Edwin Rowland Moon 1886 – 1920
Edwin Rowland Moon was Southampton’s first pioneer aviator. His first flight was made from North Stoneham Farm, which is now known as Southampton Airport. The aircraft was built locally in Southampton, and brought to the farm by horse and cart. The first flight took place at a time when aircraft did not exist and heralded a momentous moment for Hampshire and for aviation as a whole.
Born 8 June 1886, Edwin was one of four siblings. He lived in Cranbury Avenue in Southampton. In 1910 Moon made the first flight from the fields of North Stoneham Farm. A year later he married Isabel Madeline and had a daughter named Mary in 1915.
Moon tragically drowned following an air crash off Felixstowe on 29 April 1920, aged just 33. His funeral was held on 5 May 1920, and the grave headstone in Southampton (Old) Cemetery was made from the propeller of the aircraft which claimed his life, and is still in place today.
Moon was awarded numerous medals and was even a prisoner of war in WWI. Released in 1917, Flight Commander Moon was recommended for the Victoria Cross. His list of medals include
- The Royal Humane Society silver medal - awarded for attempts to save the life of Flag Commander, Cdr. The Hon. R Bridgman’s life while the two were clinging to a crude raft in East African coastal waters on the 6 to 9 January 1917.
- The Distinguished Service Order and bar - for flying operations against the enemy in German East Africa.
- 1914 - 1915 Star
- British War Medal
- Inter-allied Victory Medal with oak palm
- The Legion of Honour - Croix de Chevalier - conferred by the President of the French Republic on Squadron Commander, Edwin Rowland Moon, DSO, RNAS.
The Aviation Dream
Southampton’s Maritime Museum was previously the Wool House belonging to the Moon family and used for boat building. “Moonbeam” Engineering Company Ltd” continued construction and sale of motor launches and expanded to include wrought iron propellers and marine engines that were soon exported around the world.
Inspired by the 1903 Wright Brothers flight, Rowland Moon took a corner of the workshop to realise his dream of constructing and flying an aircraft of his own design.
Moon searched the Fawley area for a place to test it. It is believed that Fawley was chosen as it is likely that he was courting his future wife who lived in Hythe. The aircraft undertook a series of hops at Ower (Websters Field) and Regents Park (Moulands Field). This enabled him to assess what improvements were needed to produce Moonbeam II in the workshop.
Moonbeam II was a monoplane, weighing 260lbs, of which 160lbs was engine and propeller. A 4-cyl, 20-h.p. A J.A.P engine was fitted, and it had a 6ft wooden propeller.
The aircraft was conveyed by horse and cart to the flat fields Rowland had seen when commuting to the Finance Office branch; North Stoneham Farm. Regular sustained flights were made here and at Beaulieu Heath and Paulton’s Park, Ower. 22 years later North Stoneham Farm became the northern end of Southampton/Eastleigh Airport.
No-one knows the exact date of the first flight from Southampton Airport, however research has shown that it was between 12 April 1910 and 11 June 1910.
Edward Moon in Moonbeam II, the first plane to take off from Southampton Airport