The number of Squadrons continues to rise on the Western Front with new units being rushed to the front as soon as pilots are available. There is some concern that many pilots are not really ready, and are barely able to fly, never mind carry out combat manoeuvres.
Along with the rush of pilots to the front, new aircraft continue to be developed in the hope of outclassing the enemy. The existing British machines are starting to lose ground to the new German single seat fighters which are equipped with two forward firing guns.
The latest Squadron to be dispatched to the front in 52 Squadron, which was formed as a Corps Reconnaissance squadron at Hounslow Heath Aerodrome on 15 May 1916.
An advanced party of the Squadron set off for France today by sea, including second in command William Percy Cort and eleven other officers.
The rest of the Squadron, including the commanding officer, Major Leonard Parker, will fly over in a couple of days. The Squadron is equipped with a new aircraft. Unfortunately, it is the RE8 or “Harry Tate”.
The RE8 is intended to replace the aging BE2s, but as it was developed contemporaneously with the BE2e, it shares many of the design features and indeed many of the same parts.
Granted it has a more powerful engine which means it can operate as a proper two seater without having to leave the observer behind on bombing missions. It is also better armed as the pilot and observer both have guns and the observer is at the back. Nevertheless, it shares the same stable flying characteristics of the BE2 types which are useful for reconnaissance but not helpful in combat.