Category Archives: Operations

18 November 1917 – Variety


William Reynolds Cutler

The fact that flying is a dangerous business, even before the enemy start firing at you, is well known at this point. Training and accidents remain a significant source of casualties. Today is a case in point.

11 (Army) Wing, suffered two casualties. 2nd Lieutenant George Alec Cranswick from 23 Squadron RFC is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile 2nd Lieutenant William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

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Similarly, 2nd Lieutenant William Somerville McLaren and 2nd Lieutenant David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down in flames. McLaren jumped from the plane and was killed. Hardie was badly burned and later died of his wounds.


2nd Lieutenant John Patrick Waters from 56 Squadron was killed when his SE5a (B502) disintegrated after getting into a spin during a practice flight.

As well as these deaths, there were another four pilots injured from engine failures of various kinds.


17 November 1917 – Kite Balloons

The work of Kite Balloon Sections is often completely forgotten about in the annals of the Royal Flying Corps. At this point on the Western Front there are 52 front line squadrons supporting the British Army. However there are also 4 Kite Balloon Wings at the front, one for each army, each Wing has a number of Companies and these are also sub-divided into sections. That said there are no standard sizes for these units. For example,

1 Wing – 4 Companies, 9 Sections

2 Wing – 8 Companies, 17 Sections

3 Wing – 6 Companies, 11 Sections

4 Wing – 2 Companies, 4 Sections

Whilst not as glamorous as the Scout Squadrons, the Kite Balloon Sections carried out important work particularly in artillery registration and enemy battery suppression. They were able to stay in the air for much longer periods than aeroplanes.

The work was also dangerous as the balloons had to be close to the front to get a good view of the enemy. This put the crews in considerable damage not just from enemy aircraft but also from artillery.

This was amply demonstrated today when 39 Kite Balloon Section, part of 8 Company, Second Balloon Wing (supporting the Second Army) suffered 9 casualties when the ground station of its balloon was hit by artillery fire. Those killed were:

3rd Class Air Mechanic Samuel Ackroyd

3rd Class Air Mechanic Harry Booth

1st Class Air Mechanic John McAlpine

Private Thomas Myers

3rd Class Air Mechanic David Urban Parsons

3rd Class Air Mechanic George Peel

1st Class Air Mechanic Herbert E Ponder

3rd Class Air Mechanic John Thomas Spence

3rd Class Air Mechanic James Alfred Waters

16 November 1917 – Air Force Bill Third Reading

The Air Force Bill received its Third Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill returned from the Committee stage and a number of new clauses and amendments were tabled, primarily by Noel Pemberton-Billing, the self-styled Air candidate.

In the end, all the changes were rejected with virtually no support from other MPs, and the Bill passed to the Lords unchanged.

The debate is available in full here.

15 November 1917 – Various Clashes

The weather improved a little today on the Western Front and Combats in the Air were more frequent.

19 Squadron RFC and 1 Squadron RNAS got into a scrap near Tenbrielen with Jasta 36.

2nd Lieutenant Thomas Elder-Hearn was injured when his SPADVII (B3646) crashed in a shell hole after being shot down. Captain Patrick Huskisson suffered a similar fate but survived unscathed. 2nd Lieutenant Herbert John Stone was also shot down in his SPADVII (A6687) and crashed. He was seriously injured and later died of his wounds in hospital. 2nd Lieutenant EJ Hustings had the engine of his SPADVII (A262) shot up and made a poor landing. He was shaken up but otherwise unhurt.

1 Squadron RFC got away without loss though 2nd Lieutenant CE Ogden’s Nieuport was badly shot up.

Leutnants Hans Hoyer and Walter von Bülow made claims over SPADs in the area though its not clear who shot down who. Hoyer was himself killed shortly afterwards. It’s unclear if he was shot down by one of the SPADs from 19 Squadron or by Captain Phillip F Fullard from 1 Squadron RFC who claimed two Albatrosses shot down in this area at the time.

14 November 1917 – Barely off the ground


Christopher Charles Morse

Poor weather conditions, including a thick ground mist, prevented any work of consequence being carried ut along the entire front today. The few attempts to get up met with disaster.

55 Squadron suffered two crashes attempting to take off on a bombing raid to Dillengen. In one case, the fuselage of DH4 (A7624) broke in half after stalling on take off. The crew, 2Lt Arthur Stuart White and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Castle suffered minor injuries.

Another DH4 (A7575), was seen to do an S turn when it stalled and nosedived to ground near to the aerodrome shortly after take off. The crew were not so lucky. The observer 2nd Lieutenant Charles Dudley Palmer was injured but 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Charles Morse was killed in the crash.

