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jimmyjames

Capt Douglas Ridley Clunes GABELL RAF

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jimmyjames

These two RAF officers are commemorated on the Cheltenham Borough War Memorial. They were killed in a flying accident on 12th July 1918.

I would be most grateful for any information on their careers in the RFC/RAF and any details of the flying accident in which they were killed.

With many thanks

Jimmy

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Dolphin

Captain D R C Gabell and Lt Delmar-Williamson of No 13 Training Squadron RAF were killed while flying, ie in an accident, in RE8 C2236 on 12 July 1918.

When serving in No 4 Sqn RFC [then] 2Lt D R C Gabell was flying BE2e 5821 with Lt G E Craig as his observer on 1 March 1917. After combat with 6 enemy aircraft, he was wounded when he was shot down near Achiet le Petit. Lt Craig was not hurt. 2Lt Gabell's wound is mentioned in RFC Communiqué No 77.

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jimmyjames

Many thanks, Dolphin.

Contemporary newspapers suggest an accident over Chippenham.

Was this the location of 13 Trg Sqn RAF, and was the accident a collision, airframe failure or other cause?

Interesting about his actions on 1st March 1917 - I would dearly like to see his log book for this day! I would have thought his actions with Lt Craig on 1st March 1917 engaging with six enemy aircraft should perhaps have attracted an honour of some sort?

Regards

Jimmy

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Dolphin

Jimmy

Unfortunately, I don't have any other information regarding the accident. However, no other aircraft is mentioned, so it seems a collision can be ruled out. If the accident was over a town, then engine or structural failure seems a likely cause.

2Lt Gabell was only mentioned in the Communiqué due to his being wounded. For the RFC, battling superior numbers of enemy aircraft was a very unfortunate part of life at that time. There doesn't seem to have been a claim by a German Jasta, so perhaps the enemy aircraft were a formation of two-seaters.

Cheers

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jimmyjames

Many thanks, Dolphin.

I note that the two flyers were killed in an RE8. I obtained this bit of info from the IWM Duxford site:

The Royal Aircraft Factory RE8 - RE stood for Reconnaissance Experimental - was introduced into RFC service in 1916.

Reconnaissance and artillery-spotting were vital in the static Western Front environment and the RE8 became one of the most widely used aircraft in these roles. Although extremely stable in flight the RE8's poor manoeuvrability and low speed made it a prime target for enemy fighters.

Despite these defects the RE8 equipped 19 squadrons on the Western Front by October 1918.

Over 4,000 RE8s were built between 1916 and 1918 but Duxford's example is one of the only two complete RE8s to have survived.

The two were fairly experienced flyers, and being posted to the 13th Training Squadron, do you think they were testing or were honing their skills for a posting to an operational RE8 unit?

Regards

Jimmy

PS. Just have info that Lt Delmar-Williamson was a flying instructor at Yatesbury, Wiltshire after some service with the Home Squadron on anti air raid and zeppelin duties. He was only 19.

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Dolphin

Jimmy

As you've noted, despite its shortcomings, the RE8 was the RAF's standard artillery observation aircraft right up to the Armistice and beyond (there were RE8s on active service in North Russia in 1919). Hence there was a requirement to keep up a supply of crews who were proficient on the type.

It's likely that Capt Gabell was an instructor with No 13 Training Squadron; perhaps Lt Delmar-Williamson was one too. The answers are probably in the mens' service records.

Cheers

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jimmyjames

Dolphin

Many thanks, yet again, for the info on these flyers - and on all the others I have posted in this forum.

Just a couple of RFC/RAF from Cheltenham to go!!

Regards

Jimmy

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