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Enter the Hun
It was not only the aircraft but also the pilot’s tactics which developed rapidly between 1914 and 1918. Initially pilots stuck to an unwritten code exemplified by Max Immelmann when he had shot and wounded a British pilot in the early days of the war. When the victim had crash-landed, Immelman landed nearby, took his adversary from the wreckage and tended his wounds. The Briton, a Lieutenant Reid, was then taken to Immelmann’s headquarters where he was treated more as a guest than a prisoner. For two days Reid and his captor dined and drank fine French wines. After the festivities, the Englishman was confined to comfortable quarters in a prison camp reserved for captured airmen. When Immelmann was killed in 1916 Germany went into mourning.
Not all pilots shared Immelmann’s gallantry. Baron Manfred von Richthoven, Germany’s greatest air hero, had two passions, as revealed in his diary, slaying men and animals. Known as the ‘Red Baron’ from the bright red colour of his Albatros biplane, Richthoven took frequent leave to shoot stag and boar in the German forests. He also destroyed eighty Allied aircraft, killing eighty seven men, the highest score of any airman in the war. After each victory, he ordered an engraved sterling cup, inscribed with the date and type of aircraft shot down.
The Red Baron was already dead when No 92 Squadron arrived in France but the Richthoven Geschwader (popularly known as the Flying Circus) were to be 92 Squadron’s adversaries for the remainder of the war. Carl August von Schoenebeck, the youngest scout squadron leader on the western front in 1918, was a member of Jagdeschwader 1. They were established in June 1917, and by the Armistice in November 1918 they had destroyed 644 Allied aircraft against a loss of 56 pilots killed and 52 wounded. When discussing the performance factors in combat of their aircraft and ours he said:
“The most important was rate of turn; it was highly important. Second was speed. Of course, one needed a combination of good performance features. Looking at the Second World War for a moment, the Spitfire could perform better than the ME 109 at some altitudes because it had greater manoeuvrability. The ME 109 was faster in my opinion.
“Our best scout in the First World War was the Fokker D VII with the BMW engine. I think the SE5A was the best Royal Flying Corps scout of that war. The British scouts could often turn sharply. I wouldn’t say as many claim, that the English were over our lines more. They were of course more sporting and we were more military.
“I remember once, however, when three Royal Flying Corps scouts flew over our field at a height of about 1,200 feet. We thought this was puzzling, especially when they returned some thirty minutes later and flew over the field again at the same height. It was about midday and when one of them was brought down he told us he had thought German pilots would be eating lunch. He and his comrades had made a bet that they could fly over our lines and return safely during the lunch hour. You might be interested to know that when English pilots were downed and brought to our base they lived with us, without guard, ate and slept with us until they were taken off to prison. They were very sporting. The one shot down that day at the lunch hour gave us a cheque for the bet he had lost, which we dropped to his comrades.
“Our bases of course were usually located near some fine chateaux, which we could utilise for living quarters. We joked that whenever someone came upon a splendid chateau he would very likely find that an airfield had been created nearby. The aircraft at my field were parked only about four hundred yards from our chateau under green tents.”
No performance ever drew the attention of more spectators than the combat pilots, high above the battle fields of France and Belgium. While down below the incompetent Generals in the Army, sent thousands to choke their lives out, while vainly attempting to reach the almost impregnable pill-boxes, across a sea of mud at Passcherdale; the fighter pilots of the newly created Royal Air Force were rapidly learning the tactics that would help the Alllies to end the war.
Raymond Collishaw, who at the end of the war was the fourth highest Allied scorer, and later became Air Vice-Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force, in World War Two; described these aerial antagonists as ‘Waltzing Partners’ dodging each other’s bullets. The theatre was in the clouds as fighter pilots on both sides played to audiences of infantrymen, cheering them on from the trenches below. The Waltz started when one plane would get on the tail of another. The two aircraft would fly in even smaller circles until finally one could bring his guns to bear on the other, then the dance ended. The enemy pilot would stick with it and refuse to break off even though the gap was closing, fascinated like a goat by a snake until he was shot down.
