30 May 1917 – Sand and Stones

6D1D23D5-FC57-446C-BE91-5F841037CCFA-227-0000002F03998E53

Gerald Cunliffe Stones

Out in Palestine, 1 Australian Squadron (67 Squadron RFC) have continued to work surveying enemy positions, though at this point the weather is too hot for any effective campaigning.

Today, Lieutenants Gerald Cunliffe Stones and Joseph Anthony Morgan were on patrol in their BE2e over Gaza were shot down by Anti- aircraft.

They limped back over the front lines and crash landed within the British lines, but both were killed.

31 May 1917 – 55 Mishaps

Following the wind down of the British offensive at Arras, preparations are ramping up for a new offensive to the North in the Messines area.

The DH4s of 55 Squadron RFC have been tasked with the jobs of long range strategic reconnaissance of railway communications around Bruges, Ghent, Grammont, and Ath, and of day bombing to divert enemy air activity from the impending battle front.

To facilitate this, 55 Squadron started to move aerodromes further north today.
This was not without mishaps unfortunately as two aircraft were lost in crashes.

First 2nd Lieutenant William Fraser Sleeman and Lieutenant Gerald Inchbold stalled their DH4 (A2172) which then went into a spin and crashed. The aircraft was completely wrecked and both crew were killed.

Lieutenant Arthur Lindley and Lieutenant Charles Frederick Richards Goodyear were a bit more fortunate. They flew their DH4 (A7428) into a barbed wire fence not long after take off from Fienvillers. They survived and the aircraft was able to be rebuilt.

29 May 1917 – Advertisement Lighting Order

Today, Britain got even darker – literally, when the Government implemented a further lighting restriction covering all of England and Wales.

The ‘Advertisement Lights Order’ prohibited the use of illuminated advertisements, of lights outside or at the entrance to any place of amusement, and of all lighting inside shop premises for display or for advertisement after the shops had been closed.

The Order would remain in force for the next 2 years. From that time period it will be clear that this continued well after the war was over and the threat of air raids gone.

This was because the primary reason for the lighting order was not to impair the ability of raiders to find targets but simply to save coal and was made at the request of the coal controller.

In fact up to this point most Zeppelins had struggled to recognise targets in the dark and the recent aircraft raids had taken place in daylight.

In many ways the order really only served the purpose of reassuring the public, particularly in areas subject to frequent raids.

28 March 1917 – A good day for Jasta 5

5DC04481-EE0B-47B7-BBC4-8B861D4345B3-227-00000022B1FCB169

Keith Logan Caldwell

B flight of 60 Squadron was on an offensive patrol near Lens. Two of the Original five aircraft had dropped out due to engine trouble. The three remaining aircraft, led by Captain Keith Logan Caldwell attacked two enemy two seaters. They were then attacked themselves by three enemy scouts. Caldwell got into a one-on-one with one of the attackers eventually driving him off. 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Uriel Phalen in Nieuport 23 B1624 failed to return from the mission and was assumed killed. Leutnant Kurt Schuhmann from Jasta 5 claimed the victory though evidence is scant.

Jasta 5 then went to destroy a 25 Squadron photo reconnaissance  mission over Douai, about 12km behind the German lines. At this point the flight was down to 4 machines, three of which were lost.

  • 2nd Lieutenant Edward Harris Stevens and Lance Corporal C Sturrock in FE2d A32 claimed by Leutnant Kurt Schneider. They lost the undercarriage in the crash and Stevens was badly wounded
  • 8DDE65FB-FE18-4822-A8C0-80238145AEB7-227-0000002467644EBE

    Aubrey de Selincourt

    Captain Aubrey De Selincourt and Lieutenant Harry Cotton in FE2d A6378 were forced down with a damaged engine and crashed – claimed by Leutnant Werner Voss

  • Lieutenant Thomas Noble Southorn and Lieutenant Vivian Smith in FE2d A6410 crashed when forced to land with a shot up engine and radiator – claimed by Vitzfeldwebel Otto Könnecke

All six crew members were taken prisoner but Stevens later died of his wounds. Aubrey De Selincourt later became a well-known author of classical and sailing books.

27 May 1917 – Marian Disaster

‘F’ Squadron RNAS has spent the last four weeks carrying out bombing missions on stations and supply dumps across the Macedonian front. However today disaster struck.

Five Sopwith Strutters had been wheeled out on the aerodrome at Marian and loaded with bombs for a raid. The weather proved unfavourable and the aeroplanes were put back in the hangar, where they were left in readiness to set off immediately the weather conditions improved.

Also in the hangar were three single-seater fighters, with four men at work on them. Suddenly there was an explosion and the hangar burst into flames. Other explosions followed as the bombs were detonated, and the flames spread to a small nearby hangar in which two aeroplanes were housed. Both hangars and the aircraft were destroyed within three minutes.

The four men killed in the hangar were Chief Petty Officer William Hugh Woodhead, 1st Class Air Mechanics Frederick C Mitford and Leslie Oldman and 2nd Class Air Mechanic Harry Norman John Gibson

Four other mechanics and one soldier who were on the aerodrome at the time were wounded.

