A pilots' war
No 62 Squadron RFC/RAF 1916-18
A brief history
Major Smith was posted to No 62 Squadron as Commanding Officer on 18 October 1917 and remained in command until the end of the war. The RAF was formed on 1 April 1918. The Squadron was equipped with the Bristol Fighter F2B and was operating initially on the Somme. They were at the centre of the German offensive of 21 March and were consequently involved in the German preparatory actions which included engagements with Von Richthofen's Flying Circus, Jagdgeschwader 1 on 12 and 13 March. The Squadron was actively engaged in the RFC ground strafing work against the advancing German forces while having to move from their airfield made vulnerable by the advance and then again because of an unsuitable airfield (from Cachy on 25 March and Resmaisnil on 29 March). They then had an extended period of operations from Planques until August. During 1918 the Squadron lost 34 officers and men who died on operations with a further 32 taken prisoner of war. In two weeks of March, the Squadron lost 24 aircrew killed, wounded or taken prisoner - an inexperienced squadron confronting some of Germany's most experienced flyers. Among the Squadron aircrew were 19 Canadians, four Australians, two Americans and two South Africans. See the following links for a list of 62 Squadron personnel and separately a list of 62 Squadron claims and losses during 1918 and in memorium.
The following is based on the Squadron history (written up in January 1919), the official history of the Air War and the RAF Communiqués :
[UK July 1916 - January 1918]
Date and place of formation.
The Squadron formed on July 28th 1916, from a nucleus flight of No. 7. Training Squadron, Netheravon, Wilts. Consisting of about 40 NCOs and men the squadron moved to Filton on 8th August, where the main draft of NCOs and men were posted from the Recruits Depot, Farnborough, to form No. 62 Squadron. Major J B T Leighton was posted in as Commanding Officer with 2/Lt. H. Loeffler as Assistant Equipment Officer. The Squadron was equipped with Training machines including Avros, BE2ds, BE.2c's, BE2e's, BE12's and R.E.7s, with the task of graduating pilots on BE's.
Transition to a Service Squadron equipped with Bristol Fighters was planned for early 1917. In January Major Leighton [later KWF WF 7 Mat 1917, he is Buried at CWG cemetery Varennes] was succeeded by Major R G D Small. The Squadron was mobilised in May 1917 with Bristol Fighters, but this was then cancelled at a late stage. The Squadron carried on with the graduation of Bristol Fighter Pilots - all its own pilots and observers being posted overseas.
Bristol F2b (C4630), flown by Capt G F Hughes MC
The Squadron moved in July 1917 to Rendcomb and commenced to mobilise again. In September Major Small, was posted to take command of 18th Wing, London, accompanied by the Adjutant, Capt. P Musker, and also the Equipment Officer Lt. M Loeffler. New Officers were posted in for mobilisation, but this was again cancelled 5 or 6 days before the Squadron was due to proceed overseas.
Major F W Smith was posted in as Commanding Officer on 18 October 1917, and it fell to him to take the Squadron to France. Lt. A V Sutton was Equipment Officer, and Lt. R V Bramwell-Davis and Lt. C T Clarke were Recording Officer and Armament Officer respectively. The final mobilisation took place very hurriedly and transport and some personnel left Portsmouth on the 20th January 1918, the remaining personnel of the Squadron sailing from Southampton to Le Havre on the 21st January. The aircraft flew over in formation on the 29th January led by Major Smith, having spent the night at Andover (delayed by poor weather). All the machines of the Squadron arrived safely at St Omer without incident, with the exception of one Bristol flown by Lt. A R James, (passenger Cpl. A B Clarke) which came down in the Channel and sank. The pilot and passenger were rescued by a patrol boat from Dunkerque.
Photo from Major F W Smith's collection © www.airwar1.org.uk.
Copyright © 2006 www.airwar1.org.uk