Edwin Rowland Moon

First World War


Edwin Rowland Moon was Southampton’s first aviation pioneer and an RNAS pilot during the First World War. Upon leaving school in 1904, Moon briefly worked in his late father’s finance company before setting up his own business, Moonbeam Engineering. Here, he built motor launches and marine engines but aspired to build an aeroplane after being inspired by the Wright Brothers’ successes and Bleriot’s English Channel crossing.

In 1910, he test-flew his first prototype plane, Moonbeam I. It managed only a short ‘hop’, but his second plane, Moonbeam II, which he tested later that year, was more successful, achieving a longer flight from North Stoneham Farm (now Southampton Airport). He successfully flew his plane on several occasions and earned his aviator’s certificate in 1914.

At the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the RNAS as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant and was sent to East Africa. His repeated reconnaissance and bombing flights led to him being awarded several gallantry awards, including a DSO and bar.

In 1917, following a seaplane crash, Moon and the aeroplane’s observer, Commander Richard Bridgeman, were feared dead. The pair lived through the initial crash, however, constructing a raft and surviving for several days. Though Bridgeman later died from his injuries, Moon survived and was rescued by locals. Here, he was handed over to the Germans and remained a prisoner of war until November 1917. For his attempts to save Bridgeman’s life, Moon was awarded the Legion of Honour.

Following the war, Moon took command of the RAF flying boat station at Felixstowe. During a training flight in April 1920, he was killed when the flying boat he was piloting crashed into the sea. He was buried at Old Cemetery on the Common in Southampton.