Author Archives: sethspeirs

23 February 1918 – Hit

Out in Mesopotamia, following the capture of Ramada, Turkish forces on the Euphrates had been relatively quiet. However, in January 1918, there was a build up of Turkish Forces at Hit to the Northwest.

Once Turkish forces started reconnaissance down the river as far as Qubba and Nafata. Lieutenant-General Marshall in charge of British forces decided to capture Hit and its garrison. The advance from Ramadi began on the 19th of February, when air reconnaissances by 30 Squadron RFC brought back news that the Turks were evacuating their trenches south of Hit and were taking up a prepared position on high ground about two miles above the town at the Broad Wadi. There was also a strong enemy force at Sahiliya.

The British decided not to bother attacking until they could be sure of victory, and therefore waited until they had built up better communications and supplies accumulated.

This included the aircraft, and yesterday, 52 Kite Balloon Section, which had been at Ramadi since the beginning of January 1918, moved forward to Qubba. Today ‘B’ Flight of 30 Squadron RFC moved to Ramadi from Falluja, and ‘A’ Flight of 30 Squadron and ‘A’ Flight of 63 Squadron flew to Ramadi from Samarra and Baquba.

This composite unit, under the command of Major H. de Havilland, was instructed to undertake a vigorous bombing offensive against the Turks. They got to work straightaway, and ten aeroplanes bombed and attacked with machine-gun fire Turkish camps in the Hit-Sahiliya area. Seventy-five 20-lb. bombs were dropped: horses were stampeded, transport disorganized, one aeroplane on the Hit aerodrome destroyed, and several hits on camps were made.


22 February 1918 – Italian jobs

Out in Italy, 66 Squadron RFC had moved about 35 miles east from Grossa to Treviso on 18 February 1918. They were soon back in the action.


Arnold Bailie Reade

Yesterday various patrols claimed two enemy aircraft shot down. Early on near Motta, North East of Treviso, Lieutenant Harold Ross Eycott-Martin, in Sopwith Camel B5623 claimed an Aviatik C. Just before midday, Captain Kenneth Barbour Montgomery in Camel B4628 shot down an Albatros DV. near Fonzaszo, to the North West of Treviso. Unfortunately, 2nd Lieutenant Arnold Baillie Reade failed to return from a patrol in Camel B2534 and was later reported as having been killed in a flying accident.

Today 2nd Lieutenant Albert Frederick Bartlett was in the opposite direction in his Camel B5594 near Motta, south west of Treviso, when he forced down another Albatross DV.

Captain Montgomery was not so lucky, he failed to return from a patrol after being hit by ground fire, crashed in a vineyard near Rustignè di Oderzo, and was taken prisoner in Camel B4628. Meanwhile, his 28 Squadron colleague 2nd Lieutenant Harold Butler also went missing in his Camel (B6362) and was later reported killed.

Montgomery’s Camel after crashing

In a day of mishaps, Lieutenant Eycott-Martin had his engine shot up but managed to limp home.

2nd Lieutenant Norman Samuel Taylor and 2nd Lieutenant William Carrall Hilborn ended up landing in Grossa due to fog whilst ferrying new Camels to Treviso (B5226 and B6406). Finally, 2nd Lieutenant Herbert Newton Edward Row crashed his Camel (B5190) on landing at Treviso from a patrol.

21 February 1918 – £1000

In the first major debate on the Air Services since the Passage of the Air Force Act in December 1917, the House of Commons discussed the Air Force Estimates for the coming year. Under the guise of refusing to provide assistance to the enemy, the debate was over the nominal amount of £1000, and members were asked to refrain from certain lines of questioning.

The Undersecretary of State for the Air, Major John Baird, led the debate. He highlighted progress made in setting up the new Air Ministry, including the establishment of a Secretariat, Finance Branch, Works and Buildings Department and a General Branch of Statistics. Establishments for the service directorates and their staffs have been prepared, and the majority of pay and conditions of service questions had been addressed. Discussions are now ongoing between the Admiralty and the War Office about the practical transfer of the two services. The new Air Council has been established and is now developing its own programme of work.

The Minister came under pressure from Mr William Joynson-Hicks and Mr Noel Pemberton-Billing, both perennial thorns in the Governement’s side regarding Air matters, over the issue of:

  • poor training of pilots
  • the lack of standardisation of equipment hampering production and repair of aeroplanes
  • the failure to enact sufficient reprisal attacks against German cities for the air raids in England

An attempt to introduce an amendment to require reprisal attacks was defeated.

Mr Pemberton-Billing also called for a dedicated medical service for the air and castigated the house in general as so few MPs had turned up (no more than 25 at any time).

The whole debate can be read here.

20 February 1918 – Schlachtstaffeln?

Unlike tne famous Jastas, one of the lesser known German aerial formations is the Schlachtstaffeln (often abbreviated to Schlastas), which make up about 10% of german formations at this point. They had originated as security flights for the Fliegerabieilungen who carried out reconnaissance.

