Tag Archives: 20 Squadron RFC

26 March 1918 – Holding on

For the last 5 days since the launch of the German offensive, British forces have gradually been forced back. In an effort to maintain the line, the air forces have increasingly been diverted into ground attack missions against German troops.

Reinforcements have been drafted in from every part of the front as losses have been high and many Squadrons have had to abandon their aerodromes and aircraft to the advance. In all 27 squadrons engaged in ground attack including reinforcements from 1 Brigade (all squadrons), II Brigade (1, 19, 20 and 57), and V Brigade (5 Naval, 54 and 84), This was the largest concentration of squadrons in the war to date, though not necessarily the largest number of aircraft as many were under strength. H

Aircraft also played a significant role in the defence of Roye in the 5th Army sector as squadrons carried out ground attacks. Curiously, despite the significant nature of the fighting, there was little in the way of German air activity in this sector. The Germans remained reticent about committing their aircraft over the lines as they were difficult to replace. The Germans too had suffered high casualties and were also suffering from supply problems as their aerodrome were now well behind the front and the liaison between squadrons and ground units began to break down.

Allan MacNab Donovan

This was not so true in the 3rd Army sector and the reinforcements in particular suffered, possibly due to unfamiliarity. 1 Squadron suffered three casualties and 19 Squadron two in the afternoon when they were attacked by Jasta 26:

1 Squadron’s 2nd Lieutenant Allan MacNab Denovan in SE5a B511, 2nd Lieutenant William Mudie Ronald Gray in SE5a B641, and Lieutenant Arthur Hollis in SE5a B643 were all shot down. Denovan was killed and the others taken prisoner. 2nd Lieutenant Fernley Winter Hainsby in Sopwith Dolphin C3790 and 2nd Lieutenant Edward John Blyth in Sopwith Dolphin C3793 both from 19 Squadron were also shot down and killed.

Captain Herbert James Hamilton in SE5a B32 and Lieutenant Douglas Maitland Bissett in SE5a B8265 were both badly shot up but escaped back over the lines.

In the evening 58, 83, 101 and 102 Squadrons carried out the heaviest night bombing of the war so far dropping 24 tons of bombs on Baupame in an effort to disrupt enemy reinforcements.


27 July 1917 – Lure

Another large clash took place this evening over Polygon Wood on the Western Front. This time, however, it was at the instigation of the British who laid a trap to entice enemy fighters. A formation of eight FE2d’s from 20 Squadron RFC set out to patrol over Menin, with orders to attract and decoy enemy fighters towards Polygon Wood, where layered formations of single-seaters, 59 aircraft in total, chiefly from the Ninth Wing, were patrolling in readiness.


Frank Potter

The FE2d’s crossed the lines at 1915and proceeded without incident to Menin, where shortly afterwards some twenty Albatros Scouts gathered. The FE pilots were soon involved in a fight, but skilfully lured the enemy north-west towards Polygon Wood. Within a short time a general fight was in progress, in which all the British formations in the area, some French fighters, and additional enemy single-seaters, took part.


Karl von Schonebeck

The fighting went on for an hour and at the end it the German aircraft had been completely cleared from the sky over a wide area. The 20 Squadron FE2d pilots claimed six enemy aeroplanes destroyed. Lieutenant Harold Waddell Joslyn and Sergeant Frank Potter were wounded when their FE2d (A6415) was hit by anti aircraft fire. They escaped back to their aerodrome but crashed when their undercarriage collapsed on landing.

Triplanes from 10 Naval Squadron claimed two enemy aircraft, and SE5’s from 56 Squadron destroyed one. 2nd Lieutenant Trevor Watts White from 56 Squadron RFC was shot down and taken prisoner in his SE5 (A8911) north-east of Roulers. He later commented:

“…being intent on getting a ‘Gerry’ , and staying with him far too long, I was jumped. I was dead lucky, with only a scalp wound, but my engine caught it, with the result that I had to land in a field near Iseghem. One of Richtofen’s pilots landed in the same field, apparently the one who had shot me down. I was taken away to Richtofen’s squadron for a meal….My treatment, by the pilot who claimed me, at the squadron, and at Ingelmunster, was most chivalrous…Like a lot of pilots, I was too raw in experience to have survived longer on operations.”

