Category Archives: Home Waters

22 September 1917 – Finally

Early this morning, the Curtis “Large America” flying-boat based at Dunkirk set off for a routine patrol of the North Sea escorted by a Sopwith Camel. The crew consisted of Flight Sub Lieutenants Norman Ansley Magor and Charles Edward Stafford Lusk and Leading Mechanic Reginald Arthur Lucas.

Near the West Hinder Sandbank, they spotted a submarine fully surfaced. Before the submarine could submerge, the flying-boat attacked with two 230-lb. bombs. Both bombs scored direct hits on the hull, and the submarine heeled over and sank.

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Reginald Arthur Lucas

The Official History claimed that this was UC72. However this is unlikely, This ship was lost sometime after 23 August but its fate was unknown until 2013, when the wreck was discovered. It now appears that it struck a mine.

It is now believed that the U-boat sunk was probtably UB32, which was lost around this time.

Again the Official History suggests that UB32 was sunk on 18 August 1917, but later records prove that this cannot be the case. It also claimed this was the first U-boat sunk by air attack alone.

It seems then the UB32 could be the first and only sinking of U-boat by air action alone.

Magor subsequently received the Distinguished Service Cross and Lucas the Distinguised Service Medal.

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12 September 1917 – Accidents will happen

The RNAS suffered two accidents today back on the home front.

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 Aylmer Fitzwarren Bettington

Firstly, Captain Aylmer Fitzwarren Bettington, Commanding Officer of the Eastbourne Naval Flying School was killed carrying out height tests in an Avro 504e (N6150) which was completely wrecked.

Later in the evening, Airship SS42a crashed into a farm building near Pembroke. The airship was badly damaged in the crash and drifed out to sea. The crew, Flight Sub-Lieutenant John Walter Davies Cripps and Leading Mechanic J C Simpson, both went missing presumed drowned.

7 September 1917 – The drifters

The SSZ (Sea Scout Zero) airships  are designed and built at the RNAS airship station at Capel-le-Fernenear Folkestone as a successor to the SS class.

Similar to other SS class types, the SSZs has an envelope of 70,000 cu ft (2,000 m3) capacity containing two ballonets of 6,375 cu ft (180.5 m3) each;and like the SSPs, the fuel is contained in aluminium tanks slung on the axis of the envelope.

The design of the car is a streamlined, boat-shaped and watertight cab, floored from end-to-end, and  enclosed with sides of fabric-covered 8-ply wood or aluminium. The car is comfortable and accommodates a 3-man crew – the forward position being occupied by the wireless operator/gunner with the pilot seated amidships, and the engineer stationed at the rear. It’s main role is to escort convoys and scout or search for German U-boats.

Today, SSZ-14, under the command of Flight Lieutenant Arthur Stanley Elliott , set out on patrol from Mullion.

F32D504A-72BB-4C36-9559-CA6584979176-1706-00000180DD0F0547“She left Mullion on 7 September, 1917, at 9.05 am, and proceeded on her patrol. At 4.25 pm the engine suddenly stopped. All efforts to restart her were unsuccessful. The ship signalled engine trouble and gave her position. At 4.35 she had risen to 2,500 feet and was drifting in a SSW direction. An hour later the drogue was accidentally dropped overboard, but a suitable and efficient substitute was soon made out of a chair, coats and petrol tins.

The Lewis gun was then thrown overboard to prevent the ship from hitting the water, as by this time she had descended to a very low altitude. At 5.45 the sun came out again and the ship rose to 3,500 feet. At 6 pm she was brought down to 100 feet and further efforts were made to restart the engine, but without result. The drogue worked very well, however, keeping the craft shearing just off the wind, and at 6.35 she was drifting south, some forty miles south of Start Point.

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Arthur Stanley Elliott

Lifebelts were then given out to the crew, and at 6.45pm the ammunition trays, revolvers and pyrenes were thrown overboard. Between 6.55 and 7.35 positions were received from the Lizard, and Brest was informed. At 7.35 cartridges and the cover of the Aldis lamp were thrown out, oil was drained from the tank, and later the water was drained out of the radiator and the petrol was run into the ballast bags. The explosives were taken out of the bombs and thrown overboard.

At 8.57 pm the ship reported to the Lizard that she was over land, and at 9.15 she landed near St. Jean du Doight, Finistere, having used all ballast. There she was deflated and taken by wagon to Guipavas Airship Station, where, with the assistance of the French, the crew re-inflated her, and on 21st she flew back to her station. No damage was done and no spares were required. She had free-ballooned a distance of approximately 120 miles – thanks to the very efficient adjustments made from time to time throughout the forced trip by her pilot, Flt. Lt. Elliott.”

18 August 1917 – U-boat sunk or maybe not

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Charles Stanley Mossop

This morning a U-boat was reported north-east of Cherbourg by the pilot of a Wight seaplane, who was up patrolling the English Channel for U-boats. However, the U-boat disappeared under the waves before he could attack. The aircraft hung around for a while but the sub did not reappear.

The same Wight seaplane was taken up later in the afternoon by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Charles Stanley Mossop and Air Mechanic Arthur Edward Ingledew, who found the U-boat on the surface. This time the crew got the aircraft into a favourable position to attack before the U-boat could submerge and dropped a 100-lb bomb which exploded just ahead of the periscope. The pilot turned for a second attack, but by this time the u-boat had disappeared.

