Category Archives: RFC

18 November 1917 – Variety

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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.

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18 November 1917 – Variety

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 is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

Similarly, 2Lt William Somerville McLaren and 2Lt David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down and killed.

2nd L 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

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

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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.”

12 November 1917 – Second Reading

Following its formal introduction on 8 November 1917, the Air Force Bill, which will set up the new independent Air Force received its second reading in the House of Commons today.

The Bill was debated in full and was passed by the House. Given the importance of passing the Bill quickly, the House has decided to submit the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House on 16 November 1917, rather than send it to a normal specialist committee for review.

The record of the debate is available in Hansard.

12th November 1917 – A new front

Today, 28 Squadron RFC became the first British air unit to arrive in Italy to support operations there.

Back on 26 October 1917, the British and French Governments had agreed to send divisions from the Western front to help the Italians, and three days later a British detachment, consisting of the head-quarters of the XIV Corps, together with the 23rd and 44th Divisions, had been ordered to Italy. General Sir Herbert C. O. Plumer arrived to take command of the British troops in Italy on 10 November and he established his head-quarters at Legnago, but shortly afterwards moved to Padua.

For air co-operation. 28 Squadron RFC Sopwith Camels) and 34 Squadron RFC (RE8s)have been withdrawn from France, and grouped to form 51 Wing under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Percy Mills.

Each squadron has been allotted one month’s supply of petrol and oil, an adequate supply of transport and spares, and had their establishments increased to allow of immediate replacements of casualties. This is to allow the units to operated independently until the relevant support services can be set up.

The first trains left Candas in France on 7 November.  The Squadrons have travelled by train, rather than flying, such is the uncertainty surrounding the operations, and this way the aircraft and stores can travel together.

While these arrangements were under way, an Allied conference on 5 November at Rapallo, agreed to send two additional British divisions to Italy, with two more aeroplane squadrons in this case 45 and 66 Squadrons RFC (Sopwith Camels)

The War Cabinet then decided to send yet a third detachment to Italy, consisting of the XI Corps headquarters

and two divisions, and so another corps squadron. 42 Squadron RFC (RE8s) was earmarked. These Squadrons will begin their transfer over the next few days.