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Geregistreerd op: 2-2-2005
|Geplaatst: 01 Apr 2006 9:16 Onderwerp: 1 April 1918-Royal Air Force.
|Origin and Early History
Formed by Royal Warrant on May 13, 1912, the RFC superseded the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers. By the end of that year, it had 12 manned balloon and 36 biplane fighter aircraft. The RFC was intended to have had separate military and naval branches. The Royal Navy however was not keen on having naval aviation under the control of an Army corps and formed its own Royal Naval Air Service.
The RFC's motto was Per Ardua ad Astra.
The RFC's first fatal crash was on July 5, 1912 near Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. Killed were Captain Eustace B. Loraine and his observer Staff-Sergeant R.H.V. Wilson. An order was issued after the crash stating "Flying will continue this evening as usual", thus beginning a tradition.
RFC and RNAS aircraft used during the war included:
* Airco DH2 DH4 DH5 and DH9
* Armstrong-Whitworth FK3
* Avro 504
* Bleriot Experimental 2a 2b 2c
* Bristol F2A F2B Scout
* Handley Page O/400
* Martinsyde G.100
* Morane-Saulnier Bullet Biplanet Parasol
* Nieuport Scout 17 23 & 27
* Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 SE5a BE2e BE12 FE2 FE8 RE7 and RE8
* Sopwith Aviation Company Baby Camel Dolphin Pup Snipe 1Ĺ Strutter
* SPAD S.VII and S.XIII
* Vickers FB5
Many technological advances took place. Planes became faster and more maneuverable, so they could attack enemy positions as well as scouting them. The invention of the interrupter gear allowed machine guns to be fired between the propeller blades.
World War I
The RFC was responsible for manning observation balloons on the Western front. Balloons made up the 1st Squadron. For the first half of the war, the French air force vastly outnumbered the RFC, and accordingly did more fighting. Despite the primitive aircraft, aggressive leadership by commander Hugh Trenchard led to many brave fighting exploits and many casualties - over 700 in 1916, the rate worsening thereafter. Many of those who died were seated at the front of their aeroplane and, when the aeroplane landed too heavily, the engine often came adrift from its moorings and swept forward to hit the luckless pilot in the back.
The RFC's first casualties of World War I were before the Corps even arrived in France. Lt Robert R. Skene and Air Mechanic Ray Barlow were killed on August 12, 1914 when their, probably overloaded, plane crashed on the way to rendezvous with the rest of the RFC near Dover. Skene had been the first Englishman to do a loop in an airplane. Following the rendezvous, the RFC made a mass crossing of the English Channel with 60 machines.
The RFC's first action of the war was a two plane reconnaissance on 19 August 1914. The mission was not a great success. In order to save weight each plane carried a pilot only instead of the usual pair of pilot and observer. Because of this, and poor weather, both of the pilots lost their way and only one was able to complete his task.
The RFC's first victory was nearly a week later on 25 August when Lt C.W. Wilson and Lt C.E.C. Rabagliati forced down a German Etrich Taube which had approached their aerodrome while they were refueling their Avro. Another RFC machine landed by the German one and the RFC observer chased the German pilot into some nearby woods.
Sir John French's first official dispatch on 7 September included the following: "I wish particularly to bring to your Lordships' notice the admirable work done by the Royal Flying Corps under Sir David Henderson. Their skill, energy, and perseverance has been beyond all praise. They have furnished me with most complete and accurate information, which has been of incalculable value in the condut of operations. Fired at constantly by friend and foe, and not hesitating to fly in every kind of weather, they have remained undaunted throughout. Further, by actually fighting in the air, they have succeeded in destroying five of the enemy's machines."
Early in the war RFC aircraft were marked with Union Jacks on the wings. The aircraft were often fired upon by ground forces because the markings were mistaken for the crosses on German aircraft. To prevent this the RFC adopted the familiar roundel marking from the French, though with the colours in a different order.
One of the initial uses for RFC aircraft was spotting for artillery fire. The results of the artillery fire were easy enough for the pilot to observe, the problem was communicating any necessary corrections to the firing battery. The standard method was for the flier to write a note and drop it to the ground where it could be recovered. The RFC experimented with using radio transmitters in their aircraft. Unfortunately the transmitters of the time weighed 75 pounds and filled an entire seat in the cockpit. This meant that the pilot had to fly the aircraft, navigate, observe the fall of the shells and transmit the results by morse code by himself. Also, the radios in the aircraft could not receive so the pilots could not be sent any instructions or questions from the ground. This work was originally done by a special Wireless Flight which was attached to No. 4 Squadron RFC. Eventually this flight was expanded into No. 9 Squadron under Hugh Dowding.
