Tag Archives: 70 Squadron RFC

9 September 1917 – Three and Out

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Clive Franklyn Collett

The foggy weather hindered most of the flying on the Western Front today, although by the later afternoon this had cleared.

At around 1705, a patrol from 70 Squadron RFC engaged several enemy aircraft between Gheluvelt and Houthulst. Flight Commander Captain Clive Franklyn Collett was flying Sopwith Camel B2341. His combat report stated:

“We patrolled as instructed between Gheluvelt and Houthulst Forest. When over Gheluvelt at 5.10 p.m. we attacked three 2-seater enemy aircraft and after a short exchange of shots two made off in an easterly direction. The formation engaged the remaining machine hotly and I got off a good burst at him. Lt. Saward also fired off on this machine and it went down entirely out of control. We did not see it crash as it disappeared in the haze.

The formation then patrol up to Houthulst where three more 2-seater enemy aircraft were engaged at 5.25. I got onto the tail of one of these and drove him down from 10,000 feet to 4,000 feet. The machine was entirely out of control with smoke coming from the fuselage and from 4,000 feet I saw this machine crash north-east of Houthulst Forest.

I crossed the lines at 4,000 feet and climbed to rejoin my formation. I picked up on the remainder of the formation at 5.40 and we then patrolled again towards Houthulst Forest. I saw two enemy aircraft beyond Houthulst towards Roulers.

I heard a machine sitting on my tail and turned round and saw the rest of the formation engaged with a large number of enemy aircraft. I got onto the tail of one and emptied one gun into the fuselage at short range. I followed this machine down and saw it turn over and crash. The machine was not entirely out of control as the pilot made an effort to land it, so I shut off my engine and then flew straight at him, put a long burst into him as he lay on the ground; the machine burst into flames.

I was then attacked by three enemy aircraft and flew along at about 30 feet over Houthulst Forest so the machine gunners could not place me. The enemy aircraft sat on my tail and continued firing at me though I manoeuvred as much as possible.

I crossed the trenches at 40 feet and returned home as I was wounded in the hand by one of the enemy aircraft.”

Three of these were credited, bringing Collett’s Score to 12. But that was it. In the end the wound to hand was severe enough that he was grounded for 2 months. He was eventually killed on 24 December 1917 testing a captured Albatross.

Lieutenant Norman Cuthbert Saward was unfortunately taken prisoner when his Sopwith Camel (B3916 ) crashed behind enemy lines.

Also during the combat, 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Weightman was severely wounded in a combat with two Albatross scouts. He did however manage to force the aircraft of Leutnant Ludwig Luer, from Jasta 27 to crash. Luer escaped with minor injuries.

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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.

17 July 1917 – 70 Squadron mauled

The weather was poor for much of the day on the Western Front, but in the evening some patrols were able to get up. German aircraft were also out in Force.

The biggest fight of the day came about when a patrol of five Sopwith Camels from 70 Squadron encountered an enemy scout which they drove down. They then engaged a formation of six 2-seaters with Captain Noel William Ward Webb, Lieutenant Joseph Cecil Smith and Lieutenant Edward Gribbin each claiming to have sent one down.

They were then attacked by Albatros scouts from above and  a 5 strong patrol from B flight 56 Squadron led by Captain Ian Henry David Henderson came to their aid. They were then joined  by 8 FE’s from 20 Squadron (led by Captain Frank Douglas Stevens) along with DH5’s from 32 Squadron. Further German scouts joined in until there were around 30 enemy aircraft (from Jastas 6, 8, 11 and 36).

Despite the number of aircraft involved the fighting was relatively indecisive. A large number of claims by the British side actually resulted in only three German pilots being wounded.

70 Squadron lost two of their new Camels. Lieutenant William Edington Grossett was shot down and taken prisoner in Camel N6332. Lieutenant Charles Service Workman MC was shot down and severely wounded in Camel B3779. He later died of his wounds.

 

8 May 1917 – Soft Strutters

Flying was curtailed today due to poor weather.

There were no casualties from enemy aircraft today, although 2nd Lieutenant HR Parry From 40 Squadron RFC was forced to land his Nieuport Scout (B1541) after the petrol tank was holed from the ground. 2nd Lieutenant William Thomas Walder also from 40 Squadron bodged a landing, coming down on one wheel and then putting another Nieuport Scout (A6785) on its nose.

A variety of other mishaps wrecked three Sopwith Strutters. 2nd Lieutenant Charles Henry Harriman and 2nd Lieutenant William Stuart Cattell from 43 Squadron crashed 8232 on landing from gun practice. Sergeant G Skinner and 2nd Class Air Mechanic A Giles from 70 Squadron also crashed 8211 following an engine failure on a reconnaissance mission. Lieutenant John Ross Robertson from 66 Squadron overturned A6154 when he made a forced landing on soft ground following an offensive patrol.

Luckily none of these crewmen were hurt.

