24 March 1917 – 70 Squadron Suffers

The action hotted up on the Western Front today with intense activity covering the battle front.

At around 0630 this morning, six Sopwith Strutters from 70 Squadron RFC left on a reconnaissance mission over the Douai-Cambrai area. Around 0800 they ran into 12 aircraft from Jasta 5. The Strutters attempted to force their was back over the lines, some 18km away. In the ensuing 15 minute battle, Jasta 5 came off the better claiming two aircraft to one shot down.

Lieutenant CR Peter & Lieutenant Bernard Balfour in A2893 and Lieutenant H Butler and Air Mechanic AG MacMillan in A1925 shot down Leutnant Renatus Theiller. Both aircraft were shot up and Peter and McMillan were both injured but got back to the lines.

As well as these two, Captain William Howard Costello and Lieutenant H S Whiteside in Strutter A1907 were last seen flying west after combat Douai. They didn’t make and were shot down by Lieutenant Heinrich Gontermann, both were taken prisoner.

Captain Arthur Gerald Saxty and Lieutenant Harold Forrester Duncan in A956 were shot through. Saxty was okay, but Duncan was wounded and later died.  Finally, Captain Allan Maxwell Lowery and Lieutenant George William Swann were also shot down. Their Sopwith Strutter A957 burst into flames and then crashed killing both.

During a reconnaissance by machines of 11 Squadron, two hostile machines were driven down completely out of control; one by Lieutenant Edward Thomas Curling and Lieutenant H E Guy, the other by 2nd Lieutenant Robert Churton Savery & 2/AM Reginald E Tollerfield and Lieutenant Cyril Nelson Lowe and 2nd Lieutenant G Masters, 11 Sqn, Low and Masters were then shot down themselves, with Lowe suffering injuriesGreville Oxley.


James Russell Middleton


Lieutenant James Russell Middleton 2/AM Hubert Victor Gosney in FE2b A803 did not return either. Werner Voss may have shot them down but this cannot be confirmed. Gosney was killed in the crash, Middleton was severely wounded and taken prisoner (He died on 21 June 1917).

Werner Voss did claim two more confirmed victories today. First he shot down Lieutenant Hugh Norton and 2nd Lieutenant Regvinald Alfred William Tillett from 8 Squadron in their BE2d 5769. Then he followed this up with Flight Sergeant Edward Preston Critchley and 1/AM Frank Russell from 23 Squadron RFC in their FE2b A5485.

Another 8 Squadron aircraft was shot down. 2nd Lieutenant Harold William Tagent and 2nd Lt Geoffrey Thomas Gray in BE2e 7248 – were attacked and brought down in flames by Leutnant Fritz Otto Bernert Jasta 2.

Lieutenant R P Baker from 19 Squadron was taken prisoner when his SPAD VII (A6706) crash landed due to engine failure. Manfred von Richthofen from Jasta 11 claimed it for his 30th victory.


Frederick Hollingtin Gay

Three more aircraft were hit by AA fire and destroyed. First 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Hollington Gay and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur A Baerlein from 16 Squadron crashed their BE2d (5777). Both were wounded and Gay died later of his injuries. Captain G O Brunwin-Hales and Lieutenant AR Legge from 13 Squadron were killed when their BE2c (2515) had its tail shot off and put the aircraft into a vertical nosedive from 6,000.

The last loss of the day Sergeant Joseph Frederick Ridgway and 2nd Lieutenant  Edward John Hare from 15 Squadron were attacked in their BE2e (7254). They fought off the attacker but were then hit by AA fire killing Hare and wounding Ridgway. Two hostile aircraft then attacked the machine and Ridgway was shot in the leg. Despite this he was able to recross the lines and land his machine.

Finally, Sub-Lieutenant Harold Spencer Kerby, from 9 (Naval) Squadron shot down a Seaplane near Wenduyne. Emil Jacob Schneider and Ernst Kurt Emil Gramlich were taken prisoner.


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