The German Armies made another push on Amiens today. The Air Forces of both sides could do little to influence the outcome as the weather was very poor with low clouds, mist, and rain prevailing all day.
The only major action of the day was an attack on the railway station at Luxembourg at around midday. DH4s from 55 Squadron RAF dropped 22 heavy 112lb bombs on the station. Many of the bombs were seen to burst on the railway and a very large fire was caused. The anti-aircraft fire encountered was considerable, and one aircraft failed to return.
This was DH4 A7553 with 2nd Lieutenant Percy Henry O’Lieff and 2nd Lieutenant Sidney Robin Wells on board. They were taken prisoner. This was confirmed by letter on 15 May 1918.
O’Lieff was one of many who started off as an observer, with 1 Squadron RFC, and went on to become a pilot.
Today 55 Squadron mounted one of its longest raids yet with an attack on Mainz which was 116 miles behind the lines.
The Squadron were itching for some action as they had been stuck on their aerodrome by snow and rain for a fortnight,
The objectives were factories, barracks, and railways, which were attacked at 1225 p.m. from 13,000 feet, by ten DH4’s in two formations. Subsequent photographs taken by the bombers showed bursts and fires among warehouses near the river and in and near the central railway station.
A subsequent notice issued by the Cologne police, advising the inhabitants of the town to take cover when air raid alarms were given, referred to the attack on Mainz which, it was stated, had resulted in many deaths.
The weather, with snow in parts, curtailed many combat operations, and their were few encounters with enemy aircraft. Plenty of reconnaissance and photo work was also carried out. 41 Wing continued to attempt strategic bombing.
In their first big daylight raid on Germany for a while, 12 DH4s from 55 Squadron set off around 1015 to raid the munition factories and railway centre at Karlsruhe in Germany. During a round trip of four hours, 2752 pounds of bombs were dropped, four bursts being observed on the buildings and sidings of the main railway junction in the centre of the town, two on the railway workshops and two on the smaller junction in the town.
Fifty-two photographs were taken, which confirmed the bursts and also showed a very large fire in one of the workshops by the railway.
Pilots reported that anti-aircraft was very heavy and accurate over the objective. The formation was attacked by seven enemy scouts, but only three were able to attain the height of our machines and these were kept at a distance by the observers. All machines returned safely.
41 Wing RFC was established in October 1917 at Ochey with the purpose of finally realising the long held plans to bomb strategic targets in Germany. The Wing consists of 55 Squadron RFC (day), 102 Squadron RFC (Night) and 16 Squadron RNAS for long range.
Raids have been few and far between as the weather has been pretty bad and in fact no raid has been made since 1 November. Today, however, the weather improved sufficiently for 55 Squadron to mount a raid on Mannheim in their DH4s with the objective of bombing factories (including chemical works, aircraft engines, locomotives and rolling stock, submarine parts, and magnetos) and railways. .
At midday the DH4s appeared over Mannheim and dropped their bombs. One of the aircraft (A7465) took a hit from ground fire and was forced to land. The crew, 2nd Lieutenant George Frederick Turner and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Castle were taken prisoner.
Another crew 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Southward Wilson and 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Cann in A5718 crashed with a tender on landing from the mission but survived unscathed.
According to German official reports no military damage was inflicted by this attack, but two civilians were killed and twelve wounded.
Poor weather conditions, including a thick ground mist, prevented any work of consequence being carried ut along the entire front today. The few attempts to get up met with disaster.
55 Squadron suffered two crashes attempting to take off on a bombing raid to Dillengen. In one case, the fuselage of DH4 (A7624) broke in half after stalling on take off. The crew, 2Lt Arthur Stuart White and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Castle suffered minor injuries.
Another DH4 (A7575), was seen to do an S turn when it stalled and nosedived to ground near to the aerodrome shortly after take off. The crew were not so lucky. The observer 2nd Lieutenant Charles Dudley Palmer was injured but 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Charles Morse was killed in the crash.
A fellow member of 55 Squadron, Capt Orlando Lennox Beater described Morse’s fate in some detail in his diary:
“Wednesday, November 14th 1917: Cold and misty until midday but after that it began to clear and we were warned to stand by. We started up our engines about 1300 and got off the ground at 1320, Farrington leading and the other seventeen as fast as they were able to leave the ground. We got up to twelve thousand, at which the weather again came on ‘dud’. Gray fired the ‘wash-out’ flare and we all turned and made our way back to Ochey aerodrome, where we took off our bombs and left them there, much to 100 Squadron’s disgust. The reason for this precaution is because it is not safe to land on our aerodrome with detonated [fused] bombs as, owing to the bad surface, a crash landing is always on the cards. While we were at Ochey, we heard that poor Morse, who was barely nineteen years of age, had been killed while taking off. It turned out that the engine had conked when he had got to about one hundred feet, and while trying to turn back to the aerodrome he got into a nose-dive and crashed into the trees close to our hut. He was killed almost at once, and his observer Palmer had a bad shaking, and was sent to hospital with probable internal injuries.”
The weather was pretty poor today for flying and most offensive patrols were curtailed. Nevertheless the bombers attempted to work and despite the mist and cloud some managed to get through. The RFC Communique reported thus:
“9th Wing — Machines of No 101 Squadron dropped six 112-lb bombs on Roulers Station, two 112-lb bombs on Thourout Station, two 112-lb bombs on Beythem Station and two 112-lb bombs on Staden; 1,550 rounds were also fired at trains, lights on roads and active anti-aircraft batteries during this work.
Machines of No 102 Squadron dropped one 112-lb bomb on Gontrode Aerodrome, one 230-lb bomb on Heule Aerodrome, seven 112-lb and 10 25-lb bombs on Courtrai Stations, two 112-lb and one 25-lb bombs on Marcke Aerodrome, while eight 112-lb and six 25-lb bombs were dropped on trains, with the result that one was hit and derailed near Ghent and another hit and wrecked at Iseghem.
At 2 p.m. on the 1st, when clouds were at a height of about 200 feet, four Martinsydes of No 27 Squadron left the ground to bomb Gontrode aerodrome. Sgt S Clinch, who was one of the pilots, climbed through the clouds and flew for 40 minutes and on diving down through the clouds, found himself over Ghent. He followed the canal at a low height and dropped his bombs on the aerodrome, but was unable to see the results owing to drizzle and strong anti-aircraft fire. He landed again at 4.25 pm. The three other pilots became completely lost and returned with their bombs after a flight of two hours.
41st Wing — On the 1st instant, 12 machines of No 55 Squadron set out two formations of six machines each to bomb works at Kaiserslautern, a distance of 100 miles from their aerodrome. One formation reached the objective and dropped three 230-lb and six 1121b bombs from 15,000 feet. Results were not observed as the sky was very cloudy with only a few gaps. The other formation encountered seven EA, so dropped their bombs behind the German lines to enable them to fight. One EA was shot to bits and fell in pieces. All our machines returned.”