First World War memorial.
Reasons for Designation
The Captain Eric Lubbock Memorial, which is situated in High Elms Country Park, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as an eloquent witness to the growing importance of the air services in warfare and the sacrifices of their members during the First World War.
* an unusual memorial which has been sculpted into the form of a monoplane in recognition of Captain Lubbock’s service in the RFC.
The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss. As well as personnel from the Army and Naval services, British losses now included members of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.
The First World War was the first conflict in which aviation played a major role for all the combatant nations involved. Prior to the Wright brothers’ achievement of controlled aircraft flight in America in 1903, the military services of various nations had used balloons and airships at war: for example, tethered observation balloons were deployed during the American Civil War (1861-1865). In Britain, the Royal Engineers became responsible for the Army’s ballooning capability in the 1860s. Despite the sceptical views of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the First Sea Lord expressed in 1910, an Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed in 1911 and on 13 April 1912 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was established, formed of a Military Wing and a Naval Wing. The Admiralty’s Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) followed on 1 July 1914.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914 the RFC comprised 146 officers and fewer than 100 aircraft, whilst the RNAS counted just over 700 personnel, 93 aircraft, two balloons and six airships. By the end of the war in November 1918 the air service had expanded to some 27,000 officers and 260,000 other personnel, operating more than 22,000 aircraft across 188 squadrons. Both RFC and RNAS included servicemen from Dominion countries. Similar expansions were seen in the air services of the other armies, as the First World War provided a unique impetus to fast-track technological advances in aviation around the world.
On the advice of the Smuts Report the RFC and RNAS were merged on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), the world’s first air force independent of army or navy control. At the end of the First World War official figures recorded 14,166 air service casualties, of whom around 9,000 men were dead or missing in active theatres of conflict. Some 8,000 had died during training.
A memorial to Captain Eric Lubbock, an RFC pilot, was erected following his death when his Sopwith Camel bi-plane was shot down over Belgium on 11 March 1917. It was commissioned by his mother, Lady Avebury, who asked that the memorial take the form of a plane in reference to his service with the RFC, and it was placed in the family burial ground on their estate at High Elms, Bromley. The family estate was sold in the 1930’s to Kent County Council and later became the responsibility of Bromley Council. The Lubbock cross was moved from the burial ground, along with a number of graves, into the grounds of the nearby St Giles’ church by Bromley Council in 1981. It was at this point that the memorial to Captain Lubbock went missing. It was found over ten years later in a stonemason’s yard in Wiltshire. Eventually the plane was put up for auction and the Avebury family bought it back for £8,000. The memorial was restored and re-sited in 2010 in what was the walled kitchen garden of the family estate and now forms part of High Elms Country Park.
Captain Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock (1893-1917), was born in Westminster and was the son of John Lubbock, First Baron Avebury, and Alice Augusta Laurentia Lane Fox-Pitt. He served in the RFC and was awarded the Military Cross in November 1915 for “conspicuous gallantry and skill” (Dublin Daily Express, 1915) when he shot down a German Albatros plane on 25 October 1915. He died at the age of 23 on 11 March 1917 when his Sopwith Camel bi-plane was shot down over Belgium by a German pilot, Lieutenant Paul Strahle. At the time of his death he was a Captain in the 45th Squadron of the RFC. Captain Lubbock is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium.
First World War memorial.
DESCRIPTION: the Captain Eric Lubbock memorial is located within the former walled kitchen garden, adjacent to the northern boundary wall, in High Elms Country Park.
It is of Portland stone and takes the form of a monoplane with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) roundel painted to the upper surface of each end of the wing. At the centre of the wing is a circular recess designed to hold floral tributes. Behind this, affixed at a raised angle to the fuselage of the plane, is an oval bronze plaque decorated with palm branches wrapping around the bottom of the plaque and the RFC badge at the top.
The main dedication is to the centre of the plaque in raised lettering and reads, CAPTAIN/ ERIC FOX PITT LUBBOCK/ R.F.C:M.C./ SON OF JOHN BARON AVEBURY/ AND ALICE HIS WIFE/ BORN/ 16 MAY 1893/ KILLED IN ACTION 11 MAR. 1917/ BURIED AT POPERINGHE/ BELGIUM. A further inscription is incised around the inner edge of the plaque which reads, BEING MADE PERFECT IN A LITTLE WHILE HE FULFILLED LONG YEARS.