19 October 1918 – The chase

Out in Palestine, after the capture of Damascus on 1 October and Homs on 15 October, General Allenby has decided to make a bid tomorrow for Aleppo some 110 miles further north to give the British a better bargaining position come the inevitable armistice.

Today, the Bristol F2b’s of Captain Ross McPherson Smith and Lieutenant Ashley Vernon McCann (B1229) and Lieutenant Eustace Slade Headlam and Lieutenant William Harold Lilly (B1295) from 1 Squadron AFC were about to leave Homs on reconnaissance towards Aleppo when they heard the sound of an enemy aircraft. They took off and started to chase the aircraft. They were about 25 miles south of Aleppo and at 18,000 feet when they finally caught up with a German DFW. It was the first enemy aircraft encountered for weeks and after both Headlam and Lilly fired the aircraft went down in a spiral and landed in the desert.

Shortly afterwards Smith and McCann landed and taxied towards the aircraft. The German pilot and his observer jumped to the ground and stood with their hands above their heads. At the same time McCann and Lilly circled overhead and attacked a group of Bedouins about a mile away from the aircraft.

Smith decided there was no way they could take the German’s prisoner and so Headlam fired a Very light into the DFW and set it on fire. They then took off again leaving the stranded Germans to the Bedouins, so it’s likely the Germans were captured and ransomed as was the usual practice.

The two aircraft then completed their reconnaissances in preparation for the advance tomorrow. This was Hedlam’s fifth and final victory, making him an ace.

Advertisements

18 October 1918 – Constantinople bombed

The RAFs Aegean Group (formed on 1 April 1918) is a disparate selection of isolated stations scattered over the Aegean area from Lemnos to Crete. In theory the Air Ministry’s intention was that each of the two wings should comprise a fighter, a light bomber, and a seaplane Squadron.

However, the reality of demands for pilots and aircraft on the Western Front meant that the wings were always below their allotted strength. Practicality reigned and one wing (62) consisted of three composite units each consisting of two Flights of bombers and two of fighters stationed at Stavros and Imbros, and the third also at Imbros but available to be moved work as required.

63 Wing comprised two seaplane squadrons, distributed among the stations at Talikna(Lemnos), Skyros, Suda Bay, and Syra along with the depot ship Ark Royal. The Group’s headquarters was at Mudros, where the central aircraft depot formed an erecting and distributing centre for aeroplanes to all stations.

The duties of the group are:

(a) Bombing attacks on enemy centres.

(b) Routine patrols of the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara to give warning of enemy naval activity, with occasional reconnaissances to Constantinople.

(c) Anti-submarine patrols, and

(d) Army reconnaissances on the Salonika front (by the Stavros unit).

As part of this, Bombers from 62 Wing have been carrying out attacks on Constantinople since 1 July 1918 with the aim of bringing the war to Turkish civillians.

Today 12 DH9s in two separate formations of seven and five attacked the city, reporting hits on the War Office, the railway, and on the suburb of Haidar Pasha. All the aircraft returned safely.

17 October 1918 – “The Only Kind of Peace.”

The end of the war is in sight and talk is shifting to the position of Germany after the armistice. Today’s issue of Flight magazine issued a strongly worded editorial calling for German military might to be dismantled:

“A Power which has prostituted its navy to the prosecution of ruthless submarine war against the maritime traffic of the world certainly cannot be admitted to the freedom of the seas or to the commercial community of the nations for at least a generation. Nor can Germany, who used her initial superiority in the air to murder defenceless civilian populations, be permitted the use of an arm which, developed with German thoroughness, may put her again in the position of being able to make war on civilisation. The sea and the air must be closed to her except under the most stringent conditions, which must be so drafted as to put it completely out of her power even to contemplate mischief.”

Not only that, but the editorial called for the punishment of those responsible for the commissioning of war crimes:

“Another condition which we must not allow the politicians and the friends of Germany to drop out of the peace terms is the one calling for the punishment of those who have been responsible for the major crimes against humanity committed by the Central Powers. No matter how highly placed they may be, they must be handed over to take their trial before a judicial tribunal agreed upon by the Allies, and in the composition of which the Hun shall have no say. We have a long account against them in the matter of ” frightfulness ” at sea, on land and in the air, and that account must be paid to the uttermost penny.”

