This is an extract from the now out of print autobiography of Lt Colonel Louis Strange, "Recollections of an Airman". Strange commanded the 80th Wing RAF with which the two Australian Flying Corps scout squadrons were attached, 2 Sqn AFC and 4 Sqn AFC. In this extract he describes the Australian squadrons in the air and on the ground and the techniques he used to get the best out of the Australian pilots. Strange is probably best known for hanging from a jammed Lewis gun drum in an upside down spinning Martinsyde. He survived by kicking his way back into the cockpit, in doing so smashing the instruments and putting the seat through the floor.
The Australian Squadrons
Nos. 2 and 4 Squadrons of The Australian Flying Corps need no praise of mine for their work in the summer of 1918. Their records show that they were the finest material as an attacking force in the air, just as their infantry divisions on the ground were the best that the war produced on either side.
It became the practice for our Australian Squadrons to lead the 80th Wing's bombing raids. When later in the year over a hundred machines set out on one of them, the spearpoint was always formed of Australian Airmen, led by an Australian. Major McCloughry[McClaughry], Major Murray-Jones, Capt Cobby, and Capt King are the names I remember best, but the others that were equally famous have slipped my memory for the moment.
In individual squadron fighting these Australians had no equals in their best days, and more than once they raised the record for numbers of enemy aircraft destroyed in one day by any squadron. The secret of their success was, in my opinion mainly due to their sense of initiative, which they inherited from ancestors who had been cattlemen, sheep-ranchers, poachers, trappers, outriders, overland post and transport drivers. You only need to read the tales of the early Australian Settlers to realize the conditions under which these men grew.
They had to fend for themselves against known and unknown dangers in the wide, open, lonely spaces of the continent. It was nothing to them to be in the saddle for days and days when crossing mountain ranges. deserts, or forests; their sense of direction never faltered on these long trails, and they were equally at home when cutting out their cattle at a round-up or shooting the rapids in a canoe. In fact, they were all good scouts, and what ideal training their life in their native country gave them for work in the air!
On the ground I must admit this same sense of initiative proved a source of much trouble to their superiors at times. It was impossible to convince an Australian that a nice piano in a deserted and half looted house was loot if he decided to take care of it temporarily without troubling to find and get permission from the absentee owner. It also might have been insulting to hint at cattle-stealing ancestry, but when we others were existing on tinned milk, the Australians always had their own fresh milk from their own two cows and a spare lorry to transport the cows whenever a move had to be made. Moreover, these cows always had calves with great regularity. Of course, it would have been bad form to question the origin of the new piano, the cows and the calves which they had invited a Wing Commander to see. These accessories meant so much to the amenity of their life on the ground and so the Wing Commander could only let them get away with it, even though he knew it was his pidgeon if anyone raised awkward inquires.
Nevertheless, we had our differences of opinion at times. One of them was due to the unofficial use of service cameras, and another time there was the trouble over the bartering of rations with the local inhabitants. No one minds the swapping of a tin of bully beef for a few fresh eggs, of course, but a Wing Commander has to draw the line somewhere when he finds one of his Australian Squadrons running the village grocers shop and general store. Even so, my Australians were discreet enough in the way they went about their business, so that I might have ignored it, had it not been for the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages. When the latter got to hear of the bargains, they turned our place into a sort of fair and market on Sundays, and so I was compelled to put my foot down.
I do not want this to be considered a reflection on Australian discipline, which was good - good enough in fact, to ensure the highest efficiency in their work, but it was a different standard of discipline to that in force in our own squadrons. I cannot put down Tom Purdey's remarks about the combat reports sent in by these Australian Squadrons; suffice to say that they were couched in such language which would have shocked the sedate officials of the War Office, but the number of victories they related covered a multitude of sins.
Taking it all round, we got on amazingly well with our Australians, and from the day they joined the 80th Wing I would not have exchanged them for any other squadrons on the western front. Perhaps I have some sheep-stealing and cattle-lifting ancestors, whose blood gives me a sneaking sympathy with their habits of feloniously purloining anything they take a fancy to.
I learnt to value them for their wonderful sense of direction. In spite of all that is said about navigation and map reading as aids to aviation, it is a great thing to have squadron leaders who can take their formations safely home in thick weather by that so called "sixth sense". You need that extra quality badly when you have to break out of a dog fight suddenly with a failing engine and every second saved may mean the difference between landing on our side of the lines and coming down in Hunland, especially if visibility is too bad for you to spot that river or wood on your map and a bullet has smashed your compass. Those Australians were natural pathfinders; they did not need to look at a bush twice to know where it was the next time they saw it. Having flown once over a tract of country on a clear day, they would think you deserved all you got if you failed to know your whereabouts the next time you came that way just because it was a bit foggy, and I suppose they were right.
