From The Kent and Sussex Courier

Friday 14 August 1931


The Hannibal, the first of the big new air liners of Imperial Airways and the largest and most luxurious liner in the world, was badly damaged when making a forced landing in a field at Tudeley on Saturday morning. The accident might have been extremely serious but for the skilful handling of the giant machine by the chief pilot, Captain P. Dismore. As a result of his calm courage the 18 passengers, who were on their way to Paris, escaped injury or shaking, and were even surprised when they stepped from the machine into the small field where the landing was made to discover the extent of the damage.

The Hannibal was proceeding to Paris from Croydon and, in addition to the passengers, was carrying a consignment of bullion and diamonds. It was seen passing over Tonbridge at a little before ten o'clock and the attention of people in the street was attracted by its low altitude. The plane appeared to be drifting slightly, and it was afterwards learned that only three of the four engines were working, the lower engine on the port side having failed. The pilot decided to make a landing in a small field, but in doing so the lower wing struck a telegraph pole, which was snapped in half and carried with the machine into the field. As the plane ran along the ground the tail was caught by the stump of a tree and the back part of the fuselage was torn off. The remainder of the machine came to rest about 50 yards away, leaving the rudder and elevators behind. It was a marvellous landing and miraculous escape for all concerned. The passengers afterwards drove to Lympne and completed their journey in another machine. Later the damaged liner was dismantled and transported back to Croydon on lorries specially constructed by the Handley Page firm. Mr. Cyril Pemble, a well-known farmer in the district, told a 'Courier' representative that he was passing the spot at the time of the accident. He was of the opinion that if the machine had been another 20ft. higher the pilot would have been able make a perfect landing. "It was wonderful manoeuvring," he declared, and added, "Anyone in the road at that spot would have been killed as the plane was flying so low."

The Rev. H. Capel (Vicar of Tudeley-cum-Capel), in an interview with a 'Courier' representative, said that he was greatly alarmed to see the plane coming in the direction of the Vicarage. It appeared to land in a field opposite the house and then take off again and hit one of the telegraph poles. "The pilot made a marvellous landing," he said. "He was very cool and everyone congratulated him. The passengers behaved very well." The passengers were afterwards entertained at the Vicarage and the Rev. H. Capel related, with some amusement, how a passenger, whose name he did not reveal but who was a self-declared Scotsman, suggested that the hat should be taken round for church expenses. This was done and the Vicar announced at the church on Sunday that £2 (about £90 today) had been collected. 

Footnote: Five days later one of the lorries towing the dismantled aircraft back to Croydon, hit and pulled down overhead telephone lines at Hayes.