Tag Archives: 27 Squadron RFC

16 July 1917 – A bizarre accident

Capt Melville Johnstone from 27 Squadron RFC, a New Zealander from Motuotaraia, Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay, was killed today. However it was not enemy action that did for him, but a bizarre accident.

He was returning from a bomb raid over the lines unfortunately one of his bombs had not released properly and was caught in the landing gear of his Martinsyde G100 (7499).

Its not known if he was manoeuvring to try and release the bomb, but in any case the aircraft crashed into a lake near Arques which was just south of 27 Squadron’s aerodrome at Clairmarais North. Captain Johnstone was drowned and the aircraft completely written off.

Johnstone had joined 27 Squadron in December 1916 and in June been promoted to Captain as a Flight Commander.

24 April 1917 – 66 and 9

The action in the air continued with the offensive on the ground. Seven British aircraft were shot down with eight crew killed, 5 wounded and 2 taken prisoner. The British also claimed 36 enemy aircraft forced down or shot down though in the event the Germans only confirmed 2 wounded and 2 killed.

The big operation of the day was a combined reconnaissance and bombing mission to Le Quesnoy and Landrecies. A distant reconnaissance by nine Sopwith Strutters from 70 Squadron accompanied by six Sopwith Pups from 66 Squadron failed due to low cloud and on the way back the formation was attacked over Solesmesby six Halberstadts. One of the two-seater Sopwiths was shot down in flames and one of the escorting pilots was forced to land and was made prisoner.

2nd Lieutenant Clive Harold Halse and 2nd Air Mechanic William J Bond from 70 Squadron in Sopwith Strutter (A1002) were shot down by Leutnant Fritz Otto Bernert from Jasta 2.


Robert Stanley Capon

2nd Lieutenant Robert Stanley Capon from 66 Squadron got separated from the formation and shot down by Oberleutnant Heinrich Lorenz from Jasta 33 in Sopwith Pup A6175. He crashed near Cambrai and was taken prisoner. Three of his colleagues were also shot but managed to escape back over the lines – 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Myer Marsh in Sopwith Pup A670, Captain Robert Oxspring in Sopwith Pup A7305, and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Charles Morley in Sopwith Pup A6152.

The bombing formations, which followed, fared better. Five Martinsydes from 27 Squadron each dropped one 230-lb. bomb in the neighbourhood of the sheds at Ath Station. The three escorting SPADs had a brief indecisive encounter with two Albatros two-seaters on the outward journey, but there was no other opposition.

Bernert then flew south to engage a 6 strong bombing formation from 9 Squadron returning from a raid on Busigny and shot three of them down. Lieutenant Charles Lee Graves in BE2e A2941, Lieutenant Frank Arthur Matthews in BE2e A2937, and Lieutenant George Edward Hicks in BE2e 7195. Graves and Matthews were killed and Hicks was taken prisoner.

15 September 1916 -The busiest day yet

The British launched a new offensive today between Morville and Le Sars.  The work for the RFC began late last night as aircraft were asked to patrol the front to disguise the deployment of the latest attempt to break the deadlock – tanks. This was the most intensive day of air fighting since the war began.

Once the battle commenced at 0620, the Corps Squadrons were used to track the progress of the tanks and infantry. In one notable example, Captain CHN Blount and his observer Lieutenant TS Pearson of 34 Squadron spooked the failed tank attack near HIgh Wood and a large German force. The planned assault was called off.

As well as this, the fighting in the air intensified as the new German Squadrons emboldened by their new machines met British forces still committed to the strategic offensive. The RFC lost eight killed and a further four taken prisoner , whilst claiming 14 enemy aircraft shot down.

11 Squadron RFC were covering a raid on the railway at Baupame  – 2nd Lieutenants Frank Edwin Hollingsworth and Henry Maurice Watkins Wells were shot down and killed in their FE2b (6047)  and Sergeant D B Walker died of his wounds in another . The squadron claimed two enemy aircraft shot down


Cedric John Kennedy

21 Squadron lost two more of their ineffective BE12s with Lieutenant Gilbert Klingenstein (6164) and 2nd Lieutenant Colin Elphinston (6583) both forced down and taken prisoner.

2nd Lieutenant Cedric John Kennedy of 27 Squadron was also taken prisoner when his Martinsyde (7484) was also forced down near Bourlon Wood.

Captain Alfred Spencer Mason Summers of 60 Squadron was shot down and killed in his Nieuport 16 (A136) by Leunant W Frankl of Jasta 4.


Alfred Mason Spencer Summers

70 Squadron and their Sopwith Strutters suffered the worst however.  Despite being in one of the better aircraft, they got into a fight with Oswald Boelcke’s Jasta 2, Jasta 4, and their new Fokker DIs and DIIs, and despite claiming 3 enemy forced down, and a further two collided in the melee, they themselves had four aircraft shot down with five killed and one taken prisoner. Captain Guy Lindsay Cruikshank DSO MC and 2nd Lieutenant Rudolph Arthur Preston were shot down and killed in A895 by Boelcke. Half an hour later Boelcke also shot down 2nd Lieutenant Neville Kemsley in A1903. He escaped with minor injuries but managed his observer Carl John Beatty was killed.


