Category Archives: RNAS

21 February 1918 – £1000

In the first major debate on the Air Services since the Passage of the Air Force Act in December 1917, the House of Commons discussed the Air Force Estimates for the coming year. Under the guise of refusing to provide assistance to the enemy, the debate was over the nominal amount of £1000, and members were asked to refrain from certain lines of questioning.

The Undersecretary of State for the Air, Major John Baird, led the debate. He highlighted progress made in setting up the new Air Ministry, including the establishment of a Secretariat, Finance Branch, Works and Buildings Department and a General Branch of Statistics. Establishments for the service directorates and their staffs have been prepared, and the majority of pay and conditions of service questions had been addressed. Discussions are now ongoing between the Admiralty and the War Office about the practical transfer of the two services. The new Air Council has been established and is now developing its own programme of work.

The Minister came under pressure from Mr William Joynson-Hicks and Mr Noel Pemberton-Billing, both perennial thorns in the Governement’s side regarding Air matters, over the issue of:

  • poor training of pilots
  • the lack of standardisation of equipment hampering production and repair of aeroplanes
  • the failure to enact sufficient reprisal attacks against German cities for the air raids in England

An attempt to introduce an amendment to require reprisal attacks was defeated.

Mr Pemberton-Billing also called for a dedicated medical service for the air and castigated the house in general as so few MPs had turned up (no more than 25 at any time).

The whole debate can be read here.


4 February 1918 – A splash of colour

Unlike their German counterparts, who have taken to painting their aircraft in a variety of colours, the Royal Flying Corps has not really allowed pilots to personalise their aircraft except in minor ways such as symbols to signify the Squadron and letters for flights.

The Navy of course, is not so hidebound and has allowed the Royal Naval Air Service Squadrons some leeway in decorating their aircraft as this photograph taken today at Bray Dunes shows. The aircraft in the foreground is a Sopwith Camel from B Flight of 10 Squadron RNAS/10 Naval Squadron

This aircraft B6299, because of the clear view in this photograph has been used as the basis for a number of models of the Camel. B6299 was flown by Flight Commander Norman McGregor. The prominent stripes are in fact red and white as shown in this colour model.

The aircraft directly behind it is B6404 in which Flight Lieutenant Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe from C Flight shot down an enemy Albatross yesterday. C flight had blue and white stripes and A Flight had black and white. The squadron also used a variety of different wheel designs.

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.

20 January 1918  – Goeben Yavuz

This morning there was great excitement at the RNAS base at Mudros near the Gallipoli peninsula. A message that two Turkish cruisers Yavuz and Midilli (formerly the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau which had fled to Constantinople in 1914) had come out on a sortie in the Eastern Mediterranean from the Dardanelles straight was intercepted and all aircraft were immediately ordered to concentrate at Mudros and Imbros.

The two cruisers had orders to attack two British monitors in Kusu Bay, Imbros, and also bombarding Mudros. Off Mavro Island the Yavuz struck a mine, but the cruisers went ahead and they opened fire at 0800 on the monitors and on general shipping in Kusu Bay. Six or seven salvoes were fired, and these destroyed the two monitors {Raglan and M.28). The cruisers then turned off towards Mudros.

At this point aircraft from Imbros were on the scene and they began to attack with bombs. Before any hits were made, the bombing, indirectly, brought about the destruction of the Midilli. The anti-aircraft shells fired by the guns from the Yavuz were seen to be falling close to the Midilli and the latter ship was thereupon ordered to take station ahead. As she moved to obey orders the Midilli was harassed by the attacking aircraft and she zigzagged into a mine-field near Rabbit Island and had her stern shattered by a mine. Almost at the same moment she received a direct hit from a bomb. The Yavuz turned to take the Midilli in tow, but soon gave up the attempt and left the damaged cruiser to her fate. The Midilli struck more mines and finally sank.

