Category Archives: Home Waters

17 October 1917 – Future Fleets

Following the success of the turret platform experiments on 1 October 1917, the Operations Committee of the Board of Admiralty met today to discuss the way forward for aircraft and the fleet. They decided that:

  1. All light cruisers and battle cruisers should carry fighting aeroplanes, provided their gun armament was not interfered with

  2. That the Furious should be fitted with an after landing deck, 300 feet in length, with such modification of the ship’s structure as was entailed thereby. (this was not completed until March 1918)

  3. That the Courageous and Glorious should not be fitted in the same manner as the Furious, but should remain unaltered,

  4. That it was unnecessary at that time to determine whether the Argus should be used exclusively as a torpedo-plane carrier.

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14 October 1917 – Indecisive in the North Sea

As well as the patrols in the English Channel, RNAS seaplanes along the East Coast are carrying out patrols for u-boats. 

Today, a Short 184 seaplane (N1661) from the RNAS station at Dundee with Flight Sub-Lieutenant Algernon Holland and OSL Leonard Ritson was on patrol when they spotted a submarine on the surface. They dropped a bomb on the submerging submarine, with apparently little effect (No losses were reported that day). 

On the way back they suffered from engine trouble and were forced to crash land. Both crew escaped with minor injuries. 

1 October 1917 – Rutland Repulse

Pilots attached to the Grand Fleet have been continuing their experiments in launching aircraft from ships. The great drawback of flying aircraft from ships, whether special carriers or fighting ships, was the need to turn the vessel into the actual wind.

This could potentially be a disadvantage during a fleet action as the ship could easily get out of position and potentially expose itself to attack. To date therefore, the fitting of aeroplanes in capital ships had not been approved.

However, Lieutenant-Commander C. H. B. Gowan, a naval officer who had been associated with the aircraft experiments in the light cruiser Yarmouth, suggested that aeroplanes might be flown from a platform that could be turned into the wind while the ship held its desired course.

The top of a gun turret was a position readily available, and experiments were conducted in the HMS Repulse, under the direction of Captain Dumaresq. On ‘B’ turret of the battle cruiser a sloped platform of 2-inch deals, supported on steel angle bars, was constructed.

At the beginning of the run on this platform, the aircraft was placed so that the fuselage was in a horizontal position, and this position was maintained by what was known as a ‘tail guide trestle’, the tail skid of the aircraft fitting into a grooved runway attached to this trestle.

There was some debate as to whether this was feasible, but today Flight Commander Frederick Rutland decided to give it a go and got away successfully in a Sopwith Pup. At the time the The turret was trained 42 degrees on the starboard bow into a wind of 31 1/2 miles per hour. The platform was subsequently transferred to the after turret, which was trained on a forward bearing, and the same pilot flew off without mishap on the 9th of October.

Pilots attached to the Grand Fleet have been continuing their experiments in launching aircraft from ships. The great drawback of flying aircraft from ships, whether special carriers or fighting ships, was the need to turn the vessel into the actual wind.

This could potentially be a disadvantage during a fleet action as the ship could easily get out of position and potentially expose itself to attack. To date therefore, the fitting of aeroplanes in capital ships had not been approved.

However, Lieutenant-Commander C. H. B. Gowan, a naval officer who had been associated with the aircraft experiments in the light cruiser Yarmouth, suggested that aeroplanes might be flown from a platform that could be turned into the wind while the ship held its desired course.

The top of a gun turret was a position readily available, and experiments were conducted in the HMS Repulse, under the direction of Captain Dumaresq. On ‘B’ turret of the battle cruiser a sloped platform of 2-inch deals, supported on steel angle bars, was constructed.

At the beginning of the run on this platform, the aircraft was placed so that the fuselage was in a horizontal position, and this position was maintained by what was known as a ‘tail guide trestle’, the tail skid of the aircraft fitting into a grooved runway attached to this trestle.

There was some debate as to whether this was feasible, but today Flight Commander Frederick Rutland decided to give it a go and got away successfully in a Sopwith Pup. At the time the The turret was trained 42 degrees on the starboard bow into a wind of 31 1/2 miles per hour. The platform was subsequently transferred to the after turret, which was trained on a forward bearing, and the same pilot flew off without mishap on the 9th of October.

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.

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.