Leutnant Günther Ziegler from Jasta 26 claimed victory. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gerald Roach from 10 Naval Squadron was shot down and killed in his Triplane N5492. Aircraft crashed near Moorslede and his body could not be recovered.  Leutnant Karl von Schonebeck from Jasta 11 claimed his first victory.

17 July 1917 – 70 Squadron mauled

The weather was poor for much of the day on the Western Front, but in the evening some patrols were able to get up. German aircraft were also out in Force.

The biggest fight of the day came about when a patrol of five Sopwith Camels from 70 Squadron encountered an enemy scout which they drove down. They then engaged a formation of six 2-seaters with Captain Noel William Ward Webb, Lieutenant Joseph Cecil Smith and Lieutenant Edward Gribbin each claiming to have sent one down.

They were then attacked by Albatros scouts from above and  a 5 strong patrol from B flight 56 Squadron led by Captain Ian Henry David Henderson came to their aid. They were then joined  by 8 FE’s from 20 Squadron (led by Captain Frank Douglas Stevens) along with DH5’s from 32 Squadron. Further German scouts joined in until there were around 30 enemy aircraft (from Jastas 6, 8, 11 and 36).

Despite the number of aircraft involved the fighting was relatively indecisive. A large number of claims by the British side actually resulted in only three German pilots being wounded.

70 Squadron lost two of their new Camels. Lieutenant William Edington Grossett was shot down and taken prisoner in Camel N6332. Lieutenant Charles Service Workman MC was shot down and severely wounded in Camel B3779. He later died of his wounds.


6 July 1917 – Red Baron shot down

A six strong patrol from 20 Squadron RFC was on patrol in their FE2ds when they were attacked by a formation of 8 aircraft from Jasta 11. They were then joined another 20 plus enemy aircraft and then 4 Triplanes from 10 Naval Squadron.

A large scale fight ensued. Lieutenant Donald Charles Cunnell and 2nd Lieutenant Albert Edward Woodbridge from 20 Squadron claimed to have driven down four aircraft, and their colleagues Lieutenant Cecil Roy Richards and Lieutenant Albert Edward Wear, and 2nd Lieutenant W Durrand and Stuart Fowden Trotter also claimed to have driven down an Albatross scout each.

Their Naval 10 colleagues also got in on the action with Flight Lieutenant Raymond Collishaw, Flight Sub-Lieutenant William Melville Alexander, and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Ellis Vair Reid all claiming victories.

In the end only one confirmed loss was confirmed by the German authorities and that was Manfred Von Richthofen himself. He was hit in the head by a bullet. He was temporarily blinded and paralysed, and fell for some distance, but succeeded in making a forced landing in friendly territory.


Richthofen’s downed aircraft

Cunnell and Woodbridge have traditionally been credited with the victory including in the Official History (Volume 4, p142), though I have my doubts as to whether this is true. They claimed to have forced down an all red Albatross though didn’t claim a victory as they did not see it crash. Photographic evidence seems to suggest that Richthofen was not flying an all red Albatross that day, though serial number of the aircraft is unknown. Some theorists has suggested he was hit by friendly fire as he was hit behind the left ear. Even the Baron’s own account is unclear:

““After some time we approached so close to the last plane that I began to consider a means of attacking him. (Lt. Kurt) Wolff was flying below me. The hammering of a German machine gun indicated to me that he was fighting. Then my opponent turned and accepted the fight but at such a distance that one could hardly call it a real air fight. I had not even prepared my gun for fighting, for there was lots of time before I could begin to fight. Then I saw that the enemy’s observer (Woodbridge), probably from sheer excitement, opened fire. I let him shoot, for a distance of 300 yards and more the best marksmanship is helpless. One does not hit the target at such a distance. Now he flies toward me and I hope that I will succeed in getting behind him and opening fire. Suddenly something strikes me in the head…”

Nevertheless he was out of action until 16 August 1917, and returned against medical advice with an unhealed wound. The injury plagued him for the rest of his life.