The most widely known manoeuvre devised in this war was the so-called Immelmann turn. The pilot would pull up into a steep climb as if he were about to do a loop. At the top of the loop he would do a half roll, level out and speed off in a direction opposite than expected. Most books on the First World War credit the invention of this manoeuvre to Immelmann, but a number of fighter pilots said that Immelmann could not have invented it. Among those is Air Vice-Marshall Collishaw who writes:
“The Royal Flying Corps pilots, always understood that Immelmann did not invent the manoeuvre attributed to him, instead it was devised in 1916 by the famous Royal Flying Corps stunt merchant Armstrong, of No 60 Squadron. The Immelmann turn at the outset did not consist of a rapidly climbing turn followed by a half roll at the top of a loop. At first it consisted of a rapid climb then, at the top of the climb, full rudder was applied so that when the aircraft stalled, it fell over towards the earth to regain flying speed, and in doing so the plane made an about turn. These days this is called a stall turn.
“The so-called Immelmann turn developed in 1918 was again thought to have been devised by Armstrong of the Royal Flying Corps. The 1918 version consisted of a half roll at the top of the loop. The object was to rapidly alter course. It was the manoeuvrability and flexibility of the Sopwith Camel that permitted this manoeuvre when under assault, and it was designed to turn the tables on an antagonistic who would then find himself at a disadvantage.
“The 1918 pilots, particularly the Americans in the Camel squadrons, became confused between the act and function of the 1916 so called Immelmann turn and the 1918 half roll at the top of a loop, and so they called the 1918 manoeuvre the ‘Immelmann turn’.”
Collishaw continues, “The 1916 Fokker Eindekker (Immelman’s aircraft) was structurally too weak to withstand the manoeuvre of the half roll at the top of the loop. What is more certain, however, is that the Fokker monoplane was fitted with an engine of insufficient power to perform the act.
“As a matter of interest one can say that the half roll at the top of the loop was not the sort of thing a practical war fighter pilot would indulge in to upset the gun aim of his adversary. The first warning usually reached the attacked pilot from the noise and impact of the hostile bullets. The assailed pilot would instantly take violent avoiding action and often this resulted in momentary loss of control, but it effectively offset the hostile pilot’s aim. When under assault from the rear it would be manifestly silly to calmly put the nose of the aircraft down to gain the requisite speed needed to execute a loop and a half roll. The hostile pilot would simply depress the nose of his aircraft and easily follow his target until it turned upward to commence the loop. What was needed when under fire, was instantaneous and rapid avoiding action.”
Between the 22 July 1918, when Captain Robb had shot down the Squadron’s first enemy aircraft, and the end of that month, the Squadron claimed another three victories. It was ‘B’ Flight’s turn to claim the Squadron’s second victim on the Monday 28 when Lieutenant E.F. Crabb, practising his newly acquired tactics brought down a Hun machine. On the Tuesday, Lieutenant Gordon crashed on take-off and ‘wrote off’ his aircraft. Then later in the day Lieutenant E. Shapard shot down an enemy aircraft which was seen to go down in flames.
Another exciting encounter took place on 30 July. This was the first kill made by Lieutenant O.J. Rose, an American who became the top scoring officer on the Squadron. He recalled the ‘Dog-Fight’ afterwards:
“The kill was made at about 2pm. Our patrol was led by Captain Robb, Commander of ‘A’ Flight, and was on Offensive Patrol at about 13,000 feet, over enemy territory east of La Basse (Merville Salient). At 10,000 feet we sighted seven D VII's Captain Robb signalled to attack, I was flying rear, right of our group. I selected the Hun on their extreme left, started firing as soon as I had him in my sights, and kept my two guns going continuously until I nearly collided with him. (Incidentally, both my gun barrels were ruined.) I pulled up, levelled off and headed for home, landing about ten minutes before the remainder. When we assembled for a report, Captain Robb asked who made the desperation dive. No one answered. He said, “Well, whoever did, shot him down in flames”. It was then I found the courage to say it was I. What a bloody awful way to start operations on the great 92 Squadron.”
