Category Archives: Operations

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.

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.

9 February 1918 –

Another day of poor weather on the Western Front with low clouds, mist, and high winds. For the most part, enemy aircraft were inactive with only one combat recorded. 2nd-Lieutenant Herbert Henry Hartley and Lieutenant Robert Samuel Herring from 48 Squadron RFC shot down an Albatross out of control south of Guise. They were unable to see if it crashed due to clouds. 2nd Lieutenant Gerald Arthur Churchill Manley from 54 Squadron RFC failed to return from a wireless interruption mission in his Sopwith Camel (B5417), and was subsequently reported as a prisoner of war. This does not appear to be a result of enemy action.

A lack of fighter action did not deter the bombers though, and during the day, nearly a ton of bombs were dropped on various targets.

In the evening, 100 Squadron RFC carried out a raid into Germany, attacking the important railway junction and sidings at Courcelles-les-Metz, south-east of Metz. The leaders dropped two 40lb phosphorus bombs to guide other pilots to the objective. The rest dropped twelve 112lb bombs and 20 25lb bombs. Unfortunately, the mist prevented any observation of the results. One of the bombers failed to return. 2nd-Lieutenant Owen Brennand Swart and 2nd Lieutenant Anthony Fielding-Clarke suffered engine failure in their FE2b (B439). They were forced to land behind enemy lines.

Swart later wrote about this in the Annals of 100 Squadron:

“On the evening of the 9th of February 1919, we started on a raid into Germany. My machine did not climb well, and the engine occasionally showed signs of some unpleasantness, but being a new pilot I was ashamed to return. Pride again.Well, we circled round the specified lighthouse, and then followed behind the leaning machine when it arrived. We had a fairly quiet. passage over the lines, anal eventually came In the railway line which we followed up until we came to a. junction, and saw a small village next to it. It appeared in be the spot we were looking for, so we pulled off our bombs and my observer tired at targets beneath. I only saw one bomb, a Cooper, go off to the South of the line, and near some houses.I had to turn to the North sharply, and came past the station of Courcelles in order lo give my observer a better chance of using his gun, and also to see the bombs go off. This was the juncture where my engine failed mc, not completely, but as though two or three cylinders had stopped firing. I was hardly at a height of more than 1,900 feet, but I turned her head towards the lines and Steered S.W. as the wind was more or less from the West. l also had a look at all my instruments which recorded everything correct, except the revolutions per minute. The pressure was all right, but I tried her on gravity tank. No better, the vibrations were so bad I tried throttling back, but to no purpose. Soon we glided gradually nearer to the ground and also nearer to the line, but just when I thought we might do it the engine ” cut out ” completely,My observer behaved very well, firing at searchlights, and machine gun posts, though he knew what had happened to the engine.I was only a couple of hundred feet up now, and I decided to use my parachute flares, even if I was still in German territory, as it was rather misty, and I wanted to see what I had to land on. The first one did not show me much, but those my observer sent out showed that I was going to land on some small trees beneath. I thereupon lit my wing tip flare, and by its light saw a small clearing to the east, which I turned for, and in five seconds I was sailing down to it, and landed amongst hundreds of hares sitting bolt up-right with the gleam of the reflected light shining out of their great big saucy eyes. The machine touched the ground without a jar, and came to a stop within thirty feet.”

The two of them went on the run for two days before finally being captured.


Fielding-Clarke left and Swart right after being captured

5 February 1918 – SE5s make hay

Franklyn Geoffrey Saunders

The arrival of SE5a’s with the 17 Squadron RFC in Macedonia has greatly strengthened their ability to attack enemy reconnaissance machines as these aircraft have a much higher operational ceiling that the other aircraft available.

The aircraft are normally flown by Captain Franklin Geoffrey Saunders (B28) and Lieutenant Gerald Ernest Gibbs (B613), who have shot down three enemy aircraft in the last 2 weeks.

Today, around 1500, both these officers, flying in company, attacked two enemy Albatrosses and sent them down out of control through the clouds.

Later that afternoon, around 1710, Captain Saunders went up to attack an enemy DFW aeroplane that was reported was working over the front line.

He attacked it at once, and set it on fire. The pilot and observer were seen to throw themselves from the burning aeroplane at 8,000 feet. This was the last of Saunders’ eight victories. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his exploits.

As for Gibbs, this was his third victory of ten. He was also awarded the Military Cross soon afterwards.

3 February 1918 – Navy Camels

The weather improved sufficiently on the Western Front to allow most air activity to continue, though a heavy mist remained. The Naval fighter Squadrons covering the Northern part of the British line were particularly active.

Robert John Orton Compston

Early this morning, 9 Squadron RNAS was up on patrol. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Oliver William Redgate and Flight Commander Stearne Tighe Edwards both claimed enemy two-seaters out of control.

Around 1125, Flight Commander Robert John Orton Compston DFC from 8 Naval Squadron attacked a DFW firing about 200 rounds at point-blank range. The E.A. fell over on its side and went down vertically out of control.

Later in the patrol, Flight Commander Compston and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Edward Grahame Johnstone, shot down a DFW which crashed near Sallaumine. Flight Commander Compston then attacked another aircraft firing about 150 rounds at point-blank range. Other pilots fired 400 rounds at this enemy machine, which was observed to fall completely out of control and crash. Flight Commander Richard Bernard Munday also attacked an AIbatross Scout, firing over 250 rounds at very close range. The aircraft suddenly went down vertically out of control and was last seen to be still falling. Flight Sub-Lieutenant James Butler White fired 100 rounds at an enemy aircraft at close range and it turned over on one wing and fell into a steep dive.

Rupert Randolph Winter

A couple of hours later, Flight Commander Rupert Randolph Winter and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Mark Adamson Harker from 9 Naval Squadron claimed a Fokker DrI destroyed south-west of Roulers. Winter in Sopwith Camel B6430 failed to return from the mission as did his 10 Naval Squadron colleague Flight Sub-Lieutenant Wilfred Henry Wilmot in Sopwith Camel B637. Both were shot down in the same combat by pilots from Jasta 26, Otto Fruhner and Otto Esswein claimed victories but it is unclear who shot down whom.

Finally, In the same engagement Flight Lieutenant Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe also from 10 Naval Squadron claimed an Albatros Two seater.

30 January 1918 – Naval five bombs

On the Western Front, the weather was fine but misty all day.

5 Naval Squadron carried out a bombing raid on Oostcamp aerodrome at around noon today in their DH4s. Hits were observed on three groups of sheds and hangars with a fire breaking out ion a hangar in the south group. Two direct hits on the sheds north-west of Oostcamp village also caused fires.

Charles Philip Oldfield Bartlett

Several engagements with enemy aircraft took place, in which were claimed shot down out of control. The first by Flight Commander Charles Phillip Oldfield Bartlett and Assistant Gun Layer L W Naylor, and the second by Flight Sub-Lieutenant John Melbourne Mason & Assistant Gun Layer C V Robinson, 5N Sqn, Albatros Scout out of control Engel airfield at 13:30/14:30

One machines failed to return. Flt Sub-Lieutenant Frank Thomas Penry Williams and Assistant Gun Layer C A Leitch in DH4 N5982 were shot down on the way back from the mission. They crashed behind enemy lines and were both killed.