Tag Archives: 30 Squadron RFC

25 March 1918 – Hobart’s Unfunnies

Out in Mesopotamia, the British forces were planning to advance on Khan Baghdadi. To assist in the final preparations, lieutenant Colonel James Edward Tennant from 30 Squadron RFC decided to fly over the enemy positions. Major Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart, the commander of the 7th Brigade, decided he would like a look at the front before he departed for Palestine.

This morning, the two set out. Tennant takes up the story in his book In the Clouds Above Baghdad (for some reason the book notes the 28th as the date of departure, though this is clearly incorrect as will become obvious later).

“Accordingly, on the morning of the 28th, we set out from Baghdad in the third new D.H. 4;the fate of the other two has already been described.The weather was cool, with the wind in the north anddrivingblackrainclouds. The D.H.4 forged along in the teeth of this at a comfortable 100 miles an hour. The Euphrates was eventually picked up, and ‘then we were immersed in the fluffy fog of a rainstorm at 4,000 feet. We broke out of it with Hit astern and to our left, the country below a mass of nullahs and rocks. We had gone fairly low to known crackling of machine-guns somewhere down there on the floor, but could see no sign of life. Glancing at my instruments, the temperature of the water had suddenly gone up to boiling point; when that happens it is time to turn for home. Then the dial went back too; theonlypossibleinferencefrom these wild fluctuations could be that there was no water left; those infernal machine-guns must have hit our radiator. Easing down the engine, I made for our lines in the hope of crashing somewhere among ‘the rocks within reach of friends, but it was soon apparent that we were dropping too fast to clear enemy country, and the overheated engine could not be expected to revolve much longer. A thousand feet up the propeller stopped, and the sudden silence intensified the racket of machine- gun and rifle fire from below. They were hitting us now, and we could see the Turks running about on the ground. There seemed no place where it was possible to land, but we turned up a nullah running down from the desert, and somehow alighted on a few yards of sand without crashing. The hills and rocks rose up all around us, and from these the fire continued,the bullets crashing through the machine and throwing up the dust. I ‘tore at a petrol-pipe with the blackness of despair, while Hobart searched in his clothing for matches; at least we would burn the machine. Having ignited a leak we jumped clear of the machine; Turks appeared from cover and advanced cautiously, for the zone was still bullet-swept from sportsmen on the further heights. They ran in and we held up our hands. “

In retrospect, perhaps sending up two senior officers was not such a good idea. The British advance began the next day nevertheless and by the 27th had reached Ana. At that point the recovery of the officers became a priority and a force of armoured cars set off towards Aleppo, finally recapturing them on the 28th. For further details of this see the end of In the Clouds Above Baghdad.

The wrecked DH4 being examined by British troops after the advance

Percy Hobart later became the commander of the Royal Engineers during the Second World War and their assorted specialist tanks were know as Hobart’s Funnies.

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23 February 1918 – Hit

Out in Mesopotamia, following the capture of Ramada, Turkish forces on the Euphrates had been relatively quiet. However, in January 1918, there was a build up of Turkish Forces at Hit to the Northwest.

Once Turkish forces started reconnaissance down the river as far as Qubba and Nafata. Lieutenant-General Marshall in charge of British forces decided to capture Hit and its garrison. The advance from Ramadi began on the 19th of February, when air reconnaissances by 30 Squadron RFC brought back news that the Turks were evacuating their trenches south of Hit and were taking up a prepared position on high ground about two miles above the town at the Broad Wadi. There was also a strong enemy force at Sahiliya.

The British decided not to bother attacking until they could be sure of victory, and therefore waited until they had built up better communications and supplies accumulated.

This included the aircraft, and yesterday, 52 Kite Balloon Section, which had been at Ramadi since the beginning of January 1918, moved forward to Qubba. Today ‘B’ Flight of 30 Squadron RFC moved to Ramadi from Falluja, and ‘A’ Flight of 30 Squadron and ‘A’ Flight of 63 Squadron flew to Ramadi from Samarra and Baquba.

This composite unit, under the command of Major H. de Havilland, was instructed to undertake a vigorous bombing offensive against the Turks. They got to work straightaway, and ten aeroplanes bombed and attacked with machine-gun fire Turkish camps in the Hit-Sahiliya area. Seventy-five 20-lb. bombs were dropped: horses were stampeded, transport disorganized, one aeroplane on the Hit aerodrome destroyed, and several hits on camps were made.

25 January 1918 – “Inundations”

Frank Nuttall

Following the loss of one of its two DH4 on 21 January, 30 Squadron RFC was unfortunate to lose the other today.

This evening, five pilots from 63 Squadron RFC bombed Humr aerodrome and five from 30 Squadron RFC attacked Kifri. The pilots left at intervals of half an hour throughout the night and so spread the attacks over a period.

During the raid on Kifri the engine in the DH4 caught fire 1,000 feet up and the crew, Captain Frank Nuttall and Lieutenant Robert Brundell-Bruce (Bruce) Sievier, were forced to ditch the aircraft in the desert in the dark.

