July 2012 marks the centenary of what was eventually to become a significant event in the history of Bramford.
The Loraine family lived at Bramford Hall, inherited by Lady Frederika Mary Horatia (née Broke) from her uncle Sir George Broke of Nacton. Lady Frederika was married to Rear Admiral Sir Lambton Loraine, 11th Baronet of Kirkharle in Northumberland, an estate which the family had owned since the 15th century. Sir Lambton and Lady Frederika had four children: Eustace, Percy, Jacqueline and Isaura.
The heir to the title and estate was Eustace who was born in London on 13th September 1879. Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant with the Grenadier Guards on 5th July 1899. He was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1900 after his arrival in South Africa where he served in the first Boer War until his return to England in May 1902. Awarded the Queen’s Medal with three clasps and the King’s Medal with two, he served as adjutant, Grenadier Guards from July 1905 until September 1906. In 1908 he was promoted to Captain and spent two years in the West Africa Frontier Force where his commanding officer was Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Trenchard of the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Having been wounded in 1903 he almost left the army but was persuaded to remain and take the post of Assistant Commandant of the South Nigeria Regiment. In 1906 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Captain Loraine had a striking appearance being 6 feet 3 inches tall with red hair, this combined with his lively personality and intelligence made him popular with his colleagues.
In 1909 Louis Bleriot made the first flight across the English Channel in an aeroplane, which fired Loraine’s imagination and made him determined to take up flying.He went on unpaid leave to Hendon where he learned to fly and qualified with the Royal Aero Club Certificate number 154 on 7th November 1911. By the time the Royal Flying Corps was formed early in 1912 he was an accomplished pilot. He wrote to Trenchard in June 1912 saying ‘You don’t know what you’re missing. Come and see men crawling like ants’. Trenchard accepted the challenge and later went on to establish the Royal Air Force.
On the morning of Friday 5th July 1912 Captain Loraine was at Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain helping to test fly a Nieuport monoplane. After an initial flight where some problems were experienced he returned to base for adjustments to be made. On taking off for a second time the plane climbed, banked to turn, but immediately fell to the ground. His companion, Staff Sergeant R.H.V. Wilson was killed instantly and Captain Loraine died later at Bulford Hospital.
The site of the crash at Greenlands Bottom, near the intersection of the A344 and the A360 roads and less than a mile west of Stonehenge, is now known as ‘Airmen’s Cross’.
There is a stone cross memorial in middle of the grass island at the junction and its inscription reads:’To the memory of Captain Loraine and Staff-Sergeant Wilson who whilst flying on duty, met with a fatal accident near this spot on 5th July 1912. Erected by their comrades’.
His body was returned to Bramford Hall on 8th July and on Wednesday 10th a funeral cortege proceeded through the village, accompanied by a detachment of Grenadier Guards, to the Bramford Church where he was buried with full military honours. The death of Eustace meant that his brother Sir Percy became next in line to inherit the title becoming the 12th. After serving in the second Boer War in 1904 Sir Percy joined the Foreign Service and was present at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. He spent most of his life as a diplomat, serving in Tehran, Athens, Cairo, Ankara and Rome. Although married, when he died 23rd May 1961 without an heir, the Baronetcy died with him.
The elder sister Jacqueline was a chronic invalid who spent all her short life in nursing care.
The younger sister, Isaura, was very popular in the village helping to start the Girl Guides and was godmother to several local children. She died in 1949 having never married.
With the death of the four Loraine children the estate and title was left without an heir. The house and land were eventually sold and most of the house was demolished.
Had it not been for the accident on Salisbury Plain or if Sir Eustace Loraine had left an heir, the village of Bramford could have been a very different place today.