Category Archives: Egypt

13 July 1917 – “All dear sports”

The folly of sending out reconnaissance missions without escort was confirmed again today for 1 Squadron AFC out in Egypt.

Two BE2e’s went out this morning on a photography mission over the Beersheba area. Unfortunaltely the escort that was to be provided by 14 Squadron RFC failed
to appear at the meeting place and the BE2s continued without it.

Almost immediately they were attacked by an enemy scout. Lieutenants Archibald Henry Searle and Gerald Lewis Paget were shot down and crashed behind the enemy lines. Searle had been shot through the head and both men were found dead in the wreckage.

2nd Lieutenants Reginald Francis Baillieu and Adrien Espinasson Barbe managed to escape with their machine shot up but landed safely in the British lines.

The next day, the German airman Oberleutnant Georg Felmy appeared over the aerodrome and dropped a message bag containing news of the airmen and those previously lost and a letter for Commander Captain Murray Jones.

“All dear sports,

I beg this letter not to send in a newspaper. Please send the photo with X to the Parents of Mr Vautin.

My joy was very tall to receive your many letters. Tomorrow Vautin comes to take all the things and all the letters (with 1 photo), which were dropped. He is such well educated and genteel boy that we do with pleasure all what is pleasant for him. But if you write for us, you must write more distinctly because our English is not so perfectly , that we can read all. The most legible writing has firstly your writing machine, secondly Murray Jones. Vautin has me talked very much of him. I hope to fight with this sport more oftener. I thank him for his kind letters – I thank also for the decoration of the “Rising Sun” from Mr Lex Macaulopolus (?). Perhaps I can see the sun later in Australia.

Too very best thanks for the photo of Mr Brown and for the kind letter and many photos of R F Baillieu.

In order to answer your questions: 1) 2nd Lt Steeleis unfortunately dea. He expired 24/04/17soon after his imprisonment. He was shot down by our archies.
2) Mr Heathcote is in captivity and well, I think in the same place as Messrs Palmer and Floyer. Muray Jones is a very courageous man , we have feeled it in flying and when he came to drop the things for XXX so down (perhaps 100 ft). I would like to have his address in Australia to visit him. And a photo of him and the others, but – I beg – a little more bigger the photos because I could scarcely perceive your sport = eyesights!Ramadan is not practical for a visite at you, on must fast all the day. For souvenir I have exchanged my watch with Vautin and we have engraved our names. Where can I disperse more an aquaduct! Hoping our good condition is continuing long time – with best wishes for all who have written for us. With sportly respects G Femly F300. “

A copy of the original letter is shown in the Australian Official History.

11 July 1917 – Heat Stroke

Back on 8 July, the Turkish advanced positions at Dhibban in Egypt were captured by British forces.

Today an attempt to capture the Ramadi lines failed, mainly because of abnormal heat and a blinding dust storm.

Four aeroplanes from 30 Squadron RFC co-operated in the Ramadi operations during the early morning to assist he artillery.

Three more set off to bomb Turkish positions at 0430 but were forced to return as the heat caused all the water in their engines to boil away and the pilots were sick with the excessive heat.

19 April 1917 – Sabotage

The German air service made an audacious attempt to cut off the British water supply to the offensive in Gaza by attacking the pipeline across Sinai.

A two-seater aeroplane, carrying two officers who had for some time kept a careful watch on the progress of the pipe-line, landed alongside the line about ninety miles inside the British area. The officers laid a charge of explosive and were successful in blowing up a few feet of the pipe, a piece of which they carried away as a souvenir. Unfortunately for them the damage was only minor and it was repaired the same day.

The attack was rather pointless on it own. By now there were nearly a million gallons of water stored in reservoirs at El Mazar and El Arish, and there was, also a good water supply in wells forward of the railhead at Rafah. The pipe-line, although still vital, no longer had quite the same importance as when the advance across the waterless Sinai desert was being made. An attack on this pipe-line during that period, combined with successful bombing attacks aimed at bursting the reservoirs, would have had the effect of stopping the British advance

8 March 1917 – Turkish retreat

Out in Palestine, the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force under SIr Archibald Murray   have completed preparations to attack the main Turkish positions at Shellal as a preliminary to the main assault on Gaza. However, cavalry patrols on the night of 4 March discovered that the Turks were evacuating the whole of their elaborate defences.

map_rafa

The RFC was ordered at once to hamper the withdrawal as much as possible by bombing. So, at dawn on 5 March, 6 machines from 14 Squadron RFC and 1 Squadron AFC (67 (Australian) Squadron RFC) bombed the station at Tel el Sheria. The anti-aircraft fire was heavy. Lieutenant Adrian Trevor Cole from 67 Squadron had his petrol tank shot through and was forced to land on his way home, but he escaped unhurt.

richard williams

Richard Williams

His colleague Captain Richard Williams, too, was nearly lost mainly though his own error. He recounts the tale:

“When I arrived at Sheria, I throttled down to lose height and bomb the railway station. I was just getting ready and was about 2,000 feet up when I got archies’ all round me-by Jove they did stick, too! I went in and dropped my two 112-lb. bombs and the engine stopped. I am for Constantinople now, all right, I thought. I thought an archie had got my engine, for they were going off all round me the whole time. I tried all the petrol taps and could get no result; then undid my belt and stood up to see if anything was wrong in front, but saw nothing. During all this time I was being peppered with archies and I said to myself, ‘ Well, you might see I am coming down. I dropped two smoke balls as distress signals to our other machines, but they seemed an awful way off and a long way above me. By this time I was nearly on the ground and was picking out a spot to land on, when I looked at my switch on the outside of the machine. It was off. I switched on and, thank Heaven! the engine started firing. She choked a bit at first, so I throttled back and then gradually opened up. The engine picked up and I was going again. By this time I was under 500 feet and was making for the Turks. They must have opened fully six or eight machine-guns at me, so I turned to get out of that.”

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Ernest Ayscoghe Floyer

14 Squadron were not so lucky. Lieutenants Ernest Ayscoghe Floyer and Clement Victor Palmer were shot down by anti-aircraft fire in their DH1A (4608) and captured.

A similar raid on 6 March was carried out without losses, but on 7 March, the aircraft of Lieutenant John Vincent Tunbridge from 1 Squadron AFC was hit by AA fire and he was forced to land at Rafa. He set off on foot and was eventually rescued by Lieutenants Percy William Snell and Joseph Anthony Morgan who spotted him while on patrol and and landed to pick him up. An evening raid on 7 march passed without losses.

The following day six aircraft attacked Junction Station, north of Arak el Menshiye. However there was more excitement when a Fokker appeared over the El Arish aerodrome. Two aircraft scrambled to attack, but only a message bag was dropped and in any case the aircraft flew off before it could be attacked.

The message-bag contained letters from Floyer and Palmer and and one addressed to a German prisoner with the British. 14 Squadron promptly sent off two machines to Beersheba with a reply message, thanking the Germans for the letters, and apologising for sending up two machines to attack the message-carrier.

Attacks were also made by day and night, on Beersheba, the junction of the Beersheba railway with the Jerusalem-Jaffa line, and on enemy cavalry and infantry camps. In all, 21 tons of bombs was dropped over the 4 days. Whilst the attacks caused some casualties and damage, in the end they achieved no strategic results, as the Turkish forces withdrew in good order and have now settled in new positions at Gaza and Tel el Sheria, fourteen miles north and north-east of Shellal. The Turks are now out of reach until the railway can be extended at least as far as Rafah.

5 March 1917 – Medina

“C” Flight of 14 Squadron RFC  has been providing support to native forces in Palestine. Since they have based at Rabegh but this is too far from the enemy’s outposts. it was suggested that the Flight should be moved to Yenbo, and with this in view, the fight Commander Major Arthur Justin Ross left for Yenbo on 28 February to make the necessary arrangements for the change of base.

View of Medina

In the meantime various advanced landing grounds have been set up. One of these, situated in a small basin with hills surrounding it was used for a reconnaissance today over Medina by two of BE2cs. This is the first reconnaissance over the city.  The purpose of the mission was to carry out a reconnaissance of the Turkish dispositions and take photographs. No bombs were dropped on the area in deference to the city’s sacred associations.

Three enemy aeroplanes were also seen in the air over Medina, but they made no attempt to attack the British machines, nor did the British attempt to engage.

 

20 February 1917 – Dominions

Training accidents continue to claim the lives of trainee pilots from all over the Empire.

Today a Canadian, John Libby Fry from the RFC Special Reserve was killed training when his DH2 crashed in poor weather near Upavon. His aircraft suffered engine trouble coming into land and he was unable to maintain height. The aircraft dived into the ground from 100ft. Fry was killed.

Athol Gladwyn Adams

Athol Gladwyn Adams

Only yesterday, an Australian, Athol Gladwyn Adams serving 67 Australian Squadron RFC but posted to 22 Reserve Squadron for training was also killed in a similar flying accident at the training school at Aboukir in Egypt. His Avro 504a (7989) had the engine cut out just as he was coming into land. The aircraft nosedived from about 100ft and crashed. Adams died shortly afterwards of his injuries including a fractured skull. His instructor Lieutenant George Charles Henry Culley was injured but survived.

Adams had served at Gallipoli and then transferred to the RFC. He served as an observer and was undergoing pilot training.

 

 

19 February 1917 – World’s first aeromedical evacuation

The Imperial Camel Corps advanced on Bir-el-Hassana in the Sinai Peninsula today. During the attack, Lance Corporal MacGregor was wounded in the onyl serious casualty of the day. Unfortunately for him the nearest medical facility was 44 miles away at El Arish, a long and hazardous journey by Camel.

To spare MacGregor what would have been an agonising trip, it was decided to fly him by plane to El Arish. A BE2c from 14 Squadron RFC was pressed into service and he was strapped into the observers seat.

in the end the journey took a mere 45 minutes, and was the world’s first recorded aeromedical evacuation. As for the pilot who volunteered? His name is currently unknown.

MacGregor being strapped into the BE2c.

MacGregor being strapped into the BE2c.