A CRY of horror from the crowd, a sickening crash... and “a pioneer of British motoring died a pioneer of flying”.

But did Charles Rolls – one half of the Rolls-Royce partnership – have a presentiment that his involvement in the Bournemouth centenary celebrations of 1910 might end in tragedy?

Well, he did according to one “over-excited” newspaperman.

As Bournemouth looks forward to mark its bicentenary this year, thoughts will inevitably focus again on the tragedy that marked the corresponding celebrations of almost exactly a century ago.

According to Andrew Marr’s account in The Making of Modern Britain, the journalist (not one of ours!) reported that Rolls arrived in the resort with “a look of doom... weighed down by “some strange prognostication of a sudden and fearful end that turned his cheeks grey”.

Rolls, 32, “smitten” by flying and the best-known aviator in the country, had set off for Bournemouth by train because he’d been booked for speeding in Hyde Park.

“He was on his way to that town’s centenary celebrations, which featured musical concerts conducted by Sir Edward Elgar, masked balls, processions of boy scouts and an air show,” says Marr.

“A new aerodrome had been created in the town’s Southbourne suburb.

“Hedges had been torn up and more than 40 allotments removed; a system of multi-coloured flags had been prepared for tests of aerial derring do.”

The gusty weather was unsuitable for the flimsy byplane and a French rival who had earlier crashed without injury had warned him to delay. But according to Marr, Rolls ignored the advice and took off, planning a circular flight to be followed by a landing on the appointed mark close to the judges’ tent.

The Frenchman was possibly the “M Audemar”, who, according to The Bournemouth Echo of July 12, had earlier turned a complete somersault in his “dainty little Demoiselle Clement-Bayard machine”.

In any case, “a sharp metallic snap” rang out as Rolls began his descent.

Over to the Echo: “Simultaneously some woodwork fell from the tail end of the machine and a cry of horror went up when it was seen that the machine had lost its balance 60 or 70 feet in the air.

“There was a quiver of the huge framework and the whole structure dropped like a wounded bird. It fell to the ground with a sickening crash. In an instant the machine was reduced to scrap.

“A wild rush was made to the scene by doctors, police and officials and the crowd surged towards the wreckage, eager to learn how the aviator had fared.”

But nothing could be done for the stricken air enthusiast.

“Mr Rolls was gently lifted from the debris and all that human skill could accomplish was done,” continues our report.

“There was only a feeble glimmer of life, a faint tremble of the heart for the doctors to work to, and in less than a minute all was over. The doctors announced that Mr Rolls had been killed instantaneously.”

Friends and admirers had formed a circle around the body and, according to Marr, a news photographer who tried to snap him “was set upon and his camera was grabbed and smashed”.

The Making of Modern Britain is now available as a talking book, narrated by the author (Macmillan Audio, £16.99).