Tag Archives: Military Cross

10 December 1919

Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith K.B.E., M.C., D.F.C., A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith K.B.E. (State Library of South Australia)
Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith K.B.E., M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith K.B.E. (State Library of South Australia)

10 December 1919: Captain Ross Macpherson Smith, M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, arrived at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, aboard a Vickers Vimy. Also aboard were Sergeant James Mallett Bennett and Sergeant Walter Henry Shiers. The four had departed Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, London, England, on 12 November, in response to the offer of a £10,000 prize offered by the government of Australia to the first Australian airmen to fly from England to Australia aboard a British airplane.

The flight crew readies the Vickers Vimy for the long-distance flight. (History Trust of South Australia)

The Smith’s airplane, a Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, registration G-EAOU, was built for the Royal Air Force, and given serial number F8630. It was too late to serve in combat and was not delivered to the RAF. Vickers modified it for the flight to Australia, adding additional fuel tanks. Total duration of the flight was 28 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes. The journey required 135 hours, 55 minutes of flying time. The distance flown was estimated to be 11,123 miles (17,901 kilometers). The Vimy averaged 81.84 miles per hour (131.71 kilometers per hour).

Ross and Keith Macpherson Smith, left of center, wearing khakis and slouch hats, on their arrival at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 10 December 1919. (Sotheby’s AU0772)

The route of the flight was London, England to Lyon, France; Rome, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; Damascus, French Mandate of Syria; Basra, Kingdom of Iraq; Karachi, Delhi, and Calcutta, British India; Akyab, and Rangoon, Burma; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Batavia and Surabaya, Dutch East Indies; arriving at Darwin at 4:10 p.m. local time, 10 December 1919 (0140, 11 December, GMT).

The flight crew of Vickers Vimy G-EAOU, left to right, Sergeant James Mallett Bennett, Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, Captain Ross Macpherson Smith, M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and Sergeant Walter Henry Shiers, at the Sydney Town Hall steps, 14 February 1920. (State Library New South Wales FL3254227)

The Smith brothers were both invested Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.) by George V. Sergeants Bennett and Shiers received commissions as officers.The four airmen divided the £10,000 prize money. (This would be equivalent to £486,460.36, or $651,175.84, in 2017.)

Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, G-EAOU.
Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, G-EAOU, photographed 31 August 1920. (Museums Victoria Collections)

The Vickers Vimy F.B.27 (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was designed and built by Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) at Weybridge, Surrey, England. It was a twin-engine, three-bay biplane night bomber built for the Royal Air Force. The Vimy’s construction was typical of the time: a wooden framework covered with doped fabric. The engines were placed in individual nacelles, midway between the upper and lower wings. Each nacelle was supported by four vertical struts. The horizontal stabilizer/elevator were also biplane, and it had two vertical fins/rudders.

The Vimy was 43 feet, 6½ inches (13.272 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 2 inches (20.472 meters) and height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The upper and lower wings had a chord of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The total wing area was 1,330 square feet (123.6 square meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 10 feet, 0 inches (3.048 meters) and there was no stagger. Both wings had and angle of incidence of 3½° and 3° dihedral.

The bomber weighed 6,700 pounds (3,039 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 12,500 pounds (5,670 kilograms), though on the intercontinental flight, G-EAOU was routinely operated at a gross weight of 13,000 pounds (5,897 kilograms).

The Vimy was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.5-cubic-inch-displacement (20.3 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. These engines were rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 360 horsepower at 2,035 r.p.m. (five minute limit). They turned four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 1.60:1 gear reduction. The Eagle VIII used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos with two spark plugs per cylinder. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine. (NASM)

The Vimy had a maximum speed of 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). In standard configuration, the bomber had a range of 835 miles (1,344 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 10,500 feet (3,200 meters). This is the same type airplane flown across the North Atlantic ocean by Alcock and Brown six months earlier.

Vickers gave the Vimy IV bomber to the Australian government. G-EAOU is on display at Adelaide Airport, Adelaide, South Australia.

Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)
Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 November 1909

John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon with a pig in a basket aboard his Short Biplane No. 2, 4 November 1909.

4 November 1909: John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon (later, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, GBE, MC, PC) flew a small pig in a wicker basket tied to a strut of his Short Brothers Biplane No. 2. He flew approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers).

Short Brothers Ltd., founded in 1897 as a balloon manufacturer, began building airplanes in 1908. It was the first company to build production airplanes. The Short Biplane No. 2 was designed by Horace Leonard Short. It was similar to the Wright Brothers Model A Flyer, which Short Brothers had been building under license in the United Kingdom. Rather than the Wright’s system of wing-warping, the Biplane No. 2 used ailerons. The first production batch consisted of six airplanes.

Front view of Moore-Brabazon’s Short No. 2. “Mr. J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon’s new biplane, designed and constructed by Messrs. Short Bros., with which he has been making flights at Shellbeach, being brought up to the starting rail after a flight.” Cropped image. (Flight)
Front quarter view of Moore-Brabazon’s Short No. 2. “Getting Mr. Moore-Brabazon’s Short biplane in place on to the starting rail.” Cropped image. (Flight)
“Side view, on the starting rail, of Mr. Moore Brabazon’s biplane, just constructed by Messrs. Short Bros.” (Flight)
“Three-quarter view, from the back, of the Short biplane, constructed for Mr. Moore-Brabazon.” Cropped image. (Flight)

The Biplane No. 2 was 32 feet, 0 inches in length (9.754 meters) with a wingspan of 48 feet, 8 inches (14.834 meters). Its gross weight was 1,485 pounds (674 kilograms).

Green D.4 gasoline engine, designed by Gustavus Green, 1909. Copper waterjackets encase the individual cast steel cylinders which are bolted to the aluminum crankcase. (Wikipedia)

The Short Biplane No. 2 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 8.990 liter (548.602-cubic-inch) Green Engine Co., Ltd., D.4 single overhead camshaft inline 4-cylinder engine, which produced 61.6 horsepower at 1,150 r.p.m., and turned two wooden 2-bladed propellers in a pusher configuration, by means of chain drive. The Green engine produced 67.8 horsepower at 1,210 r.p.m. during a 7 minute maximum power test. The Green D.4 was 44 inches (1.118 meters) long, 33½ inches (0.851 meters) high and 17 inches (0.432 meters) wide. It weighed 287 pounds (130.2 kilograms) with the flywheel.

The Short Biplane No. 2 had a maximum speed of approximately 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

Moore-Brabazon’s pig.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.

The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme. Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finished his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. He was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915 and was assigned to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the twin-engine Avion Caudron Type G. 4.

Caudron G.4 en vol, 1915. Les avions utilisés durant les premières années du conflit ne sont pas spécifiquement conçus pour l’observation. C’est le cas du Caudron G.4, mis au point pour le bombardement mais affecté à la reconnaissance quelques mes après sa mise en service en 1915. (© Droits réservés / Coll. musée de l’Air et de l’Espace–Le Bourget, noº MA 23532.)

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

René Paul Fonck died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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