The British launched a further offensive in the Aubers Ridge area today. The attack had been planned for yesterday, but on the evening of the 7th the weather was so misty that useful flying was unlikely, and the commander Douglas Haig was reluctant to begin without air observation.
The work fell to Colonel Trenchard’s First Wing, consisting of 2 and 16 Squadrons located at Merville and La Gorgue, and 3 Squadron at Chocques. Of these, Nos. 2 and 3 Squadrons were to work with the Army corps direct and 16 Squadron was to do the reconnaissance work for army headquarters.
Much work had already been done photographing the enemy trenches to create accurate maps. On the day, the squadrons were allotted various tasks to assist the army.
Early this morning, bombing missions were undertaken to interrupt rail communications and to harass back areas and army head-quarters. However, primitive bombing techniques meant this was largely unsuccessful. Lieutenant H. F. Glanville of 16 Squadron, who had left at 3.0 a.m. with two lOOlb. bombs slung under his Voisin aeroplane to attack Don, was wounded on the way, but persisted to his objective, although he failed to hit the bridge over the canal at which his bombs were aimed.
Following the disappointing attempts at contact patrolling at the earlier battle of Neuve Chappelle 16 Squadron attempted to carry out a definite scheme to follow the battle from the air. 16 Squadron watched the movements of the infantry, and sent down during the day forty-two messages which came through strongly and clearly to the receiving stations. Unfortunately none of the attacks reached their objectives, and the information sent down, as the result of direct observation, was neither sufficiently detailed nor reliable enough to impress the army.
The main area of success was artillery spotting – mainly counter-battery fire. This was carried out throughout the day and many enemy guns were silenced. Unfortunately, Lieutenant C. B. Spence and his observer Second Lieutenant the Hon. W. F. Rodney of 16 Squadron were brought down by shrapnel-fire and both were killed.
Observers could also call on the Batteries to engage new targets which they discovered in their flight using a special signal. During the afternoon an observer saw two companies of infantry reforming in the courtyard of a farm, called up the 48th Battery, which shelled them and scattered the troops. The four wireless aeroplanes of No. 2 Squadron which worked with No. 2 Group of the artillery, flew so that one aeroplane was always in the air to turn the 118th Battery on to suitable targets at the discretion of the observer. Most of these targets proved to be active batteries, but in the afternoon an observer called up the artillery to fire on an enemy battalion near Pont de Pierre – the battalion was scattered.