9722 (Newberry and Rees) engaged a Roland, upon which Rees fired a drum with no result noted. Flt/Cdr. Draper and AM Allen in 9407 also were kept busy....
Left with 'A' Flight No.1 Squadron. Got left very much behind about half way owing to engine running very badly. Enemy biplane sighted on port bow. Went in pursuit opening fire immediately to which the enemy replied. Fired about sixty rounds at him continuosly until he dived to earth. While watching his descent I was attacked from the rear by three enemy biplanes who were diving at me. Passenger did not open fire as he thought they were Sopwiths, so I dived about 1000 ft. and then turned climbing again. Enemy machines also dived and passenger open fire after we flattened out. It is doubtful whether they were hit at all as range was long. Two other machines were sighted in the distance and very high up, but owing to engine running badly I decided to return. [Flt/Cdr. C. Draper, fighter 9407]
All the aircraft returned safely, although F/S/L G. S. Harrower was originally posted as missing. He had become lost, and not wanting to land in German territory he flew west until he was sure he was beyond the German lines. However due to the strength of the wind he was carried well beyond Ochey and eventually crash-landed near Dijon - over 100 miles from Ochey. On 12 November 1916 the blast furnaces at St.Ingbert were raided by nine bombers and seven fighters. Once again all aircraft returned safely with a typical report being that of F/S/L Macgregor flying bomber 9733...
Nothing of importance happened, either going out or on the return journey. When I dropped my bombs, I could see no other machines in the air, so I came back alone. [F/S/L N. M. Macgregor, bomber 9733]
The weather returned to its previous dismal self and operational flying was once again on hold. In the meantime Harrower continued his adventure in Dijon.
On Nov 20, while making a forced landing near Dijon, my machine crashed into and killed a horse! I was coming into a very suitable field, quite low, and saw some horses in a corner of the field opposite and well away from the spot I had picked to land. When just about to make the landing I perceived a horse galloping towards the machine, so altered course as much as possible, but the horse must have been mad with fright and headed straight for the machine. There was not sufficent speed to bring the machine over the horse, or height to turn. So my only course was to keep on trusting that the horse would turn off, but this unfortunately did not not happen, the result being that the machine struck the horse and killed it. It was an unfortunate affair but one which under the circumstances could not be avoided. [F/S/L G. S. Harrower]
The aggrieved farmer put in a claim for damages because the unfortunate mare, Mademoiselle de Machefein, was about to foal, and since the sire was a champion and Mademoiselle de Machefein was related to eight other winners and had herself won 12,000 francs in prize money, he had expected to get 10,000 francs for her.
23 November 1916 dawned foggy, and preparations were made to carry out a raid. However a flight to test the weather conditions at 1:30 P.M. showed the weather still hadn't cleared in the valleys and the raid was cancelled. Flt/Cdr. Draper then asked permission for himself and the other fighters to carry out a patrol along the line near Nancy and Luneville. They set out five strong, but F/L Feeny and F/S/L Collishaw had to return due to engine problems. The three remaining aircraft of Draper, F/L C. B. Dalison and F/S/L L. E. Smith then ran into two enemy aircraft and Draper along with his gunlayer SLt. Barker, flying in 9722, brought one down, later confirmed by a French observation post.
The weather continued fine on the 24th of November and nine bombers and seven fighters set off for the blast furnaces at Dillingen. Two enemy aircraft attacked the fighters of Draper/Barker (9407) and F.L Dalison/SLt. Fraser (9739).
Two enemy aircraft attacked No.16, Flt/Cdr Draper, and myself in turn. My Gunlayer Sub Lieut Fraser emptied a tray and a half into one machine, the other left the fight. The first machine was then tackled by No.16, and he finally dived straight at me. I stalled slightly to get my front gun at him, and was able to fire 100 rounds or so right into his engine and fuselage from point blank. An explosive bullet hit the centre section, a splinter hitting the top of my leg. He passed a few feet above my top plane and then wavered, spun and dived and I observed him fall to bits in the air before hitting the ground over a wood NE of Delmo. [F/L C. B. Dalison, fighter 9739]
Another line patrol was flown on 3 December 1916 at the request of the French who had reported German aircraft over the front. Seven fighters went up and four engaged the enemy. The fighter of F/S/L R. F. Redpath/SLt. Lemon was attacked by a 'small fast two-seater, presumably a Roland.'
