It has been four months since the German Air Service adopted the concept of the Jagdgeschwader, a larger formation than the Squadron which could be brought to bear on important sections of the front.
On the British side, Lieutenant-Colonel Felton Vesey Holt, commanding the Twenty-second (Army) Wing, had, in consultation with his squadron commanders, devised a scheme earlier in the year for the periodical employment of the maximum fighting strength of the Wing in ‘drives’ over the German back areas. The idea was to ‘net’ as many enemy airmen as possible, and the scheme was, therefore, only to be put into force if and when the German air service was sufficiently active to warrant an operation on such a scale. In the end, the scheme was not put into effect.
Today however, the RFC adopted many of the features in a raid on Rumbeke aerodrome. 45 aeroplanes took part, including 11 Sopwith Camels from 70 Squadron each carrying two 25-lb. bombs, 8 Camels from the same squadron in close escort; 19 Camels from 28 Squadron supporting from the rear to attack German aircraft which left the griound; and seven SPADs from 23 Squadron to act as a high offensive patrol to cover the whole operation.
The attack was successful. Twenty-two bombs were dropped from a height of four hundred feet : some of them fell among aeroplanes lined up on the landing ground, and blew one of them to pieces ; another bomb burst inside a hangar, but the remainder fell just by the hangars and sheds. The bombing pilots then flew about the aerodrome firing at the personnel and into the hangars and buildings. This machine-gun attack was made at an average height of about twenty feet.
Meanwhile, the escorting pilots of 70 Squadron and the patrol of 28 Squadron were having many combats within sight of the aerodrome.
Four German single-seaters were shot down out of control by the former and three by the latter. The operation was rounded off by machine-gun attacks, on the homeward journey, on troops playing games, on horse-transport, and on a troop train, into the windows of which a pilot of 70 Squadron fired from a height of fifty feet. Two aeroplanes of 70 Squadron were lost. These were 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Burt Farquharson in B2370 and Captain John Robert Wilson in B6352. Farquharson was taken prisoner but Wilson was killed. There were no other British casualties as a result of the raid.
Frederick Burt Farqaharson was an American who had joined the RFC through Canada. He went on to be a professor of Civil Engineering at Washington University specialising in aerodynamics and was one of those tasked with the investigation of the vertical oscillations on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge shortly before its collapse in 1940. He appears in the famous film of the bridge before its collapse.
The War diary of John Robert Wilson is also available.