10 May 1915 – Stranger Danger

The air war over Aubers Ridge continued today with mixed fortunes for the RFC, and a near death experience for Captain Louis Strange.

The day started well as Lieutenant W. H. D. Acland and 1st Air Mechanic J. N. Rogers of 5 Squadron were on patrol near`Ypres in their Vickers FB5s, on of the few aircraft fitted with a forward firing Lewis gun. The pilot’s report:

‘As ordered I patrolled the Ypres salient. We sighted an aeroplane not being shelled about 3 or 4 miles away to the S.E. and high up. We climbed to about 10,000ft and then gave chase. He did not appear to see me and was apparently making for Lille. We caught him up and opened fire from above and behind at about 50 yards. The pilot was hit and the machine also, as I saw flakes of material flying off. They dived and we followed and the observer fired with his pistol but did little damage. I saw the observer then drop his arm as if he was hit. The machine then nose-dived from about 1500ft, turned on her back and fell to the ground, quite close to Lille. We came down to 2000ft to look at it, the machine appeared to be completely wrecked. We then returned behind our lines and climbed to 9000′ searched the Ypres salient again for German machines but could only see our own.’

Later in the day Captain Louis Strange in his Martinsyde, was also on patrol when he encountered a German Otto aircraft at 8,000 feet over the Ypres salient. both planes were armed with machine guns, and manoeuvered to get in a shot at each other. After a few inconclusive shorts Strange dove away to take up a fresh attacking positions. Strange was in the act of changing his drum when the Martinsyde got out of control, turned upside down, threw Strange from his seat in which he was too slackly strapped, and began to spin earthwards. Strange had a hold, with one hand, on his Lewis gun, with the other, on the rear centre strut, whilst his feet were caught up in the belt. After spinning through five thousand feet, he contrived to kick his feet free of the belt and apply them to the control lever. He was able to right the Martinsyde, regain control, and go home again to his aerodrome.

However, the day ended on a sour note as Lt D Corbett-Wilson and 2Lt I N Woodiwiss of 3 Squadron were shot down by anti-aircraft fire in their Morane L near Fournes and killed. Corbett-Wilson was one of the pioneer aviators and was the first to fly across the irish Sea.

Denys Corbett-Wilson

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