A pilots' war
No 62 Squadron RAF, France April-July 1918
Owing to the unsuitability of the Remaisnil aerodrome for Bristol Fighters, the Squadron moved on the 29th March 1918, to Planques, on the Hesdin-Fruges Road. Heavy storms prevented work by the Squadron for the first few days at the new aerodrome, and the aircraft suffered badly, owing to lack of accommodation.
62 Squadron flight line
Offensive patrols were re-commenced on 1st April in the Somme sector with operations against ground targets which continued on 2 April (4,950 & 6,100 rounds were fired). There was similar action on 7 April.
On April 10th, the Germans broke through on the Armentieres front, and operations moved to the Lys where the Squadron joined other IX Brigade fighter units in providing high level cover for I Brigade units attacking targets between La Bassee and the Lys. IX Brigade pilots averaged 6-7 hours flying each in the 24 hours from 4pm on the 11 April. Poor weather had limited action by the RAF on the Lys before the 12 April. Ground strafing was occasionally required. With the containment of the German advance before Ypres, ground strafing was no longer required of the Squadron. The RAF Communiqués record a number of significant engagements involving the Squadron.
9th Wing records show 62 Sqn claims on 12 April for 3 EA destroyed (Sgt.s Johnson and Holmes claiming two) and 5 EA OOC and on 21 April for 3 EA destroyed (Lt.s Savage and Thompson claiming two) and 3 EA OOC. These were claimed in the Estaires-Lille area.
The action on 3 May deserves specific mention with multiple engagements between the Squadron on offensive patrol in the area of Armentieres between 1045 and 1200:
At 1045 Lt.s Nangle and Cooper drove down a Fokker DR.I OOC over Armentières. Nangle and Cooper were injured.
At 1100 N of Merville Capt. Purdom and Lt. Chambers attacked an Albatros C two-seater which spun down and crashed. They also drove down an Albatros D.V OOC S of Armentières.
At 1115 E of Armentières, Lt.s Arnison and Parry drove down 2 EA OOC (Albatros D.V) and on rejoining the formation were attacked from underneath by an Albatros D.V which with a long burst of fire was sent down in flames. Arnison was wounded and Parry was killed.
At 1120, S of Armentières, Lt.s Morrow and Merritt were attacked by 8 EA (Albatros DVs) which dived on them, they fired on one which went down in a spin, they then dived on the enemy formation and fired on another EA which spun down and was seen to crash. Around the same time Capt. Rees-Jones and Lt. Bruce-Norton were attacked by 3 EA (Albatros D.Vs) S of Armentières and shot one down which was seen to crash and burst into flames.
At 1130 S of Armentières Lt.s Staton and Gordon in a general engagement with EA fired on a Albatros D.V at close range which spun down and crashed 2 miles S of Armentières. Rejoining their formation at 1140 they found an enemy two seater C type behind and below, they fired on it and the aircraft was seen to crash a mile SE of Ploegsteert Wood.
At 1145 N of Armentières Capt. Gibbons and Lt. Knights encountered a formation of 24 EA (Albatros D.Vs) while diving on a formation they had encountered earlier. They fired on one aircraft sending it down in flames and then dived on another using forward and rear guns sending it down in a slow spin which ended in a crash on the Lille-Carvin Road. They claimed another Albatros D.V driven down OOC at 1200 in the same location.
Lt. Hampton and 2/Lt. Lane, were shot down and taken prisoner. Lt.s Spoonley and Grant were wounded in the action.
When the IX Brigade, including the 9th Wing, to which the Squadron belonged, moved to the French front in June, after the attack on the Chemin des Dames, the Squadron was left behind at Planques to carry out offensive patrols. This was partly attributable to the outbreak of "Spanish flu" in the Squadron, as many as 20 pilots and observers being out of action at a single time. The Squadron history comments that very few enemy aircraft were encountered during this period - from the statistics, June and July were relatively quiet.
Photo from Major F W Smith's collection © www.airwar1.org.uk.
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