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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

50th AIF, large loss at aerodrome, Apr.5/18


BottsGreys

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I am researching Pte. Allan Stephenson, No. 342, 50th Bn, AIF (see below). The Roll of Honor questionaire filled out by his parents notes killed April 5, 1918 "In an aerodrome near Bresle W[est] of Albert, France." The 50th Bn was the brigade reserve that day, with at least a portion being quartered at the aerodrome. The war diary quoted in Freeman's 50th unit history states that at about 9:00 a.m., a large H.E. shell struck a hangar, inflicting a large number of casualties in Co. D of the 50th. I am curious if anyone knows of the location of this incident and how it might appear today?

Thanks for reading this. I will post a photo of Pte. Stephenson when I get home tonight.

Chris

Pte. Allan Stephenson, No. 342, 50th Battalion, AIF, KIA 5 April, 1918. Age: 25. Buried Ribemont Communal Cemetery Extension, France. Son of George and Sarah Ann Stephenson of Seamer, Yorkshire, England.

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If you download the War Diary of 50 Bn on the AWM website, the page gives the map reference and other details for this incident.

Chris Henschke

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I can't shed any light on the incident but I'd be very interested in your connection to Pte. Stephenson. My great-grandfather fought with the 50th, and they will feature in my PhD thesis.

Meleah

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I am curious if anyone knows of the location of this incident and how it might appear today?

Yes I can.

Here is the exact location of aerodrome Bresle

post-80-1237022316.jpg

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Thanks, everyone, for your replies. Sorry for the delay in responding, I wanted to post a photo of Pte. Stephenson and was having problems with my scanner--I think it's time for a new one. Thanks Chris, for your suggestion--will do.

Egbert--just what I was looking for--wow! How did you come up with that?

Melwar: I don't have a real connection to Pte. Stephenson. I collect identified vintage antique military photos, mostly of soldiers from the American Civil War and WWI, and research their service. I have a small group of real photo postcards regarding Stephenson. He immigrated to Australia at age 17 from Yorkshire and worked on his uncle's farm. He was originally in the 9th Light Horse. He transferred into the 50th after his Australian-born cousin, William Norman Stephenson, joined that unit. Allan was present when William was mortally wounded by shellfire in October, 1917. The two were acting as stretcher bearers carrying a casualty to the rear when William was hit. I believe I'll do a more extensive memorial thread in several weeks on the anniversary of Allan's death, April 5.

Chris

Below is No. 342, Pte. Allan Stephenson, 50th AIF.

post-1571-1237089877.jpg

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Egbert--just what I was looking for--wow! How did you come up with that?

Chris

Chris I have a 1916 aviation map with all enemy=Brit aerodromes from Somme area

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According to the 50 Battalion War Diary its HQ was located at D.1.b.2.2.

The 13 Brigade Report on Operations 5/6 April 1918 gives some more information;

‘…About 9 am the shelling of the forward areas slackened and a heavy shoot was carried out on our battery areas in the Bresle-Ribemont Valley and bivouac areas in the vicinity of Bresle Wood and Henencourt. The bombardment does not appear to have done very much damage amongst the forward troops, but the 50 Bn in particular suffered about 60 casualties and were obliged to move from the aerodrome in D.2.a…’

A more precise location for the hangar incident can be found in the 13 Brigade Summary of Intelligence (from 6 am 5 April to 6 am 6 April 1918) which gives the following information ;

Artillery. Enemy put down a heavy barrage throughout the day on all battery positions, back areas, and villages in forward area. Bresle Wood was heavily shelled with H.E. during the day and with shrapnel at night. Aerodrome at D.2.b.3.1 was shelled during morning and a direct hit was obtained on hangar. D.1 and 2 generally shelled with 5.9’s and 4.2’s.

The attached map is based on a 13 Brigade sketch showing the disposition correct to 0230h on 5 April 1918.

The red cross is D.2.b.3.1 (approx)

Egbert's position appears to be south of Bresle. The incident occurred to the north, as shown.

Chris Henschke

post-671-1237156529.jpg

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Thanks, Chris, for the information/map reference. Your efforts on this are greatly appreciated.

Chris

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Do we know the name of the aerodrome? I ask this as there's no Bresle aerodrome listed in the authoritative RAF Squadrons book that covers all RFC/RNAS/AFC/RAF aerodromes of the War. If we know the aerodrome's name then we'll know the air unit(s) who were presumably the target of the enemy action.

Gareth

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