10 April 1917 – “On speeding wing we climb”

Work supporting the British offensive on the Western Front continued today in the same vein, and in the same poor weather. As yesterday, the key role for the RFC is to carry out contact patrols to keep Headquarters informed of the British advance.

Aircraft were up at dawn to plot the limits of the British advance. Contact patrols continued throughout the day. Today the single seaters from 60 Squadron joined in the contact part work carry out some low level tactical reconnaissance form 2-300ft. Crews also took the opportunity to machine gun columns of German infantry where possible. In an attempt to reduce losses the reconnaissance distance was reduced from 28 miles inside the German lines to 8 miles.

Despite or perhaps because of the bad weather, enemy aircraft were not out in numbers and most of the losses were due to a combination of ground fire and weather. For example, 8 Squadron lost three of its BE2e’s. At 0715 2nd Lieutenant Pierre Bouillier Pattisson was wounded and force landed his BE2e (A2839). His observer 2nd Lieutenant Edmund Mills Harwood was uninjured but the aircraft was shelled on landing and destroyed. Their colleagues 2nd Lieutenant John William Brown and Lieutenant Edward John McCormick, suffered engine failure and crashed into barbed wire near Foncquevillers in their BE2e (A2803). Both escaped unharmed but the aircraft was destroyed. Finally, Lieutenant John Howard Thomas and 2nd Lieutenant Frank George Brockman, got lost in a snow storm and were forced to land in their BE2e (A2854). Both men were wounded in the crash and the aircraft was wrecked.


Francis St Vincent Morris

In the end through, the weather claimed one fatality. 2nd Lieutenant Francis St Vincent Morris and Sergeant Arthur James Mitchell from 3 Squadron crashed their Morane P (A6715) into a tree in a snowstorm. Both were wounded. Morris suffered head wounds, broke both his legs and one had to be amputated. He later died of his wounds. Morris was one of the lesser known war poets, whose collection was published posthumously in 1917. In his pocket after he died an untitled poem was found:

Through vast
Realms of air
we passed
On wings all-whitely fair

On speeding wing
we climb
Like an unfettering thing

Height upon height;
and play
In God’s great Lawns of Light.

And He
Guides us safe home
to see
The Fields He bade us roam.


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