I often used to think of Murray Jones and his squadron as the sheriff and his posse going out to catch some bushrangers who had been reported to be stealing horses and cattle in the neighbourhood, and if matters became desperate - as they did with us later on - searching them out in their lairs, burning their strongholds, and giving them no quarter. They were uncommunicative folk, for they always had some plan or other that had to be kept a secret. Whether they thought the enemy would get wind of their schemes if they discussed them too openly or whether they preferred to hush up possibilities of failures, I cannot tell, but the result was always the same - they never advertised their intentions.
I often wondered what was in Cobby's mind when he went off on his own in the dark, a good hour before the dawn patrol was due to start. In all probability he was spying out the land - sitting high above von Leutzer's aerodrome and waiting to see how many machines were being run out on the tarmac by the other side for their dawn patrols. Then he would pass on the numbers by signal to his own squadron when he met them over the appointed rendezvous, after which they would go back to Recklingham for more petrol and warn Murray Jones that there were plenty about that morning.
But sometimes he was out to play the lone hand. The mechanics, pilots and observers at Fives or Lomme would be too busy seeing to the machines on the tarmac that were to take them up for the dawn patrol, and so they failed to notice the high pitched note of the Clerget and the screaming wires of Cobby's Camel as he streaked down on them from the first glimmer of dawn in the east to pour out a stream of lead from his two Vickers guns and release his twenty-pound bombs. Just a momentary vision of destruction he was; then he would disappear again into the still murky west, leaving behind him one or two machines in flames, some bits and pieces of two or three more on which his bombs had got home, and a number of dead and wounded foeman on the hard cinder track in front of the hangars.
In short when an Australian Squadron went out to fight, someone had to suffer or else the business was not worthwhile, and the Australians were not going to be sufferers if they knew anything about it. It was the old game of getting the first blow in at a time when the other fellow was not looking for it.
They continually laid traps in the air; you could depend on it that the simplest-looking Australian patrol was part of some scheme or other. If, for instance, they decided to attack a balloon, it was a dead certainty that you would find a party of them high above the assailant, watching out with eager eyes for any misguided Huns who might be foolish enough to interfere with him and thus lay themselves open to sudden deadly streams of lead. They used to take it in turns to attack balloons, and when you sent one down in flames you earned an extra turn, but they never made a habit of indulging in balloon hunts everyday, for that would have given the Hun time to get a surprise packet ready for them. They had plenty of variations to keep themselves amused and the enemy annoyed; his trains, for example, were continually interrupted on their journeys by Australian airmen and always in a different part of the line. Another playful little trick of theirs was to attack an enemy aerodrome in the evening, just when its machines were being put away for the night and the light was fading too quickly for any chance of pursuit.
In fact, Nos 2 and 4 AFC, were past masters in the art of guerrilla warfare, but it was only by becoming one of themselves, so to speak, that I could manage to adapt Wing Routine Orders to suit the methods and at the same time satisfy the demands made from higher up. Consequently I spent a good deal of time with my Australians, and my admiration for them increased daily.
I found that there was little chance of them getting rattled by persistent ill-luck or a series of heavy losses. Likewise there was no fear of their morale deteriorating from the monotony of routine work, because, given a sufficiently free hand, they could be relied on to take care that it did not become monotonous. "We came all the way from down under to help you win the war." their actions seemed to say, "and we're in a hurry to get back again, so just leave things to us, because we know what is good for ourselves and bad for Fritz."
Lieut-General (Now Field Marshall) Sir William Birdwood, who commanded the Australian Division at the time, often used to come round to Recklingham aerodrome and tell us all about the doings of other Australian units in the field. But I think his real motive was to glean the news and successes of those wonderful Australian Pilots who were making history and establishing a tradition that will never fade as long as Australia has an Air Force.
Lt Colonel Louis Strange
The RE8 was the most widely used of the Corps and Army squadrons in the British and Australian services through 1917 and 1918. Despite its less than scintillating performance, the aircraft was workman-like and used effectively by the aircrew who manned it. The Australian Flying Corps used the RE8 in No.1, No.3 and No.7 Squadrons.
Design and Development
The Reconnaissance Experimental 8 (RE8) was designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory to replace the BE2. It had many of the innovations that had come from aerial warfare, and the lessons learned over the Western Front in 1916 and 1916. The RE8 had a more powerful engine, the observer was situated behind the pilot with a machine gun to defend the rear of the aircraft. In addition the RE8 was designed to be very stable, so the observer could carry out their tasks with minimal interference from a pitching, yawing and rolling aircraft.
The stability of the RE8 didn't extend to its landing characteristics. It was a difficult aircraft to land at stalling speed, as the torque of the big propeller would cause the aircraft to yaw dangerously to the right. This was controlled by rudder, but caused much concern amongst new pilots to the aircraft. Richard Williams commented, that despite its bad name in this respect, No.1 squadron never had a problem with its landing behaviour and found it a very pleasant aircraft to fly. Williams wrote;
It came to us with a reputation for spinning into the ground soon after take-off but that was not our experience, nor that of No.3 Squadron.