All the British aircraft returned except for FE2d A6419 fron 20 Squadron whose pilot 2nd Lieutenant Durand force landed at 1 Squadron’s aerodrome. His observer Trotter was badly wounded and later died. (Wia; dow), 20 Sqn, FE2d A6419 – took off 09:53/10:53 FE2d A6419 force landed 1 Sqn after engagement with EA on offensive patrol 10:30/11:30

15 May 1917 – Balloon Busting

IMG_0997Two FE2ds from 20 Squadron were sent off to attack a German balloon near Quesnay aroun 0700 this morning – Lieutenant E J Grout and 2nd Class Air Mechanic A Tyrrell in A6446, and Lieutenant Arthur Norbury Solly 2nd Class Air Mechanic C Beminster.

They were attacked by seven enemy aircraft from Jasta 30. Both crews claimed to have driven down an enemy aircraft, though no losses were subsequently reported.

Grout and Tyrrell (were shot down and taken prisoner by Leutnant Joachim von Bertrab.

Solly and Beminster managed to get away and also forced the balloon to be hauled down and the observer to bail out.

17 March 1916 – Mass brawls

There was intense activity in the air today.


Arthur Elsdale Boultbee

This morning the biggest scrap involved 18 aircraft – 43 Squadron RFCwere on a photo reconnaissance mission over Beaumont covered by 25 Squadron RFC- and 17 enemy aircraft including 9 from Jasta 11. The British claimed six aircraft downed, but the German’s did not report any losses. The RFC lost three aircraft. Manfred von Richthofen claimed his 27th victory in Lieutenant Arthur Elsdale Boultebee and 1st Class Air Mechanic Frederick King from 25 Squadron, though accounts at the time suggested their FE2b (A5439) was actually crippled by AA fire before von Richthofen finished it off. Both men were killed. 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Leslie Constable and 2nd Lieutenant Charles Duncan Knox from 43 Squadron were shot down in their Sopwith Strutter (A1097) by Leutnant Kurt Wolff from Jasta 11. Their colleagues, 2nd Lieutenant James Cook Rimer and 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Herbert Lownds in Sopwith Strutter A1111 were shot down by Leutnant Karl Allmenroder. All four were killed.


George Macdonald Watt

Late in the day around 1600, Manfred von Richthofen claimed a second victory when he claimed to have shot down 2nd Lieutenant George Macdonald Watt and Sergeant Ernest Adam Howlett from 16 Squadron RFC in BE2c 2814. Both men were killed.

It wasn’t all scout victories as Wilhelm Hippert and Heinrich Klose from FFA227 shot down Lieutenant W Anderson and Lieutenant Duncan B Woolley from 20 Squadron in their FE2d (A27). They were taken prisoner.

11 Squadron RFC and Jasta 2 clashed with Jasta 2 getting the better of the fight. Lieutenant Archibald Campbell Woodman and 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Charles Cox claimed to have shot down one enemy aircraft but were in turn shot down in their FE2b (4979). They crashed near Grevillers and totalled the aircraft, Cox was wounded but Woodman was unhurt. Lieutenant Norman Hatfield Read and 2nd Lieutenant Larry William Nevile-Smith in FE2b 7694 were also brought down but escaped unhurt. Their colleagues 2nd Lieutenant Russell Wilfred Cross and Lieutenant Christopher Fryers Lodge were less lucky as they were shot down and taken prisoner in their FE2b (7695). Werner Voss and Heinrich Gontermann both made claims but there is some confusion as to who did what though Cross and Lodge is traditionally attributed to Voss.