A more unusual mission for the RFC was the delivery of spies to behind enemy lines. The first such mission took place on the morning of 13 September 1915 and was not a success. The plane crashed, the pilot and spy were badly injured and they were both captured. (Two years later however the pilot, Captain T.W. Mulcahy-Morgan, escaped and returned to England.) Later missions were more successful. In addition to delivering the spies the RFC was also responsible for keeping the spies supplied with the carrier pigeons that were used to send reports back to base. In 1916 a Special Duty Flight was formed as part of the Headquarters Wing to handle these and other unusual assignments.
On 13 January 1917, RFC Captain Clive Collett made the first British military parachute jump from a heavier-than-air craft. The jump, from 600 feet, was successful but the higher authorities in the RFC and the Air Board were opposed to the issuing of parachutes to aeroplane pilots. It was felt at the time that a parachute might tempt a pilot to abandon his aircraft in an emergency rather than continuing the fight. It was not until 16 September 1918 that the order was issued for all single seater aircraft to be fitted with parachutes.
Many pilots initiallly joined the RFC from their original regiments by becoming an observer. There was no formal training for observers until 1917 and many were sent on their first sortie with only a brief introduction to the aircraft from the pilot. Once certified as fully qualified the observer was awarded the covetted half-wing brevet. Once awarded this could not be forfeited so it essentially amounted to a decoration. Originally in the RFC, as in most early air forces, the observer was in command of the aircraft while the pilot just 'drove' the machine. This was found to be less effective in combat than having the pilot in charge. Observers were usually taught only enough piloting to be able to land their aircraft in case the pilot was killed or wounded. It was very common for experienced observers to be selected for pilot training.
Eleven RFC members received the Victoria Cross during World War I. Initially the RFC did not believe in publicising the victory totals and exploits of their Aces. Eventually however, public interest and the newspapers' demand for heroes lead to this policy being abandoned.
Before the Battle of the Somme (1916) the RFC had 421 aircraft, with four kite-balloon squadrons and fourteen balloons. These made up four brigades, which worked with four British armies. The RFC drew on men from across the British Empire including South Africa, Canada and Australia. Some Americans joined the RFC before the USA became a combatant.
In 1917, the American, British, and Canadian Governments agreed to join forces for training. Between April 1917 and January 1919, Camp Borden in Ontario hosted instruction on flying, wireless, air gunnery and photography, training 1,812 RFC Canada pilots and 72 for the United States. It now hosts the largest training wing of the Canadian Forces. Training also took place at several other Ontario locations.
During winter 1917-18, RFC instructors trained with the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army on three airfields accommodating about six thousand men, at Camp Taliaferro near Fort Worth, Texas. Training was hazardous; 39 RFC officers and cadets died in Texas. Eleven remain there, reinterred in 1924 at a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery where a monument honours their sacrifice.
Some members of the RFC
* Billy Bishop, VC - highest scoring allied flying ace of WWI
* Hugh Dowding later commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain
* Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris ("Bomber" Harris) later commander of RAF Bomber Command
* Trafford Leigh-Mallory later head of Fighter Command
* John Moore-Brabazon 1st Lord Brabazon of Tara, later Minister of Aircraft Production under Winston Churchill
* Keith Park
* Sir Charles Portal the World War II advocate of strategic bombing
* Henry Tizard, British scientist and inventor, chairman of the Aeronautical Research Committee 1933-44.
* Hugh Trenchard - commander of RFC and later Chief of the Air Staff
* O. G. S. Crawford later Archaeology Officer of the Ordnance Survey
* Charles Galton Darwin F.R.S., grandson of Charles Darwin
* Jack Hobbs cricketer
* W. E. Johns, author of the Biggles books
* John Lennard-Jones - scientist
* Oswald Mosley - founder of the British Union of Fascists
* William Stephenson who later played a key role in the creation of the CIA and was the first non-U.S. citizen to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
* Hell's Angels, directed by Howard Hughes, starring Jean Harlow
* The Dawn Patrol, starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and David Niven
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