Tag Archives: 26 Squadron RFC

10 March 1917 – Tulo Tulo

The intense conditions in German East Africa continue to take their toll on 26 (South African) Squadron.

Today both 2nd Lieutenant Robert Baillie Lovemore and 2nd Lieutenant Graeme Fleming Blackburn crashed their BE2cs.

Blackburn flipped his BE2c (4410) trying to land at Tulo. The aircraft was damaged but not beyond repair. Blackburn was basically uninjured.

Lovemore crashed his BE2c (4491) into thick bush following a forced landing near Tulo.

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This may or not be Lovemore’s BE2c. It is equally likely it is that of Lieutenant Leo (Lionel) Walmsey who crashed in the bush later in September 1917. These photos were taken by Captain Henry Courtney Brocklehurst and show the difficulty of identifying aircraft in this theatre as they were frequently redoped and numbers and national markings left off as the small number of aircraft rendered marking unnecessary.

1 March 1917 – Leopards, crocodiles and baboons

Lieutenant George William Thomas Garrood was found alive today after going missing on 26 February. He was serving with 26 Squadron RFC out in German East Africa.

He had left Tulo on a BE2c with a load of bombs to reconnoitre the Utete area and did not return. He had been forced down with engine trouble. A reconnaissance next morning discovered his aeroplane on its nose about twenty miles south of the aerodrome, but the pilot was nowhere to be seen.

Search parties and native hunters were sent out, and eventually found Lieutenant Garrood today suffering from fever, shock, and exhaustion.

He has spent the last four days trekking through the jungle. He had a narrow escape from a crocodile while swimming a river, and a night of enforced imprisonment up a tree with a leopard beneath him.

He was found wearing only his helmet, vest, and boots. His revolver, food, and part of his clothing had been lost while he was swimming the rivers, but the bulk of his clothing had been stolen by baboons when it was drying.

2 January 1917 – Rufini

Out in German East Africa, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces intends to hold the main enemy forces to the Mgeta front while he sends a flanking column to make a wide turning movement to the west. This column was to cross the Rufiji at Mkalinzo, where it is joined by the Ruaha, and then move south-west to join the Kilwa division coming from the direction of the Matumbi Mountains. These movements were designed to cut off the enemy forces on the Rufiji from those at Mahenge.

Rain on the Mgeta front delayed the opening of the operations from the 26th to the 31st of December 1916. A holding attack was delivered yesterday from the forward positions on the Dutumi front, while two columnsworked their way round the flanks.

The Tulo detachment (‘B’ Flight) of 26 Squadron RFC, which had been reinforced by two Henri Farmans from ‘A’ Flight at Morogoro, co-operated in the operations in this sector. Two aeroplanes, fitted with wireless, co-operated with the artillery and reported to ground stations enemy movements in their areas of operations.

The remaining aeroplanes of the detachment were to patrol continuously from 5.30 a.m. over the area Tulo-Kiruru-Kinyanguru-Behobeho- Wiransi-Kisaki-Dakawa-Dutumi-Tulo. The patrolling airmen were to report urgently any sign of the evacuation of Dutumi or Dakawa and also suitable bombing targets. As these aircraft had no wireless, they carried message which were dropped on the advanced headquarters on the Dutumi ridge. Only three officer observers were available, and eight air mechanics were impressed to do duty as observers.

Soon after 4.0 p.m. the evacuation of Kiderengwa was reported, and an aeroplane was at once sent out to bomb the retreating columns. The pilot discovered a large enemy detachment in the open bush and dropped one 100lb and five 20lb bombs, scattering the enemy. He returned for a second load and, when he got back over the front, found the enemy had taken up a position at Tshimbe, parallel to trenches occupied by the British easterly flanking column. The pilot dropped one 100lb and eight 20lb bombs on the enemy. The bombing was taken up later by another aeroplane and continued intermittently till dusk. Meanwhile the patrolling observers were able to keep the head-quarters informed of the progress of the local enveloping columns.

