in India in 1933, the son of Major CET and Mrs Preston. He spent part of his childhood in Egypt before the family settled in England, at the Old Rectory, Westby, Lincolnshire. He began his National Service in September 1952, intending afterwards to enter a university for training as a veterinary surgeon.
His funeral and burial, with full military honours, took place at St Colman’s Church of Ireland, Ardboe, and was attended by his father and his younger brother, Christopher.
Shortly afterwards Christopher followed his brother’s footsteps and joined the RAF, and received his wings and commission in February 1955.

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

Grantham Journal – Friday 1 August 1952
MARBLED WHITE BUTTERFLIES
Last week’s observation by the Bishop of Grantham, the Right Reverend Anthony Otter, concerning marbled white butterflies, has evoked a comment from DC Preston, of the Old Rectory, Westby, that these may be seen regularly as far north as Essendine, and in large numbers at Barnack “Hills and Holes” near Stamford.

Londonderry Sentinel – Thursday 7 May 1953
COUNTY DERRY
PILOT OFFICER KILLED INSTANTLY

An acting Pilot-Officer of the RAF, stationed at Clunto RAF Station, Ardboe, County Tyrone, was killed yesterday afternoon when the Percival Prentice training plane he was piloting crashed into a field at Crosslands, Swatragh, County Londonderry, just a short distance from where children were dropping potatoes.
The pilot’s name has not yet been disclosed, pending notification of his relatives. The body was taken to the Mid-Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt, and an inquest will be held today.
The man who reached the plane first, Daniel Cooley, Gorteade, Upperlands, said he found the dead pilot close to the wreckage. The man had severe head and facial injuries.
Two children, Teresa Quinn, aged thirteen, and her ten-years-old cousin, Danny Quinn, who were “dropping” potatoes in a nearby field, also saw the plane crash. Teresa said, “We saw the plane come over the hill from the west very low. It circled over us twice and the engine seemed to go on and off. It crashed into a field about thirty yards from us.”
Another eye-witness, Robert Toye, said the noise of the crash made his horses bolt.
Constable David Baxter, of Swatragh, who was cycling on patrol, saw the aircraft flying at a low altitude, and said the engine appeared to cut out before the crash. He arrived at the scene a few minutes after the plane came down.

Northern Whig – Friday 8 May 1953
19-YEAR-OLD ACTING PILOT OFFICER DERRY PLANE CRASH VICTIM
The acting pilot officer who was killed when a Percival Prentice training plane crashed at Swatragh, County Londonderry, on Wednesday afternoon, was David Charles Preston, of Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Pilot Officer Preston was aged 19. He had been stationed at Clunto RAF Station, Ardboe, County Tyrone, for about two months.
An inquest will be held today.

Northern Whig – Saturday 9 May 1953
INQUEST ON PILOT OF CRASHED RAF PLANE
At the inquest in Magherafelt yesterday, on Acting Pilot Officer David Charles Preston (19), Grantham, Lincolnshire, pilot of the aircraft which crashed at Crosslands, Swatragh, on 6 May, a verdict was returned that death was caused by shock and haemorrhage due to fracture of the skull and multiple injuries.
PO Preston was stationed at Clunto Aerodrome, Ardboe, County Tyrone.

Grantham Journal – Friday 15 May 1953
PRESTON, David Charles, A/Pilot-Officer, dearly loved elder son of Major CET and Mrs Preston, of Westby, lost his life in a flying accident on 6 May 1953, aged 19 years.
Buried with full Service honours at Arboe Parish Church, N Ireland.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Grantham Journal – Friday 15 May 1953
YOUNG WESTBY AIRMAN KILLED IN NORTHERN IRELAND CRASH
Nineteen-years old Acting Pilot-Officer David Charles Preston, an old boy of Grantham King’s School, who was killed when the Percival Prentice aircraft he was flying solo on a training flight crashed in a field at the foot of Slieve Gallion mountain, Northern Ireland, has been laid to rest at Arboe, Northern Ireland.
Elder son of Major and Mrs Preston, of the Old Rectory, Westby, Acting Pilot-Officer Preston was born in India in 1933. He was educated at Grantham King’s School (1944-48) and for the last three years at Stamford School, where he figured in the Rugby Second XV.
In September last he began his National Service in the RAF, intending afterwards to enter a university for training as a veterinary surgeon.
He was sent to Jurby, Isle of Man, and from there to No.2 Flying Training School at Cluntoe (Northern Ireland), where he lost his life.
His chief hobby was bird-watching, and he spent many happy hours in following that pursuit at the field centre at Malham Tarn in Yorkshire.
Full military honours were accorded at the funeral, which was attended by deceased’s father and brother, Christopher.

Grantham Journal – Friday 14 August 1953
MEMORY OF A YOUNG WESTBY AIRMAN PERPETUATED
To perpetuate the memory of 19-years-old Acting Pilot-Officer David C Preston of Westby, an old boy of Grantham King’s School, who was killed when the Percival Prentice aircraft he was flying solo on a training flight crashed in a field at the foot of Slieve Gallion mountain, Northern Ireland, in May, an inscribed alms plate, subscribed for by residents in the Westby and Bassingthorpe district, was dedicated on Sunday by the Rector, the Rev WJ Chantry, at Bassingthorpe church.
Born in India in 1933, Acting Pilot-Officer Preston was the elder son of Major and Mrs C Preston, of the Old Rectory, Westby.
Last September he began his National Service training in the RAF, intending afterwards to enter a university for training as a veterinary surgeon. He was sent to Jurby, Isle of Man, and from there to No 2 Flying School at Cluntoe, Northern Ireland, where he lost his life.
The Rector also dedicated at Boothby a wafer-box in memory of Mr Albert L Wake, a local parishioner. It was given by his daughter.


Percival Prentice trainer, the type of aircraft in which David Preston was killed


The skies above Crosslands, Swatragh, where David Preston died


Some of David Preston’s comrades, who passed out at RAF Clunto


Some of David Preston’s comrades, who passed out at RAF Clunto


St Colman’s parish church, as seen from the site of David Preston’s last resting place


The grave of David Preston: JOYOUS MEMORIES OF DEAR DAVID, I THANK MY GOD UPON EVERY REMEMBRANCE OF YOU

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