Lt Turnbull

Timelines: Ribbon of Remembrance Lt Turnbull

Sumbitted by John Young.

My great uncle David Stevens Gibson Turnbull, the elder brother of my grandmother, was born in Edinburgh on 7th September 1890. Educated at The Edinburgh Academy and Uppingham School he went on to Edinburgh University. There he learned to fly, although he did not qualify as a pilot at that stage.

He married early in 1914 and emigrated to Australia where he planned to start life in Harvey, West Australia, as a fruit farmer. However, following the outbreak of war on 4th August 1914, he returned to Scotland to fight for his country.

Initially he joined the Black Watch as the family had strong connections with my home town of Auchterarder in Perthshire. He was posted to 3/6th Battalion one of the sister battalions to that in which his brother-in-law (Major TE Young) was already serving. However, he had the flying bug and on 25th March 1916 he joined the Royal Flying Corps. He initially trained as an Observer but after a short period with No3 squadron RFC in France he returned to train as a pilot. He gained his pilot’s licence at Shoreham on 5th June 1916.

He joined No 10 Squadron RFC, equipped with BE 2c aircraft, on 8th July 1916 and a few days later made his first operational sortie. He flew on operations for the next 7 months; engaged in artillery spotting, light bombing and aerial photography. Having survived this operational tour he was posted back to England for duty as a ferry pilot with the Air Ministry Directorate of Aircraft Equipment.

On 11th April 1917 he was detailed to deliver a brand new BE 12a from the factory at Coventry to a training unit at Ripon racecourse. Unfortunately he was blown off course and ended up near Preston where he had to make a forced landing after a stay wire broke. After 3 days he took off for Ripon but for some reason landed at Knaresborough. After checking his bearings he took off from the short field on Crag Tops but failed to clear the hedge at the end of the field. The aircraft struck trees and plunged in to the River Nidd, killing Lieutenant Turnbull instantly. His widow found his body in the river ten days later and he was buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. A plaque in his memory is near the door in the parish church at Knaresborough.

The Last letter Turnbull sent to his Mother

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