’TIS the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
— Thomas Moore, 1805
Mid-morning on February 21, 1935, two gas fitters connecting a gas line to a new bungalow at the Springfield Estate off Corbets Tey Road in Upminster, England, a suburban East London village, spotted an unusual sight for that day and year. A small airplane was flying over their heads. This was noteworthy because airplanes seldom flew over this specific location, and it was especially unusual to the two men as they typically were occupied with their work underground and happened to be taking a short break when the event occurred. Pertinent or not, this was the explanation given as to why both men happened to look up into the sky at the same exact moment on that particular day.
Police reports would suggest that the aircraft, later identified as a six-seat de Havilland DH84 Dragon airliner, was flying at an altitude of approximately three thousand feet and a speed of about eighty-five miles per hour. During the inquiry that followed, neither of these facts was deemed relevant or significant to the event that was to occur only moments later. As the airplane passed through the dark clouds overhead, the two workmen reported seeing something quite out of the ordinary. According to the men’s statements taken early that afternoon: “suddenly, what looked like two packages fell away from the plane” and fluttered to the ground “like sheets of paper.”
They reported hearing a noise, best described as a curious thud. As this sound appeared to have taken place only a short distance from where they were standing, the two gas fitters ran quickly to the nearby cabbage field to search for what had fallen. Upon investigation, they were astonished to find the broken bodies of two well-dressed young women lying face down on the ground. According to one of the men, “their hands were clasped, and one had a tight grip on the other’s coat.