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Remembered Today:

RFC 1914 Casualties


Nick1914
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An R.A.F. Service Record is available for Robert Loraine born 14.1.1876. It mentions being wounded on 22.11.1914 and 16.12.1914 but not the Squadron number. Interestingly the person to be informed in the event of casualty was a Mr. G. Bernard Shaw. The record is available on findmypast.

There is also a service record for Robert Loraine born 1876 at New Brighton, Cheshire Pte. 8175, Imperial Yeomanry, who served in the Boer War. Again on findmypast.

If you are not a subscriber findmypast have a free access weekend this weekend.

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The George Bernard Shaw connection is that Loraine was a well-known actor before the War and made a living from being in some of Shaw's plays. He was apparently instrumental in getting some of GBS' work transferred to Broadway.

There are a few references to Loraine's wounding in "The Aeroplane" and, although none of them confirms which squadron he was with at the time, I transcribe them below in the hope you find them of interest:

2 December 1914

The names of the following officers appear, as having been wounded on November 23rd:

Loraine, Second Lieutenant R, Royal Flying Corps

Mr Loraine is, of course, well known to all connected with aviation as a first class sportsman, and a first class actor (the latter apparently more by accident than predilection). He saw service in South Africa, took to flying in its earliest days and in 1910 captured the honours of being the first man to fly to the Isle of Wight, and the first man to fly across the Irish Sea. It is reported that Mr Loraine received a shrapnel bullet in a lung, but is not in serious danger if no complications supervene.

9 December 1914

A Major in the RAMC at the front writes:

“I have an interesting personage in my hospital – Loraine, aviator and actor. I have often seen him in London in “Man and Superman”. He was out making a sketch of the enemy’s position and, whilst doing so, a bullet from a shell hit him below the shoulder-blade and traversed the lung and came out just below the collar-bone in front. He was very bad when brought to my hospital, but is doing well now. He is convinced that our treatment of him when he was brought in saved his life, and is correspondingly grateful. I think he will be all right now”…

… Apropos Mr Loraine’s wound, it is reported from another source that the machine he was flying disappeared into a cloud, and that the German guns then ranged on the cloud, and hit the machine when it came out, luckily doing only slight damage. It is not clear, however, whether he was wounded on this occasion or afterwards.

30 December 1914

Everybody will be glad to learn that Mr Robert Loraine is in London making excellent progress towards recovery after his injuries recently received at the front, but for the moment it is not permitted to say where he is being nursed. He is reported in The Telegraph to have given the following account of his casualty: “I was wounded on November 22nd (sic), in the middle of an important reconnaissance mission, by an anti-aircraft shrapnel shell (commonly known as Archibald), when I was flying at a height of 5,000 feet above the enemy’s lines. My right lung was pierced from the base of my back, the ball coming out near my neck in front. As I had done daily three to six hours’ work in the air over the enemy for nearly three months I think I may consider myself pretty lucky. Although I was not expected to recover, I am now, as you see, doing extremely well, getting on, indeed, quite rapidly, and the doctors assure me my recovery will in the end be absolutely complete. I am returning to the front in about two months’ time, with a beautiful single-seated long-distance machine, fitted with wireless, which will do about ten miles an hour more than the swiftest German Taube.”

(One publishes this with all reserve, as it bears no resemblance to Mr Loraine’s usual manner of speech).

C

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There is quite a detailed summary of William Arthur Grattan Bellew's military career on the Aerodrome forum here. His entry on the BWM/ VM roll confirms that he was commissioned in the Connaught Rangers - but his '14-15 Star entry is in the RFC roll and gives a date of entry into France of April 1915 - after getting his Royal Aero Club at Brooklands and being made a Second Lieutenant on Probation on 17 January, sent to the Central Flying School at Upavon on 26 January 1915 and posted to France on 9 April "on appointment as a Flying Officer".

Difficult to see how he can have been a casualty in 1914. Poor man broke both his legs on 21 March 1917 and died a few days later.

C

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Dear Harry & C, with all the excellent feedback this week on the topic I have very now significantly modified my list of 1914 Officer casualties and excluded a couple of individuals who were on my tentative original list such as Grattan-Bellew.

The above information on Loraine is fascinating and he was indeed a very early aviation pioneer in 1910.

The actual 22nd Nov casualty details sound like it was quite serious for Loraine and importantly probably one of the very first air casualties from enemy anti-aircraft fire. Earlier casualties appear to have been from machine failures, other enemy aircraft or even friendly fire such as affected Crean and Hosking on 26th October when fired upon over the Gheluvelt area. One fact that does strike me as improbable is how Loraine was (according to his RAF service record quoted above) a casualty again on 16th Dec 1914! The report of 30th Dec seems to suggest he was still recovering in hospital from the original lung injury which sounds serious.

Best & thanks again. Nick

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The Citation for Loraine's MC appeared in the Third Supplement to the London Gazette of 16 November 1915, dated 18 November 1915 (Gazette number 29371, page 11450):

Captain Robert Loraine, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve.