They were fortunate to make a safe landing and after stripping the two Lewis guns and a supply of ammunition, they set fire to their aircraft. Then then set off on foot for the Diyala River, navigating by the stars.

They covered 24 miles during the night and reached the Diyala. They then slept in a ditch throughout the day. When night fell they were unable to go further due to what the official history refers to as “inundations” – ie too many Turkish troops around. The next morning, however, they succeeded in signalling to British patrols on the opposite bank of the Diyala and they were brought in later by armoured cars.

Both men survived the war but Nuttall was killed on 18 September 1920 when, still serving with 30 Squadron, the RE8 aircraft he was piloting crashed in Kasvin, Persia, most likely due to a mechanical. Bruce Sievier later became known as a jazz lyricist.

21 January 1918 – Direct hit

Today, on the Mesopotamian front, twelve bombers of various types from 30 Squadron RFC attacked the advanced German aerodrome at Kifri. Many bombs were seen to burst near aeroplanes on the landing-ground, though the extent of the damage was unclear.

The raid was not without loss though, as one of the bombers, a DH4 received a direct hit by an anti-aircraft shell and was blown to pieces in the air.

The crew, 2nd Lieutenant William Stuart Bean and 1st Class Air Mechanic Robert G Castor were both killed.

The loss of crew and aircraft were keenly felt as this was one of only two DH4s with the Squadron.

31 December 1917 – Happy new year?

Throughout December aircraft from 30 and 63 Squadrons RFC have been attempting to harass the German pilots in the area by bombing their aerodrome at Humr on the 17th, 27th, and 28th of December. Damage to aeroplanes and hangars was reported but there was no way to determine how much real damage was done.

There was no doubt that the German’s were a bit put out by this and plotted their revenge. Today it came. At midnight tonight, when 63 Squadron at Samarra were celebrating the New Year, two German aeroplanes from Humr bombed the squadron camp. They destroyed the contents of the cookhouse, but otherwise did no damage. No-one was injured.

25 December 1917 – Reginald David De La Cour Corbett

There was little in the way of air activity on any of the fronts today. However one fatality was recorded nevertheless.

Major Reginald David De La Cour Corbett of 30 Squadron RFC (formerly of the 48th Indian Pioneers) died in captivity at a Turkish Prisoner of War Camp at Changri, apparently from rupture of the heart due to strain. Sadly he was one of the many who failed to return .

He was one of the group of RFC personnel left behind in Kut-al-Almara following the surrender of British Forces there on 29 April 1915. This consisted of 5 officers and 35 other ranks – the majority of the rank and file of ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights of 30 Squadron RFC and the Australian Mesopotamian Half Flight. They surrendered along with 277 British and 204 Indian officers, 2,592 British and 6,988 Indian other ranks, together with 3,248 Indian non-combatants.

Most of these prisoners were forced to march across the desert to POW camps. Many did not survice the journey, and of those that did, many succumbed including Corbett,  during their stay in the squalid camps. In November 1918, the official British report declared that 3,290 British and Indian POWs from Kut-el-Amara had died in Turkish captivity, while an additional 2,222 were missing and presumed dead.

Reginald born in 1881, was the elder son of the late Colonel Robert de la Cour Corbett, D.S.O., R.A.M.C, and Mrs. de la Cour Corbett, of 13, Goldington Road, Bedford. He was educated at Bedford and Sandhurst.

He was a keen athlete and sportsman, and in 1900 played Rugby football for Sandhurst against Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1901 he was gazetted to the Royal Irish Rifles, and served through the South African War, being awarded the medal with four clasps. In 1904 he was transferred to the Indian Army, and was gazetted to the 48th Pioneers and afterwards became adjutant of the regiment. In 1908 he was sent on famine duty in the Utroula District, and in 1912 was appointed tutor to the young Raja of Awa. When war broke out he rejoined his regiment, and went to Mesopotamia in November, 1914. He later joined the RFC.

31 October 1917 – A costly diversion

Today, just as the British advance up the Tigris was about to begin, six aeroplanes from 30 Squadron RFC made a bombing raid on the Kifri aerodrome on the Diyala front as way of distracting the Turks.

One German fighter appeared to contest the attack and damaged the BE2e flown by Second Lieutenant Allen Percy Adams, forcing him to land. The flight leader. Lieutenant Frank Nuttall, in a Martinsyde landed nearby to try and rescue Adams.

Adams set his aircraft on fire then jumped onto Nuttall’s Martinsyde as it taxied along, and the two got into the air again after a burst of machine-gun fire to scatter a party of Turkish troops in the way. The two officers reached their aerodrome safely.

Another BE2e (4362) pilot Charles Broderick Metcalfe-Dale was also attacked but got away without damage.

However, the pilot in another Martinsyde, Lieutenant John Barthroppe Welman, was wounded in combat and forced to land on the German aerodrome at Kifri and taken prisoner.

A third Martinsyde was forced down by antiaircraft fire. The pilot, Lieutenant Charles Cox, landed safely but eighteen miles inside enemy territory. He burnt his aeroplane, and then set out on foot for the British lines. 18 miles and 6½ hours later he reached safety.