Category Archives: Home Front

29 May 1917 – Advertisement Lighting Order

Today, Britain got even darker – literally, when the Government implemented a further lighting restriction covering all of England and Wales.

The ‘Advertisement Lights Order’ prohibited the use of illuminated advertisements, of lights outside or at the entrance to any place of amusement, and of all lighting inside shop premises for display or for advertisement after the shops had been closed.

The Order would remain in force for the next 2 years. From that time period it will be clear that this continued well after the war was over and the threat of air raids gone.

This was because the primary reason for the lighting order was not to impair the ability of raiders to find targets but simply to save coal and was made at the request of the coal controller.

In fact up to this point most Zeppelins had struggled to recognise targets in the dark and the recent aircraft raids had taken place in daylight.

In many ways the order really only served the purpose of reassuring the public, particularly in areas subject to frequent raids.

26 May 1917 – A shock for Mr Alexander


John Douglas Price Scholfield

At about 2000 today,  shoppers in Hungerford, Berkshire became aware of an aircraft approaching the town from the west. This was not particularly unusual as there were RFC training stations nearby.

However, as the aircraft got nearer it was clear that the engine was running poorly and it was flying very slowly. Suddenly it climbed and then stood on its tail before turning over. The High Street was crowded with onlookers and most thought the pilot was giving an aerobatic display and showed their appreciation by clapping.

However, the aircraft quickly fell out of control and nose-dived into the garden of Mr Thomas Alexander’s house and grocery store at 26 High Street,

onlookers rushed to the wrecked aircraft to help the pilot. He was pulled free but was already dead from the impact.

The pilot was later identified as 2nd Lieutenant John Douglas Price Scholfield, a 23 year-old Canadian from the Central Flying School, Upavon.

The plane was placed under guard and the next day an enquiry was held by officers from Upavon. Lieutenant Scholfield was a learne pilot and had left Upavon at about 1930 in an Avro 504A (4061). An officer from Upavon examined the wreckage and declared that, in his opinion, the controls and wires appeared to be in perfect working order and the plane had crashed as the result of a stall.


The wrecked Avro

25 May 1917 – Heavier than air

After the failure of the Zeppelin attack yesterday, the Germans launched a new weapon against Britain today.  As the limits of Zeppelins were becoming clear, the aarival in Winter 1916 of the Gotha IV bomber finally made aircraft raids on Britain a realistic possibility.

The Gotha IV was a biplane of 75 feet wing span and 42 feet in length. It wa sfitted with two 260hp Mercedes engines driving pusher airscrews, carried a crew of three, and was armed with three machine guns, one of which could fire through a ‘tunnel’ to attack fighting aeroplanes. It could carry up to 500kg of bombs and had a top speed of about 80 miles an hour.

A specialist squadron, Kampfgeschwader 3 der Oberste Heeresleitung (Kagohl 3 – Battle Squadron 3) was set up. After months of preparation the Squadron made its first raid today.

DB37DCE3-FEFF-4287-B867-ABC6F26C01BB-367-0000003EE4E444F3At around 1700 the squadron of 21 bombers crossed the coast of Essex between the estuaries of the Crouch and the Blackwater.

Dense clouds were in place and although the noise of the aircraft was detected, observation of the aircraft was difficult.

The clouds forced them to abandon London as a target and instead  turned off  across the Thames at Gravesend and, passing over Kent west of Maidstone and Ashford, went out at Folkestone about 6.30 p.m.

After crossing the Thames they seem to have changed into some sort of group formation.  59 bombs of 50kg. weight and 104 of 12kg. were dropped, but 27 of the bombs failed to explode and a few others burst in the air.

Shorncliffe and Folkestone suffered most. Bombs on Shorncliffe camp and on Cheriton killed seventeen Canadian soldiers and wounded ninety-three, while the casualties at Folkestone were 16 men (one soldier), 31 women and 25 children killed, and 31 men (8 soldiers), 48 women, and 12 children injured. A majority of the casualties occurred in a crowded thoroughfare near the harbour (Tontine Street) where shoppers had congregated to make their Whitsun holiday purchases – this was the deadliest bomb dropped over Britain in the whole war. The total casualties for the raid were 95 killed and 195 injured.

