Tag Archives: 70 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.

27 October 1917 – Rhys-Davies Killed

Lieutenant, Arthur Percival Foley Rhys-Davies DSO, the 56 Squadron ace with 25 confirmed victories has been killed. A few weeks earlier, Rhys-Davies had been involved in the dogfight that saw the death of the German ace Werner Voss.

Fresh from receiving notification of his promotion to Lieutenant, he set off in SE5a B31 around 1035 for a patrol over Roulers. During the patrol, he was separated from

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Arthur Percival Foley Rhys-Davies

the rest of his flight when in typical fashion he set off in pursuit of a group of enemy Albatrosses.

He failed to return from the patrol and was posted as missing presumed dead. It was not until 29 December 1917 that a report came through from the German side that he had been shot down and killed. Post war research suggests that Karl Gallwitz from Jasta 2 is the most likely candidate for this victory.

The exact site of Rhys-Davies crash is unknown but was most likely between the lines as his body and aircraft were never recovered. He was posthumously awarded the DSO.

It was not a good day for the RFC and RNAS as a further seven crew were killed and three taken prisoner. In addition to this 5 more were killed in training accidents back in England.

Those killed in action were:

  • 2nd Lieutenant George Page Bradley, 43 Squadron RFC
  • 1st Class Air Mechanic  William Malcolm Goldsmith, 10 Squadron RFC
  • Probationary Flight Officer George Heaven Morang, 10(Naval) Squadron
  • 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Ivor Phillips, 45 Squadron RFC
  • 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Willibrod Primeau, 70 Squadron RFC
  • 2nd Lieutenant John Henry Sanders , 59 Squadron RFC
  • Lieutenant William Bernard Sherwood, 60 Squadron RFC
  • Lieutenant Ronald John Santa White, 48 Squadron RFC

Those taken prisoner were

  • 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Arthur Cartledge, 28 Squadron RFC
  • Lieutenant Richard James Eardley Percy Goode, 70 Squadron RFC
  • 2nd Lieutenant Sidney Lunn Whitehouse, 19 Squadron RFC

Those killed in accidents were:

  • 1st Class Air Mechanic  W Eastwood, In training
  • Leading Mechanic Walter Fairnie, R.N. Air Station (Yarmouth)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Fleet, In training
  • 2nd Lieutenant Charles William Homer, 25 Training Squadron
  • 2nd Lieutenant Leslie Sidney Hudson, 49 Squadron RFC
  • 2nd Lieutenant John Harold Keeble, 49 Squadron RFC
  • Flight Sub Lieutenant Charles Herman Macneil, In training
  • 2nd Lieutenant Douglas Mcgill, 25 Training Squadron
  • Flight Sub Lieutenant Peter George Shepherd, RNAS

20th October 1917 – Massive attacks

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.

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.

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.