9 March 1917 – 40 Squadron mauled

40 Squadron RFC were on the end of what was clearly a pre-planned joint operation by Jasta 11 and anti-aircraft gunners on the ground near Oppy. The RFC communiqué reported:

“…nine FE8s of 40 Squadron, whilst patrolling over Oppy in the morning, were unusually heavily fired at by anti-aircraft guns for about five minutes. Two hostile aircraft appeared well to the east of the patrol. The anti-aircraft fire suddenly ceased and eight or more hostile machines dived from above the clouds onto the FE patrol. Apparently the two machines, the anti-aircraft and the formation of hostile aircraft were working in accordance with a pre-arranged plan. In the combat that ensued at least one hostile machine was destroyed. Three of our machines failed to return and the remainder were badly shot about. One FE just succeeded in reaching our lines when it burst into flames. The pilot, who had been twice wounded, jumped from the machine. The fight lasted for about half an hour.”

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Shepard’s FE8 6456

The first to go down was 2nd Lieutenant T Shepard in FE8 6456 who was claimed by Leutnant Kurt Wolff. He landed behind enemy lines and was taken prisoner. Shortly after this,  Leutnant Karl Allmenroder severely damaged 2nd Lieutenant Rupert Ernest Neve’s FE8 6399. He fled for the lines and had just crossed them when the aircraft burst into flames and Neve was forced to jump from the aircraft. Remarkably he survived through he was seriously injured.

 

After this, Leutnant Karl Schaeffer shot down 2nd Lieutenant William Brading Hills in FE8 6397 and then Lieutenant Geoffrey Frank Haseler in FE8 A4874. Both men were taken prisoner.

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Haseler’s FE8 A4874

A hostile machine was claimed by 2nd Lieutenant Henry Cuthbert Todd before his FE8 6425 was shot up and he made a forced landing behind the lines. Lieutenant William Morrice in FE8 7836 suffered a similar fate. .

Manfred von Richthofen made up for failing to score in this battle by shooting down in flames 2nd Lieutenant Arthur John Pearson MC from 29 Squadron in DH2 A2571. Pearson was killed.

The disaster resulted in the immediate replacement of the remaining FE8s with Nieuports. 41 Squadron RFC was the only unit left flying the onsolete FE8.

 

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