William George Stephenson-Peach, Great Malvern Cemetery

It is one of those peculiar things that you get used to - that suddenly out of something small, something significant appears... and in the case of William George Stephenson-Peach it is his connection to British engineering and industrial history.

William is one of those unluckiest or luckiest of casualties - that for the rules of commemoration, he is listed as one of the Commonwealth War Dead despite dying on the 23rd April 1921 in Karachi, Pakistan.

Quoting from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the people that they commemorate:

"CWGC are responsible for the commemoration of personnel who died between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921 and 3 September 1939 and 31 December 1947 whilst serving in a Commonwealth military force or specified auxiliary organisation.

Personnel who died between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921 and 3 September 1939 and 31 December 1947 after they were discharged from a Commonwealth military force, if their death was caused by their wartime service.

Commonwealth civilians who died between 3 September 1939 and 31 December 1947 as a consequence of enemy action, Allied weapons of war or whilst in an enemy prison camp."


So William was 'lucky' for his death from pneumonia in Karachi, now modern day Pakistan whilst serving with the Royal Air Force in April 1921, before the cut-off on the 31st August 1921 meant that he is listed as war dead.

But that seems is neither here nor there... for it is perhaps not the reason why I write this now...

William was the elder son born to a family with its roots in British engineering and industrial history - and his life working for Crossleys in Manchester before enlisting where the Crossley brothers became known as the pioneers of the internal combustion engine.

William enlisted with the Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) in 1914 initally as an air mechanic working with the new weapons of the air - the aeroplane. The Royal Naval Air Service was the new air arm of the Royal Navy which along with the Royal Flying Corps provided the backbone of this new weapon. With his roots in engine fitting, manufacture and his technical education it meant he was perfect for the rise in air power and he gradually worked his way through the ranks until being granted a commission as a temporary Lieutenant in mid-1917.

In 1918 William was transferred into the Royal Air Force - the new amalgumation of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps.

It does seem for the most part that he was involved in the technical side of the air battle - using his expertise and knowledge of:

... I.C. engines; gas, steam or oil engines.
Special experience with Sunbeam, Gnome Clerget, Rolls Royce, Beardmore, Cantone, Mono
Instr. at Sunbeams ... also B.R.I. at Humbers

From the Royal Air Force record for William George Stephenson-Peach

After war's end it seems he was transferred into normal service with the Royal Air Force and ended up in what was then Karachi, India but now modern Pakistan. His death on the 23rd April 1921 was a surprise to all, after being his usual engaging self at dinner in the mess on the base station, he felt unwell. The following morning, a fever had set in. Three days later at the base hospital, he died from pneumonia.

William was buried in the Karachi War Cemetery but is now immortalised on India Gate, Dehli, India.

Sometime after, his name was added to the grave of his father William John Stephenson-Peach.

But there is something more to say of their story - William and his brother Robert were friends of a certain Harry Morgan. Or to give him his full name Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan - the founder of the Morgan motor car company. And as the story goes, Harry Morgan owes in part a small part of the Morgan car's manufacture to their friendship. For their father William John Stephenson-Peach was the engineering master at Malvern College and with technical expertise and engineering workshops allowed Harry Morgan to develop and build his first car - the first Morgan - the three-wheeled concept car.

William John Stephenson-Peach had been an engineer by trade - learning the ropes at the Atlas Works, Derby and J. and G. Thompson shipbuilders, Glasgow. By 1888, he had begun to work at Repton School, the well-known public school on creating engineering and design schemes with shops. He then transferred his skills and experiences to Cheltenham College and Malvern College.

But the family's roots go back to his grandfather, not the great George Stephenson of Rocket fame, but John Stephenson - who created a partnership Stephenson, Brassey and Mackenzie - railway contractors. He constructed various railway lines including the Lancaster to Edinburgh line as well as cross lines through the north of England.

So William whose technical knowhow influenced the role of air power in the war but whose relationships, career and history played a quiet but singular role in engineering history aswell as air and motor history.

Wars Last Goodbyes pays a tribute to this man - engineer and technical airman: https://www.warslastgoodbyes.com/individual/William-George/Stephenson-Peach

If you're interested in other Wars Last Goodbyes from Great Malvern: