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Marian2

Gosport School of Special Flying, names of instructors?

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Marian2

I'm working with the diary of an American, Lloyd Ludwig, who trained at Gosport in early 1918.  He was clearly enthusiastic about his instructors, but unfortunately only refers to them by their ranks and last names.  I've made an effort to identify the instructors, but, unfortunately, the names are not especially unusual, and there's not much documentation of people at training squadrons.  The Historic Gosport website page "Royal Flying Corps at Grange" has a lot of info. on the school; I contacted the web master (David Moore), but unfortunately he was not able to help. Short of downloading massive numbers of AIR 76 files, I'm stumped.   

 

Here's a diary entry from February 11, 1918, in which the various instructors are named:   "No flying because of the wind.  In the evening the six of us Americans and 2nd Lt. Watson gave a dinner for our instructors at the Queens.  Capt. Smart, Capt. Watson, Lt. Benson, Lt. Long and Lt. Holbrow were there.  We had a fine dinner and fine time and went into the Hippodrome afterwards"

 

Any ideas who these men were?

 

Thanks!

---Marian 

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Errol Martyn

Holbrow will be William Gerald Holbrow - his AIR76 is available.

 

Errol

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Maureene

Perhaps you will find something in the online Air Force Lists, available on both Archive.org, or the National Library of Scotland website, the latter probably better for searching.

Details on the FIBIS Fibiwik page Military periodicals online

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Military_periodicals_online#Air_Force_List

 

The [London] Gazette   is probably also a source . It has details of Army Officers commissions. I expect it would also have this information for the Royal Flying Corps.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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seaJane

Nothing to add except our flat is on one of their runways :)

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Annette Carson

Hi Marian

 

Captain Smart is H.G. 'Reggie' Smart who in 1916 served in the legendary 60 Squadron with D.V. Armstrong, the subject of my new biography. I have a photo of Reggie Smart in the book, which is due for publication in August. The founder of the school, R.R. Smith Barry, was their flight commander. I have some material on Smith Barry, who was a remarkable man. I don't immediately recognize Benson or Watson, but if you care to list some other names I'm sure forum members will do their best to identify them.

 

All best

Annette

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pierssc
Posted (edited)

Normally I would say "Have a look at www.airhistory.org.uk 's People pages" at http://www.airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_index.html

 

I have looked for Benson, Long, and Watson while searching for "Gosport" and "1RS" without anyone standing out.

 

It may be possible to make a shortlist of possibilities from other evidence there - exclude those who were dead before 1918, or who got their wings after 1917, or the wrong rank in Feb 1918, or in Egypt  or France, and then compare it with other sources such as Casualtyforms.org and maybe finish off with a quick Google! 

 

Benson, for example, could be Reginald John Bedlington Benson of the Welsh Regiment, attached RFC, appointed a flying officer on 7 April 1917, he was still a Lt in March 1918, and a Captain in April 1919 when he was posted to 5 Squadron.  His career per airhistory seems sketchy and he doesn't have a casualty form (indicating overseas service) until 1919 - which is possibly all consistent with his having been in the UK as an instructor.  He sounds a possibility.  Googling him reveals that he was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1919 (coincidentally my grandfather appears further down in the same Gazette list) - the AFC was not a combat award so while not conclusive points in the same direction.  

 

Lt Bernard Benson - formerly Corporal Benson 6122 - who was appointed a flying officer and 2/Lt on 13 July 1917 when he was appointed an Assistant Instructor EO2 - is another possibility as much of his career seems to have been in training - but seems to have remained at the School of Military Aeronatics until a week after your dinner, when he was posted to 20 Training Wing. 

 

George Washington Benson had been posted back to Home Establishment in October 1917 - but he was already a Captain at that point, so not "Lt Benson". 

 

If you cross off those who it couldn't be, then even allowing that airhistory may not be complete (though it is pretty reliable), and that there may be duplicate initials causing confusion, and mistakes in some of the underlying data,  you're still really left with RJB Benson whose file is AIR76/35/112 - so you may only need to download that one for "Benson". [PS also see his army file - usually more detailed - at WO 339/51301 but not digitalised]

 

I'll leave it to you to look up the others!

 

PS I see a Captain Donald Watson received the AFC in the same Gazette edition.  See https://www.secret-bases.co.uk/wiki/1919_Birthday_Honours . 

or the Gazette (not a very user-friendly search engine) https://www.thegazette.co.uk/        I would check him out.

Edited by pierssc

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Annette Carson
32 minutes ago, pierssc said:

I have looked for Benson, Long, and Watson while searching for "Gosport" and "1RS" without anyone standing out.

As a guideline you need to be looking for the School of Special Flying which was set up at Gosport by R.R. Smith Barry in 1917. Trenchard gave SB the command of No 1 Reserve Squadron from the beginning of 1917 with the intention of allowing him to turn it into a school for instructors, ditching the previous haphazard methods and antiquated aircraft in favour of creating a cadre of professionally trained flying instructors. SB transferred the existing personnel of 1RS to other training units and applied for several members of 60 Squadron as his initial instructors, including Duncan Bell-Irving, Reggie Smart, Sidney Parker and George Philippi (Bell-Irving became CFI). Before the instructional school was up and running their preparatory task was to devise (a) training methods for teaching new pupils, and (b) courses for training the instructors whose job it would be to do apply these methods.

 

I don't have a precise date to hand, but I believe the first pupils began to arrive in February, mostly coming from the School of Aeronautics at Reading. They would start with a month on Avro 504s and then over weeks or months graduate to scouts. As each intake moved up, the next intake followed them.  As well as flying, the programme encompassed lectures and practical work on airframes and engines; it was now that the famous Gosport Tube was invented.

 

Based on teaching these pupils, by May SB had his Instructor's Course mapped out: it insisted on instructors mastering control of the aeroplane in all dimensions and, having persuaded the Top Brass to rescind their prohibition, aerobatics were practised and encouraged. After a personal visit during which he inspected the full repertoire of skills and underwent an aerobatic flight, General John Salmond authorized the first two-week instructional course to train Instructors. As a result Nos 1, 27 and 55 Squadrons at Gosport were merged in July to form the School of Special Flying with SB as Commandant. Their quarters were in Fort Grange.

 

I hope these parameters will serve to inform any searches for the identities of instructors mentioned by Lloyd Ludwig. 

Best wishes

Annette

 

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stevebecker
Posted (edited)

Mate,

 

Sorry I don't have any on these men, but I did find one of mine (Australian Light Horse) for your interest.

 

TUNBRIDGE    Walter Ballantyne        2/Lt    9 LHR    A Sqn D Troop in war dairy 5-15 WIA 2-7-15 L/hand bomb minor at Walkers Ridge & evac to St Andrews hosp Malta (enteric & influ) 7-15 shown A Sqn D Troop in war diary 8-15 rtn 10-15 evac to St Andrews hosp Malta (enteric) 11-15 (G) to hosp (1 AGH) Egypt 1-16 RTA MU enteric relist 20R/04 LHR to cadet 1 SMA Reading UK 12-16 to 31 Res Sqn RFC 2-17 T/att 46 Res Sqn RFC 3-17 to 68 Sqn (2 Sqn) AFC 4-17 to 44 Res Sqn RFC 5-17 to 11 Res Sqn RFC 5-17 to 81 Res Sqn RFC 6-17 to 56 Res Sqn RFC 6-17 to (pilot) 66 Sqn RFC at St Omer 7-17 to 71 Sqn (4 Sqn) AFC 9-17 prom Capt Flight Leader 2-18 camel (B2478) F&B to Flight leader C Flight 5 Trg Sqn AFC M'hampton UK 6-18 to instructor course No 1 School Special Flying Gosport UK 8-18 to AFC depot Wendover UK 10-18 Ex Sgt ASqn/8 LHR prom 2/Lt 3-2-15 DNE later WWII brothers Daryl AFC & Geoffrey related John AFC 

 

MULRONEY    Norman    878    Pte    6 LHR    4R To rear Dtls  5-15 remain Egypt tos B Sqn 7-15 WIA 23-7-15 R/thigh shrapnel reported 3 wounded at No 1 Southern sect trenches near Holly Spur evac to (1 AGH) hosp 7-15 (G) att Conv hosp (malaria) 9-15 rtn B Sqn 2-16 to hosp (malaria) 6-16 rtn 6-16 to trade test 67 Sqn AFC 12-16 to 2/AM 2 Sqn AFC 12-16 to cadet 7-17 prom 2/Lt (pilot) 10-17 to C Flight 69 Sqn (3 Sqn) AFC 1-18 (first sortie Flash recee in RE 8 (A4439) with Lt Neilson over Hoplines 29-1-18) F&B to Instructor 7 Trg Sqn (TS) AFC Leigherton UK 7-18 T/att No 1 Special Flying School Gosport 7-18 (later RAAF 6-25 to RL 1930 coronation medal 1937 later WWII Wing Cdr RAAF)
 

Sorry thats all I found that went to this unit.

 

S.B

Edited by stevebecker

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Errol Martyn

" Benson, for example, could be Reginald John Bedlington Benson of the Welsh Regiment, attached RFC, appointed a flying officer on 7 April 1917, he was still a Lt in March 1918, and a Captain in April 1919 when he was posted to 5 Squadron.  His career per airhistory seems sketchy and he doesn't have a casualty form (indicating overseas service) until 1919 - which is possibly all consistent with his having been in the UK as an instructor.  He sounds a possibility.  Googling him reveals that he was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1919 (coincidentally my grandfather appears further down in the same Gazette list) - the AFC was not a combat award so while not conclusive points in the same direction." (pierssc)

 

His Air76 has him at the School of Special Flying in in 1918 (not clear when he actually arrived there, though).

 

Errol

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pierssc

Thanks Errol, that's Benson probably accounted for then.