A fellow member of 55 Squadron, Capt Orlando Lennox Beater described Morse’s fate in some detail in his diary:

“Wednesday, November 14th 1917: Cold and misty until midday but after that it began to clear and we were warned to stand by. We started up our engines about 1300 and got off the ground at 1320, Farrington leading and the other seventeen as fast as they were able to leave the ground. We got up to twelve thousand, at which the weather again came on ‘dud’. Gray fired the ‘wash-out’ flare and we all turned and made our way back to Ochey aerodrome, where we took off our bombs and left them there, much to 100 Squadron’s disgust. The reason for this precaution is because it is not safe to land on our aerodrome with detonated [fused] bombs as, owing to the bad surface, a crash landing is always on the cards. While we were at Ochey, we heard that poor Morse, who was barely nineteen years of age, had been killed while taking off. It turned out that the engine had conked when he had got to about one hundred feet, and while trying to turn back to the aerodrome he got into a nose-dive and crashed into the trees close to our hut. He was killed almost at once, and his observer Palmer had a bad shaking, and was sent to hospital with probable internal injuries.”

13 November 1917 – Fall and Wood

Today, a flight from 9 Squadron RNAS were out on a high altitude offensive patrol in their Sopwith Camels when they came across an enemy patrol. The Flight Commander Flight Lieutenant Joseph Stewart Temple Fall and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Arthur William Wood attacked three Albatross Scouts. The rearmost machine was shot down. They followed the aircraft down, and saw it crash in the floods, hit a fence and turn over on its nose, partly upside down.

An hour later, after returning to replenish his ammunition, Flight Commander Fall attacked an Albatross two-seater, it was last seen at 500 feet spinning on its back completely out of control. For this action and another victory earlier in November he was subsequently awarded the DSC for the third time (the only Canadian to do so).
Joe Fall was the son of a farmer who was rejected from the army due to a childhood head injury.

On 23 August 1915 he was accepted as a candidate for the Royal Naval Air Service. When Canadian authorities abandoned support for a flying school in Canada, Fall left Canada on 12 November 1915 to be trained in England. By late 1916, he was flying the Sopwith Pup in combat with 3 Naval Squadron. He then joined the Montreal School of Flying, but as it had no aircraft he took a preliminary flying training course at Dayton, Ohio with the Stinson School of flying. He then paid his own passage to England and applied to join the Royal Navy. He was accepted and reported to the Admiralty on November 30th 1915. He was able to deceive the naval medical branch. He later said:

“When they asked me if I had any bodily injuries, I said no. They didn’t ask me anything about head injuries and I didn’t offer anything.”

During the interview Joe mentioned he had already taken some flight training and the Navy put him in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He spent almost a year in training and finally went to the front in October 1916. He served with various bomber formations before joining 3 Squadron RNAS in February 1917, transferring to 9 Squadron RNAS in September 1917. At this point he has claimed 32 victories.

In a service dominated by Canadians, Wood was unusual in being an Englishman from Bradford. He joined the RNAS in October 1916, joining 9 Squadron RNAS in September 1917. This was his 10th victory.

11 November 1917 – 32 Ground Attack

Bing Tyrrell

Weather on the Western Front was again poor for flying, but various missions were performed including a lot of ground attack.

A flight from 32 Squadron RFC (2nd Lieutenant Charles James Howson, Lieutenant Walter Alexander (Bing) Tyrrell and Lieutenant Arthur Claydon) were on patrol when they came across a group of enemy scouts. The combat is recorded as follows:

“Three 32 Sqn DH5s flown by 2nd Lts Howson, W A Tyrrell and Claydon, were engaged on an OP. At 1000 over Westroosbeke, Claydon & Tyrrell first intercepted an Albatros with a yellow and green fuselage and yellow nose. Clayton was forced to pull out of the fight with a gun jam, but Tyrrell carried on the attack. The German began a staggering flutter in a downward direction. As the pilot attempted to pull the stricken Albatros out of the dive, Tyrrell fired again, his bullets striking the pilot’s head and the instrument panel in front of him. The Albatros reared upwards before spinning down again. Tyrrell lost sight of his quarry at 300 feet as it fell through and below other circling German aircraft – it was too dangerous to follow. There no German pilot fatalities on this day. Nevertheless, Tyrrell added this out of control’ to his score.”

After this Claydon found his engine had been shot through and he made a forced landing north-east of Ypres, overturning his DH5 (A9439) in the process. Claydon escaped with minor injuries.