Despite this, No.42 Squadron RFC designed and implemented a larger tailplane. It is believed that these plans and drawings were used by other squadrons, in particular training squadrons, who modified their RE8s with larger tailplanes. It also appears from different photographs, that many squadrons used the BE tailplane as the starting point to expand the area of the RE8 tailplane. Williams also noted other innovations that came with the RE8;
This aircraft had good inherent lateral stability from its dihedral and it was fitted with an adjustable tailplane; we had not had this facility previously.
Even with this, Williams found the RE8 lacking in performance, and unable to compete with the German Albatros or Rumpler aircraft for air superiority in the Palestinian skies. Williams sent the RE8s out in pairs so they could support each other, or gave them Martinsyde escorts.
Over four thousand RE8s were built. They served in eighteen Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force Squadrons. The RE8 served in two operational Australian Flying Corps squadrons, and one training squadron.
No.1 Squadron AFC
A total of ten RE8s served with No.1 Squadron, alongside their Martinsydes and odd BE12. The first RE8 was received on the 17th of October, 1917 and went to A Flight. One of the ten was lost over German lines, when the aircraft of Lieutenant J.D.S. Potts and Lieutenant V.J. Parkinson, B5854 was lost in a mid-air collision with an aircraft from No.113 Squadron RAF.
Another RE8 was struck off charge after a terrifying landing accident that involved Lieutenant E.P. Kenny and Lieutenant F. Hancock. Their RE8 hit a telegraph wire that had been strung up between telegraph poles at the approach to the Nuran aerodrome. The aircraft flipped, destroying itself. Thankfully Kenny and Hancock were unharmed. Joe Bull recorded the crash in his diary;
No.5853 ended her career this evening just after dark. She was coming in from a recco a bit late and he forgot about the telephone lines which are near the aerodrome and struck a telegraph pole and made a fearful crash. The engine broke away from the machine. I was almost afraid to go over to them as I expected to find a tangled mass but strange to say neither the pilot, Lieutenant Kenny or the observer Lieutenant Hancock were hurt though the machine was in ruins and was facing the way he came in having done a sort of somersault.
The RE8s claimed three victories, a pair of Out of Control claims by the crew of Austin and Finley on the 29th of November 1917 during a combat with an Albatros in which a Bristol Fighter of No.111 Squadron RAF drove the Albatros away. On the 3rd of January, 1918, the crew of Captain A.R. Brown and Lieutenant O.M. Lee in RE8 A3796 forced down an Albatros out of control near Arras.
Once the Bristol Fighters began to arrive at No.21 Squadron the RE8s were handed back to the aircraft park, or handed over to 5th Wing for the British corps squadrons being formed in the Middle East. The last RE8 was handed over to the 5th Wing on February 11th, 1918.
No.7 Squadron AFC
No.7 Squadron was formed as one of four training squadrons to be based in England and to ensure a steady supply of trained, competent air and ground crew to the three Australian Flying Corps squadrons in France. No.7 Squadron was for the training of pilots and observers for No.3 Squadron AFC. As a result they had a large complement of RE8 aircraft. Twenty different RE8s served with No.7 Squadron, alongside BE2s, Airco DH6s, Avro 504s and Bristol Fighters. No.7 Squadron adopted a boomerang marking, which was often replicated on the fuselage and nose of the RE8s.
No.3 Squadron AFC
The RE8 was used extensively by No3 Squadron over a period of twelve operational months starting in September of 1917 with the squadron's deployment to France. The squadron had a total of one hundred and four RE8s serve with the squadron. This included the remarkable RE8, A4397, who, with Captain R.G. Francis as its pilot set a record on the Western Front with 440 hours and 147 across flights over the front lines. The squadron flew over 10,000 hours of operational flights, dropping 600 bombs, firing half a million rounds, and photographing one hundred and twenty square miles of German territory. The RE8s of No.3 Squadron were well used.
The Squadron despite being involved in high profile events such as fighting the Red Baron on the day of his death, or the Ghost RE8; were first and foremost a working squadron, doing long hours to support the Army in reconnaissance, artillery spotting, bombing and counter-attacks. They flew for over 10,000 hours during operations, they dropped 6000 bombs, fired half a million rounds of ammunition, photographed 120 squarre miles of enemy territory,
This record came at a cost, the squadron lost eleven aircraft, and their crews, over the lines. The squadron accounted for sixteen enemy aircraft destroyed, eight driven down out of control, and twenty-seven forced down. After the war, the squadron flew mail in their RE8s, throughout France and Belgium, until they were demobilised and returned home to Australia in 1919.
Capturing a Halberstadt
Lieutenant R.C. Armstrong and Lieutenant F.J. Mart of No.3 Sqdn were an exceptionally aggressive RE8 crew from a squadron that was well known on the Western Front, despite operated the RE8, for its aggressiveness in attacking German aircraft. On the 9th of June Armstrong and Mart were carrying out an artillery reconnaissance in RE8 D4689 near Abencourt when they spotted a German aircraft flying through allied artillery shells.
