The British 3rd Army continued its advances around Bapaume today. To the north the British 1st Army joined the offensive.
In support of the 3rd Army were the United States’ 17 Aero Squadron and 148 Aero Squadron who for the last few days have been carrying out a succession of ground attack missions in their Sopwith Camels. This continued today with the added complication of very high winds making return trips difficult.
At around 1630, 19 Camels from 17/Aero Squadron were sent up to relieve 148 Aero Squadron and carry out low level attacks on whatever targets presented themselves in the the area.
Not long after, they came to the assistance of a Sopwith Camel under attack from five enemy aircraft from Jasta 27. The Camel from 148 Aero Squadron, piloted by 1st Lieutenant George Vaughan Seibold was soon shot down and Seibold was killed. At this point a further 20 enemy aircraft from Jasta 2 and Jasta 26 joined the fight and a massive dogfight ensued.
Six Camels were shot down with Leutnant Hermann Frommherz of Jasta 27 claiming 3. These were:
- Lieutenant William D Tipton (F5951)
- Lieutenant Lawrence I Roberts (B5428)
- 2nd Lieutenant Robert Miles Todd (D6595)
- Lieutenant Harry H Jackson (F1958)
- Lieutenant Howard P Bittinger (F1964)
- Lieutenant Henry B Frost (C141)
The 17 Aero Squadron pilots also claimed 6 German aircraft downed but German records only show one possible fatality, thoug other pilots could have been wounded.
Todd’s account of the battle:
“When we reached the lines at Bapaume, we saw five Huns attacking what owe thought was one of our observation planes. To try to save him we went over the lines after the Huns. Just as we reached them, thirty to forty Huns came down on us from the clouds. They were a mixture of several groups, the checkerboards, the yellow noses, etc.; all Fokker D.7 biplanes. They were equal to anything we could do, so we turned to attack them, I knew we were in for a big fight. I lost Tipton almost immediately and started firing steadily for there were Huns everywhere I flew. I dove on one Hun who was on the tail of Camel and got him out of control. He went over on his back, then went down nose first, out of sight. I continued to fire and take evasive action–we could turn sharper than the Fokker but they could outclimb and outdive us. Out best defensive action was to go into a tight (or as our English friends said–split ars) turn and hold it.
Someone finally got me as my motor quit and down I went. Looking back I saw white smoke (fumes) coming out my tail, and I flinched, thinking I was on fire. It finally dawned on me that I was seeing petrol fumes, so I switched over to my gravity tank and the motor started up and I started toward the sun and the lines on my way home. I knew I could do nothing more in the dogfight as you cannot throw your plane around on gravity as the motor will cut out as soon as the petrol stops flowing. While I was flying at about 500 feet elevation heading west, two Huns followed me down and started taking turns shooting at me. I took as much evasive turns as my motor would stand to keep them from ling up on me. They turned back when we reached the lines but the ground troops continued to fire at me. I could see them standing up firing at me. Finally my motor quit and down I had to go.”
Robert Miles Todd
They were all assumed to have been killed but about a month later a postcard arrived from Tipton that he Todd, and Frost had survived but unfortunately Frost had died of his wounds.
The six lost pilots along with losses earlier in the week finally broke the Squadron which had to be withdrawn to be requipped with both pilots and aircraft. Within a week it was back at the front.