Edwin Rowland Moon

Edwin Moon in uniform c.1910

Edwin Moon in uniform c.1910

Date of birth: 8th June 1886
Place of birth: Southampton
Date of mariage: 1911
Place of marriage: Southampton
Rank: Flight Sub Lieutenant
Service: Royal Air Force and Royal Naval Air Service
Died: 29th April 1920 aged 33 years
Death location: Felixstowe, Suffolk

 

Edwin Rowland Moon is not named on Southampton’s Cenotaph or Memorial Wall because he did not die in the Great War or in WWII. However he is remembered at Southampton Old Cemetery.  As Southampton’s first pioneer aviator, as someone who received many awards for his War Service and for his familial connection to Edward Turner Sims, the members of the SCF&FG strongly felt that his story needed to be told on their website so that it can be read and used as a resource by others.

 

Life before the War
Edwin’s parents were Edwin George Wade and Catherine Esther, nee Butt.  Edwin George married Catherine in 1883.  She was born in 1861, Bath, Somerset and died 18th May 1932 at Houghton, Bassett, Southampton.

Edwin was the 2nd of 4 children.  His siblings were:

Millie Robilla b.1884.  Never married and left a Probate:
“Moon Millie Robilla of The Bungalow Romsey Road Cadnam Hampshire spinster died 23 February 1953 at The Royal South Hants Hospital Southampton. Asministration London 17 September 1953 to Charles Harold Moon (brother) retired company director. Effects £645 3s 8d”

Ida Esther b.1888.  Never married and left a Probate:
“Moon Ida Esther of Top o’ Green Bassett Row Bassett Southampton spinster died 9 July 1937. Probate London 5 October 1937 to Charles Harold Moon (brother) and Hilda Isabel Paul Derrick spinster. Effects £877 19s 9d”

Charles Harold b.1890 and d.1958.  Our research has not been able to source any other information.

In the 1891 census the family lived at 24 East Park Terrace, St. Mary’s Parish, Southampton.  Edwin George was a Money Lender/Broker, which was his own business.

By 1901 Edwin Rowland and his brother Charles were being educated at Banister Court School, Shirley, Southampton, where they were boarders. Their parents and sisters were still living at 24 East Park Terrace.  Their father still had his own business and called himself a Financier Bill. Employed at the home were two General Domestic Servants.

Between the censuses of 1901 and 1911 Edwin George died.  The 1911 census shows that Catherine Esther had remarried to Edward Turner Sims, who was a Director and Secretary of a Public Company.  Edwin Rowland was living at home with his mother and step father and was employed as a Secretary of a Private Company (Financial).  Charles and Ida had moved to London, living at Whitehall, 4 & 5 Montague Street, W.C., where Charles was employed as a Clerk on the Stock Exchange and Ida as a Clerk.  Millie was living at the Royal Marine Hotel & Villa Marine, Belgrave Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight as a visitor, giving her occupation as Physical Training Mistress.  Also in the household was Isabel Madeline Waldron, a Painter/Artist.  At this address the family employed three servants – a cook, a parlour maid and a between maid.

Just after the 1911 census was taken Edwin Rowland married Isabel Madeline Waldon. She was born in 1884, Islington, London and died in 1968 in the district of Chelsea and never remarried.  They had a daughter Mary C, born in 1913, Southampton.

Edwin Rowland Moon was Southampton’s first pioneer aviator.  His first flight was made from North Stoneham Farm, which is now known as Southampton Airport.  The aircraft was built locally in Southampton and brought to the farm by horse and cart.  The first flight took place at a time when aircraft did not exist and heralded a momentous moment for Hampshire and for aviation as a whole.

During the early part of the 20th century the Wool House (bottom of Southampton city facing the entrance to Red Funnel Ferries) had changed hands and was occupied by The Moonbeam Engineering Company Limited, owned by Egbert Moon, Edwin George’s brother, who built motor launches and later expanded to include the sale of wrought iron propellers and marine engines for export around the world.  Edwin Rowland used a corner of the workshop to realise his dream of constructing and flying an aircraft of his own design which he flew from land at North Stoneham in 1910, on fields which subsequently became Southampton International Airport.

 

War Service

Aviator’s Cerificate
Moon, Edwin Rowland. 6, Cumberland Place, Southampton. Born 8th June 1886 at Southampton. Nationaly British. Rank or Profession – Flight Sub – Lt. R.N.A.S. Certificate taken on – Caudron Biplane at The British Caudron School, Hendon. Date – 10th October 1914.

War Records
Edwin served in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force.  He enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service with the rank of Flight Sub-Lieutenant, and saw service in East Africa, where he was based on HMS Hyacinth.