Armstrong headed to cut the Halberstadt off from its own lines, and unusually, despite a couple of feeble attempts to get past Armstrong and Mart, the Halberstadt allowed itself to be shepherded by Armstrong and Mart toward No.3 Squadron's aerodrome. The Halberstadt landed under guidance of the RE8, much to the shock of the squadron air and ground staff at the aerodrome. The crew and the aircraft were captured, earning a congratulations from General John Monash of the AIF.
Captain Lawrence Wackett had earned himself a name for engineering brilliance while with No.1 Squadron in the Middle East. During the March offensive in 1918, he was faced with the issue of how to get supplies of ammunition and food to rapidly advancing troops. Previously, low-flying aircraft had dropped boxes, which the troops then scrounged to try and find enough undamaged ammunition to continue fighting.
Wackett devised a reliable parachute delivery system that removed the wastage of dropping boxes. He demonstrated the system to senior officers at Villers Bocage while flying his own RE8, C4581 from No.3 Sqdn. Wackett was consistently dropping the parachuted boxes within an area of ten yards of the target, and without any damage to the containers, or their contents. When asked is this system could scale to support a major operation, Wackett answered without hesitation that is could.
Wackett oversaw the production of the dropping devices, the manufacture of parachutes, and the training of the crews for the operation. On the 4th of July, No.9 Squadron RAF delivered approximately ninety boxes of ammunition to front line troops - totalling somewhere near one hundred thousand rounds which were supplied to advance forces by air.
The design for the supply dropping system, and operational methodology was used by British and Australian forces throughout the rest of the war. Wackett was later recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross in September of 1918 when dropping supplies with his parachute system to isolated American troops near Bouvincourt.
Low Flying Through Fog
On the 24th of April, 1918, Lieutenant W.V. Herbert and observer, F.A. Sewell were performing reconnaissance over German lines near Corbie when the weather closed in. Initially Herbert tried to climb out of the pea-soup, but found his aircraft was losing height in a steep spiral. he shut off the engine to achieve level flight, but quickly saw the ground ahead of him, and fired the engine up quick-smart. Herbert flew at under fifteen feet, desperately trying to avoid ground obstructions - like trees and German batteries. While Herbert was madly trying to keep the aircraft from hitting anything, Sewell fired at anything he saw on the ground through the mist.
Eventually Herbert flew through a canopy of trees. A branch got stuck in the starboard aileron, jamming it tight. Herbert flew the aircraft above the fog into clear skies. In order to balance the aircraft while Herbert tried to work the branch loose with the joystick, Sewell climbed out onto the top wing of the RE8 to balance the flying attitude of the aircraft now that it had an immovable flying surface. Eventually Herbert got the branch to work free, and the pair flew home.
These kinds of acrobatics and daring were not unique to the Australian squadrons. One one occasion a British RE8 was struck by ground fire while over the German lines. One of the round holed the fuel tank of the RE8. The observer promptly climbed out onto the wing, and stuck his finger in the hole, preserving the petrol for the flight home. He flew like this until they were ready to land, where-in he jumped back into the rear seat.
The RE8 was known as a stable aircraft when flying, this led to one of the more unusual combats when the aircraft of Lieutenant J.L. Sandy and Sergeant H.F. Hughes' RE8 flew for many hours over the Western Front with its aircrew dead. It came to land in a field in France. Harry Wrigley tells the complete story in "The Battle Below";
Lieutenant J. L. Sandy, with Sergeant H. F. Hughes as observer, was engaged in observing fire for the 151st Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (8inch Howitzers). This work had been in progress for some thirty-five minutes when Lieutenant Sandy was attacked, between Deulemont and Armentieres, by a formation consisting of six Albatross D.5a Scouts. Lieutenant Sandy, refusing to dive away, turned and engaged the enemy and succeeded in bringing down one, which landed intact in our lines about a mile and a half north of Armentieres, the wounded pilot being taken prisoner by Infantry of the 21st Battalion, 2nd Australian Division.
Meanwhile, the unequal fight continued, and another R.E.8 aircraft of the squadron, piloted by Lieutenant E. J. Jones, with Lieutenant K- C. Hodgson as observer, seeing Lieutenant Sandy so hotly engaged, went to his assistance, with the result that the enemy aircraft withdrew to their own lines. Lieutenant Jones flew round close to the other R.E.8 aircraft and identified it by its number as Lieutenant Sandy's aircraft. About this time a third aircraft of No. 69 Squadron, piloted by Lieutenant H. N. Wrigley, with Lieutenant J. R. Blair as observer, came upon the scene and, to the crews of both these aircraft, Lieutenant Sandy's aircraft and crew appeared to be all right, so Lieutenant Jones returned to Bailleul aerodrome to replenish his ammunition supply. and Lieutenant Wrigley proceeded on his way to carry out an artillery reconnaissance. Lieutenant Sandy's aircraft, not having, returned to the aerodrome at the conclusion of flying for the day. information concerning it was sought by telephone, but it was not until tile following night that a telegram was received from No. 12 Stationary Hospital, St. Pol, to the effect that the dead bodies of Lieutenant Sandy and Sergeant Hughes had been found in a crashed R.E.8 aircraft in a field about 8 kilometres north-east of St. Pol, near the main Bruay-St. Pol road.
