Tag Archives: Victoria Cross

25 July 1915

Captain Lanoe George Hawker, V.C., D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps (Imperial War Museum Catalog number Q 61077
Captain Lanoe George Hawker, D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps (Imperial War Museum Catalog number Q 61077)

25 July 1915: Near Passchendaele, Belgium, Captain Lanoe George Hawker, DSO, No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, was flying a single-engine Bristol Scout C, which he had had his mechanic equip with a single Lewis machine gun, fixed and firing 45° to the left to avoid the propeller arc.

Captain Hawker saw three enemy aircraft and attacked, shooting down all three. For this action, Captain Hawker was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the third pilot, and the first ace, to receive Britain’s highest award for gallantry in combat.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 20.14.17War Office, 24th August 1915.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers, Non-commissioned Officer and man, in recognition of their most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the field:—

Captain Lanoe George Hawker, D.S.O., Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps.

     For most conspicuoius bravery and very great ability on 25th July, 1915.

     When flying alone he attacked three German aeroplanes in succession. The first managed to eventually escape, the second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third, which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, was driven to the earth in our lines, the pilot and observer being killed.

     The personal bravery shown by this Officer was of the very highest order, as the enemy’s aircraft were armed with machine guns, and all carried a passenger as well as the pilot.

The London Gazette, Number 29273, 24 August 1915, at Page 8395, Column 1.

Hawker was credited with destroying 7 enemy aircraft in combat. His luck came to an end, however, on 23 November 1916, when he encountered Leutnant Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richthofen of Jagdstaffel 2 near Begaume, France, while flying an Airco DH.2.

A lengthy battle ensued with neither fighter ace gaining advantage. Richthofen, “The Red  Baron,” fired over 900 rounds during the fight. Running low on fuel, Hawker tried to break off and head for friendly lines. Almost there, he was struck in the head by a single machine gun bullet from Richthofen’s Albatros D.II. Major Hawker was killed and his airplane spun to the ground. He was the eleventh of Baron Richthofen’s eighty aerial victories.

The Baron took one of Hawker’s machine guns as a trophy.

 Captain Hawker's Bristol Scout C, No. 1611, in which he destroyed three enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 25 July 1915. In this photograph, the angled placement of Hawker's Lewis machine gun is visible.
Captain Hawker’s Bristol Scout C, No. 1611, in which he destroyed three enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 25 July 1915. In this photograph, the angled placement of Hawker’s Lewis machine gun is visible. (Wikipedia)

The Bristol Scout C was a single-place, single-engine tractor-type biplane reconnaissance aircraft. It was manufactured by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., Ltd., at Brislington, south east of Bristol, England. The Scout C was 20 feet, 8 inches (6.299 meters) long with a wingspan of 24 feet, 7 inches (7.493 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters) and vertical separation of 4 feet, 3 inches (1.295 meters). They were staggered 1 foot, 4½ inches (0.419 meters). The Scout C had an empty weight of 757 pounds (343 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 1,195 pounds (542 kilograms).

The Scout C was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 10.91 liter (665.79 cubic inch) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 83 horsepower at 1,285 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller through direct drive.

The Scout C had a maximum speed of 92.7 miles per hour (149.2 kilometers per hour) at ground level, and 86.5 miles per hour (139.2 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). It could climb to 10,000 feet in 21 minutes, 20 seconds. Its service ceiling was 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). It carried sufficient fuel to remain airborne for 2½ hours.

A total of 374 Bristol Scouts were built. 211 of these were of the Scout C variant.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 May 1943

Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar, Royal Air Force, at RAF Scampton, 27 May 1943. (Imperial War Museum TR 1002)
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, Royal Air Force, at RAF Scampton, 27 May 1943. (Imperial War Museum TR 1002)
Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross

Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, was awarded the Victoria Cross by His Majesty King George VI at a ceremony at RAF Scampton, Licolnshire, England. Wing Commander Gibson received the medal for his leadership of No. 617 Squadron, The Dambusters, during Operation Chastise, an attack on Germany’s Ruhr Valley hydroelectric dams, 16–17 May 1943.

