Category Archives: Operations

23 May 1918 – No better

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Audubon Eric Palfreyman

27 Squadron RAF suffered two casualties on bombing raids on Maria Aalter in Flanders early this morning.

The Squadron was flying a mixture of DH4s and the new DH9. The DH9 was intended to replace the DH4, but unfortunately problems with its engines meant that performance, particularly at altitude, was in fact worse that the DH4. The pilot’s view was also somewhat restricted as the cockpit was placed further back that in the DH4 – though this did solve the issue of communication between the crew in the DH4.

Captain Audubon Eric Palfreyman and 2nd Lieutenant William Irwin Crawford in DH4 A7840 – were last seen diving steeply near Thourout. Leutnant Diether Collin from Jasta 56 claimed victory. Palfreyman was killed and Crawford was taken prisoner.

The crashed DH4

2nd Lieutenant George Edward Ffrench and Corporal Francis Yates McLauchlan also failed to return in their DH9 (D5616). Reports at the time suggested that their engine came away from it housing causing them to crash – the cause of this is unknown. Both men were killed.

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18 May 1918 – Köln

Today six DH4s from 55 Squadron RAF made a “most successful raid” in broad daylight on the railway stations, factories, and barracks at Cologne, in Germany. 6 112-lb, 24 25-lb and 3 40-lb bombs were dropped, and bursts were seen on the railway sheds.

Enemy scouts came up to engage the bombers. Lieutenant Arthur Stuart and 2nd Lieutenant William Russell Patey claimed two of these out of control, while 2nd-Lieut Charles Edward Reynolds & 2nd Lieutenant John Eric Reynolds, and Captain Frederick Williams & Captain Wilfred Henry Mason Springgay, each claimed another scout.

All machines returned to their aerodrome, but John Eric Reynolds was shot dead in the cockpit and the pilot wounded. Charles Reynolds managed to fly back to the Aerodrome but crash landed, injuring himself further.

17 May 1918

The Felixstowe F.2a was a flying boat used primarily by the RNAS and subsequently the RAF for patrolling the English Channel and the North Sea for U-boats.

Whilst attacks were occasionally successful, the main purpose of the patrols was to make the main shipping lanes a no go area for u-boats and to ensure that where they did operate, that the u-boats remained in diving trim rather than on the surface, as this reduced their endurance considerably.

Today, two of these Felixstowe F2a – N4283 (with crew Captain Archibald Menzies FitzRandolph and Lieutenant Bell) and N4295 – based at Great Yarmouth Air Station were on patrol when they spotted a U-boat on the surface. They immediately attacked it with bombs, but did not appear to have done any damage as no oil was spotted. Post war research confirms the lack of success. .

By this point, N4283 was painted in ‘dazzle’ scheme, a full 2 months before such schemes were officially introduced in early June 1918.

16 May 1918 – Bombs

A massive bombing exercise was conducted by the RAF today. During the day,

over 23 tons of bombs were dropped on important railway centres including Douai, Courtrai, Chaulnes and Saarbrucken as well as aerodromes and billets behind the enemy’s lines.

During the night a further 10½ tons of bombs were dropped on the railway stations at Lille, Douai, and Chaulnes, billets in the neighbourhood of Bapaume, Peronne, and Rosieres, and the docks at Bruges.

Despite 27 different squadrons being involved, losses were minimal. During the day, one of the 12 DH4s sent by 55 Squadron RAF to attack Saarbrucken was shot down in flames, and three others shot up. 2nd Lieutenant Roland Charles Sansom and Air Mechanic G C Smith in A7477 were both killed. The Squadron claimed three enemy scouts forced down.

Overnight a Handley Page 0/100 (3132) from 214 Squadron RAF was shot down by AA fire during the attack on Bruges Docks. Captain Cecil George Rushton, Major James Ingleby Harrison and Lieutenant Wilfred John King were all killed.

Some photos of the crash are available on this thread on The Aerodrome.