For conspicuous gallantry and skill on 26th October, 1915, when he attacked a German Albatross biplane, getting within fifteen yards of it. When the hostile machine dived he dived after it, and followed it from a height of 9,000 feet to 600 feet. The enemy pilot was hit, and his camera, and wireless transmitter were subsequently found to have bullet-holes through them.

The Albatross fell in our lines.

Graeme

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I think we need Trevor's input on Robert Loraine's wounding in November 1914. It was obviously quite a

serious wound, but it's not mentioned in TSTB, and it's very unlike Trevor to miss anything.

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I think we need Trevor's input on Robert Loraine's wounding in November 1914. It was obviously quite a

serious wound, but it's not mentioned in TSTB, and it's very unlike Trevor to miss anything.

Definitely TSTB2's second new entry! And I've got his biog in my shed: "Robert Loraine: Soldier Actor Airman" by Winifred Loraine. There will doubtless be details in there.

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Since my last post I've looked in Loraine's biography: Robert Loraine. Actor. Soldier. Airman. by Winfred

Loraine. It gives that he was seriously wounded on 22 November 1914 while directing artillery fire.

His pilot was Corbett-Wilson and both were in 3 Sqdn. His diary says that he was hit at 3.10pm and taken tofield hospital at Lillers. It was touch and go for a while - he was twice given Last Sacrament. He was

visited in hospital by Maurice Baring,F E Smith and Arthur Lee. He also received a note from John Salmond,CO of 3 Sqdn at the time.

It's puzzling that such a famous chap should have slipped through the net of casualties. Even more puzzling that McCudden in FYITRFC doesn't mention having such a famous pre-war airman and actor in the squadron,

let alone his wounding.

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Is it known by any chance whether Corbett-Wilson the pilot was wounded in the same action? If the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire involving shrapnel bullets it would seem strange just Loraine was injured.

Nick

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Loraine was aloft the day before his wounding in a Bleriot, but with another pilot. On the 22nd November records show that two aircraft went off strength of 3 Squadron, having been "wrecked" and in the absence of deeper research at Kew I suspect he was operating in one of these with Corbett-Wilson. They were Bleriot 692 and Avro 504 1836. Corbett-Wilson wasn't wounded, though he was killed in action a few months later. My research illustrates time and again that it's quite possible for only one of a crew to be wounded.

I can only put the minimal formal casualty information about Loraine down to the fact that it was very, very early in the war, with structures for reporting and assessing these things barely thought about. I wrote about Loraine's wounding in a 3 Squadron History I wrote a few years ago... shame I didn't send myself an email to make sure it was included it in my expanded book!

And Alex, I've sent you an email with info - a lot going on this week... buildings to design, articles to write...

Trevor

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And there's a nice point mentioned in his biography, that on his earlier reconnaissance that morning he'd dropped a message to the German battery firing at them to, something like, "Try and keep your aim... we'll be back"!!

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Dear Trevor & Alex, I was doing a little late night surfing and came across the following sources......please ignore if you are way ahead of me. But using a bit of lateral thinking Corbett-Wilson might possibly have referred to the Loraine incident in his letters to his mother?

1) 2006 book(author not known)- "Letters from an Early Bird - The Life & Letters of Dennys Corbett-Wilson"

2) the original source I believe at the Liddle Archive at Leeds University - LIDDLE/WW1/AIR/083

Best, Nick

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Dear Trevor & Alex, I was doing a little late night surfing and came across the following sources......please ignore if you are way ahead of me. But using a bit of lateral thinking Corbett-Wilson might possibly have referred to the Loraine incident in his letters to his mother?

1) 2006 book(author not known)- "Letters from an Early Bird - The Life & Letters of Dennys Corbett-Wilson"

2) the original source I believe at the Liddle Archive at Leeds University - LIDDLE/WW1/AIR/083

Best, Nick

Good spot. I see there's a whole chapter on Loraine.

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Hello,

I have a little book about Corbett-Wilson called 'Denys Corbett-Wilson: Aviation's Forgotten Pioneer'

It says - 22nd November (1914):

'Had a rattling day today, over five hours in the air. Poor Loraine, my observer, was slightly, I hope, wounded....He is the actor Robert Loraine, the once flying man now turned observer...'

29th November (1914):

'...I went to see poor Loraine,...yesterday...He is wonderful (sic) well considering...He was very cheery.'

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Good effort, to post this.

I've mentioned in another post that I was out at Kew today, and among other things, I was trying to hunt down some 3 Squadron info for November 1914. Frustratingly, though the wounding of Loraine got only the odd three or four words (literally) in their Squadron Record book etc, there was no mention of aircraft types, or anything like that.

Though what I found fascinating was that on both the 21st and 22nd, when Loraine was known to be up, the solitary note in the Squadron diary read "Weather unfit for reconnaissance." What a tough lot. No wonder we find them interesting.

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  • 1 month later...

Major William Arthur Grattan-Bellew,MC.Connaught Rangers,RFC.

Commanding Officer 29 Squ,

Died of wounds due to an air crash when his DH2's engine failed, 24.3.17.

Hope this clears up some missing info.

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