The Victoria Cross ranks with the George Cross as the United Kingdom’s highest award for gallantry.

The first British medal to be created for bravery, the Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856, with the first recipients being personnel honored for their gallantry during the Crimean War.

The bronze cross pattée, which bears the inscription “FOR VALOUR,” is cast from the metal of Russian guns captured at Sevastopol during the Crimean campaign. The Victoria Cross is awarded “for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.

The King has a word with Flight Lieutenant Les Munro from New Zealand. Wing Commander Guy Gibson is on the right and Air Vice Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Commander of No 5 Group is behind Flight Lieutenant Munro and to the right. (Imperial War Museum TR 999)
His Majesty The King has a word with Flight Lieutenant John Leslie Munro, Royal New Zealand Air Force, at RAF Scampton, 27 May 1943. Wing Commander Gibson is on the right, facing Munro. (Imperial War Museum TR 999)

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 09.40.32Air Ministry, 28th May, 1943.

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery: —

Acting Wing Commander Guy Penrose GIBSON, D.S.O., D.F.C. (39438), Reserve of Air Force Officers, No. 617 Squadron: —

     This officer served as a night bomber pilot at the beginning of the war and quickly established a reputation as an outstanding operational pilot. In addition to taking the fullest possible share in all normal operations, he made single-handed attacks during his “rest” nights on such highly defended objectives as the German battleship Tirpitz, then completing in Wilhelmshaven.

     When his tour of operational duty was concluded, he asked for a further operational posting and went to a night-fighter unit instead of being posted for instructional duties. In the course of his second operational tour, he destroyed at least three enemy bombers and contributed much to the raising and development of new night-fighter formations.

     After a short period in a training unit, he again volunteered for operational duties and returned to night bombers. Both as an operational pilot and as leader of his squadron, he achieved outstandingly successful results and his personal courage knew no bounds. Berlin, Cologne, Danzig, Gdynia, Genoa, Le Creusot, Milan, Nuremberg and Stuttgart were among the targets he attacked by day and by night.

     On the conclusion of his third operational tour, Wing Commander Gibson pressed strongly to be allowed to remain on operations and he was selected to command a squadron then forming for special tasks. Under his inspiring leadership, this squadron has now executed one of the most devastating attacks of the war—the breaching of the Moehne and Eder dams.

     The task was fraught with danger and difficulty. Wing Commander Gibson personally made the initial attack on the Moehne dam. Descending to within a few feet of the water and taking the full brunt of the antiaircraft defences, he delivered his attack with great accuracy. Afterwards he circled very low for 30 minutes, drawing the enemy fire on himself in order to leave as free a run as possible to the following aircraft which were attacking the dam in turn.

     Wing Commander Gibson then led the remainder of his force to the Eder dam where, with complete disregard for his own safety, he repeated his tactics and once more drew on himself the enemy fire so that the attack could be successfully developed.

     Wing Commander Gibson has completed over 170 sorties, involving more than 600 hours operational flying. Throughout his operational career, prolonged exceptionally at his own request, he has shown leadership, determination and valour of the highest order.

The London Gazette, Tuesday, 25 May 1943, No. 3630 at Page 2361

Wing Commander Guy P. Gibson VC, 1944. © IWM (CH 13618)
Wing Commander Guy P. Gibson V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, Royal Air Force, 1944. © IWM (CH 13618)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–17 May 1943

Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar. (Imperial War Museum)
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar. © IWM (CH 11047)

16–17 May 1943: Nineteen modified Avro Lancaster B.III Special long-range heavy bombers of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, carried out Operation Chastise, a low-level night attack against four hydroelectric dams in the Ruhr Valley.