An armour piercing bullet had passed through the observer's left lung and thence into the base of the pilot's skull, and the medical opinion was that they had been killed instantly during their combat with the enemy aircraft. They had not been injured at all in the crash on landing, nor was the damage to the aircraft very extensive. This afforded a striking example of the stability and flying qualities of the R.E.8. From an examination of the crash it appeared that after the crew had been killed the aircraft had flown itself in wide left-hand circles until the petrol supply ran out, and this theory is supported by the fact that the wind on that day was north-east and would cause a southwest drift. The place where the aircraft was found was on an air distance of 50 miles from the scene of the combat. The Albatross D.5a, brought down by Lieutenant Sandy and Sergeant Hughes was salved by a party of mechanics under Captain Ross under shell fire on the night of the 17th/18th December from the forward position in which it landed. It was brought back to the aerodrome and later, by order 2nd Brigade, Royal Flying Corps, sent to No. 1 Aircraft Depot at St. Omer. A claim to the aircraft was subsequently made, however, by the Australian authorities and it was then handed over to the Australian War Museum.
The Albatros which Sandy and Hughes shot down was the Albatros D5390/17 from Jasta 29 flown by Franz Claus. The aircraft was recovered by 3 Squadron AFC and then shipped by the order of 2nd Brigade Royal Flying Corps to No.1 Supply Depot at St Omer and given the "G" Number G101. The Albatros was test flown in England before finally being presented to the Australian Government as a War Trophy. This aircraft is now displayed in the Australian War Memorial.
RE8 A3816, No.3 Squadron AFC. Lieutenant J. L. Sandy and Sergeant H. F. Hughes.
RE8 A'4397 of No.3 Squadron AFC. Captain R.G.D. Francis.
RE8 B5853 of No.1 Squadron AFC. Lieutenant E.P. Kenny and Lieutenant F. Hancock
RE8 D4975 of No.7 Squadron AFC.
Charles Copp was a flight commander with No.2 Squadron AFC. He ended the war with four victories and a huge number of flying hours amassed over the front lines. But every ace pilot has to learn first, and Copp learnt from fellow Australian Arthur Conningham.
Conningham was a Brisbanite flying with the Royal Flying Corps. He served with No.32 on DH5s and then later commanded No.92 RAF with SE5a aircraft. Copp relates his training experience with Conningham;
After completing the ground course at Reading we were sent to Shawbury for flying instruction. Here after only two or three hours of dual instruction on Maurice-Farmans we were sent up solo. After learning to handle the slower machines, Avros and Sopwith Pups, we were posted to Castle Bromwich and transferred to S.E.5a's, which were very much faster than the above machines.
Our instructor was Captain Arthur Conningham, an Australian, who was credited with over 20 enemy machines destroyed during the war.
After we had learned to handle the S.E.5a's fairly well, he called us together and said, "Now, I want you to do some fast diving with your engine full on, and diving vertically. You can get up to nearly 300 m.p.h., but I must tell you how to do it without losing your wings. The airspeed indicator only registers up to 180 m.p.h., so after that has been passed, you simply look at the fabric on the lower wing. When you see one buckle appear in it, you are probably doing something like 200 m.p.h.; when there are two buckles, you are probably doing about 250 m.p.h.; but you want to be careful not to get three, because then the wings will undoubtedly fall off. Now, go up and do some real diving."
We thought that we were doing very well, but when we landed he stamped his feet, swore at us pretty fluently and stated, "I said dive, not glide." He then took off in his machine and showed us how it should be done.
Our hair fairly stood up on end when we saw what he did. He came down vertically at a terrific rate and flattened out about 10 or 15 feet off the ground! However, having seen this demonstration, we all had a go and surprisingly no one was killed. That was one of the ways we learned to dive fast - something that is sometimes necessary for attack in a scrap.
It is fortunate for all the passengers of modern airliners that monitoring technology has surpassed the World War I technique of eyeballing how many creases were in the wing.
Under Andrew Murray-Jones No 2 Sqn AFC earnt a name as a quiet, humble, confident and proficient squadron. While this is not a result of the squadron commander alone, but a combined result of the attitude and ethic of the flight commanders, pilots and ground crew, there is no better example of the squadron's proficiency than Captain Roy C. Phillipps.
The flying services which fell under British administration used the Royal Flying Corps system of scoring. In this system combats could be recognised as Driven Down, Out of Control, Destroyed and Captured. By comparison the other services were far more strict in what they demanded as evidence for an aerial victory. The British system was better for collecting statistics and information on air battles, whereas other systems were superior in determining victory tallies.
It has been a common knock in World War I historical discussions that the British system was far too lenient in awarding victories to pilots, and as a result, many aces under this system have inflated scores. Not so Roy Phillipps. His victories;
Source: "Above The Trenches : A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915 - 1920" Christopher Shores, Norman Franks and Russell Guest, 1990.
