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RFC losses 1st July 1916 on the Somme


bmac
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A message in the GHQ Staff War Diary for the late evening of 1st July 1916 refers to two British aircraft having been brought down during the Somme attack. CWGC has two RFC men died 1.7.16 who might fit the bill: 2nd Lt H C Coxe, 6th Squadron (buried in Athies) and Capt G W Webb, 22nd Squadron (buried Achiet le Grand). Others are in other area or are known to have died of wounds from some days before. Can anyone assist with the details and confirm (or otherwise) whether 2 aircraft were in fact lost and, if so, when, where and piloted by whom.

Thanks in advance for any help given.

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Here's the casualty list from 22 Squadron for 1st July 1916

Pilot Captain GW Webb, killed in action

Observer Lieutenant JH Firstbrook, wounded in action

Observer Lieutenant EO Tudor-Hart, wounded in action

Pilot Lieutenant M Burgess, died of wounds

As you may or may not know, 22 Squadron was operating Fe2b's at the time

Here's a snippet of the day from the Squadron history during WW1, 'Pi in the sky'

On this day, '22' suffered its first four casualties, and a third Fee landed damaged between the lines, the pilot and observer escaping to safety over the bullet swept ground
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Glad it's of use - if there's any other information on them or the Squadron you need, just let me know

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This is not as simple as it might look at first glance. 2Lt C H Coxe of Number 6 squadron was not part of the Somme attack at all. He was flying one of the BE2s that left Abeele to bomb Cambrai station (to the east of Ypres). He failed to return. In looking at "Airmen Died . . . " and "The Sky Their Battlefield" there are quite a few contenders, with two aircraft brought down from Number 12 squadron, two from Number 13 squadron, two from Number 22, one from Number 8 and one from Number 32.

Do you have any other details which would help to break this number down (eg. did the pilots die or were they taken prisoner, what time of day did the accidents take place, what type of aircraft etc?)

Regards

Steve

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Steve,

The only thing I have to go on is the previously mentioned GHQ General Staff diary entry 1st July 1916:

"They (i.e. Fourth Army) had two aeroplanes missing today but no information about them."

I just wanted to add some foot notes about who they might have been but, from what you say, the RFC's casualties may have been underestimated just as badly as the infantry's!

Bill

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Hi Bill,

That cuts it down a bit, knowing that they were from squadrons that supported the Fourth Army. If no-one else can provide this information, I may be able to track it down this weekend.

Steve

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Hi Bill,

By jove, I think I've got it!

H A Jones "The war in the Air" - Vol II, gives the breakdown of which squadrons supported the 4th Army. In April 1916, the 3rd Wing RFC was moved from III Brigade to work under IV Brigade (which supported the 4th Army) when the 3rd Army was moved north, bringing with it the following squadrons: 3,4,9,15,22 and 24 (not counting the Kite Balloon sections).

In looking at the aircraft losses for the 1st July, the only ones that appear to fit would be the two FE2b fighter/bombers from Number 22 squadron.

I'll post the details of these two later on today.

Regards

Steve

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Bill,

Here are some details of the two FE2b aircraft of Number 22 squadron, that were shot down on the 1st July 1916, as described in "Airmen Died . . . " and "The Sky Their Battlefield":

FE2b No: 6365

Whilst on patrol, having left at 6:38 am, high over Clery-Longueval (east of the lines), pilot Lieutenant J H Firstbrook (Canada) and his observer Lieutenant Reginald Burgess (native of Narbeth, ex Army Cyclist Corps and aged 24) were shot down, with Firstbrook wounded and taken as prisoner of war and Burgess dying of his wounds on 7th July 1916 and buried at Douchy-les-Ayette.

FE2b No: 6928

Whilst on patrol, having left at 10:02 am, pilot Captain Gilbert Watson Webb (native of Knock, Belfast, ex 3/R Irish Rifles and aged 26) and his observer Lieutenant W O Tudor-Hart were shot down by anti-aircraft fire and forced to land at Douchy, with Webb killed and Tudor-Hart wounded and taken as prisoner of war.

Regards

Steve

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Bill

For a detailed account of the RFC's activities in 1 July, including a first-hand report by Lt J H Firstbrook, see [Forum Member] Peter Hart's Somme Success; ISBN 0 85052 741 4.

Regards

Gareth

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  • 3 years later...

I note from the CWGC that another man died on 1st July in the vicinity of the Somme, he is buried south east of Peronne. I wonder if anyone has any further details about how 2nd Lt Monckton died?

MONCKTON, CHRISTOPHER

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Date of Death: 01/07/1916

Age: 18

Regiment/Service: Royal Flying Corps, 13th Sqdn. and Royal Irish Fusiliers

Grave Reference II. 1.

Cemetery MONS-EN-CHAUSSEE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Additional Information: Son of Arthur and Gertrude Monckton, of 29, Queen's Rd., St. John's Wood, London.

I also note that the suggested read from back in 2009: 'Somme Success' by Peter Hart, is not, at the moment, available (a paperback is due in June). Nor does my local library service have a copy so I shall have to wait patiently for the new version.

I am intrigued, though, by what he was up to with: Hart, Peter. 'The smart girl's guide to your dream job'. He obviously had some time on his hands in 2000 when this, no doubt, fine tome was published. :rolleyes::P

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2Lt C Monckton of No 13 Sqn RFC was killed in action while flying BE2c 2648 on 1 July 1916. He left Savy aerodrome on a bombing mission at 14:40 and was seen in combat with enemy aircraft.

Gareth

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1918! CWGC should be advised of the error.

Thanks Gareth.

Mea culpa The date is, of course, 1916, and the post has been corrected.

I shouldn't submit posts very late in the evening.

Gareth

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Our CCI FE2 book has

6365 Presentation a/c Mauritius No 2. RAF 15.2.16; engine 423, airscrew 5830. 20 Sqn dd ex 1 AD 25.3.16 and damaged when hit hedge landing from practice flight 4.4.16. 22 Sqn and LIA near Clery-Longueval on photo sortie 1.7.16 (Lt JH Firstbrook POW wdd/Lt R Burgess fatally WIA, a/c had 119hrs 29mins flying time).

6928 Presentation a/c Malaya No 12 presented by the Federal Malay States Civil Service. AID by 3.12.15. 15 Sqn by 1.2.16. 22 Sqn dd ex 1 AD 12.5.16, in combat 25.6.16 (2Lt H Strathy-Mackay/2Lt C Walsh engaged 2 Fokker E.IIIs near Acheux and then chased to lines by 21 EA) and LIA on photo sortie 1.7.16 (Capt GW Webb KIA/Lt WO Tudor-Hart POW wdd, a/c had 73hrs 30mins flying time).

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