4 December 1916 – Back in Action

After a period of poor weather, the clouds lifted and aircraft from both sides continued the battle above the front. The lack of flying has left the armies hungry for reconnaissance and artillery observation and many squadrons were up in force carrying this work. The Germans also seemed hungry for a fight and were up in force. This nevitably led to a large number of air combats and both sides suffered casualties.
2nd Lieutenant Harry Dent Crompton and Flight Sergeant George William Halstead from 4 Squadron RFC were on an artillery observation mission in their BE2d (6732) when they were attacked by 2 enemy aircraft near Miraumont. They were quickly shot down and crash landed in shell hole just south-east of Courcelette. Halstread was wounded but survived the crash. Crompton was not so lucky and was killed. Their 4 Squadron colleague 2nd Lieutenant Philip James Long was also shot up and wounded in the arm but escaped.

8 Squadron RNAS suffered an early casualty when a patrol got into a scrap with enemy aircraft attacked a bombing mission by 27 Squadron RFC. Flight Sub- Lieutenant The Hon Arthur Cameron Corbett and was shot down in his Nieuport 21 (3957) and killed near Flers. His aircraft was completely destroyed in the crash. His colleagues eked out a modicum of revenge by claiming 5 enemy aircraft. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Stanley James Goble claimed an Halberstadt D out of control near Bapaume at 1100 and at the same time Flight Commander Colin Roy Mackenzie and Flight Sub-Lieutenant George Goodman Simpson both claimed an Albatros Scout out of control. A little later, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Robert Alexander Little, claimed a Halberstadt D out of control south-east of Bapaume at 1130. He then forced a second to land in a ploughed field and drove down a third, which also made a forced landing.

22 Squadron RFC also claimed three enemy aircraft shot down.

25 Squadron RFC was returning from a bombing mission over Pont-à-Vendin when they were attacked by 4 enemy scouts and a 2-seater. 2 of the scouts dived and 2nd Lieutenant Derrick Sivewright Johnson and Lieutenant Ivan Heald from 25 Squadron were hit almost immediately in their FE2b (7022) by Leutnant Otto Splitberger of Jasta 12 for his first victory. They crashed east of the lines near La Bassee and both were killed. Lt L Dodson forced one of the scouts to land near Sallaumines. At this point the remaining enemy machines flew off.

40 Squadron RFC was also successful claiming 2 aircraft from Jasta 12. Captain Dennis Osmond Mulholland and Lieutenant Edwin Louis Benbow, were on patrol when they saw three hostile aeroplanes attacking a BE2c from 16 Squadron. Captain Mulholland attacked and destroyed one of the German machines. Lieutenant Benbow closed to within 50 feet of a second and fired twenty rounds. The aircraft turned over crashed in a slow spinning nose dive. The pilot, Vitzfeldwebel Wilhelm Hennebeil was killed.

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