12 July 1917 – Big day out

The air offensive in support of the British Offensive (scheduled for the last week of July) in the Ypres area was due to begin on 8 July, but poor weather restricted activity until yesterday when there was some bombing activity in the evening. Today however, saw the most intensive fighting of the war to date.

There was fighting all day along the whole front, but it was most concentrated in the area opposite the Fifth Army. What was also noticeable was that the scale of these battles. The German formations were often very large, and very quickly a range of smaller British and French formations would join in the fight resulting in large scale engagements.

For example, in the evening there was a general engagement, lasting an hour, between a mixed formation of thirty German single-seaters, (from Jastas 4, 6, 36 and MFJ I and a force of British (1 29 and 66 Squadrons abd C flight of 56 Squadron) and some French SPADs of similar strength. The Allied aircraft claimed 12 enemy aircraft shot down but the records show that in reality only 1 German pilot was injured and even he got back. The British lost on pilot taken prisoner – 2nd Lieutenant Harold Morgan Lewis from 29 Squadron whose Nieuport 23 (B1625) was hit by AA fire.

However elsewhere in the fighting the British lost nine aircraft, 13 crew killed and 3 more taken prisoner. 29 Squadron suffered a bad day as earlier in the day they had lost 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Holtom Whytehead in Nieuport 23 A6782 and 2nd Lieutenant James Wellington Fleming in Nieuport 23 B1658.

The others killed were:

Lieutenant Basil Ward Binkley, 53 Squadron RFC
2nd Lieutenant Frank Ernest Bishop, 57 Squadron RFC
Sergeant John Frazier Carr, 11 Squadron RFC
2nd Lieutenant Kenneth George Cruickshank, 32 Squadron RFC
2nd Lieutenant Guy Stuart Ellis, 57 Squadron RFC
Flight-Sub Lieutenant Sidney Emerson Ellis, 4 Naval Squadron
Flight-Sub Lieutenant Edward Hext Kendall, 6 Naval Squadron
Flight-Sub Lieutenant Charles Richard Pegler, 10 Naval Squadron
Captain Chas Eric Robertson, 11 Squadron RFC

For a full description of the days fighting see the discussion on The Aerodrome forum.

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