By Jason Moore

A lone gravestone in the cemetery in Alcudia is the only reminder today of one of the biggest gatherings of Royal Navy ships ever seen outside British waters in the Bay of Pollensa.

Royal Air Force observer, Kenneth Cromar Tilman, was killed when his Parnall Panther aircraft was involved in an accident aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, Argus. He is buried in the Alcudia cemetery with part of the propeller of his aircraft set next to the tombstone. Local historian Victoria Canaves has called on the Council of Majorca to make the grave an item of historical heritage.

Tilman, who was serving in the Royal Air Force but was attached to the Royal Navy´s Argus, was part of a major show of force by the Royal Navy which included the combined strengths of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets. Battleships, including the mighty battlecruiser Hood, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and support vessels all dropped anchor in the Bay of Pollensa in 1924. It was quite a sight. You can safely say that the majority of the Royal Navy´s vast strength of capital ships were in Pollensa at that time. In that vast show of strength was Royal Navy aircraft carrier, Argus, which had been especially developed from an Italian cruise ship to become one of the first vessels in the world to operate large numbers of fixed wing aircraft.

Flight Lt. Tilman was an observer on a Panther biplane and would have been heavily involved in helping pioneer the techniques of landing and taking off from ships at sea. The Argus spent most of the 1920s involved in this task and gave the Royal Navy vital experience in this sort of operation. Years later during the Second World War it was this experience which allowed the Royal Navy to plan and execute a daring attack on the Italian Navy which resulted in the destruction of much of their fleet. This same attack was used by the Japanese as a blueprint for their raid on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941.

It is interesting to note that the Royal Navy chose to anchor in Pollensa rather than Palma. Perhaps the port of Palma could not cope with so many vessels moored together.

This show of force in 1924 would have involved thousands of British sailors. The tiny port of Pollensa in those days must have been busier than it is now with the crews of the vessels coming ashore.

Tilman´s gravestone should become an item of natural heritage because in some ways he forms part of the area´s history.