The preferred state for the Breguet V. Shown here is 9196 with the personnel being unidentified. (P. Breille via J.M. Bruce/G.S. Leslie Collection.
The enemy and my observer opened fire about same time. Whilst Observer was changing pans my petrol pipe and elevator control were hit by explosive bullets, the damage to the pipe putting the machine out of commission. I immediately dived towards lines, followed by enemy shooting all the time until I was within 1,500 Ft of ground. my observer endeavoured to continue fire with Lewis Gun and should have done some damage had not the gas regulator key come adrift. Landed at Aman, about 3 or 4 miles in French ground at 12:10, and was able to bring my machine back after lunch. [F/S/L R. F. Redpath, fighter 9730]
As a result of this experience Redpath recommended that: the hand air pump be changed to a more accessible position; that the Lewis gun be examined with a view to adequately securing the gas regulator key; that the front gun be speeded up to give it a higher rate of fire, more in line with that of the German fighters; that Sopwith fighters should have 130 h.p. Clerget engines as their performance is not good enough against the present German fighters; finally, that future fighting patrols should send the aircraft off in pairs and stay together. 9722 flown by F/L Newberry and F/S/L Burden engaged a two-seater Aviatik. As Newberry's report states they also had problems with the rear Lewis.
A two-seater Aviatik was sighted approaching from Nancy and it was engaged by stalling the machine in order to get the front gun up the extra 500 ft. of altitude. The Lewis was out of action due to the gas regulator key and foresight being lost. About 200 rounds were fired the enemy replying from the rear seat, but with very little effect on either side. Eventually we attained the height of the enemy and fired, these shots appeared to take effect, and the enemy turned sharp left and disappeared NE. [F/L C.B. Newberry, fighter 9722]
On 27 December 1916, the weather over Ochey cleared enough to allow operations to resume. The blast furnaces at Dillingen were once again to be the objective for the 11 bombers and five fighters starting out. The fighter of F/L Dalison broke its propeller on taking off, while F/S/Ls Edwards and Glen both returned due to engine trouble. Over Dillingen itself, the target was obscured by clouds and haze so it was impossible to observe the results of the 2340 lbs. of bombs dropped. Flying bomber 9742 was F/S/L R. F. Redpath.
Reached Dillingen alright. Very cloudy over objective and accurate bomb dropping was very difficult, but I think all bombs hit target, although I could not see enough to mark any bomb bursts. There was not much anti-aircraft fire over lines. The anti-aircraft at objectives was very good. I did not see any hostile machines. [F/S/L R. F. Redpath, bomber 9742]
Once again all aircraft returned safely. Although in some accounts Collishaw is reported to have been shot down, his report that day states...
Left Ochey at 12.40 p.m. on December 27th with 1st Squadron as fighter. My machine had more power than the bombers so I was able to manoeuvre anywhere. Crossed the lines at 11,000 ft. in formation. Some shelling when over the lines. We then passed over some clouds with clear patches to guide our path. It was a long trip out against a strong wind, but the target was quite visible. I followed FSL Shearer down to 6,000 ft. at the objective and observed the bombs strike within the objective from his machine. On our way home I flew alongside Squadron Commander Rathborne and noticed a hostile machine off to one side, but he did not close. Returned in formation to Ochey at 2.45 p.m. [F/S/L R. Collishaw, fighter 9667]
The New Year found a continuation of the bad weather and it wasn't until 23 January 1917 that it cleared sufficiently to allow operations to resume. However the temperature had plummeted and this brought about delays, with many of the aircraft suffering engine failures or not starting at all. This threw the flight crews into confusion since they were having trouble forming up. Further, they had just been reorganized, and many of them hadn't had the chance to fly together yet, with the result that only 16 of the 24 aircraft starting out reached the blast furnaces at Burbach. In addition to the aircraft, the crews themselves suffered from the cold with five of the airmen being severely frost-bitten despite being well-greased with whale oil.