Prisoner of War
On 6th January 1917, whilst Edwin was on a reconnaissance flight with Cdr. Richard Bridgeman as observer, they were forced to land with engine trouble and came down in a creek of the Rufiji River delta, Tanzania.  They destroyed the seaplane to avoid the possibility of its being captured by the enemy and spent several days wandering in the delta trying to avoid capture and considering how they could rejoin ship.  They then constructed a raft from the window frame of a house; after two days of drifting on the raft they were swept out to sea on the morning of 9 January where Cdr. Bridgeman, who was not a strong swimmer, died of exhaustion and exposure. Moon tried to keep Bridgman on the raft but he slipped off into the sea. After Moon had been on the raft for some thirteen hours the tide turned and the raft was thrown on to the shore.  Moon was rescued by natives who handed him over to the Germans.  They interred him in a prisoner of war camp.  Edwin was released from captivity on 21st November 1917.

Awards and Medals
Moon was awarded numerous medals.  Flight Commander Moon was recommended for the Victoria Cross.  His list of medals include:Moon-portrait-painting

  • The Royal Humane Society silver medal – awarded for attempts to save the life of Flag Commander, Cdr. The Hon. R Bridgman’s life while the two were clinging to a crude raft in East African coastal waters on the 6th to 9th January 1917.
  • The Distinguished Service Order and bar – for flying operations against the enemy in German East Africa. The citation read “Since April 1916, has carried out constant flights over the enemy’s coast, including reconnaissances, bomb dropping and spotting for gun fire in all weathers. Has shown great coolness and resource on all occasions”. The bar was awarded after his release from captivity for display of “the greatest gallantry in attempting to save the life of his companion” (Cdr Bridgman)
  • 1914 – 1915 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Inter-allied Victory Medal with oak palm
  • The Legion of Honour – Croix de Chevalier – conferred by the President of the French Republic on Squadron Commander, Edwin Rowland Moon, DSO, RNAS. Awarded 7th August 1918 for East Africa operations.

After the War
When the war was over Edwin was in command of the flying boat station at Felixstowe, Suffolk, with the rank of Squadron Leader in the newly formed Royal Air Force.

On 11th August 1919 Edwin survived a crash of the Felixstowe Fury, a flying boat which killed one of the crew. The Felixstowe Fury, also known as the Porte Super-Baby, was a large British, five-engined triplane flying-boat designed by John Cyril Porte at the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe, inspired by the Wanamaker Triplane or Curtiss Model T.  The Fury was the largest seaplane in the world at the time and the first aircraft to incorporate servo-assisted controls. Although the test-flying programme demonstrated the aircraft’s suitability for long-distance flight, on 11th August 1919 (the eve of a planned flight from England to South Africa) it stalled into the sea on take-off, killing one member of the crew and suffering irreparable damage.

In December 1919 Moon represented the Minister of War at the funeral of Sir John Alcock, the translantic pioneer.

On 29th April 1920 Moon was at the controls of a flying boat on an instructional cruise when it crashed into the sea.  Moon and three other crew members were killed, while two were rescued, slightly injured.  At the inquest, a survivor, Observer-Officer L. H. Pakenham Walsh, D.F.C. said that:

“The flying boat started off all right and it had made several practice landings on the water. After about an hour, and at 2,000 ft. up, Squadron-Leader Moon took control as he wished to do a glide. When about 1,500 ft. up, the machine received a bump on the tail, which threw the machine out of control and developed into a spin. Squadron-Leader Moon then did all he could to right the machine but the distance from the water was not sufficient to allow of a complete recovery. The machine struck the water on a fairly natural keel. Witness was of opinion that if they had had another 100 ft. or 200 ft. they would have got out of it all right. On striking the water the machine absolutely collapsed. It was impossible to do anything, because the boat was upside down. Witness went under, and when he came up he did not see anybody else”.

The Coroner said, so far as he could make out, there was nothing wrong with the machine or the piloting. It appeared to be a pure accident. He recorded a verdict of “Death from injuries received through the sudden accidental fall of a flying boat.”

Edwin was buried in Southampton’s Old Cemetery in Plot 69 K. 68. Part of his headstone is made from a propeller and reads:

“In Affectionate Memory of Squadron Leader E. R. Moon, D.S.O., R.A.F. Killed 29th April 1920. In the Service of his Country. Erected by his Comrades of No.250 Squadron Royal Air Force Felixstowe”

Edwin George Wade Moon – Father

The Moon family was both well respected and well known in Southampton, especially Edwin Moon senior. His business acumen can be contributed to his father Edward Arthur Moon, who ran a boot and show warehouse in Bridge Street, Southampton. Even Edwin’s brother, Egbert (1855 – 1935), was a boat builder. Edwin made his living managing a loans company at 14 Strand, Southampton, but he also had two other interests. One of these was his talent for music, becoming conductor of the Southampton Amateur Orchestral Society, a position he held for twenty years until he died at a young age of 52. The Hampshire Advertiser of 27th February 1889 reported the appreciation in which he was held. He received a mounted ebony baton with the following address:

“To Edwin Moon, Esq. The members of the Southampton Amateur Orchestral Society beg to ask your acceptance of the accompanying baton, as an expression of their appreciation of the ability and zeal with which you have filled the office of conductor for the past five years and which has so largely contributed to the efficiency of the society”.

