Tag Archives: 1 Squadron AFC

4 May 1918 – Final retreat

The Australian Forces in Palestine completed their retreat from Es Salt today. Every available machine was sent up to harass the Turkish forces.

Ross McPherson Smith and Ernest Andrew Mustard in their Bristol F2b

At dawn Lieutenants Edward Patrick Kenny and Garfield Findlay and Lieutenants Ross McPherson Smith and Ernest Andrew Mustard carried out strategic reconnaissance around Amman and took the opportunity to bomb the station there which was crowded with tents, transport, and stores.

At around 1150, Lieutenants Edgar Leslie Spragg and Oswald Charles Dawson and Lieutenants Stanislaus Acton Nunan and Charles James Vyner attacked a group of enemy cavalry with their machine guns.

In the afternoon around 1420 patrols by Francis William Lukis and Edward Balfour Somerset Beaton and Colin Campbell Cameron and Wilmot Hudson Fysh, attacked enemy cavalry with bombs and machine gun fire near Ain es Sir.

Arthur William Murphy and Harold Alexander Letch got into a bit of trouble when a stray bullet ignited a smoke ball in the cockpit. However Letch put the fire out with a fire extinguished carried in the cockpit and only minor damage was caused in the end.

In all 1 Squadron AFC put in 27 Hours 25 minutes of flying time, more than any other day during the operation. Australian forces were able to escape in relatively good order.

The enemy forces did not get the same assistance. German aircraft stayed mostly on the ground. Two German machines that did attack British infantry withdrawing west of Shunet Ninirin, but were both shot down by ground fire and seen to crash.


3 May 1918 – Withdrawal

The British attack on Es Salt has failed and  British forces are now  in retreat.

Jack Keith Curwen-Walker

Every available machine from 1 Squadron AFC was up assisting the retreat. Perhaps there was an extra incentive as many of the aircrew were drawn from the Australian Light Horse who were involved in the battle.

Early this morning, Lieutenant Jack Keith Curwen-Walker and Corporal Nils Peter Berg  Jensen were killed when their Bristol F2b in got into a spin as it was leaving the aerodrome and crashed.

Harold Akexander Letch

Lieutenant Allan Runcieman Brown and Lieutenant Garfield Finlay (in RE8 B1149) and Lieutenant Gordon Vincent Oxenham and Lieutenant Harold Akexander Letch set out at the same time and found that enemy strength at the Wady Fara and Damieh camps had increased overnight. Holding Near Es Salt, the two Australian machines chased down an enemy two-seater at Suweile and riddled it on the ground with bullets. It was Brown’s first victory.

Other patrols during the day watched the retirement.

2 May 1918 – A full picture

Today the position around Es Salt remained precarious. 1 Squadron AFC reconnoitred the area three times in the morning and were able to provide commanders with a full picture of the field situation.

Paul Joseph McGinness

On the first reconnaissance, at 0600, Lieutenants Paul Joseph McGinness and Frederic Cecil Hawley were escorting Lieutenants Francis William Fellowes Lukis and Edward Balfour Somerset Beaton, when they spotted a German two-seater at about 9,000 feet between Jericho and Damieh.

Francis William Fellowes Lukis

McGinness, after warning the reconnaissance machine, climbed to attack. They attacked from below, and both pilot and observer fired bursts into the enemy until the aircraft stalled, rocked from side to side, and then went down in a slow spin.

McGinness had to swerve sharply aside to avoid a collision, and at this moment the Bristol Fighter’s engine cut-out and they lost sight of the enemy.

Lukis and Beaton reported back that enemy reinforcements were still arriving at Damieh.

Following a second reconnaissance 30 minutes later, Lieutenants Edgar Leslie Spragg and Charles James Vyner spotted large enemy cavalry forces about Ain es Sir (south-east of Es Salt).

By noon the Turks were hurrying reinforcements and ammunition from Nablus to Mejdel Beni Fadl, foreshadowing pressure down the western bank of the Jordan. The lower Wady Fara road was full of transport, cavalry, and guns. The Damieh-Es Salt road was littered with Turkish cavalry. Amman showed at least 500 infantry and 100 rolling-stock in the station, and another large troop-train was entering from the north. Towards Es Salt, at Ain es Sir, were strong bodies of cavalry and infantry, a fairly large new hospital, and 200 horse-waggons.

1 May 1918 – Leaflet Drop Fails

On 1 May Turkish forces counterattacked in an attempt to cut off Australian forces at Es Salt. Enemy troops approaching form the North West were spotted by aircraft from 1 Squadron AFC.