Turkish destroyers which attempted to help her before she went under were kept at a distance by British ships with the aid of aircraft which observed for their fire. The Yavuz, meanwhile, with fine determination, continued her journey towards Mudros, but she struck a mine on the way and her commander thereupon decided to go back. He failed to find the gap he had made in the minefield off the Dardanelles and struck another mine going in. As the Goeben entered the Straits two bomb-carrying Blackburn ‘Baby’ seaplanes, escorted by a Greek pilot in a ‘Camel’, appeared over her, but they were promptly engaged by a formation of ten enemy seaplanes. In a sharp fight, three of the enemy seaplanes were driven down by the ‘Camel’ pilot (Commander A. Moraitinis), and one of the Blackburn ‘Baby’ seaplanes (Flight Sub-Lieutenant William Johnston) fell in flames.

By this time the hostile formation had been broken and the second Blackburn ‘Baby’ pilot (Flight Sub-Lieutenant Robert Withy Peel), persisted in his bombing attack and aimed his 65-lb. bombs at the Yavuz, but failed to score a hit. He was then forced, by engine trouble, to land in the Straits near a Turkish destroyer, but his engine proved sufficiently serviceable to enable him to taxi and hop round the Cape, and he eventually reached Imbros safely.

Soon after this attack two DH4s found the Goeben, apparently in trouble, and they saw her run aground south of Nagara. Before returning to report her plight, the DH4s dropped their bombs, one of which scored a hit a vessel attempting to assist the German cruiser.

Once the position of the Yavuz was established, aircraft were sent up to take photographs, and the concentration of bombers and fighters at Imbros and Mudros was pressed forward. In the afternoon there were low clouds and patches of mist, but four 112-lb. bombs were dropped without success by DH4s. At the same time all available aircraft made a widespread air patrol of the waters off Mudros to test statements, made by rescued members of the crew of the Breslau, that minefields had been laid outside the harbour by U-boats. No mines were discovered. Whether the prisoners’ statements were made in good faith or with the intention of diverting aircraft from attacking the Yavuz is unknown.

Night fell before any further attacks could be made.

8 January 1918 – All quiet…

Little of consequence occurred in the air above the Western Front today due to snow storms. Pilots from various squadrons carried out a few bombing and ground attack missions without much success, but at least without loss. No air combats were recorded as German pilots stayed mostly on the ground.

‘A’ Squadron RNAS, which has been operating from Ochey in France as a strategic night bomber squadron with four Handley Page 0/100s, has now been redesignated 16 Squadron RNAS. There has been no change in duties and the Squadron remains with 41 Wing carrying out strategic bombing raids into Germany.

7 January 1918 – “Our Wonderful Airmen—Their names at Last”

Up to this point in the war, unlike the German and French governments, the War Office has been reluctant to identify individual soldiers and aces for propaganda and public consumption. The only real exception to this was Albert Ball.

However, in December 1917 Viscount Northcliffe, the proprietor of the Daily Mail newspaper was appointed to the Ministry of Information. Northcliffe had a solid background in aviation. He campaigned for “air mindedness” as it was known at the time, when aircraft began to make technological headway. He was also increasingly concerned about aerial bombardment of Britain now that German airships and bombers had shown the possibilities. Northcliffe supported the creation of the Air League and the Aerial League of the British Empire, a pressure group set up to Force the government to take this threat seriously.

His brother Lord Rothermere had just been appointed as Air Minister and the same day, Northcliffe ran a campaign in his publications to name outstanding individual combatants, running a story in the Daily Mail under the headline “Our Unknown Air Heroes”, which focused primarily on James McCudden:

“What I want to know is why an Englishman whose hobby is bringing down sky Huns in braces and trios between luncheon and tea, who can already claim a bag of 30 enemy aircraft, should have to wait and be killed before a grateful nation waiting to acclaim him could even learn his name?

I wonder if people in England realize that the German Air Service is the most popular and feted branch of the Kaiser’s war machine because German authorities have imagination enough to exploit its personal side? How many people in these islands can name as many British airmen there are fingers on one hand?”

The campaign was an instant success. Other newspapers joined in and today the Daily Mail ran the story “Our Wonderful Airmen—Their names at Last”. The article was accompanied by a large photograph of McCudden and Captain Philip Fletcher Fullard.

“Captain Philip Fletcher Fullard, D.S.O., M.C., aged 20, one of the British air ‘ stars ‘ went fresh from school into an officers’ training corps. He has flown in France for about six months, and during that time has brought down 42 enemy machines and three balloons.

