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Those Magnificent Men (4) – The Journey Back to the Somme

Those Magnificent Men (4) – The Journey Back to the Somme


… . Our ground party reported later that the poppies sailed over Prince Charles at about 50 ft and those that did not land in the Cemetery landed in the nearby field where many of the NZ fallen lie in unmarked graves. There were 3000 casualties on the first day of the Somme for the NZ Brigade and more than 10,000 in total. The poppies landed in the Cemetery as a young New Zealander, Frenchman, and German were reading their hopes and prayers for the future as no doubt all those fallen had held before them.

With a strong crosswind component the leg to Abbeville took 40 mins at a spritely 45 mph over the ground. Clearly, my 17 stone was not helping his progress. So, after a quick refuel John launched for England with Keith soon drawing ahead of the BE2. Mindful of its Reconnaissance heritage, John carefully edged his Iphone camera into the slipstream on the flight back where once a box camera with individual plates used to sit and took some wonderful pictures of the French coast, the Channel, the white cliffs of Dover and, on the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain to the day, the wonderful memorial on the cliffs. The BE2 had a cut out at the back of the lower wing at the inboard end to enable pictures to be taken. Keith was less fortunate in that his engine failed and he had to force land which damaged the Albatros but thankfully not him in the process. The Albatros is now back in the work shop and will shortly be dispatched to New Zealand for repairs. With the right support, we could have it back in time for next season. We are starting an Online Giving Page to help with the rebuild. The Albatros will stay in UK till 11/11/2018 if not longer if we have some help with the repairs. We are also promoting our Snipe with its magnificent Bentley BR2a rotary engine and are seeking a sponsor or group of sponsors to keep it in UK. Watch this space

Captain Aidan Liddell VC MC RFC

Liddell Leaving UK001 Aidan Liddell obtained his Royal Aero CLub Ticket (No. 781) in the spring of 1914 flying the Boxkite with the Vickers School at Brooklands, Surrey.On 30th August 1914, on the outbreak of war, he accompanied the 2nd Bn, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, to the front in France with the rank of Captain and was placed in command of the machine gun section of the Battalion.For his service as commander of the Battalion machine gun section he was mentioned in despatches, and received the award of the Military Cross on 14th January 1915. He was himself wounded and invalided home. Once he recovered he was deemed unfit to go back to the trenches but as a qualified pilot, cleared to join the RFC. He left for France to join No 7 Squadron on 24th July 1915 and armed with the pilot’s notes appears to have taught himself to fly the RE5 in a couple of days. His first operational reconnaissance lasted 3 hours 50 minutes which is an unbelievably long time in an aircraft with a top speed of 55 mph and an endurance of ~4 hours.  He was engaged from the air and the ground and brought the aircraft with 11 shrapnel holes and and a broken bracing wire.  His second sortie was on 31st July and he was once again engaged by a hostile aircraft (HA). The Report by his squadron commander captures the essence of the Capt Liddell and his generation

Liddell RE5001





“In forwarding the attached report by 2/Lt Peck on an encounter with a hostile aeroplane (HA) I should like to call attention to the following points, as, in my opinion, it was a remarkably good piece of work by both pilot and observer in bringing their machine safely back. Captain Liddell is a comparatively young pilot and was only on his second reconnaissance.  He has had one weeks experience of flying RE5 machines which undoubtedly require more judgement than most to land.  In spite of his leg being broken very badly, with apparently 4 inches of bone shot away he flew his machine back over the lines at a height of 2,800 feet.  An experienced pilot would have difficulty in flying and landing the machine under the circumstances in which he was placed; with one hand he worked the wheel control which was broken in half by bullets and with the other he worked the rudder.  His throttle was shot away but he rightly drove the machine down with the engine on to ensure of hitting the aerodrome and then switched off.Whilst over the lines he was heavily fired on and was flying for over half an hour from the time he was wounded until he landed.

His observer, 2/Lt Peck who has had several encounters in the air previously and was evidently of considerable assistance to the pilot.  He was not strapped in but though everything else loose fell out of the machine he managed to retain his gun whilst holding himself in.  I should add that after a perfect landing Captain Liddell sat for half an hour in his machine to await the arrival of a doctor as he considered his leg would still be further damaged if inexperienced hands lifted him out of the machine.  He then put a splint on his leg and himself applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.  Sadly, Capt Liddell succumbed to his wounds a month later but for his heroic efforts was awarded the Victoria Cross – an award commemorated today at Sherfield on Loddon where his family had their home in Hampshire by current members of 7 Squadron with an honour guard and a Chinook flypast. WAHT would like to contact any surviving members of the Liddell family. The diary is held by the RAF Museum, accession number AC 82/20/22.


WAHT and PA Wood – Fly In Update 2

image The WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust (WAHT) is most fortunate to have been offered help by Paul and Andrew Wood who have been working with Rolls Royce and Bentley motor cars since 1967 and have achieved world renown for their attention to detail and thus the many concourse events that their cars have won over the intervening years. Andrew is the first to recognise the kindred spirits in The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL) for the quality and accuracy of their Showroomworkmanship. TVAL build and operate WAHT’s growing fleet of flying WW1 late-model original aircraft – 2 BE2es, Albatros DVa, and the Sopwith Snipe.
image There are two Merlin engines in the PA Wood show rooms and not so long ago a Spitfire had pride of place. To all the supporters of WAHT’s delight, Andrew has asked if the Sopwith Snipe with its Bentley BR2 rotary engine could spend the winter in their show room at Great Dunmow. The Snipe was flying last weekend at Old Warden where Andrew’s unique Sopwith Dove is being restored to flying condition. The Snipe will be moved from there by road on the second full week in August to Stow Maries using the PA Wood covered lorry and all things being equal will be flying at Stow Maries on 15th/16th Aug at the WAHT fly-in (Tickets are available online).
WAHT are seeking sponsors for both the Snipe and the BE2e already at Stow Maries to gift them through Trust for the nation just as our forebears gifted over 2000 aircraft to the RFC when the Zeppelins started attacking England – a DH2, FE2b, and a Sopwith Strutter are also on WAHT’s sponsor list. WAHT’s ambition is to have built up a flying squadron of 5 WW1 aircraft by 2018 so that by the end of the Centenary period together with all the preservation work of SMGWA, Stow Maries is once again an operational Home Defence RFC aerodrome and an enduring centre of excellence that is host to a vibrant visitor experience, an inspirational apprenticeship scheme, and a year round programme of STEM and schools’ activities!


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