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Remembered Today:

Lt WH Legge: Which Unit?


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I'm trying to sort out a conundrum here and hope someone can help.

AIR 1/680/21/13/2207 (Return of Training/HS Accidents) in the National Archives shows 10th February 1917 accident details for a DH.4, the pilot aboard being killed. The incident is appended with the notes, “55 Sqn/Yatesbury/HT” (Higher Training) – “Insufficient evidence to show cause”.

This corresponds most closely with the loss of DH.4 A2143 of ’55 Res Sqn’ (Airmen Died p.239), which is shown piloted by Lt WH Legge, who died of injuries on 11th February.

However, The Air Britain DH.4 & DH.9 File (p.18) shows the aircraft as from No.55 Sqn at Lilbourne. Not a primary or contemporary source, but enough to get one thinking.

Walter H Legge’s death is registered in Solihull, Warwickshire, and so that, combined with the knowledge that No.55 RS at Yatesbury was a scout training squadron at this time (and obviously the DH.4 doesn't fit with that), leads me to have a strong conviction that the aircraft & pilot were in fact from No.55 Sqn at Lilbourne.

However, Lt Legge's Casualty Card also states 'Yatesbury', so how to reconcile the two contemporary sources, written in 1917, which state that he was based at Yatesbury, and later evidence, which seems to contradict it? He doesn't appear on a 1917 roll of 55 RS officers.

It's all very strange, but I do wonder if the "Squadron vs Training/Reserve Squadron" subject, which seems to confuse many a modern researcher, was prevalent even in 1917?

I'd appreciate any clarification!

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The RND 1914-1919 casualties database has this;

Regiment or service 55 Reserve Squadron RFC ("A" Reserve Bn. attached 55 Reserve Squadron RFC)

Fate Died of Injuries received 10/2/17 in a DH4 No.A2143 (Pilot) in an accident at Lilbourne, Rugby

Service branch Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

Service history Commissioned Temporary Sub Lieutenant RNVR 9/10/15 ; Posted to Officers Camp B.4 Lines Blandford from 4th Depot Bn. Crystal Palace 14/2/16 ; To RFC Reading on duty 17/8/16.

The Coventry Telegraph of 12th February 1917 has him flying from Rugby, when he crashed into a field in Solihull.

The Birmingham Evening Despatch of 13th February, reports on the inquest that recorded a verdict of accidental death. It was said that Legge was disobeying orders not to leave. A Major Baldwin RFC gave evidence.

EDIT - Major Baldwin may have been J.E.A Baldwin DSO, C.O. of 55 Squadron, which may confirm Lilbourne.

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Just to add to the confusion - there were no Training Squadrons in February 1917, they were Reserve Squadrons (the change in title came at the end of May).

55 RS was a higher Reserve Squadron, dedicated to training scout pilots and, as such, had a mixed equipment of Avro 504s and Bristol Scouts. It was scheduled to receive DH5s, which it did, and also received a few Pups (as well as at least one Nieuport 20). A DH4 would have been out of place in such a unit.



Formed in 21st Wing at Filton 15.11.1916 with nucleus from 66 Squadron. To Yatesbury 22.11.1916. Designated as a Higher Reserve Squadron training Scout pilots and establishment set 23.12.1916 at 6 DH5 + 6 Avro. Transferred to 28th Wing 15.5.1917. To Gosport 23.7.1917, exchanging stations and machines with 28 Squadron, and disbanded in School of Special Flying 2.8.1917.

Commanding Officers

Capt A.J. Capel from 1.7.1917 until 2.8.1917.

Representative Aeroplanes (†transferred to 28 Squadron) AMC DH5 A9413, B364, B365†. Avro 504A/J 7718, A418, A504, A1994, A2007, A3404, A5908, A5914, A5917, A5934, A5935, A8589, A8599, B918†, B919, B941, B945†, B946†, B979, B980, B986, B9791. Bristol Scout D 5293, 5554, 5568†, 5570, 5571, 5577†, 5578, 7044, A1750, A1753. Nieuport 12 A5192† Sopwith Pup A6193.

55 Squadron was, in Feb 17, working up at Lilbourne and had received most of its initial establishment of DH4s from the first production batch. It joined the BEF during March.


Formed at Castle Bromwich 8.6.1916 with nucleus from 34 Squadron and 5 RS. To Lilbourne 10.6.1916. Establishment at 23.12.1916 given as BE/AW + BE12 + Avro. Mobilised as a Day Light Bombing unit and joined the BEF at Fienvillers 5.3.1917. Cadre returned to Renfrew 1.2.1919, moved to Shotwick 1.1.1920 and disbanded 22.1.1920.

Commanding Officers

Captain JW Woodhouse (temporary) from 17.5.1916 until 27.5.1916. Captain BP Greenwood from 8.6.1916. Major BC McEwan from 15.6.1916. Major JEA Baldwin DSO from 30.10.1916 until 28.12.1917.

Representative Aeroplanes (* to BEF with the unit) Avro 504A 7732, 7738, 7975, 7984, A465, A471, A482, A522, A534, A2639, A2651, A2656. AW FK3 5527, 5545. AMC DH4 A2133, A2135*, A2136, A2137, A2140*, A2141*, A2142, A2143, A2144*, A2145*, A2147*, A2149*, A2150*, A2153*, A2158*, A2159*, A2160*, A2161*, A2163*. RAF BE2b 2774, 2775. RAF BE2c 2697, 4146, 4149, 4217, 4218, 4707, 5385, 5416. RAF BE2d 5838. RAF BE2e 7126. RAF BE12 A4009, A4043.
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Thanks Mick and IPT: the 'Baldwin' mention puts it beyond doubt then: 55 Sqn from Lilbourne. Still curious that the RFC returns got it wrong twice though!

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  • 3 months later...

Walter Legge was my great great uncle, great grandfather's brother.
He was killed flying a DH 9 aircraft - not a DH4 - My father inherited the propeller from it which sadly he sold some years ago.

Uncle Walter's flying logbook is held by RNAS Yeovilton - my father personally gave it them about 5 years ago so the Great war
Forum can get in touch with them to check his squadron details etc. In fact he apparently was killed flying into a greenhouse I believe ! My father has his uniform buttons on his current blazer !

If you want to find out anything else, I can be contacted on: 07961 101014.

Alex Legge

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