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Wayne Ralph

No 29 Kite Balloon Section, Location of on Sunday, 27 October 1918

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Wayne Ralph

I am the biographer of William G. Barker VC, DSO and Bar, MC and two Bars, RFC/RAF scout ace 1917-1918. Barker's grandsons have asked me to determine the precise location in the Foret de Mormal where Barker's Snipe E8102 crash-landed on Sunday morning, 27 October 1918. Lieutenant Frank Woolley Smith of No 29 Kite Balloon Section helped remove the wounded pilot from the Snipe and transport him to a Dressing Station. He photographed the Snipe that morning. It was later recovered and returned to No. 201 Squadron, RAF. Lieutenant Smith was known to be living at least into the 1960s in the UK, and he sent the negative of that image to the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada.

 

I think that the Order of Battle for the BEF and CEF in October 1918 as it advanced to Valenciennes and onward towards Mons will provide unit locations, including I presume Kite Balloon Sections.

 

The grandsons of Barker are planning to be there at that location on the 100th anniversay, 27 October 2018.

 

I welcome any ideas of how to pinpoint where in the Foret de Mormal region was 29 KBS stationed.

 

 

Wayne Ralph, biographer

 

William Barker VC - The Life, Death & Legend of Canada's Most Decorated War Hero (John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2007), reissue of the 1997 first edition published in the UK by Grub Street, London SW11 1HT

 

www.barkervc.com

 

White Rock, BC, Canada

 

barker-09, snipe, e8102, 27 october 1918, france.jpg

29KBS1918.jpg

Edited by Wayne Ralph
Additional photo of the personnel of 29KBS, with Barker's handwritten note about their role in saving his life.

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nieuport11

The Order of Battle shows the pinpoint location for most balloon units, but unfortunately is blank for the 5th Brigade Units

29KBS was part of 13 Balloon Company supporting the Australian Corps

The were part of 5 Balloon Wing at Corbie under LtCol F.M. Roxby (at end of Sep 18)

They were part of 5 Brigade at Vaux-en Amienois comprising 15 (Corps) Wing and 22 (Army) WIng

 

There is a history of the section in AIR 1/163/15/134/1

There is a location list for 5 Wing in AIR 1/2078/204/444/4 along with corro in AIR 1/2078/204/444/5

Edited by nieuport11

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Wayne Ralph

Many thanks to you for your detailed information. I will pass this along to the Mackenzie family here in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

 

It occurs to me that a salvage unit of the RAF would have been sent to this location to put E8102 on a flatbed and return it to a Repair Park or the maintenance section of 201 Squadron. They would have needed exact coordinates to get to where 29KBS was positioned. Presumably there would be messages back and forth - a/c down at this location, pilot in hospital, aircraft intact but damaged.

 

Has this kind of telegraphic information been saved in any RAF archives?

 

Cheers,

 

Wayne Ralph

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Martin Sayers

Dear Wayne

 

My grandfather Frank Woolley Smith OBE, DFC  mentions in his memoirs that he was in the vicinity of Kauberge. I hope this helps. 

 

I  would like to join the Grandsons of  Captain Barker on the 27th October, if they so agree and I would be grateful if you could arrange contact on my behalf.

 

Regards

 

 

Martin Sayers

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Martin Sayers

Dear Wayne 

 

I attach the typed work of my grandfather, which I hope is of help.

 

Regards

 

 

Martin Sayers

page 1.png

page2.png

page3.png

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Martin Sayers

Dear Wayne 

 

Please find attached a photo of my grandfather.

 

frank woolley smith.png

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Peter Maxfield

Dear Martin (and Wayne), great to find this information online. I'm very interested in both Barker and Frank. I see Frank's typed sheets are 3 of 334 - are the rest viewable anywhere? I did see the above photo via Nigel, here: https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4099747#images, saying RFC, but isn't that cut of uniform RAF? When did he transfer from the Sherwoods? Do you have a date for the photo - guessing it's 1918? Best wishes, Pete.

(Can't spot Kauberge - perhaps Maubeuge? 'K' next to 'M' on typewriter? - at the north of the forest)

 

Edited by Peter Maxfield

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Peter Maxfield

    A quick transcription of Frank's writing:   

 

    Beyond the foot of my bed was a hole in the canvas of the tent. Where the wash basin had stood was a neatly drilled hole in the ground about four inches across. We produced a stick and poked it down. At four feet it came up against the base of the shell; a 'dud'. It had finished up immediately under where I was lying!

    I had heard the pop of the gun on each occasion it had fired followed by the crump of the bursting shell.

    All had exploded with the exception of this one - the last!