 

 

16 October 1918 – Spinning

Poor weather reduced air activity severely on the Western Front today. The General Headquarters bulletin read:

“On October 16th low clouds and thick mist made continuous operations in the air impossible, but at intervals, when the mist lifted, our contact machines kept touch with our advancing troops, and our low-flying machines harassed the enemy. Hostile aircraft showed no activity, and no air fighting took place. All our machines have returned.”

Frank Alexander Butterworth

Whilst there were no casualties from enemy action, training accidents continue. The Sopwith Camel has a particularly fearsome reputation spinning in the hands of the novice pilot. 

Lieutenant Frank Alexander Butterworth from 4 Squadron ARC was killed when his Camel (E7238) spun out of control when trying to land in thick mist on return from a training flight.

Lieutenant Bertram Morgan from 59 Training Wing was killed at Cranwell when his Camel (B7241) spun into the ground whilst shedding its wings. Morgan was retraining as a pilot having previously been an observer with 15 Squadron and was practicing diving on a ground target.

15 October 1918 – Absent Voters

 The Representation of the People Act 1918 is most famous for finally allowing some women to vote in England (albeit those over 30 with some property qualifications).

On of is it’s lesser known effects was to allow serving servicemen to register to vote to obtain a vote in the constituency of their home address.

Following this, the first electoral lists were published today from applications received up to 18 August 1918. A second list was published on 15 April 1919.

The details that appear in the lists are those supplied by the men themselves, and not by their dependants and normally includes regiment, number and rank at the time, as well as home address. The importance of this is that it is another source of data for those researching servicemen.

There are some caveats of course. At the time men had to be over 21 years of age to vote, so men under 21 in the armed forces were not included in this source.

In addition, as electoral rolls were managed locally, there is no one central source of this data. Not only that, but some have been published and others not depending on county.

Website the Long Long Trail has some guidance as to what is available.

14 October 1918 – Flanders

Allied forces resumed the offensive in the Flanders area this morning, attacking along the whole front from Dixmude to Comines on the river Lys,

The weather was much improved on the day and the Royal Air Force was able to participate fully in the attack. The bomber and fighter squadrons flew from aerodrome totarget, and then back again to replenish their fuel and to reload with ammunition.

More than two thousand bombs weighting around forty tons were dropped with the railway junctions at Thielt, Deynze, Lichtervelde, Courtrai, Mouscron, Audenarde, and Melle attacked.

The day was not without losses of course with eleven aircraft lost. 213 Squadron was hardest hit. Losing 6 Sopwith Camels in two separate incidents.

In an early morning bombing patrol, three Camels were lost when the group was attacked by 17 enemy aircraft:

  • Lieutenant William Thomas Owen in D3378
  • Lieutenant John Cochrane Johnstone McDonald in F3120
  • 2nd Lieutenant Louis Burney McMurtry in F5987
  • In return Lieutenant Harry Coleman Smith, claimed an LVG C.
  • In the afternoon around 1430, a similar patrol also lost another three Camels when they ran in to 14 enemy aircraft:

    • Lieutenant John Edmund Greene DFC in D3409
    • 2nd Lieutenant Francis Robert Leslie Allen in D8177
      Lieutenant K MacLeish in D9673
  • To even things up slightly, Lieutenant Charles John Sims claimed three aircraft shot down.
  • 13 October 1918 – Dual controls

    Poor weather limited activity on the Western Front today and few enemy aircraft were seen. Some reconnaissance and ground attack was carried out particularly in the areas near the coast.

    52 Squadron RAF was carrying on contact patrols when two of its aircraft were lost. Early on, Lieutenant John Alexander MacGregor and Lieutenant John Logan Sutherland were shot down by enemy machine-gun fire near Avesnes le Sec in their RE8 (D4694). Both survived the crash but the RE8 was wrecked.

    Later on around 1100, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Phillips and 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Weller Innes Howie were on an artillery patrol in their RE8 (C2499). They shot down an enemy aircraft which they claimed had crashed. Then Phillips was killed by ground fire and the aircraft went into a dive. Fortunately for Howie, the RE8 was equipped with rudimentary controls for the observer so he was able to crash land the aircraft in the front lines. Howie was wounded in the crash but was able to escape back behind the lines.

    The combat report for this encounter is available at the National Archives.

    Howie had run away to join the army at 17 and been sent home. He joined the RFC as soon as he turned 18.