Ran into another machine on ground, damaging my own, started up with another bomber, and at 4,000 ft. or so had engine trouble, siezing (sic) up. Managed to reach airfield by gliding. [F/S/L J. E. Sharman, bombers 9724 & N5124]
Was delayed in getting off the ground, and was unable to pick up flight. [F/S/L S. T. Edwards, bomber 9706]
Trouble starting engine, could not keep up with flight so I turned back at Nancy. [F/S/L W. E. Flett, bomber N5126] "Was unable to start engine. [F/S/L Keens, bomber N5198]
F/S/L Les Parker was one of the few men in the RNAS to pilot a Breguet V on an operational flight when he fley 9175 on the 12 October 1916 raid on Oberndorf. Note the flight marking on the side of 9179. (J.M. Bruce/G.S. Leslie collection)
Of the remaining aircraft, ten bombers reached Burbach and found the weather to be clear and felt that considerable damage was done by the 2,600 lbs of bombs dropped.
Strong N.E. wind, quite cold at 10,000 Ft. A.A. at lines not excessive. A.A. at target fired after we had dropped our bombs. Target very large and excellent, could hardly be missed. Observed two huns but they did not come in. [F/L G. G. MacLennan, bomber 9669]
Kept with flight right to objective, then descending to 8000 Ft. dropped bombs. Turned to see, but could not observe explosion. Visibility good over objective. [F/S/L Walker, bomber N5107]
The German fighter force was found to be in larger numbers than previously reported, with nine aircraft having combats.
On return engaged a small machine which we believe was a Halberstadt Scout, and a much faster machine than a Sopwith. After a lively fight the German machine made off. Pursuit was futile on account of its great speed. [F/S/L McNeil, fighter 5174]
McNeil's observer, Sub.Lt. Pearkes was frustrated by repeated jamming of his Lewis gun and found the size of the ammunition drum to be a disadvantage.
Again it was demonstrated how useless are the small trays of ammunition on the Lewis Gun in a fight with an enemy machine, as the enemy is continually firing whilst the trays are being changed on the Lewis Gun, and owing to the great cold it is frequently hard to change a tray quickly. Cheeks and nose were frostbitten. [Sub.Lt Pearkes, fighter N5174]
Flying in fighter 9730 was F/S/L R. Collishaw.
When the flight was over Wallersburg railway junction I noticed one of our flight of ten going towards the earth in a spiral, and thought it to be one of our machines until I counted our flight and came to the correct number, so concluded it must be an enemy machine. Not long afterwards a small machine resembling a Baby Nieuport closed our flight, and proceeded to attack him, but after a short series of manoeuvering he went off the southward. [F/S/L R. Collishaw, fighter 9730]
Perhaps the spinning aircraft seen by Collishaw was a victim of one of the other fighters flying as escort to 'B' flight, No.1 Sqdn... For F/L Dalison/AM Pinchen also had a combat with 'Nieuports'.
Accompanied 'B' Flight Red Squadron to Burbach as fighter... On return journey was attacked by two German Nieuports. These machines were only marked on the rudder, whilst the fuselage was painted brown and green like a French Nieuport, the only difference being the shape of the engine cowling. Pilots should take especial note of this as they are very easily mistaken for French machines. Both machines withdrew after a short fight during which the German machines fired a lot, and we fired about 150 rounds from my front gun, and about two trays from the back. It is thought that one was badly hit. The cold was intense. [F/L C. B. Dalison, fighter N5173]
Sopwith bomber 9660 had been delivered to No. 3 Wing on 6 July 1916 and was lost with F/S/L Charles Butterworth on the 12 October 1916 raid on Oberndorf. Unlike most other Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters of No. 3 Wing, 9660 had its wing and tailplane uppersurfaces finished in PC10, with the fuselage being left in plain fabric. Also note roundel proportions. (Artwork by the author)