The purpose of the attack was to disrupt German steel production. It was estimated that 8 tons of water were required to produce 1 ton of steel. Breaching the dams would reduce the available water and hydroelectric power, disrupt transportation of materials on the rivers, and flood iron ore and coal mines and power plants. If the dams were destroyed, it was believed that the effects would be the same as attacks against 26 categories of industrial targets further down the Ruhr Valley.

Led by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, a veteran of 172 combat missions, the aircrews of No. 617 Squadron dropped a spinning cylindrical bomb, code-named “Upkeep”, from a height of just 60 feet (18.3 meters) over the reservoirs behind the dams, while flying at precisely 240 miles per hour (386.2 kilometers per hour).

The 9,250-pound (4,195.8 kilogram) Vickers Type 464 bomb was designed to skip along the surface and to strike the dam, and then sink to the bottom. There, a pressure detonator exploded the 6,600 pound (2,994 kilogram) Torpex charge directly against the wall with the water pressure directing the energy through the wall.

Guy Gibson's Avro Lancaster B.III Special, ED932/G, AJ-G, "bombed up" with an Upkeep bomb. © IWM (HU 69915)
Guy Gibson’s Avro Lancaster B.III Special, ED932/G, AJ-G, “bombed up” with a Vickers Type 464 bomb. © IWM (HU 69915)

Nineteen Lancasters took off from RAF Scampton beginning at 9:28 p.m. on the 16th, and flew across the North Sea at only 100 feet (30.5 meters) to avoid being detected by enemy radar. The bombers succeeded in destroying the Möhne and Eder dams and damaging the Sorpe. A fourth dam was attacked but not damaged. The last surviving bomber returned to base at 6:15 a.m. on the 17th.

Of the nineteen Lancasters launched, two were damaged and turned back before reaching the targets. Six were shot down and two more collided with power lines during the low-level night flight. Of 133 airmen participating in the attack, 53 were killed.

GIBSON, Guy, with PO Frederick M. Spafford, FL Robert E.G. Hutchinson, PO Andrew Deering and FO Torger H. Taerum
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, Commander No. 617 Squadron, with the crew of “G George”: Pilot Officer Frederick Mchael Spafford, D.F.C., bomb aimer; Flight Lieutenant Robert Edward George Hutchinson, D.F.C. and Bar, wireless operator; Pilot Officer Andrew Deering, D.F.C., gunner; Flying Officer Torger Harlo Taerum, D.F.C., navigator. Flight engineer Sergeant John Pulford and tail gunner Flight Lieutenant Richard A.D. Trevor-Roper are not present.  © IWM (TR 1127) 

Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George VI. An additional 33 survivors were also decorated. 617 Squadron became known as “The Dambusters.” A book, The Dam Busters, was written about the raid by Paul Brickhill, who also wrote The Great Escape. A 1955 movie starred Richard Todd, O.B.E., as Wing Commander Gibson. There have been reports that a new movie is planned.

An Avro Lancaster B.III Special drops an "Upkeep" bomb during tests, April 1943. (Imperial War Museum)
An Avro Lancaster B.III Special drops an “Upkeep” bomb during tests at Reculver, April 1943. Imperial War Museum, still from film, IWM (FLM 2340)
After being dropped from an Avro Lancaster, the “special mine” bounces across the water. (Imperial War Museum)
Post-strike reconnaissance photograph shows the breach of the Mohne Dam in the Ruhr Valley, 16 May 1943. (Imperial War Museum)
Post-strike reconnaissance photograph shows the breach of the Möhne Dam in the Ruhr Valley, 17 May 1943. The gap is 250 feet (76 meters) wide and 292 feet (22 meters) deep. © IWM (CH 9687)

The Avro Lancaster B.III Special was a four-engine long range heavy bomber modified to carry the Type 464 bomb. It was operated by a crew of seven: Pilot, flight engineer, navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer, nose gunner and tail gunner. The “Lanc” was 69 feet, 6 inches (21.184 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet (31.090 meters) and overall height of 20 feet (6.096 meters). The modified bomber had an empty weight of 35,240 pounds (15,984.6 kilograms and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 60,000 pounds (27,215.5 kilograms).

