Category Archives: Western Front

20 October 1918 – Little Action but many deaths

Beavan Pendleton Jenkins

On the Western Front, poor weather prevented most operations in support of the army, though some long range bombing took place. Away from the front, however the RAF suffered 21 casualties overall from training squadrons in Canada, Egypt and Ireland and operational squadrons in Greece, Belgium and France, mainly from the flu.

Prisoner of war Lieutenant Beavan Pendleton Jenkins also died in hospital in Aachen, Germany. He was serving with 103 Squadron RAF on on 16 September 1918 when his DH9 (D3254) was shot down over enemy lines. He was the observer, with pilot Captain Frank Alsager Ayrton. His left leg was badly injured and had to be amputated., Beavan later died from the shock. Captain Ayrton survived the crash and was repatriated on 18 December 1918.

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16 October 1918 – Spinning

Poor weather reduced air activity severely on the Western Front today. The General Headquarters bulletin read:

“On October 16th low clouds and thick mist made continuous operations in the air impossible, but at intervals, when the mist lifted, our contact machines kept touch with our advancing troops, and our low-flying machines harassed the enemy. Hostile aircraft showed no activity, and no air fighting took place. All our machines have returned.”

Frank Alexander Butterworth

Whilst there were no casualties from enemy action, training accidents continue. The Sopwith Camel has a particularly fearsome reputation spinning in the hands of the novice pilot. 

Lieutenant Frank Alexander Butterworth from 4 Squadron ARC was killed when his Camel (E7238) spun out of control when trying to land in thick mist on return from a training flight.

Lieutenant Bertram Morgan from 59 Training Wing was killed at Cranwell when his Camel (B7241) spun into the ground whilst shedding its wings. Morgan was retraining as a pilot having previously been an observer with 15 Squadron and was practicing diving on a ground target.

14 October 1918 – Flanders

Allied forces resumed the offensive in the Flanders area this morning, attacking along the whole front from Dixmude to Comines on the river Lys,

The weather was much improved on the day and the Royal Air Force was able to participate fully in the attack. The bomber and fighter squadrons flew from aerodrome totarget, and then back again to replenish their fuel and to reload with ammunition.

More than two thousand bombs weighting around forty tons were dropped with the railway junctions at Thielt, Deynze, Lichtervelde, Courtrai, Mouscron, Audenarde, and Melle attacked.

The day was not without losses of course with eleven aircraft lost. 213 Squadron was hardest hit. Losing 6 Sopwith Camels in two separate incidents.

In an early morning bombing patrol, three Camels were lost when the group was attacked by 17 enemy aircraft:

  • Lieutenant William Thomas Owen in D3378
  • Lieutenant John Cochrane Johnstone McDonald in F3120
  • 2nd Lieutenant Louis Burney McMurtry in F5987
  • In return Lieutenant Harry Coleman Smith, claimed an LVG C.
  • In the afternoon around 1430, a similar patrol also lost another three Camels when they ran in to 14 enemy aircraft:

    • Lieutenant John Edmund Greene DFC in D3409
    • 2nd Lieutenant Francis Robert Leslie Allen in D8177
      Lieutenant K MacLeish in D9673
  • To even things up slightly, Lieutenant Charles John Sims claimed three aircraft shot down.
  • 13 October 1918 – Dual controls

    Poor weather limited activity on the Western Front today and few enemy aircraft were seen. Some reconnaissance and ground attack was carried out particularly in the areas near the coast.

    52 Squadron RAF was carrying on contact patrols when two of its aircraft were lost. Early on, Lieutenant John Alexander MacGregor and Lieutenant John Logan Sutherland were shot down by enemy machine-gun fire near Avesnes le Sec in their RE8 (D4694). Both survived the crash but the RE8 was wrecked.

    Later on around 1100, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Phillips and 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Weller Innes Howie were on an artillery patrol in their RE8 (C2499). They shot down an enemy aircraft which they claimed had crashed. Then Phillips was killed by ground fire and the aircraft went into a dive. Fortunately for Howie, the RE8 was equipped with rudimentary controls for the observer so he was able to crash land the aircraft in the front lines. Howie was wounded in the crash but was able to escape back behind the lines.

    The combat report for this encounter is available at the National Archives.

    Howie had run away to join the army at 17 and been sent home. He joined the RFC as soon as he turned 18.

     

    9 October 1918 – More Bombing

    On the Western Front, poor weather kept the aircraft on the ground in the evening, but earlier on a full programme of work was carried out including reconnaissance, photography, contact patrol and bombing. The railway junctions at Lille, Mons and Valenciennes were the main targets in an attempt to hinder the enemy retreat. This was a costly exercise and resulted in four aircraft lost.

    107 Squadron RAF lost two of its DH9s bombing Mons: 2nd Lieutenant Derek Errol Webb and 2nd Lieutenant John Harvey Thomson (D1107) claimed by Leutant Otto Löffler from Jasta 2. His colleague Leutnant Hermann Vallendor claimed 2nd Lieutenant Charley Houlgrave and 2nd Lieutenant William Meech Thompson (F5846). Houlgrave was taken prisoner but the other three were killed.