On 1 August 1918 Captain Robb was hit by anti-aircraft fire while crossing back over the Front Line at the end of a patrol with Lieutenant Holbrook. Ground fire was never particularly effective, as on this occasion, when another main plane change was all that was required to have the aircraft serviceable by the following morning. Some pilots maintained that the inability of gunners to identify aircraft made them more of a threat to their own aircraft than to the enemy. Feelings haven’t changed much amongst the pilots since.
On the following day, Friday, the Squadron flew from Drionville to Serny, and Saturday was spent mainly air testing the machines. On Sunday, 4 August, Lieutenant Gordon crashed again and ‘wrote off’ another aircraft at the end of the sortie.
Wednesday 7th was a particularly successful day with four Huns shot down on Offensive Patrol. The patrol led by Captain Robb took off at 7am. Robb and Lieutenants Crabb, Good and Holbrook each got one. Then two days later, though encountering no enemy aircraft another patrol succeeded in shooting down several enemy propaganda carrying balloons. The Squadron Commander, Major. Conningham, was the next pilot to claim a kill bringing the Squadron total to eight enemy aircraft destroyed.
Thursday 8 August signalled the opening of the Somme offensive and 92 Squadron, operating with the Royal Air Force Fifth Brigade in the Fourth Army, flew daily operational patrols covering the Allied advance from Amiens until the ‘Granite Wall’ of the Hindenburg Line was broken. On 10 August the Squadron experienced its first taste of air to ground gunnery when a patrol was sent to the roads near Estaines. Later that day a returning patrol of three aircraft sighted the enemy but the log book reads:
‘Went after eight Huns but they did not wait’
However, on the following day, with Major Conningham leading, four Huns were shot down. The Commanding Officer got two, Lieutenant H B Good, one and Lieutenant W.S. Rogers, one. The only Hun he ever saw according to the remarks column in the Authorisation Sheets. The patrols that morning landed at Allonvillers on the Somme and spent the day helping out No 1 Squadron based at nearby Fienvilliers. No more enemy aircraft were seen that day and in the evening the Squadron returned to Serny. During the day Second Lieutenant G.F. Metson went missing and was later reported to have been taken prisoner-of-war.
Serny, France, November 1918. A score board recording the claims for enemy aircraft destroyed by No. 80 Wing RAF from July–November 1918. The squadrons listed are: No. 92 Squadron, No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC), No. 88 Squadron RAF, No. 2 Squadron AFC, No. 103 Squadron RAF, No. 46 Squadron RAF, and No. 54 Squadron RAF. The other columns are headed "In Flames", "Crashed", "O.O.C." (Out of Control), "Driven Down" and "Balloons Destroyed"."
On Wednesday, 14 August, the Squadron flew to the Somme again to help the Squadrons there against the German offensive. No 92 Squadron contributed ten aircraft and destroyed three Huns. Lieutenant Rose got two more to his credit and Lieutenant H.B. Good got one. Unfortunately Lieutenant H.A. O’Shea was missing at the end of the patrol. He had been forced to land and was taken prisoner. On the way back to Serney Captain Robb added another Fokker to his growing score!
The first massed low level attack by Allied aircraft was made two days later on Friday, 16 August. Communique No 20 recorded it as follows:
‘The raid was carried out on Haubourdin Aerodrome near Lille by 88 and 92 Squadrons and 2 and 4 Squadrons American Flying Corps. The raid was led by Colonel L.A. Strange of the 8th Army Wing, and was part of a force of 480 fighters employed in low level softening up attacks in preparation for the Allied advance. No 92 Squadron’s SE5As joined in with some sixty five machines in all, including Camels, Bristol Fighters and DH4s. The attack was a great success. One hundred and thirty six 25lb bombs and six 40lb bombs were dropped and large quantities of ammunition were fired from heights down to 50 feet. Three large hangars containing machines were completely burnt and two machines standing outside were set on fire. Several fires were also started in huts, and what was believed to be the Officers’ Mess was blown up and burnt. Several other hangars, in addition to those burnt, received direct hits. The station at Haubourdin was also attacked with machine gun fire from a low height, causing confusion among the troops. Two staff cars were fired at, one of which upset in a ditch and another ran up a steep bank; the occupants were not observed to leave. A train was shot at, which stopped. Considerable casualties were caused among the personnel at the aerodrome who were seen rushing to take refuge in a hospital. All our machines returned and landed safely. Over 400 photographs were taken by 25 Squadron of a very large tract of country, almost the whole of which was over 20 miles behind the enemy’s lines. Several machines were attacked by hostile aircraft, all returned safely.’