An early air reconnaissance this morning revealed no sign of the enemy troops in the positions they had held yesterday, and it soon became clear that the whole force had slipped away from the Mgeta front. Finding his retreat blocked by the enveloping columns, the enemy had in fact broken up his own columns and had taken to the bush: he eventually took up a new position on the Tshogowali river south of Beho-beho.

6 October 1916 – Meanwhile in Africa

The RFC continues to support the British campaign in German East Africa.

The going is difficult, however, as supplies have to be moved by road from the railhead at Korogwe where the Advanced Aircraft Park is based.

Frederick William Bowhill

Frederick William Bowhill

On the 8th of August 1916 Squadron Commander Frederick William Bowhill and a party of officers and men arrived, after service in Mesopotamia, as reliefs for Squadron Commander Cull’s unit, which embarked for England four days later. On 31 August, the squadron had moved to Morogoro some 200 miles from Korogwe. At this point they only had three elderly Henri Farmans left. The convoys which transported the supplies from Korogwe had many adventures, the personnel having at times to reconstruct bridges washed away by the floods, rebuild culverts, cut alternative paths through the bush, and corduroy long stretches of old track.

On 18 September, ‘B’ Flight was transferred to Morogoro from Korogwe and took over the B.E.2c’s of ‘C’ Flight. ‘C’ Flight went to Dar-es-Salaam, where it arrived on the 25th. In October, half of ‘B’ Flight moved from Morogoro to Tulo, seventy miles farther south. The going was so bad it took the transport five days to complete the move. Yesterday, two B.E.2c’s flew to the new aerodrome in just over an hour. It is expected that the squadron will carry out reconnaissances with occasional bomb-dropping and artillery observation.

6 July 1916 – Wear and tear

In German East Africa, 26 Squadron RFC has been incorporated, for administrative purposes into the Middle East Brigade formed under the command of Brigadier-General W. G. H. Salmond, to group all RFC units in Egypt, Salonika, Mesopotamia, and East Africa.

26 Squadron have been forced to use an aerodrome at Mbagui which is over 60 miles from the enemy positions at Kanaga and Nguru as there is no other level ground. They have made occasional bombing trips. Today, the air detachment at Mbagui was reinforced by ‘A’ Flight of the squadron from Mbuyuni with three Henri Farmans (with the favoured 140 horse-power Canton Unne engines).

These three were all that was left of eight aeroplanes that had arrived at the beginning of May. Owing to faulty material, they had to be rebuilt. One was crashed soon after arrival and there was only enough sound material for the complete reconstruction of three aeroplanes. Of 26 Squadron’s four remaining BE2c’s, one was wrecked today, leaving only six serviceable aeroplanes.

31 January 1916 – 26 Squadron RFC arrives in Mombasa

26 (South African) Squadron RFC finally arrived in Mombasa, British East Africa today. The Squadron is made up from a nucleus of the officers and men who had taken part in the German South-West Africa campaign under Major Gerald Percy Wallace.

The squadron was equipped with eight BE2c’s, some steel framed Henri Farmans retained from the previous campaign, Leyland lorries and work- shops,Crossley tenders, plus stores and spares.

Unfortunately the propellers of the BE2c’s were not packed at Farnborough. There are six spare propellers of a different and less suitable type, but one of these had been broken in transit, leaving only five for the eight aeroplanes. The spare propellers will have to be specially bored before they will fit the BE2c’s. The Farmans are in a poor state too with warped wings and rotten fabric. It will take a while before the Squadron will be able to start operations.

8 October 1915 – 26 (South African) Squadron formed

26 Squadron was formed at Netheravon today from elements of the South African Aviation Corps who has served in the SW Africa Campaign. At the end of that campaign, the flying unit went to Capetown, where it was demobilized. The majority of the officers left at once for England.

The South African Aviation Corps was then remobilized (119 N.C.O.s and men) and it also followed to England at the beginning of October 1915. The Unit has now been reconstituted as 25 (South African) Squadron with Major Gerald Percy Wallace in command.

The squadron is equipped with BE2cs and the Henri-Farmans brought back from Africa. After some additional training they will be shipped out to British East Africa to assist in the campaign in German South-East Africa.