24 April 1917 – 66 and 9

The action in the air continued with the offensive on the ground. Seven British aircraft were shot down with eight crew killed, 5 wounded and 2 taken prisoner. The British also claimed 36 enemy aircraft forced down or shot down though in the event the Germans only confirmed 2 wounded and 2 killed.

The big operation of the day was a combined reconnaissance and bombing mission to Le Quesnoy and Landrecies. A distant reconnaissance by nine Sopwith Strutters from 70 Squadron accompanied by six Sopwith Pups from 66 Squadron failed due to low cloud and on the way back the formation was attacked over Solesmesby six Halberstadts. One of the two-seater Sopwiths was shot down in flames and one of the escorting pilots was forced to land and was made prisoner.

2nd Lieutenant Clive Harold Halse and 2nd Air Mechanic William J Bond from 70 Squadron in Sopwith Strutter (A1002) were shot down by Leutnant Fritz Otto Bernert from Jasta 2.

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Robert Stanley Capon

2nd Lieutenant Robert Stanley Capon from 66 Squadron got separated from the formation and shot down by Oberleutnant Heinrich Lorenz from Jasta 33 in Sopwith Pup A6175. He crashed near Cambrai and was taken prisoner. Three of his colleagues were also shot but managed to escape back over the lines – 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Myer Marsh in Sopwith Pup A670, Captain Robert Oxspring in Sopwith Pup A7305, and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Charles Morley in Sopwith Pup A6152.

The bombing formations, which followed, fared better. Five Martinsydes from 27 Squadron each dropped one 230-lb. bomb in the neighbourhood of the sheds at Ath Station. The three escorting SPADs had a brief indecisive encounter with two Albatros two-seaters on the outward journey, but there was no other opposition.

Bernert then flew south to engage a 6 strong bombing formation from 9 Squadron returning from a raid on Busigny and shot three of them down. Lieutenant Charles Lee Graves in BE2e A2941, Lieutenant Frank Arthur Matthews in BE2e A2937, and Lieutenant George Edward Hicks in BE2e 7195. Graves and Matthews were killed and Hicks was taken prisoner.

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