Voss also made a later claim to have shot down Lieutenant Theodore Algernon Cooch from 32 Squadron RFC in his DH2 (A2583). The aircraft was completely wrecked near Bapaume and Cooch was wounded in the back.

4 Squadron RFC were up on an artillery patrol when 2nd Lieutenant John Thwaytes and 2nd Lieutenant Gerald Hugh Temple Bourne in BE2c 2755 were brought down, most likely be anti-aircraft fire. Their plane was totally wrecked and both were killed. Their colleagues 2nd Lieutenant Norman Hay Colson and 2nd Lieutenant Harold Bagshaw Mann in BE2d 6740 were attacked by 6 enemy aircraft and shot down. Colson was injured but Mann escaped unhurt.


Aaron Appleton

Jasta 18 made 2 claims. At around 1020, 2nd Lieutenant Alex Ivan Gilson from 1 Squadron RFC was shot down in spinning nosedive near during a combat with 8 enemy aircraft. Leutnant Paul Strähle claimed the victory. Two hours later, 2nd Lieutenant Aaron Appleton and Corporal Albert Cooper from 6 Squadron RFC were shot down in flames  in their BE2d (6241) following an attack by 5 enemy aircraft. Oberleutnant Heino Grieffenhagen claimed the victory. All four were killed.

14 February 1917 – Dubious double


Cyril Douglas Bennett

Jasta 2 and Manfred von Richthofen tangled with 2 Squadron RFC today 2 Squadron was up on artillery observation at around 1100 when they were jumped by Von Richthofen. BE2 26231 with 2nd Lieutenant Cyril Douglas Bennett and 2nd Lieutenant Herbert Arthur Croft.  He opened fire at 50m and then fired ‘several hundred’ rounds at the machine, until it crashed in the German trenches near Cite St Auguste. Croft was killed and Bennett was captured but seriously injured.


George Cyril Bailey

Later in the day Captain George Cyril Bailey and 2nd Lieutenant George William Betts Hampton also from 2 Squadron, were carrying out artillery spotting in BE2c 2543; with Lieutenant Henry Fowler and 2nd Lieutenant EH Swann in BE2c 6250. they were bounced by Jasta 2. Von Richthofen claimed to have shot down Bailey and Hampton (and it is officially noted as his 21st victory), but this is regarded with suspicion and likely a result of attempts to boost the star’s score. Richthofen also claimed to have seen the plane crash but in fact they escaped behind the lines although Bailey was wounded in the foot. Fowler and Swann fended off the attacks and claimed on enemy aircraft crashed.


Harold Hartney

20 Squadron were also on a photography mission when they were attacked by Jasta 18 also got into a fight around 1600. Captain Harold Evans Hartney and Lieutenant Wilfred Thomas Jourdan, FE2d A1960 claimed to have shot down two enemy aircraft before they themselves were shot down. Their control cables were shot away and they crashed near Proven. Both men were injured but survived. Their colleagues Lieutenant Francis Joseph Taylor and 2nd Lieutenant Francis Michael Myers MC in FE2d A15also claimed to have shot down an enemy scout before being shot down by Leutnant Paul Strähle for his first victory. They crashed into telephone wires when forced to land near Poperinghe. Taylor was badly injured and Myers was killed in the crash.


James Valentine Fairbairn

Other casualties today were 2nd Lieutenant James Valentine Fairbairn from 54 Squadron was on an escort mission in his Sopwith Pup (A642) when he was shot down and taken prisoner by Leutnant Georg Schlenker, Jasta 3 for his 2nd victory.


Francis Chisholm Young

3 Squadron RFC lost another Morane (A6652) P when Lieutenant Francis Chisholm Young and 2nd Lieutenant Adam Gower Sutherland De Ross when they were attacked by 8 HA and brought down in spin in flames after shedding wings their wings by Leutnant Hans Gutermuth from Jasta 5. Both were killed.