19 November 1916 – It’s Over

The British offensive on the Somme was officially called off today. The battle has seen the most intense fighting by the RFC since the beginning of the war. Throughout the battle RFC Commander Hugh Trenchard has remained committed to the Strategic Offensive and has been mostly successful in maintaining air superiority over the front in the sense that artillery spotting and aerial reconnaissance in support of the Army has continued.

In that period, the RFC expanded to 35 squadrons on the Western Front from 27, and now has 35 kite balloons instead of 14. Recently the RNAS has also provided a number of squadrons to support the RFC. The number of serviceable aircraft has also increased from 410 to 536 and the number of active pilots has increased from 426 to 585.

The maintenance of air superiority has come at a high cost though. 972 aircraft have been lost either destroyed or missing, though 173 were rebuilt and used again. 222 aircrew have been killed, 151 wounded and 132 taken prisoner. An additional 268 were put out of action by accidents.

The high attrition rate has no doubt been caused by the inexperience of most pilots coming to the front in general flying time, never mind combat experience.

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One thought on “19 November 1916 – It’s Over

  1. Pingback: 18 February 1917 – Challenge Defeated | airwar19141918

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