 

    The allied forces were moving swiftly forward. We were now of little use in the operations which had, at last, developed into mobile warfare. This was probably a good thing as my flying nerves had deteriorated and I had lost most of the zest for the job. However, one thing sticks in my memory about that time, we were in the vicinity of Kauberge [Maubeuge?] and I had just got out of bed and finished dressing, when the roar of an aeroplane flying low and circling round over our position caused me to rush outside to see what was going on. It was one of ours - a fighter, but not of a type we recognised. Obviously it was in trouble and the engine seemed either to be at full throttle or cut out entirely.

    As we watched it came in to land at a point where the ground was reasonably level. It bumped forward, hit some strands of barbed wire and slowly upended with the landing wheels in the air.

    Mercifully it was quite close and some men rushed to it and heaved up the tail section to release the pilot who was hanging in his safety belt and half pinned down by the side of the cockpit. We released him out as swiftly as possible.

    Cutting away his flying suit, which was smothered in blood, we found he was wounded in both thighs, also his left elbow appeared to be shattered. On the breast of his tunic were the ribands of the D.S.O., M.C., and Bar, the Croix de Guerre and the Italian Medal for bravery. There was no time to try and find out who he was however. It was essential to get him to a Doctor if he was to survive.

    We put a tourniquet on the left arm above the elbow, tight bandages on the thigh wounds and rushed him off to the nearest Field Dressing Station. It transpired later that he was Major W.G. Barker, 201 Squadron, and the air battle he had just fought single-handed won him the Victoria Cross.

    The 'plane he had flown in the action was one of the first of the Sopwith "Snipes".

    The official citation for this exploit reads -

        "While attacking an enemy two-seater, which afterwards broke

        "up in the air, over Mormal Forest, this officer was approached 

        "by a Fokker, and although wounded in the thigh, succeeded

        "in shooting it down in flames. He then found himself in

        "the middle of a large formation of Fokkers and was wounded

        "in the other thigh. He drove down two of these machines,

        "lost consciousness, recovered, and was again attacked by

        "a large formation, out of which he destroyed two more

        "aeroplanes. As he was wounded in both legs and his left elbow

        "was shattered, he dived away owing to exhaustion, but not yet

        "another formation which he broke up after a hard fight. He

        "reached our lines and crashed on landing. His total 'bag' is

        "Fifty destroyed."

_______________________________________________________________________

 

    Barker made an excellent recovery from his wounds but was killed in a flying accident in Canada not long after the War.

    A few days after Barker landed near our position I left for England to take up a post as an Instructor at the Balloon Training Depot at Richmond Park. The big influenza epidemic was just beginning to rage and I became very ill just as I reached Boulogne. 

    By the time I recovered the Armistice had been signed, and the War was over at last.

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Peter Maxfield

The term riband is used for any material from which may be suspended Orders, Decorations or Medals.  The term ribbon is used for that material that is 
stitched directly on to uniform to denote the award of an Order, Decoration or Medal. 

 

The London Gazette has the citation as:-

 

“On the morning of the 27th October, 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over the Fôret de Mormal.  He attacked this machine, and after a short burst it broke up in the air.  At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed, despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.

He then found himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers, who attacked him from all directions; and was again severely wounded in the left thigh; but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin.

He lost consciousness after this, and his machine fell out of control.  On recovery he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine, he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames.

During this fight his left elbow was shattered, and he again fainted, and on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but, notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames.

Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met by another formation, which attacked and endeavoured to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.

This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes up to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career.

Major Barker was awarded the Military Cross on 10th January, 1917; first Bar on 18th July, 1917; the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February, 1918; second Bar to Military Cross on 16th September, 1918; and Bar to Distinguished Service Order on 2nd November, 1918.”

(London Gazette, no.31042, 30 November 1918)

 

http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/canada/barker.php

has a list of his confirmed kills as a pilot: 46 in Camel B6313 and 4 in Snipe E8102

 

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Peter Maxfield

http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/pub/boo-bro/can-ww1/doc/12-ocr-ww1-airbook-eng.pdf

Describes it thus (and also has an interesting large map in the pdf after page 550) on pages 567 and 568.

(Each version I see adds or embellishes 'details' - one version added a Dr.1, already withdrawn by then; another that he was hit by ground fire - a good shot from 20,000ft below!)