Unfortunately Captain Robb was wounded in the left eye and had to be taken to hospital.
On the following day a similar attack was made on Lomme Aerodrome. Again Colonel Strange led the Wing. One hundred and four, 25lb and two 40lb bombs were dropped from an average height of 200 feet. Some pilots who dropped them from 50 feet had their machines damaged by their own bombs, but none of 92’s was among those. Many direct hits were observed on sheds, hangars and huts. From photographs taken during the raid, two sheds could be seen burning fiercely and from the strength of the wind it was probable that the others also caught fire, but the sheds to the leeward were obscured by smoke. Several other fires were seen among the huts and workshops. A large number of rounds were also fired and casualties inflicted on the personnel on the aerodrome, and on a party of mounted troops who made off for Lille at full gallop. Two hostile machines dived down to Haubourdin Aerodrome on the approach of our machines and crashed without a shot having been fired at them. The aerodrome defences were much stronger than on the previous days’ raid on Haubourdin. One of our machines, a camel, did not return.
On 22 August the following resume was sent to Wing Headquarters.
General Resume of Work done by No 92 Squadron
From July 22nd – August 21st 1918
Enemy Aircraft Destroyed 13
Enemy Aircraft Driven Down Out of Control 6
Pilots Who Shot Down Enemy Aircraft: Destroyed/Driven Down
MajorA.ConinghamDSO MC 1/1
Captain J.M. Robb 2/1
Lieutenant O.J. Rose 3/1
Lieutenant H.B. Good 3/1
Lieutenant E.F. Crabb 2/-
Lieutenant E. Shappard 1/-
Lieutenant E.V. Holland -/1
Lieutenant C.M. Holbrook -/1
Lieutenant W.S. Rogers 1/-
Number of Rounds Fired at Enemy Aircraft: 3,235
Average number of rounds fired to bring enemy aircraft down: 170
Number of hours Flown of War Time Flying: 707Hrs.35Min
Enemy Aircraft Accounted For: 2
Machines written off (crashed) nil
Machines written off (combat) 1
Engines written off nil
Enemy Aircraft Accounted for 8
Machines written off (crashed) 5
Machines written off (combat) 1
Engines written off nil
Enemy Aircraft Accounted for 4
Machines written off (crashed) 1
Machines written off (combat) 1
Engines written off 2
Enemy Aircraft Accounted for 5
Machines written off (crashed) 1
Machines written off (combat) 3
Engines written off 4
After the raids on Haubourdin and Lomme there were naturally fewer enemy aircraft in the sky and fewer claims were put in than previously. Captain W.E. Reed brought down a Hun in the following week but apart from that nothing was ever seen. On 5 September, a Thursday, Major Coningham attacked the leader of a patrol of Fokker biplanes which, after zooming vertically, stopped on its back long enough to dislodge its pilot, who hung by one arm for a few seconds and then fell, hitting the ground near Cambrai. Yet another disadvantage of doing an Immelmann turn, especially when you have not strapped yourself in.
On the same occasion Lieutenant E. Shappard brought down a Fokker biplane and was then attacked from behind by several others who compelled him to spin almost to the ground, where he evaded them by flying home at an average height of 20 feet. On landing it was found that the main spars of all four main planes had been shot through as well as both longerons, and a bullet had also lodged in one of the magnetos.