The Lancaster B.III Special was powered by the Packard Motor Car Company’s license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 24, the Packard V-1650-1 Merlin 224. These were liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.022-liter) single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.0:1. The Merlin 224 used a two-speed, single-stage supercharger. 100/130-octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine had a Normal Power rating of 1,080 horsepower at 2,650 r.p.m. and 9,500 feet (2,896 meters); Military Power, 1,240 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters); and 1,300 horsepower at 3,000 horsepower with 54.3 inches of manifold pressure (1.84 Bar) for Takeoff. The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic quick-feathering, constant-speed propellers which had a diameter of 13 feet (3.962 meters). The propeller gear reduction ratio was 0.477:1. The V-1650-1 was 6 feet, 7.7 inches (2.024 meters) long, 2 feet, 6.0 inches (0.762 meters) wide and 3 feet, 6.6 inches (1.082 meters) high. It weighed 1,512 pounds (685.8 kilograms).

These engines gave the Lancaster a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (321.9 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 272 miles per hour (437.7 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 24,700 feet (7,528.6 meters) and maximum range was 2,530 miles (4,071.6 kilometers).

Defensive armament for a standard Lancaster consisted of eight air-cooled Browning .303-caliber Mark II machine guns in three power turrets, nose, dorsal and tail. The Lancasters assigned to Operation Chastise had the dorsal turret deleted to reduce weight and aerodynamic drag. The gunner normally operating that turret was moved to the front turret, relieving the bomb aimer to deal with the operation of the specialized mission equipment.

7,377 Avro Lancasters were built. Only two remain in airworthy condition.

The first two modified Avro Lancaster B.III Specials assigned to No. 617 Squadron, RAF Scampton, April 1943. (Royal Air force)
The first two modified Avro Lancaster B.III Specials assigned to No. 617 Squadron, RAF Scampton, April 1943. In the foreground is ED825/G, AJ T. (Royal Air Force)
One of the two flyable Lancasters remaining, “City of London,” the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd.-built Lancaster B.I, PA474. The airplane is marked as “Mickey the Moocher,” EE176, QR M. (Crown Copyright)
Victory Aircraft Ltd.-built Avro Lancaster B Mk.X FM213, marked as KB726, VR A.

Highly Recommended: The Dam Busters, by Paul Brickhill. Evans Brothers, London, 1951

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 April 1915

Second Lieutenant Bernard Rhodes-Morehouse, Royal Flying Cross
Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Royal Flying Corps (Beaminster Museum)

War Office,

                                                                                                         22nd May, 1915.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers, Non-commissioned officer, and Men, for their conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty whilst serving with the Expeditionary Force :—

2nd Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Special Reserve, Royal Flying Corps.

For most conspicuous bravery on 26th April, 1915, in flying to Courtrai and dropping bombs on the railway line near that station. On starting the return journey he was mortally wounded, but succeeded in flying for 35 miles to his destination, at a very low altitude, and reported the successful accomplishment of his object. He has since died of his wounds.

The London Gazette, Special Supplement 29170, Saturday, 22 May, 1915 at Pages 4989–4990

Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second battle of Ypres, April 1915
Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April 1915.

Beginning 22 April 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres, the military forces of the German Empire began to use lethal chlorine gas as a weapon on the battlefield. A second mass gas attack took place on 24 April.

The Royal Flying Corps was ordered to interdict the German supply lines by bombing railways. On 26 April 1915, Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhead, Royal Flying Corps, of No. 2 Squadron at Merville, France, was assigned to attack the railway at Kortrijk, West Floandern (Courtrai, West Flanders) with his Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b reconnaissance airplane, number 687.