- Captured DFW, 22nd November 1917.
- Destroyed Fokker DrI, 22nd March 1918.
- Destroyed Albatros DV, 23rd March 1918.
- Destroyed Albatros DV, 24th March 1918.
- Destroyed Fokker DrI, 27th March 1918.
- Captured Type D, 27th March 1918.
- Destroyed Pfalz DIII, 16th May 1918.
- Destroyed Fokker DrI, 12th June 1918.
- Destroyed Fokker DrI, 12th June 1918.
- Captured LVG C, 12th June 1918.
- Captured Fokker DVII, 12th June 1918.
- Destroyed Fokker DVII, 25th July 1918.
- Destroyed DFW C, 1st August 1918.
- Out of Control Fokker DVII, 1st August 1918.
- Destroyed Fokker DVII, 12th August 1918.
Roy Phillipps was born in North Sydney, but when war broke out he was working as an accountant in Perth. Phillipps enlisted in the Army, and served in the famed 28th battalion, who along with the 26th battalion were the "Black ANZACs", named as they conducted the first Australian trench raids in France. Phillipps was promoted to Captain and earned a Military Cross for his valour before being wounded heavily in the leg, leaving his leg partially paralysed.
Phillipps transferred to the Australian Flying Corps, serving as the adjutant for No.2 Sqn AFC before signing up for flying training. Phillipps flew with No.32 Sqn RFC in Airco DH5s for operational experience before rejoining No.2 Sqn. Phillipps took part in the Cambrai battles, scoring one victory, before he squadron received SE5a aircraft. The aircraft in which he scored the bulk of his victories.
Before the armistice, Phillipps was promoted to Major and took command of No.6 Sqn AFC in England. In World War II, Phillipps rejoined the Air Force as a Wing Commander, and took command of the Flying Training School at Archerfield. Sadly he was to die in a plane crash in 1940.
The Australian Flying Corps was a unit in the Australian Army. It was not until the British made the Royal Air Force a separate service did military organisers think of air power as a distinct capability. The AFC ultimately became a separate service in 1921 as the Royal Australian Air Force, but until then, AFC ranks and units used Australian Army designations.
All arms of the Australian Army were given a colourful patch to be worn on the right shoulder. This was for internal identification means. The Australian Flying Corps was no different, their patch was a blue triangle. From the Official Army Colour Patch Register;
The triangle has a 2" base and the other two sides are 2 1/4" long. The colours are Light Blue, Red and Dark Blue. The Dark Blue band is 1/4" wide and the Red bands are 1/8" wide. There is no surrounding colour. These patches were made from felt and should be warn on both shoulders. The AFC Patch was authorised by D.A.G. A.I.F. 15/67 of 10 July 1917.
Source: Gordon Branch
.The badge is shown in the image below;
This is similar to the patches the Australian Army Aviation wear today. Though their patch is square, not triangular.
The list below shows the AFC rank and their role.
- Lieutenant Colonel: Army Wing Commander
- Major:Squadron Commander
- Captain: Flight Commander, Recording Officer, Equipment Officer
- Lieutenant: Pilot, Observer, Recording Officer, Equipment Officer, Wireless Officer, Armament Officer
- 2nd Lieutenant: Pilot, Observer, Pilot in Training, Observer in Training
- Cadet: Pilot in Training, Observer in Training
- Warrant Officer:
- Flight Sergeant: Chief Mechanic
- Sergeant: Armourer, Fitter, Rigger, Gear Mechanic
- Corporal: Fitter, Rigger
- First Class Air Mechanic: Armourer, Acetylene Welder, Blacksmith, Coppersmith, Tinsmith, Engine Fitter, Gear Mechanic, Aircraft Rigger, Electrician, Magneto-Repairer, Fitter, Machinist, Sailmaker
- Second Class Air Mechanic: Armourer, Acetylene Welder, Blacksmith, Coppersmith, Tinsmith, Engine Fitter, Gear Mechanic, Aircraft Rigger, Electrician, Magneto-Repairer, Fitter, Machinist, Sailmaker
- Third Class Air Mechanic: Armourer, Acetylene Welder, Blacksmith, Coppersmith, Tinsmith, Engine Fitter, Gear Mechanic, Aircraft Rigger, Electrician, Magneto-Repairer, Fitter, Machinist, Sailmaker
- Private: Driver
The whispers and scuttlebut in the Cotswolds during 1918 was that the Australians had captured the Red Baron's aircraft and were flying it over the English countryside to test it. Not quite. It was Les Holden flying an all-red SE5a as a fighting instructor.
A Cotswold native, Les Sellars recalled;
There was one aircraft we saw often which we were told that was the captured Fokker belonging to the infamous 'Red Baron' Richthofen.
