Category Archives: Operations

20 July 1917 – Navy

The contributions of the RNAS Squadrons in France were highlighted today as a variety of missions were flown in support of British forces.

2 Naval Squadron flew a successful photographic reconnaissance mission over Zeebrugge without loss.

5 Naval Squadron carried out a bombing raid on Aertrycke aerodrome, dropping six 65lb and 59 16lb bombs. On their return journey they were attacked by enemy scouts. Flight Commander Irwin Napier Colin Clarke and Sub-Lieutenant Ronald George St John claimed to have shot down an enemy aircraft. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Lacey Norman Glaisby and 2nd Class Air Mechanic Saw were attacked by an enemy aircraft. Glaisby was wounded slightly in the head and Saw in the body, but Saw still managed to get off some shots and drive down the attacker. In the end though all the aircraft returned safely.

Sopwith Camels on patrol from 4 Naval Squadron were attacked near Westende. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Frederick William Akers in B3806 was shot down and killed. Leutnant Hugo Jöns from Jasta 20 claimed the victory.

Also killed was Flight Commander George Gordon MacLennan from 6 Naval Squadron who was shot down in Sopwith Camel N6360 after himself shooting down an Aviatik C near Wilskerke.

Flight Commander Charles Dawson Booker from 8 Naval Squadron also claimed to have seen off an enemy Rumpler C in his Sopwith Triplane. It fell completely out of control and was last seen at about 300 feet falling into the mist.

A patrol from 10 Naval Squadron, led by Flight Commander Raymond Collishaw in Sopwith Triplane N5492 was over Menin-Messines when they attacked a group of 20 enemy aircraft. Flight Lieutenant William Melville Alexander (in N5487) shot one down in flames, and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Ellis Vair Reid (in N5483) and Collishaw each shot down an Albatross out of control. Flight Commander John Sharman in  N6307 was the unlucky one with no claim. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Howard William Taylor (in N5429) was shot up and wounded in the arm during the combat but got back safely. (A report of this combat is in Collishaw’s book, Air Command at Page 123). A copy of the combat report is available here.

18 July 1917 – HEMs


Harvey Ernest Maxwell Porter

Weather prevented most flying on the Western Front today. However, Canadian Lieutenant Harvey Ernest Maxwell Porter was one on the few who got up to carry out artillery spotting. His BE2 was hit by AA fire and he was killed.

Meanwhile, back in England, another HEM, 2nd Lieutenant Herbert Ernest Malcolm Owen, who had only obtained his flying certificate on 16 June 1917, was killed whilst training with 60 Training Squadron at Scampton, Lincolnshire.


Herbert Ernest Malcolm Owen

In what appears to be his first solo flight, his engine stalled shortly after take off, apparently due to an incorrect fuel mixture. The Avro 504 (A5930) immediately crashed and burst into flames on impact. Later reports suggested he was knocked unconscious before being engulfed in flames. His friends were unable to free him from the wreckage and he burned to death.

17 July 1917 – 70 Squadron mauled

The weather was poor for much of the day on the Western Front, but in the evening some patrols were able to get up. German aircraft were also out in Force.

The biggest fight of the day came about when a patrol of five Sopwith Camels from 70 Squadron encountered an enemy scout which they drove down. They then engaged a formation of six 2-seaters with Captain Noel William Ward Webb, Lieutenant Joseph Cecil Smith and Lieutenant Edward Gribbin each claiming to have sent one down.

They were then attacked by Albatros scouts from above and  a 5 strong patrol from B flight 56 Squadron led by Captain Ian Henry David Henderson came to their aid. They were then joined  by 8 FE’s from 20 Squadron (led by Captain Frank Douglas Stevens) along with DH5’s from 32 Squadron. Further German scouts joined in until there were around 30 enemy aircraft (from Jastas 6, 8, 11 and 36).

Despite the number of aircraft involved the fighting was relatively indecisive. A large number of claims by the British side actually resulted in only three German pilots being wounded.

70 Squadron lost two of their new Camels. Lieutenant William Edington Grossett was shot down and taken prisoner in Camel N6332. Lieutenant Charles Service Workman MC was shot down and severely wounded in Camel B3779. He later died of his wounds.


15 July 1917 – Empress attacks

Yesterday the seaplane carrier HMS Empress sailed from Port Said in Egypt to Karatash Burnu near the south-east coast of Turkey in preparation for bombing raids on cotton factories and crops in the nearby city of Adana.
This morning at 0457 the first Short 184 (8018) took off and by 0509 the other three (8004, 8019 and 8020 were in the air. All four pilots reported hits on the factories though it was impossible to accurately gauge if any damage had been done.

