ION MORDAUNT TATHAM
Ion Mordaunt "Morn" Tatham was born on 29 June 1898, third son of Charles Tatham JP (a solicitor) and Lilian Elizabeth Tatham (formerly Leuchars), of "Highacre", Greytown, Natal, South Africa. He was a nephew of Colonel Sir George Leuchars, KCMG, DSO, (his mother's brother) who died in 1924 and Lt Col F.S. Tatham, KC, DSO. His eldest brother Norman won the MC as a Lieutenant in the RFA and he had another older brother Trevor. His twin sister, Claire, died after 20 months, and was followed by another sister Julia who only lived three days and a younger brother, Reginald "Bobby" Leuchars.
He was educated firstly at St David's House School and then at Michaelhouse Diocesan College, Balgowan, Natal. There he was in the 1st XV Rugy team (playing 2nd forward) for 2 years, played cricket and was a sergeant in the Senior Cadet Corps, training in drill and rifle shooting. He passed the Junior Cambridge Examination in December 1915, reaching matriculation standard, and he was keen on riding horses, motor cycles and a member of the Greytown Hockey Club.
Around February 1916 he joined the Standard Bank at Greytown as a clerk and on 13 November 1916, he wrote to Captain W.M. Miller DSO (RFC) at the Defence Office, Pretoria seeking to join the Royal Flying Corps. He was accepted and joined Capt Miller's "gallant 100" ("those selected out of hosts of applicants for a place in the Royal Flying Corps"), leaving Natal on 13 February 1917.
He trained in England at Farnborough (from 31 March 1917) and Denham (from 9 April 1917), School of Military Aeronautics at Jesus College, Oxford (from 11 May 1917) and then 27 Flying School, Gosport (from 22 June 1917). He was commissioned Temporary 2nd Lieutenant on 21 June 1917 in the General List and Royal Flying Corps and on 9 July 1917, joined No.16 Training Squadron at Beaulieu in the New Forest, Hampshire.
On 11 July 1917 at around 7.30pm he was flying in a DH6 (A.9579) for the first time with instructor Captain Henry Edward Van Goethem (of Parkstone, Dorset) when the machine nose-dived, caught fire, crashed in the New Forest about 1 mile north of the aerodrome and burnt up. Up to the point the machine nose-dived, it had been "going quite steadily" and it had been in the possession of the Corps for a week, with only nearly 11 hours flying time.
An Inquest was held at Brockenhurst by the County Coroner and was reported in the Hampshire Chronicle & General Advertiser For The South And West of England of Saturday 21 July 1917 as follows:
“FLYING OFFICERS KILLED - The circumstances attending the tragic death of Capt. (Flight Commander) Hy. Edward Van Goetham, R.F.C. (23) of Parkstone, Dorset and Sec-Lieut. Ion Mordaunt Tatham, R.F.C. (19), of Natal, South Africa, were inquired into at Brockenhurst by the County Coroner (Mr P.B. Ingoldby) who was accompanied by his deputy (Mr A.C. Hallett). Lieut Wm. Lewis Wells, Middlesex Regiment and R.F.C., gave evidence of identification, and stated that he saw the two officers leave the ground in an aeroplane at 7.30 on Tuesday evening. Capt. Goethem was giving Lieut Tatham his first instruction in the particular type of machine they were flying. Witness ascended immediately afterwards and saw they were flying quite steadily. He saw nothing of the accident, but whilst in the air he noticed what he thought was the beginning of a furze fire, though it must have been their aeroplane. Second-Lieut. Seymour had made three separate flights in the machine earlier in the evening for a total time of thirty-five minutes, and found it in perfect order. An order had been given two days previously that this type of machine was not to be "looped" and a few minutes before ascending, Capt. Van Goethem told him in course of conversation that nothing in the world would induce him to attempt any "stunt" with the machine. It appears that the machine did loop, and he was quite sure the deceased did not do it deliberately - the machine must have been out of control. The machine had only been in possession of the corps for a week and had done 10 hours 40 minutes flying. Col. Fredk. B.J. Jerrard stated that on Wednesday evening he was driving from Brockenhurst to Beaulieu when something caused him to look to the rear and he saw an aeroplane coming strangely down in the air. He told the driver to stop. The machine fell between four and five hundred yards away. A fraction of a second after he first saw it flames broke out from, it seemed to him, the lower part of the machine; but within an absolutely inappreciable space of time the whole thing was enveloped, and fell with great rapidity to the ground. On proceeding to the spot witness found the machine practically burnt up. He thought death must have been instantaneous. After other evidence had been given, a verdict of accidental death was returned, and the Coroner and jury expressed their deep sympathy with the bereaved relatives and friends, and regret at the loss of such valuable lives.”
He was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard, Brockenhurst, Hampshire. His only medal entitlement was the British War Medal.
Biography by Nick Deacon
Photograph of the crash site