The Official History (Volume 4, page 68) states that this was UB32 and that furthermore this was the first submarine to be destroyed in the Channel by a direct attack from a British aircraft. However German records do not show any losses for the day and the UB32 was still active on 26 August 1917 when it sunk the Italian Steamer Feltre near Flamborough Head.

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Mossop’s Wight Seaplane

Nevertheless, at the time it was believed that they had been successful and Mossop was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Ingledew the Distinguished Service Medal on 20 November 1917.

2 August 1917 – Dunning Lands

At this point of the war the practicalities of using aircraft from ships was still hampered by the process of landing. Ships either had to stop, leaving them vulnerable to U-boat attack, or the aircraft had to ditch in the sea and wait to be picked up again leaving the ship vulnerable to attack and the aircraft and pilot subject to the vagaries of the waves.

The chief difficulties in the way of deck landing were how to overcome the air disturbances set up by the super-structure of the ship when steaming at high speed into the wind, and how to bring the aircraft quickly to rest once it had landed.

Pilots from the carrier HMS Furious took up the challenge. They practised, in harbour, by flying slowly beside the ship and then, after passing the mast, by drifting inwards over the centre of the flying deck. These preliminary trials seemed to show that the operation was feasible.

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The crew congratulate Dunning after his successful landing

Today, Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning, in a Sopwith Pup, made the first successful landing. As the aeroplane drifted over the centre line of the deck, rope toggles hanging from the wing tips, tail skid, and fuselage, were seized by a crew of officers who, at a signal from the pilot as he shut off his engine, hauled the aeroplane down and held it to the deck.

This first deck landing, was successfully repeated, but in a third attempt, made five days after the first, Squadron Commander Dunning fell over the bows of the ship and drowning in his cockpit after being knocked unconscious. After this tests for landing on the forward deck were abandoned.

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Dunning about to fall over the side

 

28 July 1917 – Chadwick drowned

Following the completion of the Belgian Coast Barrage yesterday, the Navy has decided to maintain patrols by monitors and destroyers to the northwest of the nets to protect the net drifters and to prevent the sweeping of the minefields.

To compliment this, at dawn each day three DH4s, one with wireless, are to fly over the area in advance of the patrolling ships to give warning if German forces were lying in wait.

For the rest of the day, until dusk, formations of fighters, with five or six ‘Camels’ or ‘Pups’ on high patrol (above 17,000 feet) and three on low patrol (under 7,000 feet), will carry out patrols.

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Arnold Jacques Chadwick

This work was risky, particularly for those on low patrol, if they were forced through engine failure or other cause, to land on the sea out of sight of surface craft. This was demonstrated almost immediately today when Flight Commander Arnold Jaques Chadwick from 4 Naval Squadron attacked a group of nine enemy aircraft but was forced down in the sea off La Panne in his Sopwith Camel (N6369), and was lost presumed drowned. He had scored 11 victories.

He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 11 August along with three other RNAS pilots for patrol work during May and June 1917.

His drowned corpse washed ashore near Dunkirk on 17 August 1917.

27 July 1917 – Belgian coast barrage

Following the attack on 4 June 1917 on Ostend the weather conditions provided no suitable opportunity for a renewal of the bombardments. Instead, Vice-Admiral Bacon decided to reinstitute the Belgian coast barrage consisting of a twenty-three mile line of net mines, supplemented by deep minefields, parallel with the Belgian coast between Zeebrugge and Ostend.

Three days ago on 24 July, the ships began to assemble, and air patrols were maintained, from 1700 until dark, over the Dunkirk Roads, but no German aircraft appeared.

The work to put the barrage in place began on 25 July and lasted until its completion today. During this time there were patrols by formations of five to seven Sopwith Pups or Camels to protect the ships against attack from the air.

On the evening of the 25 July a German seaplane, which appeared over the Fleet, was driven off and eventually shot down on the sea by Sopwiths of No. 4 Squadron.

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William Hargrove Chisam

On the evening of 26 July, there was a clash between a patrol of Camels from 3 Naval Squadron and a formation of Albatros fighters, with the loss of one aeroplane to each side. Flt Sub-Lieutenant William Hargrove Chisam, had the engine of his Camel (B3805) disabled and landed on beach east of Coxyde Bains.

On 27 July the enemy attempted an attack on the ships with four torpedo-carrying seaplanes, and one fighting seaplane as escort, Five Sopwith Camels from 3 Naval Squadron were on patrol – Flight Lieutenant Joseph Stewart Temple Fall, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Francis Beamish, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Aubery Beauclerk Ellwood, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Louis Drummond Bawlf and Flight Sub-Lieutenant James Alpheus Glen. They attacked the formation and scattered it forcing the German pilots to turn back to their base. One of the enemy seaplanes crashed in the sea off Ostend.

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Alexander MacDonald Snook

Around the same time, a Gotha on its way to bomb the Fleet was attacked by a patrol from 4 Naval Squadron including Flight Commander Alexander MacDonald Shook with Flight Sub-Lieutenant John Ellis Langford Hunter and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Bailey. They attacked at long range drove off the Gotha.