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.
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.