 

On 17 October 1918, however, one more Snipe arrived in France, flown by a man who was worth a squadron in himself. Major William George Barker of Dauphin, Man., was now twenty-three years old, with two aerial victories officially credited to him for every year of his life. The threads of his career to this point have already been woven into earlier chapters of this book. After serving as an observer and pilot with the RFC for a year-and-a-half on the Western Front in 1916 and 1917, he had commanded 28 Squadron in Italy for almost a year before being posted to the UK to take command of an air-fighting school at Hounslow. But recognising that the air war in France had become tactically very different from that which he had known earlier on the Western Front and had been experiencing more recently in Italy, Barker applied for a refresher course before taking up his new appointment. He was promptly attached to 201 Squadron (Sopwith Camels) at La Targette for ten days. Barker saw no enemy aircraft during his stay with 201, however, and when he took off on 27 October he was en route to the UK and his non-operational posting. One last look at the front seemed in order. He climbed to 21,000 feet over the Foret de Mormal. There he spotted a Rumpler two-seater reconnoitering the lines, attacked it, and set off an air fight against sixty Fokkers which won him the Victoria Cross, the third and last Canadian airman to be so decorated in the First World War. Barker's fire broke up the Rumpler in the air. He then found his own machine peppered by a Fokker biplane, climbing in a near stall, almost a thousand feet below him. Wounded in the right thigh, Barker threw his Snipe into a spin and spiralled down two thousand feet, only to find himself in the midst of fifteen more D-Vlls. He fired at two which disappeared and then got a burst into a third from ten yards' range and set it on fire. The other Fokkers were now milling around him, firing from all angles - wounded again in the other thigh, he fainted and the Snipe went into another spin, dropping to 15,000 feet before he recovered consciousness in the middle of a lower echelon of the enemy formation. The Canadian got behind one of them and opened fire, while another Fokker got on his tail. The machine in front soon burst into flames, but the one behind was riddling the Snipe with bullets and Barker was hit once more and his left elbow shattered. Again he fainted and again the Snipe went into a spin and lost its immediate pursuer. At 12,000 feet Barker came to, this time to find himself in the midst of a third echelon of enemy fighters whirling in to the attack from all directions. With the Snipe's airframe punctured by innumerable bullet holes and its engine smoking, Barker picked out one more D-Vll and flew straight for it, firing as he went. The Fokker disintegrated and the Snipe suffered further damage as Barker hurtled through , fragments of the German machine tearing the punctured remnants of its fabric. Yet the Snipe kept flying and Barker, momentarily in the clear, dived westwards and raced for the British lines, dodging a fourth enemy formation as he did so. He crossed the lines at tree-top height and finally crashed into the barbed-wire entanglements which protected a British balloon site, with four more aircraft added to his roll of victories. One of the many witnesses to this spectacular episode - he termed it a 'stimulating incident' - was A.G.L. McNaughton, now the commander of the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery, who watched from his advanced headquarters between Bellevue and Valenciennes. The encounter took place in full view of many thousands of British and Canadian soldiers in the trenches. 'The hoarse shout, or rather the prolonged roar, which greeted the triumph of the British fighter, and which echoed across the battle front, was never matched ... on any other occasion: McNaughton later wrote.

'By Jove, I was a foolish boy, but anyhow I taught them a lesson,' Barker exulted from a hospital bed in Rouen, ten days later. 'The only thing that bucks me up is to look back and see them going down in flames.'

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Peter Maxfield

Sorry Wayne - that wasn't much help in pinpointing the spot. I have found the RAF museum very helpful, but usually get referred on, to the National Archives at Kew. I will make some enquiries, though it's often better to actually go there. I've only been once, so would like to go again - I will if I can!

I think McNaughton was quite some distance from the action. I think vicinity of Maubeuge sounds likely - it wasn't captured until early November. I would love to be of help if I can. Best wishes, Pete.

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Wayne Ralph

I will forward your information to Alec Mackenzie, oldest grandson of Barker VC, and get back to you when I know more.

 

Cheers 

 

Wayne Ralph - biographer 

 

 

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Peter Maxfield

It certainly is, ForeignGong! The Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Military Cross and two Bars, two Italian Silver Medals for Military Valour, and the French Croix de guerre. He was also mentioned in despatches three times. Barker, Mannock and McCudden each received six British medals, including the Victoria Cross. McCudden was also awarded a French Croix de Guerre. But with his three foreign medals and three Mentions in Despatches, Barker received a total of 12 awards for valour, and is the most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations. I heartily recommend getting a copy of Wayne's excellent biography of him!

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Peter Maxfield

barker - Copy.jpg

William George Barker

Edited by Peter Maxfield

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ForeignGong
22 minutes ago, Peter Maxfield said:

It certainly is, ForeignGong! The Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Military Cross and two Bars, two Italian Silver Medals for Military Valour, and the French Croix de guerre. He was also mentioned in despatches three times. Barker, Mannock and McCudden each received six British medals, including the Victoria Cross. McCudden was also awarded a French Croix de Guerre. But with his three foreign medals and three Mentions in Despatches, Barker received a total of 12 awards for valour, and is the most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations. I heartily recommend getting a copy of Wayne's excellent biography of him!