Departing alone from Merville at 3:05 p.m., Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse flew to his target, approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) away. He approached the railway station from an altitude of approximately 300 feet (91 meters) to accurately drop his single 100 pound (45.4 kilogram) bomb. He was hit in a leg by a rifle bullet, and shrapnel from his bomb damaged his airplane.

As Rhodes-Moorhouse flew away from the railroad station, he descended to 200 feet (61 meters) and was wounded twice more.

Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railrod Station)
Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railroad Station)

The wounds to his hand and leg were serious, but the one to his abdomen was mortal. However, he continued the difficult return flight in his damaged airplane, and arrived back at Merville at 4:12 p.m. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ airplane had 95 holes from bullets and shrapnel. The wounded pilot insisted on making a report to his commanding officer and friend, Captain Maurice Bernal Blake, before being taken to an aid station.

It was soon apparent that Rhodes-Moorhouse would not survive. Captain Blake informed him that he had recommended that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, died of wounds at 2:25 p.m., 27 April 1915.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest award for valor, on 22 May 1915. Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was the first airman of the British Empire to be so decorated.

His medal is part of the Lord Ashcroft Victoria Cross Collection, displayed in the Aschcroft Gallery of the Imperial War Museum. He also was awarded the 1914–1915 Star, The British War Medal 1914–1918, and the Allied Victory Medal.

Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres, K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., A.D.C., P.C., commanding general of the British Expeditionary Force, later said that Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse had been responsible for “the most important bomb dropped during the war so far.”

Rhodes-Morehouse’ remains were buried at the family home at Parnham Park,¹ Beaminster, Dorset. After his son, Flight Lieutenant William Henry Rhodes-Morehouse, D.F.C., No. 601 Squadron, was killed when his Hawker Hurricane was shot down during the Battle of Britain, his ashes were placed alongside his father.

William Bernard Rhodes-Moorhouse

William Barnard Rhodes Moorhouse was born into a wealthy family at 15 Princes Gate, London, England, 26 September 1887. He was one of four children of Edward Moorhouse, “a gentleman of independent means,” and Mary Ann Rhodes, the wealthiest woman in New Zealand. Moorhouse was educated Harrow School in northwest London, and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Radley monoplane on Portholme meadow. Constructed in 1911 in the Old Iron Foundry, St.John’s Street, H’don. Copyright – Huntingdon Record Office

Moorhouse developed an early interest in aviation and was soon an expert airman of international renown. Working with James Radley at Huntingdon, he developed the Radley-Moorhouse Monoplane. In 1910, Radley and Moorhouse traveled to the United States  to demonstrate their airplane. Moorhouse is reportedly the first person to have flown through San Francisco’s Golden Gate. He was granted pilot’s certificate No. 147 by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 17 October 1911.

In 1912, Moorhouse legally changed his surname to Rhodes-Moorhouse (and thereby replaced his second middle name, or maternal surname, Rhodes), because of the terms of his grandfather’s will. A Royal Licence authorizing the change was granted 11 January 1913, and published in The London Gazette ten days later.²

Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes-Moorhouse, 25 June 1912. (The Bowes Museum’s Blog)

Rhodes-Moorhouse married Miss Linda Beatrice Morrit at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, 25 June 1912, . They had one son, William Henry Rhodes-Moorhouse, born in 1914.

Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes-Moorhouse, along with John Henry Ledeboer, crossed the English Channel on 4 August 1912 in a three-place Société des Ateliers d’Aviation Louis Breguet 3-place biplane, flying from Douai, in northern France, where the airplane was built, to Ashwood, Staffordshire, England. The airplane was destroyed in a crash landing, but no one was hurt.

A Breguet 3-place biplane, 1912. (FLIGHT)

With England drawn into World War I, Rhodes-Moorhouse joined the Royal Flying Corps, 24 August 1914, and was assigned to the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. He was transferred to No. 2 Squadron, joining the unit at Merrville on 21 March 1915. He died just over one month later.