    At Valenciennes, Captain Lynn Campbell and Lieutenant William Hodgkinson from 62 Squadron RAF, who were escorting the raid, were shot down in their Bristol F2B (E2256) along with their colleagues Lieutenant James Ewart Sitch and 2nd Lieutenant Donald Storrs Fox (E2528). Leutnant Paul Bäumer claimed a Bristol shot down. He has traditionally been associated with E2256 as that claim was at Preseau just south west of Valenciennes. In any case Campbell and Hodgkinson were killed and the others taken prisoner. 

    8 October 1918

    209 Squadron suffered the loss today of two pilots when Lieutenant Richard Gerald Ava Bingham and Dudley George Antoine Allen were both killed when their Sopwith Camels (E4423 and H7278) collided. It’s not clear if this was as a result

    Dudley Allen

    Allen was an experienced pilot, but had only just returned to combat duty. He was commissioned as a probationary 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 13 August 1915. He was immediately seconded to the Royal Flying Corps and appointed as a Flying Officer (Observer) on 1 April 1916. He served as an Observer throughout the Darfur campaign before returning to England for pilot training. He obtained his Aero Certificate (number 3631) at the Military School in Ruislip on the 14th of September 1916. Between November 1916 and June 1917 he flew Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters with 70 Squadron in France. He then spent the next year training as an instructor and serving with several different training squadrons. He finally joined 209 Squadron just a week ago on 1 October. He was from Willsden, Middlesex, the son of artist Arthur William Allen. 

    Bingham on the other hand had joined the Squadron a little earlier on 28 August 1918, but this was his first posting having recently qualified as a pilot. He was from Bangor, County Down and the youngest of 10 children of John Bingham, 5th Baron Clanmorris and Matilda Catherine Maude Ward.

    In a poor day for the Squadron, 2nd Lieutenant Frank Cornwall was hot down in his Sopwith Camel (E4378)] and taken prisoner.

     

     

     

    7 October 1918 – Aussies bomb Lille

    Today, 80 Wing RAF carried out a massive raid on roads and railways stations on the perimeter of Lille. The Australian Official History takes up the story:

    “While patrols from No. 4 Australian Squadron ravaged the communications on the west and north of Lille, No. 2 Australian Squadron and No. 103 British Squadron (D.H.9’s), protected above by No. 88 Squadron (Bristol Fighters), bore the utmost possible load of bombs for an attack on the entraining centres on the eastern side. That area was divided for tne attack into three sections, each bounded by main railway lines. Cummings’s flight of No. 2 Squadron was to range the section between the Roubaix and Tournai railways, F. R. Smith’s flight that between the Tournai and Orchies lines, and Manuel’s flight that between the lines to Orchies and Douai. The Australian formation crossed the lines at 7000 feet in a tornado of anti-aircraft fire, and over Lille descended to 2,000 feet. Cole, leading, then fired a white light, and on this signal each flight turned off towards its allotted area. The arranged task of No. 2 Squadron was to search those areas for road-transport, while the D.H.9’s bombed the big railway stations at Fives and Annappes. Just before the opening of the operations a German two-seater appeared out of the haze before the full array of the bombing fleet and flew for the ground in panic; without a shot fired at it, this German machine hit the earth nose first near Ennetieres and was wrecked.

    The S.E.5’s spread out under flight-commanders’ Leadership to range the country towards Tournai, but found on the roads there none of the expected traffic. The only activity to be seen was at Annappes and Fives, where a number of trains were being loaded with troops and stores. Fives was especially busy, and a long troop-train was steaming into the station. Accordingly the Australian raiders joined the D.H.9.s in attacking these centres. The flights under Cummings and Manuel made for Annappes, and Smith’s flight for Fives. At Fives the D.H.9’s dropped twenty bombs of a hundredweight each, and in their wake each machine of Smith’ formation swept along the lines of trains with a shower of smaller bombs. Each pilot, having released his explosives, turned and nqain flew the length of the station, spraying the trains and buildings with machine-gun fire. The airmen flew in this attack so low that in several cases pilots’ machines were damaged by fragments of their own bombs. A piece of one of Lieutenant A. L. Long’s 13 bombs pierced his petrol tank.

    Long now had only his reserve tank, about ten minutes’ supply. He flew straight for the British lines and just managed to reach them as he was forced to land. The losses of the enemy both at Fives and Annappes must have been considerable, for many bombs fell fairly among massed transport and on crowded railway carriages and buildings wliere troops from the trains fled for shelter. Near Annappes several machines attacked a farmhouse courtyard packed with motor cars and horse-transport, and the bombs hurtled into the midst of this collection.”

    Arthur Leonard Long’s SE5a (B8392) was written off in the crash and Long was injured, though not seriously. All the others returned safely. 

    The Squadron record book for 2 Squadron AFC shows that 18 of their pilots took part in the raid.