Home defence squadrons from both the RFC and RNAS made 74 sorties to little effect. Most of them couldn’t even reach the height of the bombers due to inadequate aircraft – mostly BE2s. The sole encounter was from Flight Lieutenant Reginald Frederick Stewart Leslie from Dover pursued the Gothas over the Channel and fired 150 rounds into one of them before he was driven off.


The aftermath of the bomb in Tontine Street

Fighting pilots from Dunkirk intercepted some of the raiders on the homeward journey and they reported that in the subsequent fighting they destroyed one Gotha and damaged another. According to German sources of information the losses were one Gotha destroyed in the Channel and another which, for some unknown reason, crashed in Belgium on its return.

The raid exposed the inadequacy of air defences and outraged the public, particularly given that no warning had been given despite the detection of the attackers at Dover.

22 May 1917 – Accidents will happen

As has been the case throughout the war so far, accidents continue to claim plenty of victims.

Yesterday Captain John Wilson Tailford MC was serving as an instructor with 13 Reserve Squadron at Dover. He was instructing Lieutenant Eric Hughes in a BE2c (1320) when the aircraft turned at 350ft and then suddenly nosedived into the ground.

There was some disagreement between witnesses as to exactly what happened. Captain Eric Buxton stated:

“After a steeply banked left turn, I saw the machine commence another left-hand turn at a height of 350 ft. The turn developed into a nose-dive, and the machine spinning, with the engine full on, hit the ground…The first turn was very steep, almost ninety degrees. He then got back to the level position and commenced to climb slightly. He then commenced the second turn towards the left, and banked at almost as steep an angle as the first one. I can not imagine that the deceased would have done a “stunt” turn like this to instruct a pupil.”

Second Lieutenant Reginald Stanley Twigg stated:

“I watched the machine descending from 800 ft., with the engine throttled down, in a left-hand spiral, in quite a safe attitude. On coming out of the first left-hand spiral the machine at once commenced to turn to the right without sufficient bank, and too flat an angle, which caused the machine to fall to earth in a spinning nose-dive.“

Buxton noted that when a machine was doing evolutions, even flying officers gave different accounts of what occurred. A steep right-hand turn looked like a left-hand loop. No doubt both officers were stating accurately what they thought they saw, but one of them was wrong. The engine was of a type that when running at half-power would sound to one not acquainted as if running at full speed. But that had no effect on the accident. His own view was that the accident was due to the machine losing the necessary amount of forward speed, together with an insufficient amount of bank.

Buxton further stated:

“I immediately ran towards the spot, 600 yards from where I had been standing, and was the second to arrive on the scene of the accident. I at once saw that the pilot was killed, and attempted to release the pupil. After seven or eight minutes, we succeeded in getting the pupil out. An ambulance then arrived, and the deceased and the wounded man were removed. “

Another similar occurred today at the same aerodrome when 1st Class Air Mechanic Percy Henry O’Lieff was test flying a Avro 504 (A491) when a badly running engine caused him to lose flying speed. He landed heavily and the aircraft caught fire. O’Lieff was lucky to escape with minor injuries.

008F9C43-084F-4108-9C91-95CD9AB53A6F-12169-000008D6B58D8CBBAlso today, 2nd Lieutenants Cyril Frederick Crapp and William John Douglas Vince from 78 Squadron were both killed when Vince’s BE12a (A602) collided with Crapp’s BE12 (6581) during formation flying practice over Hove.

The leader of the squadron of four said they were flying in diamond formation at a height of 4500 feet when he gave the order for the formation to break up. During this manoeuvre, Crapp crashed into Vince. It appears they were both blinded by the sun. One of the machines appeared to buckle up immediately and fell to the ground at Marine Park, Aldrington and the other plane continued its flight for a few seconds and then exploded – the machine then nose-dived towards the beach at Hove.

