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Neill Gilhooley

The First Fourteen - Officers of the Air Battalion

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Neill Gilhooley

The Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed 1 April 1911 with fourteen officers and I was curious as to their Great War service and fates...



Major Sir Alexander Bannerman, Royal Engineers

Born Northamptonshire 16 December 1871, became Baronet of Bannerman 1901

Served South Africa. Commanded in turn School of Ballooning, the Air Battalion, The Royal Flying Corps.**

Died South Africa 10 March 1934

Bannerman.jpg.ad35c73a7d054761bd14958bdcf71953.jpg Bannerman_Loraine.jpg.66befd1e4dd4094aab7ffe1707d91241.jpg Bannerman and Loraine


Captain Philip William Lilian Broke-Smith, Royal Engineers

Born Plymouth 27 August 1882

Adjutant of the Air Battalion

Served Mesopotamia 1 April 1915, RFC Staff, Lt Col

Died 8 November 1963



Captain Alan Douglas Carden, Royal Engineers

Born St Helier, Jersey 15 July 1874

CO of West India Submarine Mining Company, RE, Jamaica

Crewmember of military airship, Nulli Secondus II

Lost lower left arm in accident at Salisbury Plain, but became pilot of Dunne machines.

Experimental Officer of the Air Battalion 26 May 1911

France 18 August 1914, CO of first RFC aircraft park, War Office 1915, Egypt, Air Board, Lt Col

Royal Aircraft Establishment. Died Wiltshire 12 April 1964

Carden.jpg.92db94b3f8566a3fd3cfeacc134e9e14.jpg Carden2.jpg.b827a4423690c381d68d467eb349e93c.jpg


Hon. Lieutenant Frank Howard Kirby, Royal Engineers

Born Oxfordshire 12 November 1871

Served South Africa as Corporal in Royal Engineers, awarded Victoria Cross returning for a dismounted man in action on 2 June 1900

Quartermaster of the Air Battalion, Equipment Officer in RFC, Lt Col, Group Captain RAF

Died Sidcup 8 July 1956



No 1 Company (The Gas Company, balloons and airships)


Captain Edward Maitland Maitland, Essex Regiment*

Born London 21 October 1880 as Edward Maitland Gee, commissioned 1900 in Essex Regiment, served South Africa

Flew from London to Russia in the balloon Mammoth in 1908

Seconded to the Air Battalion 19 August 1911

Broke both ankles in an aeroplane crash and concentrated on balloons and airships, commanding the Gas Company

Undertook first parachute jump from an airship 1913

Served with RNAS airships in the First World War

Crossed the Atlantic in both directions in airship R34 in 1919

Conducted trials on the airship RM38 prior to transfer to the US. During a tight turn over the Humber the mid-section crumpled and the airship broke up. KIFA 24 August 1921, aged 40

Maitland2.jpg.0c82ea9606c8cc6f9ded71017c7d04e4.jpg Maitland3.jpg.88fc3c811831b4f7e154da89636067c9.jpg R38.jpg.90e1cd211bbd55fe5da2cc7101c78764.jpg R38


Lieutenant Clive Maitland Waterlow, Royal Engineers

Born Hampstead 9 September 1885

Commissioned RE 1905 and joined the Balloon School in 1906

Involved with first British Army airship Nulli Secundus 1907

Served on the western front in October and November 1914

Commanding Officer of the Airship Training Wing, RNAS, Cranwell

As the airship SS.39 was being led back to the shed at Cranwell it suddenly began to rise. Waterlow grabbed a fore rope and was carried high into the air, until he lost his grip and his life. KIFA 20 July 1917, buried Lincolnshire, aged 31.***

Waterlow2.jpg.d26ec37c583647c15c04651ee281a821.jpg Waterlow.jpg.c24fd8c4baddbb5546b339e3df78cba1.jpg


Lieutenant Alan Geoffrey Fox, Royal Engineers*

Born London 6 November 1887, RMA Woolwich 1906, gazetted 1908 and joined Balloon School February 1910

“One of the first five Officers in the Army taught to fly.”

16 Squadron RFC. Departed aerodrome at 03:00 on 9 May 1915 to bomb the canal bridge at Don, flying at low altitude to be sure of his target, on his return at 04:00 his Voisin LA No.1877 was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he came down between the French and German lines. Buried at Cambrin, aged 27, Captain.