All four aircraft got back safely and by 0655 they had been hauled in and the Empress set off back to Port Said.

13 July 1917 – “All dear sports”

The folly of sending out reconnaissance missions without escort was confirmed again today for 1 Squadron AFC out in Egypt.

Two BE2e’s went out this morning on a photography mission over the Beersheba area. Unfortunaltely the escort that was to be provided by 14 Squadron RFC failed
to appear at the meeting place and the BE2s continued without it.

Almost immediately they were attacked by an enemy scout. Lieutenants Archibald Henry Searle and Gerald Lewis Paget were shot down and crashed behind the enemy lines. Searle had been shot through the head and both men were found dead in the wreckage.

2nd Lieutenants Reginald Francis Baillieu and Adrien Espinasson Barbe managed to escape with their machine shot up but landed safely in the British lines.

The next day, the German airman Oberleutnant Georg Felmy appeared over the aerodrome and dropped a message bag containing news of the airmen and those previously lost and a letter for Commander Captain Murray Jones.

“All dear sports,

I beg this letter not to send in a newspaper. Please send the photo with X to the Parents of Mr Vautin.

My joy was very tall to receive your many letters. Tomorrow Vautin comes to take all the things and all the letters (with 1 photo), which were dropped. He is such well educated and genteel boy that we do with pleasure all what is pleasant for him. But if you write for us, you must write more distinctly because our English is not so perfectly , that we can read all. The most legible writing has firstly your writing machine, secondly Murray Jones. Vautin has me talked very much of him. I hope to fight with this sport more oftener. I thank him for his kind letters – I thank also for the decoration of the “Rising Sun” from Mr Lex Macaulopolus (?). Perhaps I can see the sun later in Australia.

Too very best thanks for the photo of Mr Brown and for the kind letter and many photos of R F Baillieu.

In order to answer your questions: 1) 2nd Lt Steeleis unfortunately dea. He expired 24/04/17soon after his imprisonment. He was shot down by our archies.
2) Mr Heathcote is in captivity and well, I think in the same place as Messrs Palmer and Floyer. Muray Jones is a very courageous man , we have feeled it in flying and when he came to drop the things for XXX so down (perhaps 100 ft). I would like to have his address in Australia to visit him. And a photo of him and the others, but – I beg – a little more bigger the photos because I could scarcely perceive your sport = eyesights!Ramadan is not practical for a visite at you, on must fast all the day. For souvenir I have exchanged my watch with Vautin and we have engraved our names. Where can I disperse more an aquaduct! Hoping our good condition is continuing long time – with best wishes for all who have written for us. With sportly respects G Femly F300. “

A copy of the original letter is shown in the Australian Official History.

12 July 1917 – Balloon sinks U-Boat

The use of Kite balloons with the fleet to detect submarines has been the subject of much debate with many suggesting that the balloon will give away the position of the ships. However the failure of the latest sortie by destoyers in the North Sea to score any hits has persuaded Admiral Beatty to give them a try.

A Kite Balloon Force of six destroyers, five of which carried balloons, was organized. The destroyers were to spread out across the known U-boat tracks and make an experiment in co-operative stalking. During the first operation, early in July, although submarines were sighted from the balloons, no attacks could be developed.

Yesterday however, a force of five destroyers (three with balloons) went out again, and this morning the observer in the balloon flown from the Patriot (Flight Lieutenant Osborne Arthur Butcher) sighted a U-boat on the surface twenty-eight miles away,

The destroyer raced away to the area. Before she arrived, the submarine had gone under, but shortly reappeared on the surface four miles off. The Patriot opened fire, but the U-boat went under again before a hit could be made. The destroyer, guided by the observer in the balloon, then dropped depth-charges. A small quantity of oil came to the surface, insufficient to indicate certain damage to the submarine, and the ships kept a close watch over the area. A little later there was an under-water explosion in the place where the U-boat had submerged, and a great oil patch began to form. It is possible that this was the U69 which was lost around this time with all 40 crew. However German sources are unable to corroborate this loss. And some sources suggest the boat was still operating until 24 July 1917.

This success led to the opening of new balloon bases at ports where destroyers and other patrol vessels were favourably placed for submarine hunting.

11 July 1917 – Heat Stroke

Back on 8 July, the Turkish advanced positions at Dhibban in Egypt were captured by British forces.

Today an attempt to capture the Ramadi lines failed, mainly because of abnormal heat and a blinding dust storm.

Four aeroplanes from 30 Squadron RFC co-operated in the Ramadi operations during the early morning to assist he artillery.

Three more set off to bomb Turkish positions at 0430 but were forced to return as the heat caused all the water in their engines to boil away and the pilots were sick with the excessive heat.