24 August 1916 – The Song of the Aeroplane

Attempts to retake Guillemon by XIV Corps of the British Army were largely repulsed today with the only advances being made by XV Corps in the area of Delville Wood, where ground to the north and west of it was captured, and to the front of the Reserve Army which was pushed closer to Thiepval.

Aircraft from 3 Squadron RFC carried out contact patrols during the attack and were able to closely follow the advance. This was made possible by ground troops lighting a long series of red flares which made their position clear to the aircraft above.


Fenton Ellis Stanley Phillips

At 1840, one of the observers, Second Lieutenant Fenton Ellis Stanley Phillips, flying in a Morane L, spotted that the front line of British infantry, marked by the blazing of fourteen flares, was still under shrapnel fire from its own artillery. This was because they had been unable to identify their objective properly as it had been destroyed by shells. The crew flew back at once and dropped an urgent message giving the information to corps head-quarters. The barrage was ultimately lifted a hundred yards forward.

2nd Lieutenant Phillips then flew back to the front to complete his mapping and dropped this and a further message at Corps head-quarters at 20.00. The map showed that a part of the 14th Division was held up on the right of Delville wood.

2nd Lieutenant Phillips is a well known musician and composer and spends what free time he has organising concerts and composing songs for his colleagues. For example:

“This is the Song of the Aeroplane
As it mounts to the clouds on high,
While her engine roars,
Up above she soars,
A speck in the clear blue sky.
The breeze which rushes beneath her planes
Gives life to her slender frame;
And she sings ‘Ho! Ho!’
Through the winds that blow–
The Song of the Aeroplane!

I watch the clumsy Zeppelins come
Like silver clouds the sky,
Their sides aglint
With a steely tint
From the sun which rides on high.
Then up and up, like a bird of prey,
I long to commence my game;
And I sing ‘Ho! Ho!’
As a bomb I throw –
And the ‘ Zep’ is sheet of flame.
With wings white in the setting sun
I glide to the restful earth,
And I still remain
A victorious plane
Enclosed in my wooden berth.
Admired by all with my ceaseless drone,
As queen of the skies I reign;
And I’ll sing ‘Ho! Ho!’
Though the winds may blow–
The Song of the Aeroplane”


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