The poor weather continued for much of the day on the Western Front, but started to clear by the evening. As is becoming common these days due to the presence of almost half of the German air strength in the area, a mass dogfight ensued over the Ypres Salient around 1915 and carried on for some two hours.
The fight developed when two flights from 56 Squadron RFC attacked a group of German scouts, and were joined by flights from 19, 66 and 70 Squadrons RFC, and 10 Naval Squadron. Other German scouts from Jastas 11 and 27 then joined in. The Official History suggests there were more than 90 aircraft involved! Despite the size, or perhaps because of it, much of the fighting was indecisive with only one pilot on each side killed.
Early in the combat Captain Noel William Ward Webb in Camel B3756 from 70 Squadron shot down an Albatross with Jasta 11’s Leutnant Otto Brauneck on board. Brauneck crashed near Zonnebeck and was killed. Webb reported:
“There were about 6 EA below me and on the way back to lines I dived on the leading machine, letting off a burst of about 50 rounds. I saw the EA wobble and then fall plane over plane and finally spin. Later, I thought I saw this EA crashed on the ground”
Around the same time, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Cecil Smith in Camel B3814 from the same squadron also claimed an Albatros out of control, though this could not be confirmed. Smith’s aircraft was also badly shot up but he was uninjured.
Captain Gerald Joseph Constable Maxwell and 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Monteagle Barlow from 56 Squadron both claimed enemy aircraft forced down. Shortly after this their Flight Commander Captain Phillip Bernard Prothero was killed when the wing of his SE5’s (A8925) wing collapsed. Vitfeldwebel Alfred Muth from Jasta 27 claimed this but Barlow and Webb reported the aircraft breaking up in a dive. Webb stated:
Philip Bernard Prothero
‘Early in the operation I saw a red nosed SE5 diving on an EA. The pilot seemed to me to dive his machine over the vertical and then both planes on one side folded back and the machine descended in a spinning nose dive.’
2nd Lieutenant A Wearne from 19 Squadron was taken prisoner when his rudder cable was shot through and unable to steer he landed at Faumont aerodrome escorted in by 3 Albatrosses.
As the combat came to a close, Lieutenant James Thomas Byford McCudden flying Sopwith Pup B1756 from 66 Squadron also claimed an Albatross Scout out of control. It was his second and last victory in the Pup before switching to the SE5a.