The pilot of another Fokker biplane under attack was seen to jump out of his machine, when it burst into flames, apparently without any parachute.
Unfortunately Lieutenant H.B. Good went missing with Captain Robb’s aircraft No 372. He was either hit by anti aircraft fire, or went down through engine trouble but was later reported as presumed dead. Captain G.A. Wells and Lieutenant E.V. Holland who went down under similar circumstances were later reported as prisoners.
As well as the Commanding Officer and Lieutenant Shappard, Captain Reed got his second kill and Lieutenant Rose clocked up his fourth, putting him clearly at the top of the scoreboard.
After this brief period of excitement, enemy air activity was very slight, and the Squadron was tasked with escorting the heavy DH9s further across enemy territory than they had ever been before. Though virtually unopposed in the air, as the German scout squadrons were by now very scarce, Lieutenant Rose managed to destroy yet another Hun. On the 12th, Captain Robb returned from his spell in hospital and sick leave in Paris. It was fortunate that, on these rather boring sorties flown in the latter part of September and October, no enemy aircraft threatened the Squadron. They would not have had enough fuel to stay and fight as each sortie lasted a full two hours and the SE5As were only just able to scrape back on their emergency tanks. One such patrol on the 18th Lieutenant C.M Holbrook was shot down by anti aircraft fire and he crashed on landing to be taken prisoner, the last pilot on the Squadron to reach a Prisoner-of-War Camp in this war.
On the 26th Captain Robb, after leading an Offensive Patrol, crashed whilst landing, and wrote off his aircraft. Unharmed and undaunted by this experience, he still insisted on leading the first patrol each day, and on the 27th led his Flight to their new base at Proyart. From then onwards the Squadron flew shorter, voluntary patrols of three aircraft whose aim was to shoot up bottlenecks on roads as the Germans retreated. Each machine carried four 25lb bombs and during one of these patrols Captain Robb put up a terrific performance of accurate shooting by knocking out a gun team which was galloping across a field and shooting the leading horse, causing the whole assembly to fold up.
The enemy was forced to evacuate Cambrai and St Quentin and fall back on the line of the river Selle. On 29 September the Fourth Army, after preparatory bombardment, began its advance against the Hindenburg line and the enemy was steadily forced back from Valenciennes to beyond Mons and Mauberge. Sadly No 92 had not finished paying the price of victory and on 30th Second Lieutenant L.S. Davis of ‘B’ Flight was shot down, only two weeks after having been wounded. This time he crashed behind enemy lines and was presumed dead.
By the first week in October the Squadron hadn’t shot down an enemy aircraft for three weeks, and the end of the war was obviously not far away. The experienced pilots were becoming bored with the tedium of operational patrols and the less experienced pilots were more than anxious to feature in the Squadron’s list of victories before it was too late. However, there were still several more unfortunate enemy pilots who would add to the Squadron’s air to air successes.
The 3rd October signalled a fairly active ‘swan song’ of enemy air activity, which was to provide further credits for 92 Squadron. As the thirteen machines, which were serviceable that morning, were wheeled out of their canvas shelters to be lined up and loaded with ammunition, the American pilot, Lieutenant Rose cast a skilful eye at the fair weather cumulus, and was determined to see that another Hun would fall before his gun before much longer. That day he brought down two Fokker D VII’s to add to his Squadron record. Later in the day, Lieutenant A.Scott was shot down by ground fire but managed to glide back to our side of the lines and got home safely.
The Squadron moved again on 9 October to Estrees-en-Chaussee and for the closing weeks of the war, low level attacks on tactical targets became the Squadron’s main occupation, a curious parallel to the tasks it was called upon to perform over twenty years afterwards. This in no way detracted from the air to air success which was proved by Lieutenant Rose who claimed another two D VII’s on the same day.