 

Annette - I should have said that "Gosport" and "1RS" did pull up a number of hits - but not for the names I was looking for.  I also searched for "SSF", "SoSF", and one or two other permutations I can't remember now.  I also searched for Smith-Barry himself, because we know HE was there, and found the reference to 1RS, so tried that for others.  Airhistory as you know makes heavy use of initials so it's a matter of trying a variety of combinations in the hope of finding a lead.  Thanks for the general background on Gosport.  Do you know if there is a book specifically dealing with the history of RFC/RNAS/RAF training other that Ray Sturtivant's "RAF Flying Training and support units since 1912"?  

 

As we know from other threads it can be quite tricky to trace instructors unless they were involved in accidents.

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Annette Carson

Sorry, Pierssc, I'm more a biographer than an aero historian, so my areas of research tend to be rather particularized. Smith Barry has been of interest to me since I researched my history of  aerobatics 30-odd years ago, when I sat for hours scouring books in the Royal Aeronautical Society library. My travels have denuded me of many books, but I kept 'Pioneer Pilot', Frank Tredrey's biography of Smith Barry (who was born sans hyphen, by the way!), which gives a lot of background relating to flying training. As a writer I habitually rely on contemporary reminiscences rather than retrospectives, so I'm afraid I'm not much use at all. :( 

Cheers

Annette

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nieuport11

Long is Walter Brian Long AIR 76/305/199

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Marian2

Thank you, all, for your replies and help.  Pierssc:  I appreciate your taking the time and having the patience to sort through the Bensons in http://www.airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_index.html  And for suggesting Donald Watson.  

 

I have looked at the RAF Service Records for Reginald John Bedlington Benson, William Gerald Holbrow, Walter Brian Long, and Donald Watson.  All are listed as at the School of Special Flying in census 105 (no date given, but before May 1918).  Additionally, Donald Watson's record puts him at "C.F.S. Gosport" already in Sept. 1917.  And Annette Carson's information on H. G. Smart puts him clearly in the picture (a little further info on him, tho' not the SoSF connection, at http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Smart.htm)  

 

Circumstantial, but reasonably solid identifications.  I wish there were a list of the instructors at Gosport during the relevant period (Annette Carson:  I'm assuming Tredrey's biography of Smith Barry does not provide such?), but I realize that the documentation on training is pretty sparse.

 

Again:  thanks to all of you.

 

best,

---Marian 

 

 

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Annette Carson

@Marian: No, Tredrey's biography does not provide a list of instructors. In fact Tredrey doesn't always identify whether the people he mentions were SSF instructors or trainees or other people altogether. Moreover, there were existing flying instructors from other stations with ranks of captain upwards who came to Gosport to be trained in the Smith Barry method, and it is not always possible to distinguish them from instructors on the Smith Barry establishment. Hence my suggestion to indicate the names of specific people you hoped to identify.

 

There are several chapters dealing with the School of Special Flying and I have skimmed through them looking for instructors' names. In the course of research you would also of course wish to consult the sources and bibliography of a book such as this, which I am unable to do for you. Reggie Smart is a definite because Captain Armstrong mentions that he became one of Smith Barry's instructors. In addition to the other names I've already mentioned (Duncan Bell-Irving, Sidney Parker and George Philippi), I have found the following which I list in no particular order:

Harold Balfour

E.L. Foot

S.F. Vincent

B.J.W.M. 'Granny' Moore (kifa 1917)

Ivan Mackenzie, a French Canadian (kifa October 1917)

Dundas Heenan, Engineer Officer

E.F.L.W. Gilchrist

Rex Stocker

Oswald Manning

Roy Grandy

F.P. Scott

Norman Brearley

Lt Truelove (?)

Capt Scott Williams, also Billy Williams who may be the same person 

 

Regards, Annette

 

  

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Annette Carson

@Piersssc: Having looked further in Tredrey I see mentioned several written reports on flying training by SB, and references to other previously existing training methods. SB wrote copiously to Salmond and his successor Longcroft in his efforts to establish the SSF, principally in August-September 1917, and clearly these documents were still extant when Tredrey used them as sources for his biography. SB's methods, which had been crystallized between January-May 1917, had been sent to G.O.C. Training Division as 'Notes on Teaching Flying for the Instructors' Courses at No. 1 Training Squadron Gosport May 1917', and in October they were published by the War Office as a pamphlet 'General Methods of Teaching Scout Pilots'. 

 

In chapter 7 can be seen SB's analysis of how the French organized their flight training, which informed his proposals for the RFC.

 

The endnotes refer a couple of times to 'Admiralty, History of Gosport Airfield', but I expect you are familiar with this; nevertheless a trawl through the notes and bibliography could be productive.

 

Regards, Annette 

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pierssc

Thanks Annette.  It sounds as if I should look out for a copy of Tredrey as a start.

 

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marcus holbrow

My Grandfather was William Gerald Holbrow, I have some memorabilia including some aerial photos, relating to his service with the RFC, and as a trainer after the war. please contact me by e mail marcusATkneesDOTonline

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