A pilots' war




 No 2 Squadron RFC 1915 continued

May 11th Tues:

Not having heard how long my leave was to last I returned to London & reported at War Office, saw Maj. Warner, was instructed to go to Farnboro' next day & take an RE aeroplane to France.

May 12th Wed:

Arrived Farnboro', took over RE (2485). weather bad.

May 13th Thurs:

Weather still too bad to fly.

May 14th Fri:

Clouds higher decided to go as far as Folkestone, on arriving there found weather in channel better, could see French coast, so continued journey, arriving St Omer, in 1 hr 50 mins after leaving Farnboro'. Met Lt. Gosage who had also  arrived this  day on a new BE.2c. We shared a room for the night at the Hotel de France.

May 15th Sat:

Am attached to No 7 Sqn and billeted in the villa Maurice -  C  Flight consisting of Capt. O'Gowan, Lts Lirick & Meakin and Self.

May 21 st Fri:

Have been a week with No 7 but have not flown, either weather has been too bad, or no machine available. Now receive instruction to rejoin No 2 Sqn.

May 22nd Sat:

Have rejoined No 2 at Merville, posted to 'C' Flight -machine BE2c 1659. There are a number of changes since I was last here - Lt. Moorhouse has been killed, Lt. Jackson wounded, Capt. Freeman sick. Capt. Dawes is 'C' Flight Commander - a very good fellow.

Editors note: Lt. Rhodes-Moorhouse was the first man to be awarded a VC for action in the air. He died of wounds having returned from a bombing mission on 26 April 1915 over Courtrai, Belgium.

BE2c in hangar at Merville

BE2C 1659 under cover at Merville

May 24th Mon:

My first attempt at bomb dropping - 3 on a chateau at Fromeiles, 3 on Le Maisnil. The weather is much better than when I was here before & life is more comfortable. We bathe in the canal at bottom of aerodrome most evenings.

May 28th Fri:

My   machine   being   fitted   with   a   new   bomb   sight   I   attempt to drop three bombs on La Bassée station - none of them hit their mark tho' one is very near.

BE2c with bombs loaded

20lb Hales Bombs loaded on BE2C 1659

Jun 1st Tues:

Maj. Webb-Bowen who has commanded No 2 since I first joined it, leaves for England and the command is taken over by Maj. Becke. [J H W Becke, later Brigadier]

Jun 12th Sat:

I dropped three bombs for practise from 7,000 ft., aimed at farmhouse behind the Bois de Biez, first 50 yds short, second 20 yds left, third about 4 yds short, front of house destroyed.                   

Jun 13th Sun: 

I aimed a 100 lb bomb at the canal bridge in Don at 7.30 pm - missed & fell in a garden - no damage.

Jun 14th Mon:

Aimed a 100 lb bomb at Don railway station at 8.55 am. missed and fell in field - no damage.

On both above raids I was hotly fired at by enemy anti-aircraft guns both going & on return journey. On the latter there was an anti-aircraft gun on a truck in Don station. The crankcase of my engine was hit by shrapnel - no serious damage.

Jun 20th Sun:

Capt. Leighton, F.C. of  'C' Flight, went home to-day on leave. I have temporary command of  'C' flight in his absence and use of his machine 100 hp RAF engine.

Jun 30th Wed:

Squadron moved from Merville to Hesdigneul. I left Merville at 10.30, was caught in violent storm & obliged to return.

Made journey later, arriving 12.00 noon. Am billeted in main street about 200 yds from aerodrome. Comfortable room & clean. Aerodrome is on the small side, Lt. Clarke crashed coming in, Capt. Heathcote had forced landing on the way & crashed.

Crashed BE2c at Hesdigneul

"Lt. Clarke's machine newly arrived at Hesdigneul!"

No. 2 Sqn Hesdigneul, France

Jul 5th Mon:

I took eight photographs of enemy's trenches between Festubert and Lens with camera attached to side of my machine -all good.

Maj. Becke informed me that he had recommended me for promotion to rank of F.C. [Flight Commander] - it was likely to take place in about a month's time.

Captioned: "Capt. Carthew DSO thinks what he would have said if anyone else had done it!"

Jul 6th Tues:

Capt. Leighton leaves for England. Capt. Hearson becomes 'C'  Flight F.C. I take over Capt. L's aeroplane with RAF engine.

No 2 Sqn Pages  1  2  3  4  5

Copyright © 2004 in the diary text and photos from 1915 and 1916 is held by Major Smith's family. Copyright © 2004 www.airwar1.org.uk