Two days later on Friday 11th the weather was terrible, with very low clouds, mist and rain all day. Patrols of 92 Squadron dropped seventy four 25lb bombs on transport, troops and batteries. Three guns and limbers were attacked with machine gun fire, three horses being killed. One bomb was observed to burst on the edge of a gun pit, and the gun ceased firing. Lieutenant J.V. Gascoyne, at a height of 20 feet, attacked a column of guns and limbers passing through Molain and shot down the leading horses. He then flew round another limber which attempted to pass the first, shot it up and succeeded in blocking the road.
On the 14th enemy aircraft activity was very intensive on the northern portion of the front, and a patrol led by Captain Robb was engaged in combat with them near Le Chateau. In the ensuing melee, Robb’s machine was shot through the induction pipe and he had to ‘force land’ but not before his patrol had destroyed one of the enemy Fokker biplanes. On 20 October in Communique No 29 it was announced that Lieutenant O.J. Rose had been awarded the DFC in recognition of his eleven kills in just over two months.
Captain Robb was back in the lead at seven a.m. on the day following his forced landing, and continued thus with the Gods really on his side. On Monday 21st his machine was hit through the radiator and the engine was ‘written off’. The antagonist had been a solitary Hun sitting on a canal bank. Robb landed unscathed at No 6 Squardron’s aerodrome at Avelu. On the Wednesday when carrying out a low attack in the same area, he was hit through both the oil and petrol tanks and from a height of 100 feet, managed to stagger into Avelu again. On the same day a patrol led by Captain Philcox got two D VII’s in an early morning ‘Dog Fight’ without incurring any damage to their machines.
The Squadron moved once again before the war ended, this time to Bertry East, twelve miles south-east of Cambrai on 25 October. Here they were within range of the guns of the retreating Germans, and on that same day a Squadron patrol led by Robb shot down their last enemy machine. Two days later Captain W.E. Reed met a patrol of D VIIs. In the dog fight Lieutenants A. Scott and B. Mignault were both hit, but Reed shot down one of the enemy’s aircraft. Scott was forced to land and was wounded in the attempt, while Mignault although also wounded, managed to fly back to Bertry.
On Wednesday, 30 October, a patrol consisting of Lieutenant Horry, Lieutenant Robins and a French pilot named Predeaux came across a Halberstadt taking photographs. Each pilot was naturally anxious to get the Hun which put up a tremendous fight against long odds. In the end, Horry shot him down in flames. This was the last day of heavy enemy aircraft activity in the war and one of the most successful for 92 Squadron. The weather was fine and the fluffy cumulus clouds provided an excellent backdrop to the theatre on which a record number of enemy machines were destroyed in any single day in the war. Lieutenant Horry added another to his book by forcing an enemy scout down out of control, while Captain Reed and Lieutenant Roseboth both brought their targets down in flames. Later on Rose and Lieutenant Gasgoygn together brought down a fifth making it a record for 92 Squadron in one day, as well as for the Royal Air Force. Tragically Lieutenant W.H. Leaf crashed on the aerodrome just after takeoff and was killed in the accident.
Before the war ended one more pilot was wounded but survived to tell the tale and became one of the luckiest pilots on the Squadron. Leaving the ground at dawn on 4 November, Captain W.S. Philcox led his patrol on ground attacks south east of Landecies. A thick low mist came up and, while attacking a howitzer battery from 100 feet, he was rendered unconscious by ground fire. He crashed into some houses at about 120 miles per hour. Regaining consciousness he found himself held by the foot to a piece of his machine with a German soldier bandaging his head. He was very carefully attended to by a German doctor and taken on a gun carriage to an enemy casualty clearing station near Favril. He passed through our barrage and the bombing by machines of his own Squadron. That evening he was placed in a French house with a badly wounded German soldier. He was exceptionally well treated by the German troops, and was not even searched or had anything taken from him. Early on the 5th he was placed in an upstairs room and told to be quiet and await the coming of our troops. The wounded German was taken off by his own people. That afternoon he was found by our advancing troops and sent back to one of our casualty clearing stations. His total injuries amounted to a bruised face and a sprained ankle, with perhaps one small bone in the ankle broken. On being questioned the only information he gave was his name and rank. This was evidenced by the enemy casualty card he brought back with him.
