Porter, Leslie Vernon Lushington (Leslie)
45th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps
Killed in action on Tuesday 24 October 1916 (aged 35)
No known grave
Arras Flying Services Memorial, France
Annals of Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church
Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour
Vernon Leslie Lushington Porter was born on 12 May 1881 in the townland of Curryfree in County Londonderry. He was a son of Captain David Leslie Porter (Royal Army Medical Corps) and Caroline Elizabeth Porter (nee Hamilton) who were married on 20 May 1879 in Glendermott Presbyterian Church Londonderry. They had three children:
Henry Spencer Holmes (born 19 February 1880 in Curryfree)
Vernon Leslie Lushington (born 12 May 1881 in Curryfree)
William James Hamilton (born 1 May 1882 in Hamilton House, Curryfree)
Leslie Porter was just four years old when his father died in Egypt on 21 June 1885. Captain Porter had taken part in the expedition to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum.
Leslie Porter moved from Cullion to King’s Road in Belfast and, with George Coombe, he founded the Northern Motor Company in 1899. Later he founded his own firm, Leslie Porter Ltd, Automobile Engineers and Agents.
Leslie Porter gained the reputation of being one of the most skilful motorists in Ireland and he was a prominent figure in motoring circles. He drove a Wolseley car in the 1903 Paris to Madrid motor race and his passenger Willie Nixon died when the car crashed. Leslie Porter stayed out of motorsport for a period thereafter and then in 1908 he drove a Calthorpe to fourth place in the Tourist Trophy race in the Isle of Man.
In 1911 while demonstrating a Daimler to Herbert Brown at his home at Tordeevra, Helens Bay, Leslie met Herbert’s daughter Kathleen (known as K) and on 20 December 1911 they were married in Glencraig Parish Church of Ireland Church. The couple bought Ballywooley Farm at Carnalea and they had three children:
David Leslie (born 16 April 1913 at 53 Adelaide Park, Belfast)
Andrew Leslie (born 21 March 1915 at Carnalea)
Margaret Leslie (born 7 May 1916 at Ballykillaire)
In May 1915 Kathleen bought an aeroplane flight for Leslie as a birthday gift and he decided to learn to fly. He graduated on 14 November 1915 and joined the Royal Flying Corps on 22 November. He was promoted Flight Commander on 1 May 1916 and he trained as a flying instructor. In the first week of September 1916 while based at Sedgeford in Norfolk Captain Leslie Porter was granted a period of home leave before being sent to the Front. He flew home to Carnalea in his bi-plane and during his stay he performed several spectacular flying displays over Belfast and Bangor. His daring stunts attracted big crowds and, on several occasions, he ‘looped the loop’. At the end of this period of home leave he flew back to Norfolk and the 380-mile flight from Carnalea to Norfolk, via Newcastle-upon-Tyne, took 3 hours 27 minutes.
In October 1916, 45th Squadron went to France and on 22 October Captain Leslie Porter led a small group of Sopwith 1½ Strutter aircraft behind enemy lines. His plane did not return. The first message from the War Office intimated that Captain Porter was missing and at the beginning his family harboured hope that he was being held as a Prisoner-of-War.
Leslie Porter’s family sought help from several people in high places to try to ascertain his fate. Following representations made by the Crown Princess of Sweden, who was a daughter of the Duke of Connaught, the American Ambassador in Berlin made enquiries. He was informed by the German authorities that Captain Leslie Porter had died on 24 October 1916 and the authorities returned a silver locket that he had been wearing.
Captain Leslie Porter was 35 when he died and he has no known grave.
Captain Leslie Porter is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial in France; in the annals of Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church and in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 534).