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E. (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The B.E.2.b was essentially the same as the B.E.2.a, except the cockpit sides were higher. The elevator control cables were external from the pilot’s cockpit, aft. Probably the most significant change was the use of ailerons for the B.E.2.b, where the previous versions had used wing-warping like the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and there was no stagger. The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)
This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

Armstrong Whitworth B.E.2.c, s/n 1799. Compare the staggered wings to those of the the B.E.2.a. in the photograph above.

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

The B.E.2.b was unarmed. The crew could only defend themselves with their personal weapons. The type was easy prey for German fighters. It could carry a small bomb.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnbourough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers. Eighty-five of the B.E.2.b variant were produced, with most being used as trainers. Nineteen were sent to the Expeditionary Force in France, and one to the Middle East Brigade. By late 1915, the type had been almost completely replaced by the improved B.E.2.c.

A reproduction of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b flown by Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse is in the collection of the Royal Air Force Museum. In a 2015 interview with Richard Moss for “Culture 24,” Ian Thirsk, Head of Collections, said, “It’s another gem of the collection, and was built from scratch by a designer called John McKenzie to the original drawings at the former RAF Museum facility at Cardington between 1983 and 1988.”

 Replica of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse' Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687.
Reproduction of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687, at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. (British Aviation Preservation Council)

¹ Interestingly, Parnham House is believed to have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Baskerville Hall” in his famous novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

Parnham House, East Front. William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse’ home in Dorset, England. (Country Life Magazine, 29 August 1908)

² The London Gazette, Number 28683, Tuesday, 21 January 1913, at Page 494, Column 1

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 March 1918

Second Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, South Staffordshire Regiment, British Army, 1916. © IWM (Q 68087)

30 March 1918: Near Borgo del Molino, Italy, Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, No. 66 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps,¹ was flying a Sopwith Camel, serial number B5648, while on an intruder mission with two other pilots, Captain Peter Carpenter, M.C., and Lieutenant Harold Ross Eycott-Martin. Jerrard engaged a group of Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen (Austrian Air Force) Albatros D.III fighters:

Air Ministry,

1st May, 1918

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned officers of the Royal Air Force, for services displaying outstanding bravery:—

Lt. Alan Jerrard, Royal Air Force (formerly of the South Staffordshire Regiment)

When on an offensive patrol with two other officers he attacked five enemy aeroplanes and shot down one in flames, following it down within one hundred feet of the ground.

He then attacked an enemy aerodrome from a height of only fifty feet from the ground, and, engaging single-handed some nineteen machines, which were either landing or attempting to take off, succeeded in destroying one of them, which crashed on the aerodrome. A large number of machines attacked him, and whilst thus fully occupied he observed that one of the pilots of his patrol was in difficulties. He went immediately to his assistance, regardless of his own personal safety, and destroyed a third enemy machine.

Fresh enemy aeroplanes continued to rise from the aerodrome, which he attacked one after another, and only retreated, still engaged with five enemy machines, when ordered to do so by his patrol leader. Although apparently wounded, this very gallant officer turned repeatedly, and attacked single-handed the pursuing machines, until he was eventually overwhelmed by numbers and driven to the ground.

Lt. Jerrard had greatly distinguished himself on four previous occasion, within a period of twenty-three days, in destroying enemy machines, displaying bravery and ability of the very highest order.

—Third Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, Number 30663, at Page 5287

The Victoria Cross is the United Kingdom’s highest award for gallantry. It is awarded “for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

Both Captain Carpenter and Lieutenant Eycott-Ross were awarded the Military Cross for their actions on this date. Lieutenant Jerrard was presented the Victoria Cross by George V at Buckingham Palace, 5 April 1919.

