Category Archives: Strategic Developments

20 November 1917 – Air Force Bill goes to Lords

The Lord Privy Seal, The Earl of Crawford, introduced the Air Force Bill into the House of Lords. His statement was brief but reflected the urgency with which the bill was being treated.

“My Lords, in moving the First Reading of the Air Force Bill, I wish to say that, if possible, it is desirable that the Second Reading should be taken to-morrow, and that the Bill should receive the Royal Assent at the end of this week. It is entirely for your Lordships to settle, but I wish to give the earliest notice that it would be of the greatest convenience to have the Act in operation at the earliest possible moment.”

As in the Commons, this process is a formaility and the real debate will begin tomorrow.

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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.

14 November 1917 – Air Force Bill Committee

The Air Force Bill to set up the new Air Service reached the Committee Stage in the House of Commons. Due to the importance of the issue, the Bill was heard by a Committee of the Whole House. The clauses covering the transfer of personnel to the new air service and the set-up of the new Air Council received the most debate. In the end, few amendments were taken and a suggested new clause preventing the new Air Counsel from conducting warlike operations alone was withdrawn.

There was some kerfuffle as an attempt by Noel Pemberton-Billing to introduce further new clauses was struck down by the Chairman of the Committee. The Bill will receive its report stage tomorrow.

The debate is available in Hansard.

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.

8 November 1917 – Air Force Bill

Today, Walter Long, the Secretary of State for the Colonies introduced the long promised Air Force Bill that will establish a separate air service for the British forces received its First Reading in the House of Commons. This is merely a formal step and the Bill will be debated and scrutinised next week.

The full text is available on pages 1197 and 1198 of Flight Maagazine of 15 November 1917.

28 October 1917 – Trying to bomb Germany

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Richard Gregory Gardner

7A (Naval) Squadron has been bombing targets in Belgium including Zeebrugge locks, Bruges Docks and various German airfields. Overnight one of their Handley Page 0/100s (3122) was lost bombing St. Denis Westrem airfield.

2ND Lieutenant William Wallace Hutton (seconded from the RFC) was killed in the crash. His colleagues Flight Sub-Lieutenant George Andrews and Assistant Gun Layer E M Kent were taken prisoner.

Along with the establishment of the 41st Wing for bombing operations in Germany, ITS sister squadron, 7 (Naval) Squadron and its Handley Pages have been assigned new targets in Germany to attack areas of military importance.

This evening nine Handley Pages set out to bomb the station and military barracks at Cologne. Unfortunately, the weather conditions became unfavourable and six of the pilots turned to Antwerp and dropped their bombs on the Cockerill Works at Hoboken, and on the railways and docks. Two others attacked Bruges docks and trains south-west of Ghent.

The remaining pilot (Flight Lieutenant Richard Gregory Gardner) persisted towards his objective, but, hampered by rain, eventually dropped his twelve 112-lb. bombs on a lighted factory east of Duren. On the return journey, Gardner had to fly ‘blind’ through the clouds for 2½ hours, but eventually made a good landing on the small, unlighted aerodrome of a Flying Corps squadron after being in the air seven and a half hours.