Tag Archives: 56 Squadron RFC

18 November 1917 – Variety

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William Reynolds Cutler

The fact that flying is a dangerous business, even before the enemy start firing at you, is well known at this point. Training and accidents remain a significant source of casualties. Today is a case in point.

11 (Army) Wing, suffered two casualties. 2nd Lieutenant George Alec Cranswick from 23 Squadron RFC is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile 2nd Lieutenant William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

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Similarly, 2nd Lieutenant William Somerville McLaren and 2nd Lieutenant David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down in flames. McLaren jumped from the plane and was killed. Hardie was badly burned and later died of his wounds.

 

2nd Lieutenant John Patrick Waters from 56 Squadron was killed when his SE5a (B502) disintegrated after getting into a spin during a practice flight.

As well as these deaths, there were another four pilots injured from engine failures of various kinds.

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18 November 1917 – Variety

The fact that flying is a dangerous business, even before the enemy start firing at you, is well known at this point. Training and accidents remain a significant source of casualties. Today is a case in point.

11 (Army) Wing, suffered two casualties. 2nd Lieutenant George Alec Cranswick from 23 Squadron is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

Similarly, 2Lt William Somerville McLaren and 2Lt David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down and killed.

2nd L John Patrick Waters from 56 Squadron was killed when his SE5a (B502) disintegrated after getting into a spin during a practice flight.

As well as these deaths, there were another four pilots injured from engine failures of various kinds.

18 October 1917 – The cost of intelligence

  • An Airman: Lieut R T C Hoidge, MC

    For once the weather on the Western Front was good and 57 Squadron RFC were sent up to take advantage and carry out photographic reconnaissance of the Ypres area accompanied by some SE5a’s from 84 Squadron. They were in turn attacked by Jasta 27. At this point, C Flight from 56 Squadron RFC led by Captain Geoffrey Hilton Bowman came to their assistance. In the ensuing dogfight, Lieutenant Geoffrey Beville Shone from 56 Squadron was shot down in his SE5a (B588) by Leutnant Helmuth Dilthey from Jasta 27. Shone was badly wounded and later died from his injuries. Jasta 37 also appeared in the area and Leutant Ernst Udet shot down 2nd Lieutenant Stanley Miles Park from 84 Squadron in his SE5a (B546). He was taken prisoner.

    John Driffield Gilbert

    Shortly after this, 56 Squadron joined 4 SPADs fighting four 2-seaters, but they were attacked from above by 2 enemy scouts. They cleared west and came back going after two 2-seaters: Lieutenant Reginald Theodore Carlos Hoidge shot down one with a full drum of Lewis and 100 Vickers from 20 yards. Hoidge was then attacked by an Albatros scout which was driven off by Captain Bowman. Hoidge and Lieutenant John Driffield Gilbert then combined to send the other 2-seater down. Hoidge had to drive an Albatros off Lieutenant Gilbert’s tail in process. What then became of Gilbert is unknown but he failed to return from the patrol and was assumed dead.

    After all this 57 Squadron escaped unscathed and the photographic mission was successful.

10 October 1917 – Berthold downed

Rudolph Berthold

The weather remained poor on the Western Front today to the extent that flying was only possible intermittently. The commander of Jasta 18, Leutnant Rudolph Berthold may have wished he had stayed on the ground. He was leading a ten strong flight late in the afternoon when they came across a formation of Bristol F2bs and Se5a’s from 5, 22 and 56 Squadron RFC and A Squadron RNAS.

Gerald Joseph Constable Maxwell

At the end of the combat Berthold had been shot down with a smashed upper right arm. A number of claims were made that day by British pilots in the area. Lieutenant William Geoffrey Meggitt and Arthur George J Whitehouse from 22 Squadron claimed an Albatross Scout destroyed. Captain Gerald Joseph Constable Maxwell from 56 Squadron also reported ‘..I got on to one EA’s tail and fired a drum of Lewis and about 100 rounds Vickers at very close range. EA went down very steeply and I lost sight of him…’
There are a number of competing claims for the victory but the prevailing wisdom currently is that Maxwell is the most likely candidate (See the discussion on the Aerodrome Forum).

Leutnant Otto Schober was also forced down with a shot up radiator but was otherwise unharmed.

Also lost in the combat was 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Miles Wilkinson from 56 Squadron who was shot down in his SE5a (B23) by Xaver Dannhuber from Jasta 26.

Berthold overcame the handicap of half-severed ailerons and remained conscious long enough to land one-handed at Jasta 18’s home airfield. He passed out after his arrival. He was rushed to the field hospital who were able to keep him alive. He was later sent, due tot influence of his older sister Franziska to the Berlin clinic of Doctor August Bier, who pioneered use of cocaine in spinal anesthesia. Berthold remained in hospital for four months. His arm never recovered but amazingly he recovered sufficiently to fly again in combat, one-handed, in May 1918.

