Rivers Gordon Begg 17 July 1917

Rivers Gordon Begg was the younger brother of Henry Begg, killed on the Somme in November 1916. Born in Calcutta, like his brother, Rivers Begg came up to School House in 1910 and stayed for five years. He was a keen gymnast at school and was a member of the School VI in 1914 and 1915. Leaving Oundle in the summer of 1915 and inspired by his older brother and possibly Cecil Lewis, who was also a School House boy, Rivers determined to train as a pilot. He joined the Beatty School of Flying at Hendon and was later accepted by the Royal Naval Air Service, like fellow School House boys, Frank Bray and Donald Ramsay.

By March of 1917, he had joined the Adriatic Squadron and was stationed in southern Italy. Italy had joined the War on the Allied side in May 1915 and it was natural to have air forces stationed in the south of the country to support the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy in their control of the Mediterranean sea lanes, especially with British troops fighting across the Eastern Mediterranean in northern Greece, Gallipoli and Egypt.

On July 17th 1917, while returning from a routine service flight, his propeller broke off and striking a control wire, rendered the machine unmanageable. It fell into the sea and both Rivers Begg and his observer were drowned before they could be extricated from the wreckage. The official report on the accident stated that Rivers Begg was a most promising pilot. “He was universally popular,” wrote his Commanding Officer. “His keenness and independence and confidence in himself endeared him to everyone.”

Rivers Begg lies buried in Otranto, south of Brindisi in southern Italy. His parents had now lost their two older boys in just eight months. Their youngest son, Charles, also an Old Oundelian, trained as a pilot, but did not join the conflict overseas and survived the war.

Rivers Gordon Begg was just 20 years old at the time of his death. He was the third School House pilot to die in just ten days in the summer of 1917.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow