Remembrance Day: The Fairlop aerodrome pilot who died days before the Armistice

Harry Jassby's grave at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron Jeffries]

Harry Jassby's grave at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron Jeffries] - Credit: Archant

The world stood still on November 11 1918, with the realisation that the “war to end all wars” was finally over.

Harry Jassby, the Canadian pilot who is buried at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron

Harry Jassby, the Canadian pilot who is buried at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron Jeffries] - Credit: Archant

Armistice Day marked the end of four years of bloodshed, which had robbed approximately 17 million soldiers and civilians of their lives.

But not everyone could celebrate the occasion.

Minerva Jassby received the dreaded news that her son Harry, a pilot at Fairlop aerodrome, had died.

Jassby’s death, just like that of famous poet Wilfred Owen, was announced on Armistice Day.

Harry Jassby's grave at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron Jeffries]

Harry Jassby's grave at St Peter's Church, Aldborough Hatch. [Picture: Ron Jeffries] - Credit: Archant


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Born in Montreal, Canada, Jassby was a pharmacy student prior to the First World War.

With ambitions to become a pilot, the 19-year-old signed up with Britain’s Royal Flying Corps in 1917, as Canada did not have an air force at the time.

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He trained near Toronto as an aerial gunner and was made a Second Lt before joining pilots at Fairlop aerodrome in April 1918.

Jassby learned how to fly fighter aircraft the Sopwith Camel, but his time in England was to be cut short.

To celebrate the end of the war, the pilot flew with others in a V formation around London.

But the aircraft above his lost its motor and the two planes collided, causing a crash.

Jassby died on November 6 1918. The pilot received a Jewish burial service with military honours at St Peter’s Church, in Oaks Lane, Aldborough Hatch.

Ron Jeffries, 81, chairman of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, wrote about Jassby in his book Aldborough Hatch: The Village in the Suburbs – A History.

He said: “The grave is maintained by members of the local Jewish community, who follow the tradition of placing a pebble or stone on top of the gravestone to signify that someone has honoured the deceased person’s memory with a visit.

“Those of us who have been privileged to witness the gathering have been struck by the dignity of the participants and the solemnity of the occasion.”

The inscription on the tombstone reads: “In life he flew the azure sky, in death he flew to heaven high.”

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