For the last few days of the war there was very little or no enemy aircraft activity but Lieutenant Rose managed to find a Fokker biplane on Sunday 10th and shot him down claiming his sixteenth victim, and one of the very last enemy aircraft shot down in the war. That evening the following operation order was received from Headquarters 22nd Wing commanded by Lieutenant Colonel T.A.E. Cairnes DSO:
“The latest line will be telephoned to Squadron tonight. The Army Patrol Area will be from Thuis to Chinay. Squadrons will carry out Offensive Patrols of the Army Front as under:
0615 to 0815 - No 208 Squadron
0730 to 0930 – No 23 Squadron
0900 to 1100 – No 92 Squadron”
Monday morning was fair but misty as Captain Robb and Lieutenants Smith and Horry took off at exactly nine o’clock, but they found the skies empty. There was no fight left in the enemy and when they landed just before eleven o’clock, they were greeted with the news that the Armistice had been signed at 5am and there would be no hostilities after 11am. The war was over.
Considering the comparatively short period during which the Squadron was in action, the scores achieved by its pilots are noteworthy in particular that of Lieutenant O.J. Rose DFC who led with fourteen enemy aircraft destroyed and shot down two more out of control. Captain Reed claimed five, Captain Robb four and the Commanding Officer, Major Coningham DSO, three. In all, 55 enemy aircraft were accounted for in the three and a half months before the ceasefire.
The Squadron had flown 2,052 hours and fired some 35,000 rounds at enemy and ground targets. In the belief that they were fighting for a better world, three of the Squadron’s pilots had been killed and seven wounded. Five pilots had been taken prisoner.
The peace brought no immediate end of flying for the Squadron and new machines continued to arrive from the Issue Section. Now that there was no enemy to fight the authorisation book records the nature of the flights as ‘Fighting each other’, ‘Aerial Firing’ or ‘Formation Flying’. To provide some realism in the combat sorties, the Squadron held a Fokker D VII on its strength which had been allocated at the end of the war. Most squadrons were allocated a German aircraft if they wanted it, but an ex-Squadron member, now a retired Air Marshal, told me that from what he can remember it was ‘not a particularly nice aeroplane to fly’.
On 3rd December the Squadron moved to Thuilles in Belgium where it stayed for six months and rested from action. Then on 3 February 1919 Major A.J. Capel from 201 Squadron (the former Naval No 1) took command of the Squadron. On the 8th of the month, DFCs were awarded to Captains Rose, Reed and Robb, Lieutenants Horry, Crabb, Shapard and Second Lieutenant Gasgoyne for their achievements during the war. From then on the officers enjoyed some riding on borrowed horses and on one occasion a mounted paper chase proved very popular, though not, I am told, with the Belgium farmers. There still exist in a First World War album several very old photographs of the horses, a few snaps of hangars and aeroplanes, the Squadron dog ‘Grisnez’, the Officers’ Mess Thuilles Chateau and the horse-shoe shaped table in the Mess foyer, but unfortunately these were rather too faded to be reproduced.
On 13 June the Squadron moved to Eil on the east side of the Rhine, near Cologne where the Allied forces were occupying the Rheinland. Under the terms of the Armisice they were forbidden to fly any distance east, so most of the time was spent flying up and down the Rhine and over gorgeous country to the west of the Rhine. They still had the Fokker D VII and one can imagine the effect on public relations, as the pilots demonstrated daily to the German people below, how they could ‘shoot it down’. On 19 July the Squadron contingent took part in the Peace March in London. The ‘War to end all Wars’ was over.
The Germans, who defined the Armistice not as surrender but as negotiations through diplomatic means, were already pushing for the withdrawal of all Allied Forces from German soil. The British people were sure that no more money need be spent on defence and so, sadly for 92, there was no further employment for a while and they were disbanded at Eil on 8 August 1919.
Oren Rose 16
Thomas Horry 8
William Reed 7
Earl Crabb 6
James Robb 6
Evander Shapard 6
Herbert Good 5
Arthur Coningham 4
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