Wreckage of Lieutenant Alan Gjerrard’s Sopwith Camel, B5648, after being shot down in Italy, 30 March 1918. (Photo from “Sopwith Camel” by Jon Gutman, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012, at Page 48)

Jerrard’s Sopwith Camel had been shot down by Hauptmann Benno Fiala Ritter von Fernbrugg, an Austrian Air Force ace. This was von Fernbrugg’s fourteenth aerial victory.

Second Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, South Staffordshire Regiment, British Army, circa 1916. © IWM (Q 67242)

Alan Jerrard was born 3 December 1897 at Ladywell, Lewisham, southeast London, England. He was the son of Herbert Jerrard, at that time the master of mathematics at St. Dunstan’s College, Catford, London, and Jane Remington Hobbs Jerrard. He attended Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, where his father was now headmaster. He went on to Oundle School in Northamptonshire, then attended the University of Birmingham.

In 1915, Jerrard joined the British Army. He was appointed a cadet with the Birmingham University Contingent, Senior Division, officers Training Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the South Staffordshire Regiment, 2 January 1916.

On 16 August 1916, Second Lieutenant Jerrard transferred to the Royal Flying Corps to be trained as a fighter pilot. He completed flight training 14 June 1917. He received advanced training at London Colney. Jerrard  was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to No. 19 Squadron, 24 July 1917.

Lieutenant Jerrard was flying a SPAD S.VII on his second combat patrol, 2 August 1917, near St. Marie Cappel. He attacked an enemy convoy, but then his engine failed. He crashed and was seriously injured. Rescued by Allied soldiers, he was initially hospitalized in France before being returned to England to recover.

Lt. Jerrard with a SPAD S.VII, 18 December 1917. (Daily Mail)

Lieutenant Jerrard was able to return to duty after six months. He joined No. 66 Squadron in Italy, 22 February 1918.

After being shot down on 30 March, Lieutenant Jerrard was held by Austria as a Prisoner of War at Salzburg. He was later able to escape and return to Allied lines.

Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, Royal Air Force, as a Prisoner of War, 1918. (Daily Mail)

Lieutenant Jerrard was officially credited with destroying three Albatros D.IIIs on 30 March 1918. In the previous weeks, he had also shot down two Aviatik Berg D.Is, an observation balloon, and another Albatross D.III.

In addition to the Victoria Cross, Lieutenant Jerrard was awarded the Medaglia di bronzo al Valore Militare (Bronze Medal for Military Valor) by the Kingdom of Italy. Imperial Russia awarded him the Imperatorskiy orden Sv. Anny (The Imperial Order of St. Anne, Third Degree, with Swords).

Lieutenant Jerrard remained in the Royal Air Force following the Armistice. He was granted a Permanent Commission as a Flying Officer, effective 1 August 1919. He served with a detachment at Murmansk, Russia, in 1919.

On 1 January 1926, Flying Officer Jerrard was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

In June 1926, Flight Lieutenant Jerrard married Mrs. Eliza M.K. Low (née Eliza Maria Kathleen Woods), in St. Giles, Westminster, London.

Flight Lieutenant Jerrard retired from the Royal Air Force after eighteen years of military service. He was placed on the retired list on account of ill health, 24 August 1933.

Flight Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, V.C., died at Lyme Regis, Devon, 14 May 1968. His ashes were interred at the Uxbridge and Hillingdon Cemetery, Middlesex, along with those of his wife Eliza Maria Kathleen, who had died in 1961.

Lieutenant Alan Jerard, V.C., Royal Air Force, with his mother, 5 April 1919. (Daily Mail)
Medals of Flight Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, V.C., Royal Air Force, in The Lord Ashcroft Gallery of the Imperial War Museum. (Left to right) Victoria Cross; British War Medal 1914–1920; Victory Medal 1914–1919; King George Coronation Medal 1937; Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal 1953; Knight, Order of St. Anne with Swords (Imperial Russia); and Medal of Military Valour (Kingdom of Italy).

¹ The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were combined to create the Royal Air Force, 1 April 1918.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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