 

 

Rudolph Berthold 5 Squadron RFC, 22 Squadron RFC, 6 Squadron RFC, A Squadron RNAS. William Geoffrey Meggitt, Arthur George J Whitehouse, Gerald Joseph Constable Maxwell, Otto Schober, Geoffrey Miles Wilkinson, 56 Squadron RFC, Xaver Dannhuber, Jasta 26, Jasta 18.

 

14 September 1917 – Tinkerman

James McCudden started his career with the Royal Engineers in 1910 before transferring to the RFC in 1913 as an Air Mechanic. He spent the next two years as a mechanic and part time unofficial observer. His application for flying training was turned down, apparently because he was such a good mechanic that his squadron (£ Squadron RFC) did not want to lose him. It wasn’t until January 1916 that his request for flying training was granted. He passed his flying certificate in April 1916 and eventually joined 20 Squadron RFC in July 1916. After serving with various Squadrons, he was posted to 56 Squadron RFC on 13 August, flying the SE5a. He was immediately appointed commander of B Flight.

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McCudden seated in an SE5a

It is clear that McCudden’s mechanical leanings never left him and he spent much time fine tuning his aircraft and guns. He went through all the squadron’s fitters before settling on a team of Alex J. Gray, Corporal Tom Rogers and Corporal Bert Card. After his machine (B519) was shot up on 5 September following another gun jam, he got a new SE5a (B4863). He then spent the next three days stripping down his machine guns and synchonising gear and making various test flights.

As this aircraft wasn’t ready to his satisfaction, this evening, he took up B4863 on patrol with his flight. He was unlucky again as his guns jammed as he attacked an Albatross DV, piloted by Oberleutnant Ernst Wiegand from Jasta 10. He was able to escape and crash-land wounded in German territory. Since his crash was not witnessed McCudden’s claim went uncredited.

Also in the combat, 2nd Lieutenant Norman Howard Crow in B516 was shot down by Vitzfeldwebel Carl Menckhoff from Jasta 3.

27 July 1917 – Lure

Another large clash took place this evening over Polygon Wood on the Western Front. This time, however, it was at the instigation of the British who laid a trap to entice enemy fighters. A formation of eight FE2d’s from 20 Squadron RFC set out to patrol over Menin, with orders to attract and decoy enemy fighters towards Polygon Wood, where layered formations of single-seaters, 59 aircraft in total, chiefly from the Ninth Wing, were patrolling in readiness.

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Frank Potter

The FE2d’s crossed the lines at 1915and proceeded without incident to Menin, where shortly afterwards some twenty Albatros Scouts gathered. The FE pilots were soon involved in a fight, but skilfully lured the enemy north-west towards Polygon Wood. Within a short time a general fight was in progress, in which all the British formations in the area, some French fighters, and additional enemy single-seaters, took part.

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Karl von Schonebeck

The fighting went on for an hour and at the end it the German aircraft had been completely cleared from the sky over a wide area. The 20 Squadron FE2d pilots claimed six enemy aeroplanes destroyed. Lieutenant Harold Waddell Joslyn and Sergeant Frank Potter were wounded when their FE2d (A6415) was hit by anti aircraft fire. They escaped back to their aerodrome but crashed when their undercarriage collapsed on landing.

Triplanes from 10 Naval Squadron claimed two enemy aircraft, and SE5’s from 56 Squadron destroyed one. 2nd Lieutenant Trevor Watts White from 56 Squadron RFC was shot down and taken prisoner in his SE5 (A8911) north-east of Roulers. He later commented:

“…being intent on getting a ‘Gerry’ , and staying with him far too long, I was jumped. I was dead lucky, with only a scalp wound, but my engine caught it, with the result that I had to land in a field near Iseghem. One of Richtofen’s pilots landed in the same field, apparently the one who had shot me down. I was taken away to Richtofen’s squadron for a meal….My treatment, by the pilot who claimed me, at the squadron, and at Ingelmunster, was most chivalrous…Like a lot of pilots, I was too raw in experience to have survived longer on operations.”

Leutnant Günther Ziegler from Jasta 26 claimed victory. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gerald Roach from 10 Naval Squadron was shot down and killed in his Triplane N5492. Aircraft crashed near Moorslede and his body could not be recovered.  Leutnant Karl von Schonebeck from Jasta 11 claimed his first victory.

26 July 1917 – Massed dogfights

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.

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Otto Brauneck

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:

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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.