Croydon Aerodrome: The 1928 Disappearance of Alfred Loewenstein! (20.4.2023)

A Very Good Historical Assessment of the Available Data!

Author’s Note: I live in Sutton (South London) which is just a few miles from where the Croydon Aerodrome (or ‘Airport’) used to be! Today, where the main buildings of the Aerodrome once stood there is a large and exclusive hotel – named the ‘Aerodrome’ – with the former runways now comprising the road system of the area (which is a large shopping and industrial estate). Croydon Aerodrome (sometimes referred to as ‘Sutton Airport’) was opened in 1920 and closed in 1959 – operating for 64 years! This demise was due to changing aeronautical technology and much bigger Airports being built in other areas of London. During WWII – the Nazi Germans attacked the Aerodrome whilst numerous RAF Squadrons flew out of the area in defence of the UK! Even when Airships were still all the rage – Alfred Loewenstein was so rich that he could afford to commission the building of his own ‘private’ aeroplane. Ironically, it would be this aspect of his immense wealth which would end his life! ACW (20.4.2023)

Alfred Loewenstein (1877-1928) boarded his private aeroplane (a Fokker F.VIIa/3m trimotor [G-EBYI]) at Croydon (Sutton) Aerodrome before setting off for France on 4.7.1928. He was a multi-millionaire at this time of his life (he was 51 years old) – having made a fortune bankrolling the empires of Great Britain, France and his native Belgium (he was so rich that he even attempted to ‘purchase’ Belgium and run it as a private enterprise – intending to print his own currency – but his offer was refused)! His various businesses were involved in thoroughbred horse racing and the providing of ‘electrified’ domestic living and business quarters in the developing countries Occupied by the Western powers.

This reality sometimes is presented as him (incorrectly) ‘assisting’ the native populations – when in fact his businesses catered only for the ‘White’ colonisers, their families and their ‘imported’ workforce (including the European military and police). Alfred Loewenstein was born into a wealthy Jewish family – but chose to convert to Catholicism. In the weeks leading up to this flight – he was reported as occasionally experiencing periods of confusion and hesitancy when moving around his own home. During these times he would forget where he was going and why he was going there – according to his full-time Staff. These attacks were infrequent and inbetween he was his usual sharp self. Those present on the Flight were recorded as:

Owner- Employer – Husband: Alfred Loewenstein – Wife: Madeleine Loewenstein

Staff = Fred Baxter (Valet) – Arthur Hodgson (Secretary) – Eileen Clark (Stenographer) – Paula Bidalon (Stenographer)

Crew = Donald Drew (Pilot) – Robert Little (Engineer)

His wife and his four employees all agreed that when returning from a visit to the toilet (situated at the rear of the aeroplane) during the flight – Alfred Loewenstein mistakenly opened the only door in the aeroplane – adjacent to the toilet – (whilst flying over the English Channel) – a misjudgement that caused him to fall 4000 feet to his death! The Pilot and Engineer were sat in the cockpit at the front the aeroplane and had no idea what was happening toward the back – certainly no alarm had gone off and there had been no sudden depressurisation of the interior! Incredibly, the British Pilot –  Donald Drew – (once alerted to the situation) managed to immediately land the aeroplane on a nearby beach (under the direct control of the French military). After being released by the French military he then successfully navigated the aeroplane (and its occupants) to the airfield at Saint-Inglevert, Pas-de-Calais – also in France.

Meanwhile. the decomposing body of Alfred Loewenstein was found near Boulogne on the 19.7.1928 (after 15 days in the water). The (private) autopsy found he was fully conscious at the moment of impact – and that every bone in his body had been broken. His wristwatch, however, remained attached to his wrist – and was still functioning! His body was identified by his name on the strap! Although he did not drink – it was found that there was alcohol in his system. This is a strange finding as there was no alcohol on the aeroplane. On the face of it, this seems to be a bizarre accident, although there are many competing theories. Did he commit suicide? Was he murdered? Was there a conspiracy? The door on this model of aircraft was designed NOT to easily open whilst the machine was airborne – a feature that was ‘tested’ by the British government after this accident whilst a similar aeroplane was flying over the English Channel! Two very strong men could not ‘open’ the door when all the locking mechanisms were in place.

As matters transpired – Alfred Loewenstein may have purchased ‘respect’ whilst alive due to his millions – but after his death not many people cared about him (his wife, for instance, could not even be bothered to have his name ‘engraved’ on the family tomb within which he was buried). The British, French and Belgian governments all washed their hands of the affair. That is, the three imperialist entities that his businesses had assisted the most in the spreading of their colonial interests throughout the world. The ‘Official’ position for all three governments was that as the ‘accident’ occurred in ‘International’ waters – none of them had to take any responsibility for it. The British and French deftly side-stepped any responsibility (moral or practical) in a stunning display of indifferent concordance – whilst the pragmatic Belgians (content with chopping-off the hands and feet of ethnic Congolese in the colony Loewenstein helped construct) correctly stated that he was NOT in Belgium territory when the ‘accident’ developed and that as such, there was no ‘legal’ requirement for any official ‘concern’!