Tag Archives: 55 Squadron RFC

14 November 1917 – Barely off the ground

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Christopher Charles Morse

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.”

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1 November 1917 – Some Bombing

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.”

21 September 1917 – More Menin Road

Following on from yesterday, the British offensive continued around Menin Road Bridge. The weather was significantly improved from yesterday and this resulted in an even wider programme of air support.

The main focus today was on preventing reinforcements reaching the front. Early morning reconnaissances reported that reinforcements were arriving at Roulers and Menin stations.

55 Squadron attacked the station at Roulers, dropping twenty 112lb. bombs on the target. In the evening air reconnaissance reported that troops were pouring in, by rail, to Menin and were being transported by bus to the front. 100 and 101 Squadrons therefore spent the night attacking the town, other detraining centres, and the roads along which the movement of troops had been reported. They dropped fourteen 230-lb. and sixty-eight 25 -lb. bombs and then attacked the troops with their machine-guns. The Squadrons also bombed Menin, Ledeghem, Wervicq, Gheluwe and Roulers.

Two aircraft from 101 Squadron failed to return – Captain Aubrey Cecil Hatfield and 2nd Lieutenant Robert Roy Macgregor in FE2b A5672 and 2nd Lieutenant Archibald Ian Orr-Ewing and Corporal E Marshall in FE2b A856. Both crashed behind enemy lines and the crews were taken prisoner.

Again the toll, particularly on the fighter squadrons was high with (in addition to the above) 10 crew killed, 3 wounded and 7 taken prisoner. 19 Squadron suffered badly in their undergunned SPADVIIs when they ran into Jasta 18 in their Albatross DVs near Dadizeele. Three planes were shot down in short order and their pilots killed

2nd Lieutenant Robert Andersson Inglis (B3557)
2nd Lieutenant Frederick William Kirby (B3533)
2nd Lieutenant William Gordon McRae (B3642)

Oberleutnant Rudolf Berthold and Leutnant Richard Ruege all claimed victories, thought it’s not clear exactly who downed who.

In return, Flight Commander Captain John Leacroft claimed an Albatros out of control, though later German records record no losses.

31 May 1917 – 55 Mishaps

Following the wind down of the British offensive at Arras, preparations are ramping up for a new offensive to the North in the Messines area.

The DH4s of 55 Squadron RFC have been tasked with the jobs of long range strategic reconnaissance of railway communications around Bruges, Ghent, Grammont, and Ath, and of day bombing to divert enemy air activity from the impending battle front.

To facilitate this, 55 Squadron started to move aerodromes further north today.
This was not without mishaps unfortunately as two aircraft were lost in crashes.

First 2nd Lieutenant William Fraser Sleeman and Lieutenant Gerald Inchbold stalled their DH4 (A2172) which then went into a spin and crashed. The aircraft was completely wrecked and both crew were killed.

Lieutenant Arthur Lindley and Lieutenant Charles Frederick Richards Goodyear were a bit more fortunate. They flew their DH4 (A7428) into a barbed wire fence not long after take off from Fienvillers. They survived and the aircraft was able to be rebuilt.