Fox.jpg.938618a3c7aa3cb82a8044fdbec5e811.jpg Fox2.jpg.a8193a3d48a34dc43e6eb767a75f0362.jpg Voisin.jpg.aa53d1770fdd2c428ca44462e7dd4220.jpg Voisin LA


No 2 Company (The Air Company, aeroplanes)


Captain John Duncan Bertie Fulton, Royal Field Artillery*

Born San Francisco 23 July 1876

Joined Royal Artillery 1896, served in South Africa

Seconded to the Air Battalion 25 April 1911, commanding the Air Company

Died 11 November 1915 of a throat infection, aged 39, Lt Col

Fulton2.jpg.e95cd6edc41dbed5a2eec3f97d93a976.jpg Fulton.jpg.17c6f839b14e0e79c0db6070bc14d1fb.jpg


Captain Charles James Burke, Royal Irish Regiment*

Born Ireland 9 March 1882, Lt Royal Dublin Fusiliers 1900

Served in South Africa and West Africa Frontier Force, Royal Irish Regiment

Seconded Air battalion 11 March 1911

'He was not a good pilot, and was almost famous for his crashes' recorded the official history, The War in the Air

France 13 August 1914 commanding No 2 Squadron RFC, and in November No 2 Wing, in 1916 the Central Flying School

Returned to the RIR in 1916. Assumed command 26 February 1917 of 1st East Lancashire Regt

Lt Col KIA by a shell 9 April 1917, during the attack on Vimy Ridge, aged 35

Burke.jpg.a50b35a39324b1369e758afc2a567e7b.jpg CJB.jpg.7931a8656428e2ff9ba894e393037d42.jpg


Lieutenant Daniel Goodwin Conner, Royal Artillery [also Connor]*

Born Dublin 2 December 1884

Student at Bristol Flying School, survived crash February 1911

Seconded to the Air Battalion 3 October 1911

Served RFC, to France as Flight Commander No 5 Squadron, and later became Equipment Officer, Aircraft Park, Lt Col

Conner.jpg.5b8df0d8eb0b644aaa39b0d1251deaf8.jpg Conner2.jpg.67878fa360709fd8611ff658f4d756d0.jpg


Lieutenant Basil Herbert Barrington-Kennett, 2nd Grenadier Guards*

Born Brighton 19 November 1884

Seconded to the Air Battalion 19 August 1911

Went to France with RFC, rejoined Grenadiers 1915

The 2nd Grenadiers attack at La Quinque Rue, near Givenchy, was held up about 5.40pm on 18 May 1915. Major Barrington-Kennett was killed. His brothers also died in the war.

Barrington-Kennett3.jpg.af9c079c876eb7761b28eb88f063ecee.jpg Barrington-Kennett.jpg.9a4f0f3f2adcd9aba4a86e9cbc6e9949.jpg


Lieutenant Reginald ‘Rex’ Archibald Cammell, Royal Artillery*

Born Inverness 10 January 1886

Balloon School

Became the first military pilot when he was sent to France to accept a Blériot XII in the summer of 1910 and took flying lessons

KIFA 17 September 1911 flying an ASL Valkyrie at Hendon, aged 25

First military aeroplane pilot, first to hold licences for balloons, airships and aeroplanes, and first killed in his duty

Cammell.jpg.d3c38b4b01316d9eb665aff9f7b0ee59.jpg Cammell2.jpg.882e590eebeb08faa623eca668587957.jpg ASL.jpg.c8e0c2043d876a53098e98bd5d2be6b9.jpg Valkyrie


Lieutenant George Bayard Hynes, Royal Garrison Artillery [also Hinds]*

Born Malta 1887

Seconded to the Air Battalion 18 January 1912

Served with RFC, France 16.8.14 and later became Equipment Officer, Engine Repair Shops, Lt Col

Hynes3.jpg.a3a1a1e8f67726865b80bfd698c7194a.jpg Hynes2.jpg.85555269f3cfc30a6c8eeb416c3ac931.jpg


Lieutenant Herbert Ramsay Playford Reynolds, Royal Engineers*

Born Baroda, India 16 August 1887

Survived crash 1911 in Bristol Boxkite in which the aircraft swung about upside down

Served with No 4 Squadron RFC, France 3 December 1914, later Henlow; Squadron Commander, Major; served RFC staff and returned to RE

Reynolds2.jpg.799539405f0535e40776fbf5297780d7.jpg Reynolds.jpg.266c0f520c432c1cee211bab5ca9fa79.jpg


Also at Lark Hill:

Captain Eustace Broke Loraine, Grenadier Guards*

Born London 3 September 1879, commissioned Grenadier Guards 1899, West Africa Frontier Force.

Convicted of motoring offence.

KIFA Nieuport IVG monoplane 5 July 1912 on Salisbury Plain, making a tight turn, sideslipped and dived into the ground from 400ft. Fractured skull, died after admission to hospital.