In a single day he brought down four German aeroplanes —his record day’s ‘ bag.’ On another occasion he and another airman brought down seven enemy machines before breakfast, Fullard accounting for three of them. Up to the middle of October the squadron to which he belongs had brought down 200 enemy machines, and their number now stands at about 250.

The outstanding feature of Captain Fullard’s record is the few casualties his ‘ flight ‘ has suffered. For three months he worked with the same flight of six pilots without a casualty among them, and in that time they brought down more enemy machines than any other flight in France.

He had a narrow escape when fighting a German twoseater, his goggles being shot away from his eyes. The Verey lights in his machine caught fire and set the woodwork of the aeroplane alight, but he managed to get his burning machine back to the British lines. Captain Fullard respects the fighting capacity of the Boche airmen, and considers they are good in a tight corner. After emerging scatheless from many a tight corner in air fights he broke his leg six weeks ago while playing football at an aerodrome.

Captain Fullard is the son of the late Mr. Thomas Fletcher Fullard, of Hatfield, and Mrs. Fullard, who now lives at Rugby. He was educated at Norwich Grammar School, and in 1905 joined the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps. Passing high in his examination, he was offered a commission in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, but was selected as suitable for flying work, and joined the R.F.C. He went to Upavon, and was given a post as instructor there. In April, 1917, he was sent to the front. He has gained the D.S.O. and the Military Cross, with a bar.

Captain James Thomas Byford McCudden, M.C., has brought down 37 machines, and is still flying in France, being the leader of the squadron that the Mail’s correspondent, Mr. Harold Ashton, spoke of on New Year’s Day as having accounted for 99 Huns. Captain McCudden went out as an air-mechanic with the original British Expeditionary Force. In the stress of the German rush through Belgium, Air-Mechanic McCudden, having had some experience in the air, was pressed into service at Mons as an observer, and he was a member of a small reconnaissance party that gave information of the Hun effort which led to the historic fighting retreat.

McCudden went all through that stage of the war. Promoted officially to be an observer, he won renown for his handling of the guns in several stiff fights, and in the first year of the war as a non-commissioned officer he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Military Medal. His pilot— a major, since killed—said on more than one occasion: ‘But for McCudden we should never have got our machine back safely. He fought with real genius.’

Since he became a pilot in charge of a single-seater scout, in which he controls the gun as well as the aeroplane, McCudden has had well over 100 fights and some wonderful escapes without sustaining a scratch. He had three duels with Immelmann, the crack German airman, and on each occasion the fight was broken off before either could claim a decisive advantage. He has paid some generous tributes to Immelmann.

Captain McCudden’s father, Mr. W. H. McCudden, long a warrant officer in the Royal Engineers, was born at Carlow, Ireland—a typical Irishman, whose father and grandfather had been soldiers before him. The young airman’s mother, whose maiden name of Byford he bears, comes of Scottish fighting stock. Both her father and grandfather were in the Royal Marines.

McCudden of the Air Service will be 23 next March. He was born in barracks at Chatham, educated at the garrison school there, and has lived most of his life in barracks. Like his father and mother he is not tall-—his height is 5 ft. 7 ins.— but his slim figure is athletic and his boyishly pinky-white complexion gives a touch of delicacy to a countenance that is full of character. His elder brother, Flight-Sergeant W. T. J. McCudden, was killed while flying at Gosport in May, 1915. He has two other brothers, one of whom, 2nd Lieutenant J. Anthony McCudden, R.F.C., has already brought down several German machines in France. The youngest member of the family, Maurice Vincent McCudden, aged 16, is already in the R.F.C., and pining to be a pilot.

His father is now chief clerk in a detachment of the A.S.C., and his mother lives at Kingston-on-Thames. ‘He tells us hardly anything in his letters about what he has done,’ said his mother to a Daily Mail representative on Saturday. ‘Sometimes he just puts in a line, “Brought down two more Huns to-day, mum,” but nothing more. A few weeks ago he wrote, “Hear I’ve been recommended for the D.S.O., but even then he did not tell us what it was for.”

After this, the exploits of British airmen were routinely published. McCudden himself loathed the attention. In a letter to his father the following day he believed such “bosh” and hero worship would make him an unpopular figure in the RFC and with his comrades.