As the war progressed, their two-seaters transitioned into more of a ground-
attack role aircraft specially designed for that role were introduced.

With the preparations for the forthcoming German offensive in full swing, an entire section of the new German attack doctrine issued in January 1918 was devoted to air support for the ground

That doctrine was underlined by a document issued today specifically dealing with the and their control under divisional command in the initial stages of the attack. It lays out the role of the squadrons as “flying ahead of and carrying the infantry along with them, keeping down the fire of the enemy’s infantry and barrage batteries,” adding that the appearance of ground-attack aircraft over the battlefield “affords visible proof to heavily engaged troops that the Higher Command is in close touch with the front, and is employing every means to support the fighting troops.” It also directs the squadrons to “dislocate traffic and inflict appreciable loss on reinforcements hastening up to the battlefield.”

The new doctrine also stressed ground attack by multiple aircraft in formation, rather than by indi-
vidual planes. The Second Army air orders required an entire Schlachtstaffeln to attack in lines, two waves to a line. The first wave was to attack enemy artillery positions, and the second wave was to support the infantry attack.

19 February 1918 – 80-84

The general headquarters reported the following:

“The fine weather of the last few days continued on the 19th inst. Visibility, however, was not good, and prevented much work being done by our aeroplanes with the artillery. It did not interfere with photography, and many photographs were taken of the enemy’s aerodromes and other important objectives. A hostile aerodrome north of Douai and a large ammunition dump north-east of Lille were heavily bombed by us during the day, and, in addition, 50 bombs were dropped on the enemy’s billets. In air fighting 11 hostile machines were brought down, and one other was driven down out of control. A German night bombing machine also was brought down in No Man’s Land by our infantry. Two of our aeroplanes are missing. At night visibility remained bad, the greater part of the front being enveloped in thick mist. Over 150 bombs were dropped by us, however, on an important hostile railway centre south-east of Cambrai and on billets north of Douai.”

Of the 11 aircraft claimed, the majority were claimed by 84 Squadron RFC in their SE5a’s , who having been set upon by 10 enemy scouts, claimed to have accounted for a scarcely believable eight, with

2nd Lieutenant Andrew Frederick Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor, 2nd Lieutenant James McCudden, 2nd Lieutenant John Victor Sorsoleil, Captain Robin Arthur Grosvenor, and Lieut J F Larsen, all making claims.

In contrast, 80 Squadron, in their Camels were beaten up by pilots from Jastas 18 and 30. Lieutenant Samuel Lewes Hope Potter was wounded. Lieutenant Ernest Westmoreland was shot down in flames and killed in his Camel B9171. Lieutenant Sidney Reuben Pinder was also shot down and killed in Camel B9185.

18 February 1918 – Lafayette disbanded

Escadrille Lafayette, the French Squadron which was home to a large number of American volunteer pilots since 1916 has been disbanded.

The main reason for this is the arrival of official American forces on the Western Front. This includes US air forces which have started to arrive in England or training.

One of these, the 103d Aero Squadron was organized on 31 August 1917 at Kelly Field, Texas, where its enlisted members, drawn from other units, trained until being moved to Garden City, New York for preparation for overseas movement. On 23 November 1917 the unit sailed on board the RMS Baltic from its port of embarkation at New York City. The Baltic joined a convoy at Halifax, Nova Scotia and arrived at Liverpool on 7 December 1917. Because of a measles outbreak, it was quarantined at Winnall Down Camp outside Winchester until 23 December 1917, when it proceeded to France through Southampton and Le Havre. The squadron arrived at Issoudun on 28 December 1917, where it spent the month of January constructing hangars for the instructional school being built there. On 1 February it resumed training for combat at the front.

The Americans were keen to have an active Squadron at the front. To speed up this process, Major William Thaw, formerly with the Lafayette Escadrille, took command of the 103d Aero Squadron on 11 February.

Today, 17 pilots from Lafayette Escadrille were assigned to 103 Aero Squadron. Obviously these pilots have been serving at the front for a considerable period and need no further training.

Combat operations began the next day, with the 103rd Aero Squadron becoming the first active US Squadron in France.



17 February 1918 – Single

The attack yesterday was followed today by another raid, this time by a single Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI (R25). However, the confusion and damage was such that at the time it was thought that there were multiple raiders. The noise of the aircrafts engines was heard over a wide area contributed to this.


R25 preparing for a raid

The Giant approached London from the south-east and dropped nineteen 50-kg. bombs between Lee and St. Pancras railway station.

The main damage was inflicted by the last six bombs dropped which all fell near St Pancras station. Damaged was caused to the Midland Hotel and the booking office. 20 people sheltering there were killed and twenty-two injured. One other person was killed elsewhere.

Sixty-nine pilots, twenty-two them in Sopwith ‘Camels’, patrolled, but only three of them came in contact with the bomber but soon lost it. One of these got off fifty rounds, but to no avail. The confusion led to a large number of AA guns firing, often at RFC aircraft. No hits were recorded.