Thanks for that.

When was he awarded the second Italian medal as I have only been able to find one in the gazette???

 

Peter

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Wayne Ralph

The King of Italy, hearing of Barker's receipt of the VC from King George the 5th, awarded Barker a second Silver Medal for Valour. It was sent directly to Barker in Toronto, Canada - hence no London Gazette notice. Had Barker lived to old age he, like other World War One veterans, might well have received France's Legion of Honour.

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ForeignGong

Thanks for that info

Peter

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Peter Maxfield

Wayne - the first available date I can go to Kew is the 4th of July, (unless anyone else can go before?). I can book the documents for viewing, including:

AIR 1/163/15/134/1
Description:

History of 29 Balloon Section, R.A.F. 1916-1919.

 

 

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Wayne Ralph

Dear Peter

 

I will communicate your kind offer to visit Kew on July 4th. I will also forward Alec Mackenzie's email to you, so you may communicate directly with him.

 

Kind regards,

 

Wayne Ralph, biographer

 

 

 

Many thanks to you for your detailed information. I will pass this along to the Mackenzie family here in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

 

It occurs to me that a salvage unit of the RAF would have been sent to this location to put E8102 on a flatbed and return it to a Repair Park or the maintenance section of 201 Squadron. They would have needed exact coordinates to get to where 29KBS was positioned. Presumably there would be messages back and forth - a/c down at this location, pilot in hospital, aircraft intact but damaged.

 

Has this kind of telegraphic information been saved in any RAF archives?

 

Cheers,

 

Wayne Ralph

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Loader

Possibly saved in Sqdn Ops book or some such record kept by them to account for the a/c & pilot.

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Wayne Ralph

Good idea. We will keep searching. Since there is a photo of the aircraft awaiting repair or disposal, we know it was recovered on Sunday or Monday. How did they know where to go?

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Martin Sayers

Dear Ralf,

 

I am planning to meet up with Alec Mackenzie and family on the 27th October in France, however, I am a little confused about the dates. By the photograph of Captain Barker my grandfather has written in his hand  " September 1918 " and on reading when Captain Barker was awarded the VC, it appears that the award date was the 27th October 1918. If this is the case what was the actual date of the crash? 

20181011_124904.jpg

20181011_124714.jpg

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Peter Maxfield

This is a summary of the grandsons centennial visit to the location of the first meeting of their grandfathers, Frank Woolley Smith OBE, DFC and William G. Barker VC

 

Barker grandsons:

Alec Mackenzie

Ian Mackenzie

David Mackenzie

 

Smith Grandson:

Martin Sayer

 

In addition to the research we (Mackenzies) had done to determine the location of Barker’s landing after his epic VC earning Battle, Martin did some additional research on his own and, working from New Zealand war records, was able to better locate the position of the front line on October 27th  1918. Observation balloons were typically located several miles behind the front line so we drew an intercept based on the general descriptions of Barker’s dog fight locations and his reported movement back toward the line, with the position and alignment of the front line adjusted for the probable Kite Balloon setback. These two lines cross at roughly right angles but there is likely a few kilometers of uncertainty in our final estimate since geographic references were very general. We knew 29 KBS(Frank Woolley Smith’s unit) would be located near a road so selected a likely candidate from several possibilities and declared this to be the spot.

 

The area is a sparsely populated rolling countryside. Photographs of the area from 100 years ago show remarkably little change in the intervening time. Even if we didn’t pick the exact spot, it is a very good proxy for any of the other candidate locations in the area.

 

So, four grandsons of the two protagonists in this little story found themselves standing in this beautiful countryside 100 years to the hour after the events of October 27th 1918. The cool fall air and sunshine with a few passing clouds added to the scene, giving a real sense of what it must have been like exactly 100 years before. This helped lift the story from the pages of history and into the air above.  Only the large, modern windmills belied  our historical vision.

 

Ian, David, Martin and Alec:

 

image.png.6b0212dc9dde17bc14cbb67917d1b81e.png

 

 

 

 

Martin prepared a little photo montage of our selected location near Pont a Pierres:

image.png.01242552e9f96047042914b27c55dd7b.png

 

Lieutenant Frank Woolley Smith’s Photo of E8102 after it had been tipped back up onto its nose to free Barker from the cockpit:

image.png.232f08167a7ef15f4070fb3fedc2ab2c.png

 

 

 

Alec with a Modern exact replica of the Sopwith Snipe E8102 built using mostly original mechanical parts including the rotary engine:

 

image.png.3e72c9d6278856419e74f6e188e1cc4f.png

 

Edited by Peter Maxfield

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