Ronald Tynsdale Challinor

A strong south wind blowing over the Amman area made the day unfavourable for flying. Two of 1 Squadron’s Bristol F2bs – A7196 with Lieutenant Frederic William Haig and Ronald Tynsdale Challinor and B1146 with Lieutenant Douglas Wallace Rutherford and 2nd Lieutenant Joseph McElligott – were scheduled to drop leaflets on the Beni Sakr Arabs.


Frederic William Haig

Near Amman, B1146’s petrol tanks were holed by machine gun fire and Rutherford was forced to land and burn the machine. Haig and Challinor landed alongside to try and pick up Rutherford and McElligott, but one wheel collapsed as they were taking off and the aeroplane toppled over on its nose. They set fire to this aircraft and then surrendered to Circassian cavalry which had ridden upto them. They were handed over to the German flying corps, and German airmen later dropped letters on the Australian aerodrome from the four officers.

That evening, a bombing raid by 142 Squadron RAF on Damieh was accompanied by Bristol Fighters from 1 Squadron AFC. They flew low after the bombs had been dropped, and fired 700rounds into a group of 800 cavalry and 400 infantry.

28 April 1918 – Out at Nablus

Out in Palestine, 1 Squadron AFC is supporting British and Australian Forces in preparation for an attack on Es Salt.


Edward Patrick Kenny

At around 1100 this morning, 2nd Lieutenant Edward Patrick (Ted) Kenny and Lieutenant Frederick Cecil Hawley set off on reconnaissance of the Nablus area in Bristol F2b C4626. They were escorted by another Bristol F2b (C4627) with Lieutenant Ernest Cecil Stooke and Lieutenant Howard Bowden Fletcher on board.

They got into a fight with four enemy Albatrosses over Nablus and claimed 3 aircraft forced down out of control. At least one of these claims was correct as Leutnant Fritz Bötzow from Jasta 55 was killed after being shot down near Nablus. Kenny and Hawley were credited with one victory at the time, though they probably didn’t know that Bötzow had bene killed.

Whilst this encounter is mentioned in the official history (https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1069793/document/5519272.PDF, Chapter 9, p114), it does not appear in the war diary at all (https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1344082), p167).

13 July 1917 – “All dear sports”

The folly of sending out reconnaissance missions without escort was confirmed again today for 1 Squadron AFC out in Egypt.

Two BE2e’s went out this morning on a photography mission over the Beersheba area. Unfortunaltely the escort that was to be provided by 14 Squadron RFC failed
to appear at the meeting place and the BE2s continued without it.

Almost immediately they were attacked by an enemy scout. Lieutenants Archibald Henry Searle and Gerald Lewis Paget were shot down and crashed behind the enemy lines. Searle had been shot through the head and both men were found dead in the wreckage.

2nd Lieutenants Reginald Francis Baillieu and Adrien Espinasson Barbe managed to escape with their machine shot up but landed safely in the British lines.

The next day, the German airman Oberleutnant Georg Felmy appeared over the aerodrome and dropped a message bag containing news of the airmen and those previously lost and a letter for Commander Captain Murray Jones.

“All dear sports,

I beg this letter not to send in a newspaper. Please send the photo with X to the Parents of Mr Vautin.

My joy was very tall to receive your many letters. Tomorrow Vautin comes to take all the things and all the letters (with 1 photo), which were dropped. He is such well educated and genteel boy that we do with pleasure all what is pleasant for him. But if you write for us, you must write more distinctly because our English is not so perfectly , that we can read all. The most legible writing has firstly your writing machine, secondly Murray Jones. Vautin has me talked very much of him. I hope to fight with this sport more oftener. I thank him for his kind letters – I thank also for the decoration of the “Rising Sun” from Mr Lex Macaulopolus (?). Perhaps I can see the sun later in Australia.

Too very best thanks for the photo of Mr Brown and for the kind letter and many photos of R F Baillieu.

In order to answer your questions: 1) 2nd Lt Steeleis unfortunately dea. He expired 24/04/17soon after his imprisonment. He was shot down by our archies.
2) Mr Heathcote is in captivity and well, I think in the same place as Messrs Palmer and Floyer. Muray Jones is a very courageous man , we have feeled it in flying and when he came to drop the things for XXX so down (perhaps 100 ft). I would like to have his address in Australia to visit him. And a photo of him and the others, but – I beg – a little more bigger the photos because I could scarcely perceive your sport = eyesights!Ramadan is not practical for a visite at you, on must fast all the day. For souvenir I have exchanged my watch with Vautin and we have engraved our names. Where can I disperse more an aquaduct! Hoping our good condition is continuing long time – with best wishes for all who have written for us. With sportly respects G Femly F300. “

A copy of the original letter is shown in the Australian Official History.