Ferdinand Gonçalves Glenday

A similar fate befell A1913 as pilot Captain W J C Kennedy Cochran Patrick who survived a crash but his observer Captain Ferdinand Gonçalves Glenday was killed. Finally Boelcke himself claimed victory 26 by shooting down A1910. 2nd Lieutenant Fritz Bowyer was wounded but survived while his observer 2nd Lieutenant William Bell Saint was killed by unknown pilots from Jasta 2 and Frankl from Jasta 4.

7 September – Attack those airfields

As part of the general offensive policy, Officer Commanding Hugh Trecnchard has orded that German Airfields are attacked to keep the Germans on the back foot.

Today, 13 Squadron bombed the large aerodrome at Douai, dropping fifty-six 20-pounders on the sheds in the southwest corner of the landing-ground. The flying-grounds at Beaucamp and Trescault were attacked by 27 Squadron with forty-five 20-pounders, though little damage was causued. The two distant aerodromes at Valenciennes and La Briquette were also bombed by 12 Squadron led by Captain Eric James Tyson, who steered by compass for seventy minutes through and over thick clouds and took his formation down through the clouds directly over their objectives.

31 August 1916 – Albatross

British airmen got their first sight of the new German Albatross DI fighter today. Captain John Oliver Andrews was on patrol in his DH2 (5998) with Lieutenant Aubrey Edward Glew (7864) when they were attacked by three enemy aircraft from Jasta 1 near Ginchy. During the 30 minute combat the enemy aircraft stayed above the DH2s, diving to attack and then climbing again. The DH2s were not able to engage them as they could not outclimb the enemy aircraft. Eventually the enemy aircraft flew off eastwards. They reported an aircraft with a “streamlined propeller boss” and a“very large and rounded tailplane”.

Not long after this 27 Squadron felt the full force of the new aircraft when four of their Martinsyde G100s were shot down over Havrincourt Wood by pilots from Jasta 1 and KEG 1. Those lost were 2nd Lieutenants Michael Hamon Strange (7287) and Andrew Joseph O’Byrne (7479) and Captain Oscar Lyon Whittle (7299) taken prisoner, and Captain Alfred Skinner (7482) killed.

imageThe DI uses an unusual construction technique, a semi-monocoque plywood fuselage, consisting of a single-layered outer shell, supported by a minimal internal structure. This is lighter, stronger and more aerodynamic than the fabric-skinned box-type fuselage that most current aircraft use. The aircraft is powered by a 110 kW (150 hp) Benz Bz.III six-cylinder water cooled inline engine. It is not a particularly maneuverable aircraft but it makes up for this with speed.

7 August 1916 – Prime Minister at RFC HQ

Today the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith visited RFC Advanced Headquarters at Fienvilles as part of his tour of the Western Front.

He inspected a Martinsyde G100 from 27 Squadron, a BE12 from 19 Squadron who had just arrived on 1 August, and chatted to various pilots and crew from both Squadrons, including those who claimed to have driven down a Fokker and a Roland on an offensive patrol.


RFC Officers from 27 Squadron explain the bomb dropping mechanism on a MArtinsyde G100 to Asquith.


Asquith and Major Edward Gerald Thompson passing a BE12, clearly showing its faired over front cockpit due to hasty conversion from the BE2


Asquith chatting to a pilot who had apparently downed a one of the German aircraft on patrol.

6 August 1916 – Evans’ third

Enemy aerial activity continues but mostly east of the lines, leaving British Corps aircraft to get on with the activities of reconnaissance and spotting.

Henry Cope Evans

Lieutenant Henry Cope Evans from 24 Squadron was on patrol in his DH2 (7878) on the Bapaume – Peronne road when he encountered an LVG. Diving to attack, he opened fire at 75 yards and seemed to hit the observer who stopped firing. Evans then signalled the crew to fly west, but when they ignored him, Evans opened fire again and saw the machine nose dive, turn over and over, and crash east of Bois des Vaux. This is his third victory since 20 July.

Four Martinsyde G100s from 27 Squadron were trailing six LVGs near Epehy when they were set upon by a single Fokker. The Fokker was driven down out of control, but no claim was made as the plane was not seen crashing. Lieutenant Herbert Spanner in 7268 was shot up but escaped unhurt. Later on, another group of Martinsydes from 27 Squadron bombed enemy positions in the Bois be St Pierre Vaast.

Meanwhile, Captain J G Swart and W F Mansell of 22 Squadron were shot up on patrol in their FE2b (5250). Mansell suffered minor injuries.