15 May 1918 – Tactical Retreat

Back on 9 May aerial reconnaissance by Squadrons in Mesopotamia reported a Turkish withdrawal from camps near Altun Kopri towards Erbil. A mobile column, sent forward on the 10th, made contact with the enemy troops at Altun Kopri, and confirmed they were in retreat.

At the same time troops had occupied Tikrit and the Ain Nukhaila pass, while the co-operating aeroplanes had bombed the Turkish positions. Reconnaissance also suggested that the Turks were retreating from positions at Fat-ha further up the Tigris.

However summer conditions and supply problems forced the British Commander, General Marshall to postpone any further advances to the Autumn. In fact, British troops retreated from Kirkuk due to lack of transportation and consolidated around Samarra.


John Oliver Allison

Aircraft from 30 Squadron RAF assisted in the retreat with reconnaissance to detect any movements of the enemy. It was during one of these missions that Lieutenant John Oliver Allison and Lieutenant Francis Wright Atherton were shot down in their RE8 (B5872)

1st Class Air Mechanic Frederick Suthurst from C Flight 30 Squadron was also killed today, though there are no details as to the cause other than “killed in action”.

11 May 1918 – Cattaro

Today, 224 Squadron RAF commenced bombing operations against Cattaro (now Kotor in Montenegro), which was the main Austrian-Hungarian naval base in the Adriatic and home to German U-boats. It was hoped that this would reduce attacks on allied shipping in the area. This was quite a trip, involving a flight of 400 miles there and back over the sea from their base at Otranto.

The first attack today was made by six DH4s which dropped 230lb and 100lb bombs on submarines and destroyers in the harbour. Explosions were sighted but the attacks do not appear to have had much overall impact on the submarine campaign.

One of the bombers landed with engine trouble and crew were taken prisoner.

It’s not clear who the crew members were and Trevor Henshaw suggests the four following

  • G Baker
  • Geoffrey Kelvin Blandy
  • Bernard John William Brady
  • Leslie Marsh

Reports at the time suggest the prisoners were taken unharmed, though that may not be true. According to Red Cross records, Brady spent some time in hospital with gunshot wounds. In addition there is a letter dated 16.07.17 stating both Brady and Marsh were prisoners. That said there’s no real evidence that Blandy or Baker were those lost.

10 May 1918 – “A severe reverse”

Orlando Bridgeman

Today on the Western Front, low clouds and mist prevented flying until 1700. After that, the weather cleared on a small part of the front and great aerial activity took place in this sector until dark. Both sides were out in force.

A flight of 8 Sopwith Camels from 80 Squadron RAF, led by Captain Orlando Clive Bridgeman in D6481 got into a fight with around 20 Fokker Triplanes from Jastas 6 and 11. 4 Camels were shot down with four claimed in return, two by Bridgeman. Those shot down were:

  • 2nd Lieutenant George Alfred Whately in D6419
  • 2nd Lieutenant Albert Victor Jones in D6457
  • Lieutenant Colin Graham Sutherland Shields in D6619
  • 2nd Lieutenant Alfred William Rowden in B2463 –

Whately, Shields and Rowden were all killed, and Jones was wounded and taken prisoner.

Other than Bridgeman, only Lieutenant Thomas Stuart Nash in B9243, Lieutenant Charles Stanley Lomas Coulson, and 2nd Lieutenant Herbert Victor Barker in D6591, got away. Both Nash and Coulson were shot up and while Coulson was wounded Nash got away unscathed.

German records do not show any losses for either Jasta.

Bridgeman was subsequently awarded the Military Cross though the citation is a little odd given that five out of eight aircraft were lost.

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to patrol he was leading was attacked by twenty or thirty enemy aeroplanes, of which he destroyed two himself, and by skilful manoeuvring enabled two others to be crashed by officers of his patrol. His tactics and gallantry undoubtedly prevented what might have been a severe reverse for his patrol…”