17 April 1917 – Accidents still happen

Windy weather on the Western Front severely curtailed flying today and few enemy aircraft were up.


Hugh Pater

Back in England, 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Pater from 37 Reserve Squadron was killed when the RE8 (A4571) in which he was the passenger crashed into an Armstrong-Whitworth whilst trying to take off from Scampton Camp near Lincoln. The plane immediately nose dived into the ground. The pilot 2nd Lieutenant John Manley was also injured. The subsequent enquiry did not attach any blame to either pilot.

Hugh Pater had joined the RFC in August 1916, having previously served with the
He had just received his flying certificate on 14 April 1917 and was due to travel to France once he had completed the requisite number of flying hours. He had been involved in a crash the day before as pilot and had written o his mother that morning about it:

“My dear Mother, I had my first “crash” on Monday in an RE8 smashing the propeller and taking a wheel off the undercarriage, so I shall not go to France till Friday at any rate. If I can finish my time today or tomorrow I might get some leave. The weather here is appallingly windy and it is impossible to fly at present. Ives was sent to Fr4ance a week or two ago I do not expect to see him out there as I shall be flying a different type of machine. I knew Kirkup very well as he got his “wings” here and then went to South Carlton. He was a splendid fellow. Love to all, you loving son, Hugh. “

His colleague Captain Philip Austin Kirkup had been killed on 11 April 1917 when his FE8 (A4909) went into a spinning nosedive during combat practice from 1000 feet and crashed. Both men were buried in adjacent graves at Sunderland Ryhope Road Cemetery.

31 March 1917 – Canadian training expanded

Today, the Director of Air Organization, , wrote to Lieutenant-Colonel Hoare about the expansion of the training operation in Canada:

‘I should like you now to push on as far as possible, and in keeping with the progress of your recruiting, equipment, and building, with a complete system of training identical, except for local adaptation, with that obtaining at home, i.e.

a) A Cadet Wing on the lines of the Royal Flying ‘Corps Cadet Wing at Denham.
b) A School of Military Aeronautics on the lines of Oxford

In fact much of the work to put this inplace was already in train. Nine nucleus flights had arrived from England duriong march, and five of these are currently training at a base at Deseronto. The other four are waiting for the contruction of their base to be completed.

Back on 21 March Hoare had also agreed, in view of the demands for manpower at the Front to forgo the remaining nucleus squadrons and make up the balance from local recruits.

At that time, Hoare had also agreed to take on the “whole Training Brigade system of tests, gunnery, photography, aerial observation, etc., “ and arrangements for instructors, equipment, and full training schedules to be sent out from England have already been put in place.

23 March 1917 – Hutton Sight



The RFC has been for a while trying to develop an effective night sight for its night operations. The earliest night sights were ring and bead elements treated with luminous paint, but these were found to be either too bright or too dim, and failed to show up
when there was a moon. After trials with combat pilots at Martlesham Heath, a simple sight designed by Sergeant Albert Hutton, an armourer serving with 39 Squadron based at Hainault Farm, proved more effective than more elaborate designs by Royal Aircraft Factory scientists. Hutton had already been responsible for major improvements to gun mountings and ammunition feeds.

He devised an illuminated sight which could be used on both fixed and free-mounted guns.It consists of a tubular foresight containing a red bulb. At the top of the domed tube was a 0.5 mm (0.02 in) hole through which showed a minute point of red light. The backsight was similar, but had a hollow vee-shaped tube at the top. At the base of the two arms of the vee were holes which, when a green bulb was switched on inside the tube, showed as three green spots in the shape of a vee. The gunner simply aligned the red spot in the centre of the vee and on the target. The bulbs suffered severe vibration when the guns were fired, but they usually lasted long enough for what were often very short engagements. The bulbs were usually fed by batteries taped to the gun body.

IMG_0898Thanks to Robert Hurst over on