Butterow local Percy Hodge remembers;
We sat on the stone wall and watched the aeroplanes go up and down like flies. We were near enough to see some of them starting the engines by swinging on their propellers. Sometimes they would wave to us - I remember one red fighter, we called it the 'Red Devil Source: "ANZACS over England - The Australian Flying Corps in Gloucestershire 1918-1919" by David Goodland and Alan Vaughan.
Captain L.H. Holden was a fighting instructor for No.6 Training Squadron Australian Flying Corps. The fighting instructors conducted dogfights against the cadets so they had training in the modern fighting tactics. The instructors found it tiring, as cadets are less predictable than the experienced German pilots they faced on the Western Front - the instructors were constantly in danger of being flown into. As a result they painted their aircraft bright colours so they could be easily seen.
Les Holden earned the nickname "Lucky Len" and "Homing Pigeon" with 2 Sqn Australian Flying Corps during the Battle of Cambrai. His DH5 often being so full of bullet holes it was either a write off or required 12 hours of labour on it to bring it to flying condition again. In March of 1918 during the offensive, Holden averaged one SE5a a day until his luck ran out and he was wounded. After convalescence the four victory scout pilot was posted as an Instructor to the AFC Training schools in Michinhampton.
More: A History of No.2 Squadron Australian Flying Corps
Ross Smith was Australia's, and the allies, leading ace in the Palestinian Theatre. He had fought at Gallipoli before joining the Australian Flying Corps and being posted to No.1 Squadron. Before No.1 received the powerful Bristol Fighter, they flew obsolete BE2s against the German Rumpler aircraft. The squadron's fighter aircraft were BE12a's.
The German Rumpler CIs were faster and more powerful than the BE2 aircraft the Australian and British airmen were fighting in. The Rumpler had another advantage, it had a forward firing machine gun. The BE2 did not. As a result Germany maintained air superiority in the theatre with a small number of Rumplers until late 1917 when more powerful allied British and French aircraft started arriving in the theatre.
Rumpler CI aircraft of Flieger-Abteilung 300 [FA300]
Matters did not improve for the Australian squadron when Albatros Scouts started arriving in the Palestinian Theatre. Where the Rumpler had one forward firing machine gun, the Albatros had two. As a scout, the Albatros did not have the extra weight of an observer or their machine gun either. The Australian and British airman started seeing these new Albatros aircraft more and more as 1917 progressed.
Despite the old equipment that the Middle Eastern front was receiving in comparison to the Western Front, an Australian BE12 managed to record one victory against the Albatros aircraft of FA300. It was the first victory of Ross Smith. His combat report records on August 4th, 1917 a combat with an Albatros Scout at 4000ft;
First H.A. was a 2 seater, of Albatros Type with 1 gun firing forward and 1 back. He was above me and I got in a short burst with top gun. We then turned, met nose to nose, and I got in about 30 rounds with Vickers gun. We came together again, nose on, and H.A. put his nose down and made a right hand turn enabling me to get in a good dive of about 40 rounds. He then made off with his nose well down, into his own archies at Sharia.
Returning to the formation, second H.A. was encountered, a single seater with 1 or 2 guns firing forward. It had a yellow fuselage, and 1 dark green wing and 1 dark brown, on top sides. We met nose on and I got in about 20 rounds. H.A. made a right hand turn, under my wing, and went straight off towards Sharia. Both H.A. used very distinct tracers.
Smith did not come out of this combat unscathed, a bullet went in one of his cheeks, knocked out some teeth, and then exited his other cheek. Smith's squadron mate Les Sutherland records in his book "Aces and Kings";
[Smith] made no mention of the parlous condition of his own machine, or of the two holes, one in each cheek, and the missing incisor -- "x" marking the route of one bullet, ex H.A. As a matter of fact, Ross Smith, lieutenant laughed heartily when he saw himself, complete with bandages in the mirror.
Soon after the combat, a wireless message was intercepted that "Schmarje has crashed". This was Leutnant Schmarje of FA300. The most capable German pilot in Palestine was Gerhard Felmy, a particular courageous and capable pilot, originally the squadron thought that Smith had fought Felmy, but Felmy was out of the theatre at the time due to illness.
This victory by Smith in an obsolescent BE12a was his first of eleven.
Robert Little was an aggressive WWI pilot, not scared to go in close, often as little as fifteen yards, to a German aircraft before firing. There was one occasion when his plane was out from underneath him and he was left with only a revolver to aim at the German scout. This incident was recorded in a Combat In The Air Report and the Communiques.
Robert Little's Combat In The Air Report for April 21st, 1918 read;
At 5-00pm I attacked the last machine of a formation of 12 and shot it down. I watched it fall for about 10,000 ft over VIEUX BEHQUIH(sp?), completely out of control.
I was then attacked by six other EA which drove me down through the formation below me. I spun but had my controls shot away and my machine dived. AT 100 feet from the ground it flattened out with a jerk breaking the fuselage just behind my seat. I undid the belt and when the machine struck the ground I was thrown clear.
The EA still fired at me while I was on the ground. I fired my revolver at one which came down to about 50 feet. They were driven off by rifle fire and machine fire from our troops.