It remains unknown how the accident huappened. The armourer in the main hangar, CPO Woodhead was a man of experience and proved caution, and the fan safety devices were supposed to render harmless any bomb dropped from a height less than 200 feet, so that even if a bomb accidentally fell off its rack inside the hangar, it should not have exploded.

Local commanders attempted to keep news of the disaster from reaching the enemy. Signs of the fire were removed and talk of the accident was forbidden. Nevertheless rumours began to spread within a few weeks.

26 May 1917 – A shock for Mr Alexander

89EE85EE-1251-4D5D-B1EB-5BDBE602392F-227-0000001183D5C0B0

John Douglas Price Scholfield

At about 2000 today,  shoppers in Hungerford, Berkshire became aware of an aircraft approaching the town from the west. This was not particularly unusual as there were RFC training stations nearby.

However, as the aircraft got nearer it was clear that the engine was running poorly and it was flying very slowly. Suddenly it climbed and then stood on its tail before turning over. The High Street was crowded with onlookers and most thought the pilot was giving an aerobatic display and showed their appreciation by clapping.

However, the aircraft quickly fell out of control and nose-dived into the garden of Mr Thomas Alexander’s house and grocery store at 26 High Street,

onlookers rushed to the wrecked aircraft to help the pilot. He was pulled free but was already dead from the impact.

The pilot was later identified as 2nd Lieutenant John Douglas Price Scholfield, a 23 year-old Canadian from the Central Flying School, Upavon.

The plane was placed under guard and the next day an enquiry was held by officers from Upavon. Lieutenant Scholfield was a learne pilot and had left Upavon at about 1930 in an Avro 504A (4061). An officer from Upavon examined the wreckage and declared that, in his opinion, the controls and wires appeared to be in perfect working order and the plane had crashed as the result of a stall.

5A5CCA48-FE0E-4FB2-AE8B-30C8181DC502-227-0000001134879CE7

The wrecked Avro

25 May 1917 – Heavier than air

After the failure of the Zeppelin attack yesterday, the Germans launched a new weapon against Britain today.  As the limits of Zeppelins were becoming clear, the aarival in Winter 1916 of the Gotha IV bomber finally made aircraft raids on Britain a realistic possibility.

The Gotha IV was a biplane of 75 feet wing span and 42 feet in length. It wa sfitted with two 260hp Mercedes engines driving pusher airscrews, carried a crew of three, and was armed with three machine guns, one of which could fire through a ‘tunnel’ to attack fighting aeroplanes. It could carry up to 500kg of bombs and had a top speed of about 80 miles an hour.

A specialist squadron, Kampfgeschwader 3 der Oberste Heeresleitung (Kagohl 3 – Battle Squadron 3) was set up. After months of preparation the Squadron made its first raid today.

DB37DCE3-FEFF-4287-B867-ABC6F26C01BB-367-0000003EE4E444F3At around 1700 the squadron of 21 bombers crossed the coast of Essex between the estuaries of the Crouch and the Blackwater.

Dense clouds were in place and although the noise of the aircraft was detected, observation of the aircraft was difficult.

The clouds forced them to abandon London as a target and instead  turned off  across the Thames at Gravesend and, passing over Kent west of Maidstone and Ashford, went out at Folkestone about 6.30 p.m.

After crossing the Thames they seem to have changed into some sort of group formation.  59 bombs of 50kg. weight and 104 of 12kg. were dropped, but 27 of the bombs failed to explode and a few others burst in the air.

Shorncliffe and Folkestone suffered most. Bombs on Shorncliffe camp and on Cheriton killed seventeen Canadian soldiers and wounded ninety-three, while the casualties at Folkestone were 16 men (one soldier), 31 women and 25 children killed, and 31 men (8 soldiers), 48 women, and 12 children injured. A majority of the casualties occurred in a crowded thoroughfare near the harbour (Tontine Street) where shoppers had congregated to make their Whitsun holiday purchases – this was the deadliest bomb dropped over Britain in the whole war. The total casualties for the raid were 95 killed and 195 injured.

Home defence squadrons from both the RFC and RNAS made 74 sorties to little effect. Most of them couldn’t even reach the height of the bombers due to inadequate aircraft – mostly BE2s. The sole encounter was from Flight Lieutenant Reginald Frederick Stewart Leslie from Dover pursued the Gothas over the Channel and fired 150 rounds into one of them before he was driven off.

C3920EFE-8DB7-4579-8872-68D9129F060C-367-0000003D5886927C

The aftermath of the bomb in Tontine Street

Fighting pilots from Dunkirk intercepted some of the raiders on the homeward journey and they reported that in the subsequent fighting they destroyed one Gotha and damaged another. According to German sources of information the losses were one Gotha destroyed in the Channel and another which, for some unknown reason, crashed in Belgium on its return.

The raid exposed the inadequacy of air defences and outraged the public, particularly given that no warning had been given despite the detection of the attackers at Dover.