And engraved

“Presented to Edwin Moon, Esq. as a mark of esteem from the members of the Southampton Amateur Orchestral Society, Feb. 1889”

When Edwin died there was a funeral report in the Hampshire Advertiser on 8th September 1906. The heading was given as Military Funeral at Southampton and read:

Although fixed for an early hour on Sunday morning, there was a big concourse of people when the funeral took place with full military honours of ex-Brigade Sergeant Major Moon, of the Hants Carabineers Imperial Yeomanry. The local squadron of Yeomanry under Col. Le Roy Lewis DSO attended, and also the Staff Sergeants and Sergeants of the 2nd Hants Volunteers with which Mr Moon was associated as a member of the old Engineer Corps, and the Cyclist Company of the Battalion. The coffin was covered with a Union Jack and bore the deceased’s helmet and sword and wreaths from the widow and officers of the regiment, and was borne from Blenheim Lodge to the Cemetery on a gun carriage sent from Netley. At the head of the procession marched a firing party with arms reversed, while the Regimental Band played the “Dead March” and Chopin’s “Marche Funebre”. After the mourning coaches came the local squadron of Yeomanry – all these officers and the eight pall bearers were named – and the Cyclists and the Sergeants brought up the rear. At the Ordnance Office, the guard turned out as a mark of respect and at the Cemetery gates there were several hundred people waiting. After a service from Presbyterian Minister Rev. Dr McEwan and an oration from EGW Moon’s friend, Mr J F Rayner, the band played a selection from Tannhauser, by the deceased’s request. The firing party discharged three volleys over the grave, and finally a bugler sounded the Last Post.

A long list of mourners included various family members, many personal friends, members of Southampton Polytechnic Society, and many members of the Southampton Amateur Orchestral Society of which deceased was conductor.

The report concluded with details of over 20 wreath senders with their inscriptions.

The coffin, of polished oak, was inscribed:

EDWIN GEORGE WADE MOON
Died August 31st 1906
Aged 52 years

Edwin left Southampton a couple or so years before he died, he moved to Boscombe hoping to improve his failing health, he even took a trip to Tenerife, but with his health not improving he, with his family moved back to Southampton. Edwin left a Probate:

“Moon Edwin George Wade of “Longleat” Cliff Road Boscombe Hants died 31 August 1906 at Blenheim Lodge West Park Southampton. Probate London 31 October to Catherine Esther Moon widow. Effects £65374 8s 6d”. This was worth, in 2005, £3,749,223.27!

 

Edward Turner Sims and Catherine Esther Sims (formerly Moon) – Stepfather and Mother

Edward Turner Sims is best known today for his association with the University of Southampton’s Concert Hall through a legacy that launched a fundraising appeal for the £216,000 building costs. The Hall opened in 1974 as an intimate auditorium with outstanding acoustics.

He was a businessman who was one of the bosses of Edwin Jones and Company, a Southampton department store on the site of the current Debenhams store. He rose through the ranks to become its chairman and managing director in 1922.

Mr Sims was also leader of the Liberal party in Southampton for many years, the popularity of which was reflected in the party’s success in the 1906 general election when both its candidates were elected to Westminster.

For many years Mr Sims combined business and politics as director of the Old Southampton Times Newspaper Company, becoming chairman of the company when it merged with the Hampshire Advertiser.

Mr Sims also served as a magistrate for 21 years.

He was known as a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm and died at his Bassett home in 1928, aged 80, after a brief illness. He was married twice.

Edward Turner Sims left a Probate:
“Sims Edward Turner of Houghton Bassett Southampton died 9 January 1928. Probate Winchester 25 February 1928 to Mary Grassam Sims and Margaret Grassam Sims spinsters. Effects £90246 16 s 6d. Resworn £93130 14s 6d”

Catherine Esther left a Probate:
“Sims Catherine Esther of Houghton Bassett Southampton widow died 13 May 1932. Probate London 22 July 1932 to Millie Robilla Moon (daughter) spinster and Charles Harold Moon (son) company secretary. Effects £80698 12 5d”

A magnificent piece of Southampton history!

 

Researcher: Becky Lonergan
Published: 17th June 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

If you have any additional information about the person named above please complete the Comments section below.

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