Loraine2.jpg.15efa69001675c4ed0eefe3363f2d4e9.jpg Loraine.jpg.e5b69a1c787a2058176a8189c06e39ae.jpg Nieuport.jpg.1c1a63cbb3b9830693a7218b5375d3ee.jpg Nieuport IV


Lieutenant Seaton Dunham Massey / Massy, 29th Punjabis, Indian Army*

Born London 25 April 1882

Commissioned in the Yorkshire Regiment 1901, to 29th Punjabis 1903

First Indian Army officer to qualify as a pilot on attachment to the Air Battalion. Returned to India 1912 to establish a School of Aeronautics. At Farnborough at the start of the war, he was mobilised to Egypt 19 November 1914 with 30 Squadron, and later served in Mesopotamia.

Died 10 May 1922, Middlesex, aged 40, Major.



*Joined Fulton at Lark Hill in May 1911

**Also recorded as retired 1912

***CWGC states 33


Note that naval aviation initially and subsequently followed a parallel course 



Ancestry (a number of these men are on the 1911 Census at Gibraltar Barracks, Aldershot)

Flying with the Larks by Timothy C Brown, 2013

London Gazette



Flight magazine




More on Carden

More on Burke

Edited by Neill Gilhooley
More on Carden and Burke

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Neill Gilhooley

When Rex Cammell (above) went to France in the summer of 1910, a Lieutenant James Boothby, Royal Scots, had been selected to be the first military[-trained aeroplane] pilot. I think this is him... 


Lieutenant James Robert Boothby, Royal Scots. Born Springfield House, Cupar, Fife, 17 January 1883. Second son of Alexander Cunningham Boothby (1857-1888) of St Andrew and Madeline, daughter of Frederick Lewis Maitland Heriot (she remarried, to Alexander Rigaud Wilson Wood).

Served in South Africa with Imperial Yeomanry, later joined Royal Scots and served in India. When 2nd Battalion Royal Scots came home, 9 March 1909, they moved to Edinburgh Castle and he was a 'tenant' there 1910. This is, presumably, when he was selected to be an aeroplane pilot. As Cammell now had his qualification, Boothby ran engine tests. 

Boothby resigned owing to temporary ill health and moved to Vancouver. At the outbreak of war he returned and obtained a commission in the Royal Naval Air Service, being at Pembroke 11 October 1914 and later HMS President (shore establishment on the Thames). Lieutenant-Commander in Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Joined Armoured Car Division. Killed in Action on 1 May 1915 at Gallipoli, the day after landing at Gaba Tepe. His commanding officer wrote: 'I can only say this, that every officer and man in the Armoured Car Force simply loved Jim Boothby. I never want a more loyal, good-hearted and good-natured second in command than he was. His own men saw that he had, what perhaps few out there got,a proper burial.' Buried Beach Cemetery, ANZAC, aged 32



'Two Rolls-Royce cars of the Armoured Car Section of the Royal Naval Division, under Lieutenant Commander Josiah Wedgwood, in the shelters dug to minimise the risks from shell fire.'



His older brother was Frederick Lewis Maitland Boothby (1881-1940), Wing Commander RNAS. As an RN Lieutenant, attached to 1 Squadron 1912, he passed his Royal Aero Club certificate in 1913.


He began training the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division in October 1914, in which his younger brother would serve. After being involved in the early development of tanks, requesting an armoured body on a tracked tractor, he became CO of Barrow Airship Station in September 1915. HMS Britannia, Qualified Torpedo Officer, balloon, airship, and aeroplane pilot, commanded Airship stations at Barrow, Howden and Pulham-St.Mary, Captain RN, CBE.



de Ruvigny

Papers and photos are listed at TNA but reference not found online for RAF Museum 

The Devil's Chariots by John Glanfield

See also 


Edited by Neill Gilhooley
See Tim's post, #3

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Flying With the larks

Great information on the Air Battalion condensed into one piece... very useful. At the risk of being a little contentious, you describe James Boothby as having been 'selected to be the first military pilot'. I think I understand what you're saying... but there had been military pilots for many years before him, flying kites, balloons and airships. in fact it appears probable that his ballooning experience was Boothby's only credential? I have not yet been able to trace any record of Jim Boothby passing the test for an aviators certificate... and only reference to Cammell allowing him to do ground runs in the XII whilst it was at Lark Hill in the Autumn 1910. Perhaps you can help there?  But Lt Colmore RN, Capt Bertram Dickson RFA and a few others had passed the RAeC (or Aero Club d'France equivalent) in 1910... There were other's also unqualified - Lt John Dunne, and Col. John Capper RE and Lancelot Gibbs. it might even be argued that Samuel Cody could claim that record, whist not a military man, he was an employee of the army Balloon factory and flying the War Office-funded British Army Aeroplane No.1 at Laffen's Plain in 1908. Excuse my pedantry... the point that Boothby was an early exponent of aviation is indisputable. Tim Brown

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Neill Gilhooley

Tim, Great to hear from you - thanks for the clarification. I wondered if Jim Boothby could be found in the RFC or RNAS, and although the latter it seems it was armoured cars and not aviation.

Flying With the Larks is an excellent book, I hope you have another underway.

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