4 May 1917 – Murdered

70 Squadron conducted a reconnaissance of the new German aerodromes around Tournai some 35km behind the lines. They were attacked over Tournai and had to fight their way back to British lines. During the fighting, Sergeant Skinner and Lieutenant Kenneth Arthur Seth-Smith claimed to have shot down an Albatross, though no German losses were recorded.

Lieutenant Dudley George Antoine Allen and Lieutenant Benjamin Lester Franklin (in Sopwith Strutter A2431 were shot down by Leutnant Wiessner also from Jasta 18. Allen was able to get back over the lines but force landed at Ballieu. Franklin was already dead.

2nd Lieutenant Valentine Howard Adams and 2nd Lieutenant Ivan Lapwith Pinson in Sopwith Strutter A1001 were shot down by Walter Göttsch from Jasta 18. They apparently suffered engine trouble and were forced to land near Lincelles, under control according to their wingmen. What happened next remained a mystery for some months.

Over the next 19 months various letters were sent to and from the Red Cross in Geneva, the War Office London, the Air Ministry, Central Prisoners of War Committee and the family in Australia and London.

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Valentine Howard Adams 

Eventually a number of eye-witness accounts turned up, taken by local French policemen with a local housekeeper, a labourer, a young woman, a farmer and a coachman who were all near the scene as the plane glided down.

They reported that as the plane landed, some German soldiers encamped at a nearby farm made towards the plane. Adams was seen to drag the body of his comrade from the aeroplane and then set fire to the machine. The German soldiers arrived at the scene and shot Adams dead as he tried to surrender. German officers arrived at the site and made the men cease firing and took Pinson) to hospital where he died the next day.

 

24 April 1917 – 66 and 9

The action in the air continued with the offensive on the ground. Seven British aircraft were shot down with eight crew killed, 5 wounded and 2 taken prisoner. The British also claimed 36 enemy aircraft forced down or shot down though in the event the Germans only confirmed 2 wounded and 2 killed.

The big operation of the day was a combined reconnaissance and bombing mission to Le Quesnoy and Landrecies. A distant reconnaissance by nine Sopwith Strutters from 70 Squadron accompanied by six Sopwith Pups from 66 Squadron failed due to low cloud and on the way back the formation was attacked over Solesmesby six Halberstadts. One of the two-seater Sopwiths was shot down in flames and one of the escorting pilots was forced to land and was made prisoner.

2nd Lieutenant Clive Harold Halse and 2nd Air Mechanic William J Bond from 70 Squadron in Sopwith Strutter (A1002) were shot down by Leutnant Fritz Otto Bernert from Jasta 2.

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Robert Stanley Capon

2nd Lieutenant Robert Stanley Capon from 66 Squadron got separated from the formation and shot down by Oberleutnant Heinrich Lorenz from Jasta 33 in Sopwith Pup A6175. He crashed near Cambrai and was taken prisoner. Three of his colleagues were also shot but managed to escape back over the lines – 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Myer Marsh in Sopwith Pup A670, Captain Robert Oxspring in Sopwith Pup A7305, and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Charles Morley in Sopwith Pup A6152.

The bombing formations, which followed, fared better. Five Martinsydes from 27 Squadron each dropped one 230-lb. bomb in the neighbourhood of the sheds at Ath Station. The three escorting SPADs had a brief indecisive encounter with two Albatros two-seaters on the outward journey, but there was no other opposition.

Bernert then flew south to engage a 6 strong bombing formation from 9 Squadron returning from a raid on Busigny and shot three of them down. Lieutenant Charles Lee Graves in BE2e A2941, Lieutenant Frank Arthur Matthews in BE2e A2937, and Lieutenant George Edward Hicks in BE2e 7195. Graves and Matthews were killed and Hicks was taken prisoner.

25 March 1917 – 70 Squadron annihilated

Despite the losses yesterday, 70 Squadron was sent out again at dawn to reconnoitre Cambrai to determine the extent of the German withdrawal. Six Sopwith Strutters set off and one returned (A956) with engine trouble to report the rest were engaged over Cambrai by 9 enemy scouts from Jastas 5 and 6. In the end, they were the lucky ones as the other six were shot down and the 12 crew killed.

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Eric Joseph Henderson

 

Those killed were:

  • Lieutenant Charles Stewart Vane-Tempest and 2nd Lieutenant Fred Allinson MC (7763) claimed by Leutnant Karl Deilmann from Jasta 6
  • Capt Eric Joseph Henderson MC and 2nd Lieutenant John Moir Sim (A2986) claimed by Leutnant Heinrich Gontermann from Jasta 5

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    John Moir Sim

  • 2nd Lieutenant Harry Butler and Lieutenant Leslie Archibald Norris (A884) claimed by Vitzfeldwebel Häussler from Jasta 5
  • Lieutenant John Stephen Cooper and 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Norman MacQueen (A954) claimed by Edmund Nathanael from, Jasta 5

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    Alexander Norman MacQueen

  • Lieutenant Leonard Stanley Ward-Price and Lieutenant Harry Athelstan Chuter (A958) claimed by Paul Hoppe from Jasta 5.