Royal Flying Corps

The Friends have restored the headstones of two airmen who died during WWI.

Harman, Lt. John Augustus Harman. Killed on November 17th 1917 age 24.

Van Staden, Lt. Laurens J. Killed whilst night flying on April 26th 1918 age 24.

When their headstones were restored, we held a ceremony and details about them were published in a booklet you can download.

However, Lt. Van Staden’s story didn’t end there. We appealed for any of relatives to come forward.

When we opened the Cemetery Chapel as part of the West Lindsey Churches Festival, two of our visitors were Philip and Hanlie du Toit, both born in South Africa and now living on the Isle of Man.

Several years ago Philip was given by his mother what he thought was a coin but recently Philip realised that it wasn’t a coin, it was a medal. It had an inscription on the edge LIEUT. L. J. VAN STADEN R.A.F.

This led Philip and his wife Hanlie to investigate and they discovered that the medal was awarded to Lieut. Laurens Jacobus Van Staden and this was Philip’s grandmother’s brother. But no one else in the family knew anything about Laurens.

Searching online they discovered that Laurens was buried in Gainsborough in 1918 and found that the Friends of Gainsborough Cemeteries and Chapel had also been trying to find out more about him because they were restoring his headstone, the cross marking his grave had been broken several years ago.

We were able to provide some additional information about Laurens – he had married a local woman, Emmeline Elizabeth Beilby, from Tower Street, in All Saints’ Church on February 2nd, 1918. His best man was fellow South African R.A.F. officer Lt. C.B. Mellor.

But just three months later, on 26th April, Laurens was killed while flying at night at Kirton Lindsey, he had been trying to find Zeppelins.

Laurens and Emmeline lived at 9 Jubilee Crescent. However, finding out what happened to Emmeline Elizabeth after her husband’s death proved to be impossible for the Friends.

There appears to be no record of her remarrying or when and where she died. Philip and Hanlie were determined to find out more and during a visit to relatives in South Africa at Christmas they found a photograph of Laurens in a family album in his R.A.F. uniform stood next to a plane. But again there was still no clue about what happened to Emmeline.

Following their visit to his grave Hanlie and Philip want to find out if there are still any descendants of the Beilby’s in the area

The Beilbys and Wordsworths (Emmeline’s mother’s maiden name) were a large family and Philip and Hanlie hope there maybe someone still living in the area who holds the key to finding out more about Emmeline?

Lt. Van Staden's medal
Lt. Van Staden’s medal
Philip and Hanlie du Toit
Philip and Hanlie du Toit