Today, an F.E.2b (4929) from 18 Squadron RFC was escorting an aeroplane taking photographs near Bapaume, when it was attacked by enemy fighters. It drove them off and turned for home.
On the way the observer, Lieutenant Franklin Sharp Rankin, shot down one of three aeroplanes which attacked. As the remaining two were attacking from behind, Rankin stood up to engage them over the top wing. He shot one of them down with a damaged engine, and was about to attack the third German machine when he was shot in the head and fell out over the side of the aeroplane.
The pilot. Second Lieutenant Franklyn Leslie Barnard wrote in his combat report:
“When escorting a camera machine over Bapaume we attacked one of several H[ostile] A[ircraft] which were in the neighbourhood of the camera machine…Shortly after two more appeared above us…When these had been driven off we turned for home…but found three more HA on our tail… [Rankin] put one drum into one which was passing straight over our heads at very close range, and this machine immediately became out of control, the tail and back of fuselage being on re. It went down in a spin. The remaining two HA were now ring from behind and [Rankin] stood up to get a shot at them…one more HA was seen to go down in a nose dive with smoke from its engine…[Rankin] was still firing when he was hit in the head and fell sideways over the side of the nacelle. I managed to catch his coat as he was falling, and by getting in the front seat pulled him back. I then got back in the pilot’s seat. The engine and most of the controls had been shot but I managed to get the machine over our lines and landed 200 yards behind our front line…”
His efforts were in vain unfortunately as Rankin had been killed.