He was in Sopwith Camel B6319 from No.203 Sqn RAF (the old Naval 3). The Communiques also record this for the 21st of April;
Capt. R.A. Little, 203 Squadron, attacked the rear machine of a formation of 12 enemy aircraft and watched it fall completely out of control. Capt. Little was then attacked by six enemy aircraft and was driven down through the formation below; he put his machine into a spin and his controls were shot away, causing his machine to dive within 100 feet of the ground when it flattened out with a jerk, breaking the fuselage just under the pilot's seat.
Capt. Little undid his belt and was thrown clear when the machine stuck the ground. The enemy aircraft continued to fire at him, but he opened fire with his revolver at one aircraft which came down to about 30 feet. The enemy aircraft were eventually driven off by our infantry and machine-gun fire.
Captain R. Sykes also wrote of this in his book "Golden Eagle";
The same day I had flown on an offensive patrol and later had ferried in a new Camel, but I was back in 203's mess when Little came in late and reported, saying that he had undone his belt as the Camel broke up otherwise he would not have been thrown clear when the Camel wing tip hit the ground. I made a rather tactless remark about his manure sodden clothes, not realising that he would have been bruised, sore and in no mood for humour. He told me at the first opportunity he would take me over the lines and give me a lesson in being brave, and he did.
Robert Little was Australia's leading ace in World War I.
Themetre James Hammond was a Queenslander who served with the Lighthorse before transferring to the Australian Flying Corps. He joined 2 Squadron AFC in France in May of 1918. He scored one victory before being shot down in June.
Themetre James Hammond was born in 1893, in Sydney and at the outbreak of hostilities was a Grazier in Adavale, Queensland. After serving with the Lighthorse he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps and after training served with 2 Squadron AFC, joining the squadron on 24th of May 1918. Unfortunately Hammond wasn't to be with the squadron for long, being killed in combat just over a month later, after scoring a Destroyed victory and accumulating 12.35 hours of flying time with the squadron.
The end of May was dominated by bad weather - so bad that in the Armienteres region 2 Squadron AFC was based in, there was little to no flying. This also disrupted the tactics that 2 Squadron AFC had been using. These mimicked the German Circus' of stacked formations where mixed Squadrons of machines flew at different altitudes and forced attacking aircraft into the lower layers where they could be outnumbered.
By the beginning of June, the weather cleared and German Army resumed an offensive in the Somme region. As German aviation strength followed the ground offensives, 2 Squadron AFC starting seeing constant combat in the air as the density of allied and German aircraft increased to match the activity on the ground. Hammond flew in this environment through early June until on the 11th he scored his first victory over a two-seater near Cuvilly. He was flying SE5a C9541. Unfortunately the next morning he fell to the same fate. The Official History describes June 11th and 12th;
In the afternoon of the June 11th five machine under Forrest brought six enemy two-seaters to an engagement over Curvilly. Lieutenant T.J. Hammond destroyed one of them. Soon after dawn next morning Hammond was himself shot down and killed near Noyon in a fight with the circus against eight Pfalz Scouts and four Fokker Triplanes. Two Pfalzes having dived on a Camel of the second deck of the circus, Manuel, leading the SE5a's promptly attacked one and set it on fire. In the general engagement which followed Hammond was killed, but three enemy machines were shot down by the Camels, two of them in flames.
It is possible the Camels were from 73 Sqn RAF, who were operating in the area at the time and made three claims for 10.00 AM on the morning of June 12th. Hammond was shot down in SE5a, D3960 by Hans Martin Pippart of Jasta 19. It was Pippart's 15th victory. Pippart himself was killed near Noyon less than two months later. Hammond's memorial is at the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Arthur Cobby on the isolation a WWI pilot felt.
In the air a pilot's job is a strangely isolated one. Although formation flying and fighting demanded a very close cohesion among the members of the flight, in the early days one felt very much alone and at the mercy of chance.
Lack of means of communication with one's fellow was, I think, the principal cause of this. You could not communicate with other chaps about what was going on.
Every possible eventuality had to be studied before leaving the ground. Plans had to be made to meet each contingency that might arise, and then your memory and a thorough understanding of the characteristics of your leader and your comrades had to be relied upon to dispose of each bit of trouble as it presented itself.
There was no means of talking over what you were going to do; once something started you just went ahead and did it and the firm reliance one placed on one's comrades later on was the result of long and continuous association in the air under all sorts of conditions.
In those early days  we lacked this strong background of mutual support and understanding.
Most Popular on South Sea Republic
The articles that have been viewed the most:
Most Popular Restaurants in Phoenix
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Most Popular Hikes in Arizona
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Alternate Australian Constitutions
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
Archives For South Sea Republic
South Sea Republic started in 2004 as an Australian constitutional blog in 2004 based on scoop software. It was an immigrative outgrowth of Kuro5hin. The archives for each year since then;
The articles are ordered by views.
Who Is Cam Riley
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.
Websites Worth Reading
Websites of friends, colleagues and of interest;