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WhiteWings

9 Naval 1917

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WhiteWings

This is a question to clarify the leadership of this squadron from late August until late September. I know from a previous thread that Fawcett was recalled and replaced by Vernon and Norton in turn (posted by Mike Westrop in 2006).  I know Vernon was killed on Sept 19. My grandfather, Art Whealy, was serving in 9N at the time but was on leave in England during this period (he left on the 7th for about 3 weeks) so there is nothing in his diary or log to help me. In "Above the Trenches" Shores et al do not state that Norton was ever attached to 9N. Does anyone know the dates on which the changes took place and if it was the same Ernest William Norton (Maj) who took over? I am writing a book about my grandfathers (both flew in the war) and would like to be accurate here. The ultimate question is why, when Whealy came back from leave, he went to the Depot to test planes (along with Ed Pierce with whom he had been transferred from 3N) - my grandfather gives no reason for the switch but had likely been angling for a return to 3N. I am wondering if this was a holding position, as the decision to move 3N to Walmer for respite after the mauling they had taken during the summer would likely have been made fairly soon after? Mulock would have known about Whealy & Pierce's desire to rejoin 3N (they had complained to him often enough!) Vernon, from 3N would likely also have known. The date on which 3N moved ot Walmer is unclear - in his book, Tich Rochford says they left Bray Dunes on Nov 4 but my grandfather's diary says they rejoined the unit on Nov 2, implying the unit was already there. Any help with this would be most appreciated!

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MikeW

1) Vernon was shot on the night of 14th September 1917 whilst leading a salvage party in No-Man's-Land. He was transported to La Panne Hospital where he died. He was buried at Malo Cemetery on the 17th September.

2) Regardless of what "Above the Trenches" does or doesn't say, Ernest William Norton (not a major whilst in the RNAS) flew with A Squadron 1 Wing June 16 to 6th December 1916, 1 Squadron from 6th December 16 to 31st January 1917, and 6 Squadron from 31st January 1917 to 14th May 1917. He then Commanded 12 Squadron from 1st July 1917 to 15th September 1917, and replaced the unfortunate Vernon on the 15th September until 12th January. When in the RAF he became a Major  taking command of 204 Squadron from 27th July 1918 to 10th December 1918. Norton eventually reached the rank of Air Commodore commanding the School of technical Training, No 6 Armoured Car Company, No 70 Squadron, No 58 Squadron, RAF Worthy Down, RAF Upavon. No 5 FTS, AOA HQ Coastal Command and AOA HQ RAF Far East.

 

Whealy was with 9 Squadron from 6th May 1917 to 6th September 1917.

 

Can't make any comment about Art Whealey's movements outside of 9N, other than to say that during 9 Squadron's formative months, 3 Squadron took many of 9 Squadron's better pilots because 3 Squadron were hard pressed at the time. When 9 Squadron became active, and 3 Squadron were to be rested some pilots moved the other way to reinforce 9 Squadron who had been seriously compromised by losing pilots to 3 Squadron - Whealey and Pierce were moved because of 9 Squadron's needs. I have to say that I am astonished that a pilot made such a public fuss about being transferred - if all soldiers, sailors and airmen chose where they wanted to serve the war machine would soon grind to a halt.

 

Mike

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WhiteWings

The fuss (which wasn't public by the way - just Whealy and Mulock mostly )was two-fold:  Mulock had sent Whealy and Pierce on leave in May (long before 3 was due to be rested) and wanted them back in 3. Whealy and Pierce were 'hot-stuffed' by Lambe into 9 - and essentially trained a bunch of quirks into a viable squadron - especially after they got the new Camels and could dispense with the re-built tripes. The only really experienced pilot there, Hervey, left in July. Plus, it would seem that Whealy at least, maybe Pierce too, got off on the wrong foot with Fawcett from the start. In his diary, apart from some choice comments about Fawcett, he comments on the fact that several times they can't even fly patrol because the pilots don't know how to keep formation. LeBoutillier was probably the only effective pilot in Whealy's flight at first. I believe that sometime in late August, a number of former 3Wing pilots including Stearn Edwards and Roy Brown (and maybe Redpath??) joined 9 and it became quite a successful squadron under Norton.

 

It occurred to me that once Mulock was transferred to become Wing Commander at Dunkirk, he and Vernon might have agreed to send Whealy and Pierce there following leave, prior to the decision to send 3 to Walmer. Testing at the Depot seems to have been a temporary job to place pilots in prior to deciding on which squadron to send them to. That would imply that Whealy and Pierce were replaced after they left on leave, or the squadron would have been below strength.

 

Do you know if that occurred?

 

Thanks for all your help!

Victoria

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WhiteWings

I have just stumbled on something that makes no sense. According to Whealy's diary (and 203 was sharing the Hammeau aerodrome with 209 in Sept 1918) on Sept 14 he records that Major 'Teddy' Gerrard was taking over from someone whom Whealy names as Major Andrews. Shores, Franks and Guest say Gerrard took over in June (presumably when Fawcett was sent back) and held command until the end of the war, and then they vaguely state (sometime after July) that Andrews 'later commanded 209.'  I am sure your research is very thorough, but I find this very confusing since Whealy never re-wrote his diary. He knew Vernon from #3 so certainly would have been aware of his presence if they were sharing the aerodrome. Do you know when Gerrard had command and if Andrews ever did? 

Thanks again for your help.

Victoria

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WhiteWings

Sorry - I am getting my years confused. (been working on this too long!) Andrews and Gerrard are 1918. So is the sequence Fawcett, Vernon, Norton, Andrews, Gerrard? Or is there someone I am missing?

Thanks!

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MikeW

Sorry Victoria,

 

moving house at the moment, my records not available for another week or so, but from memory it was Fawcett (who was Royal Marines Light Infantry), Vernon, Norton, FCdr RR Winter (temporary command) then Butler (that's Charlie Butler from Home Defence at Westgate and Manston)  - Butler took over 9 Naval Squadron from 31st January 1918, then 209 RAF from 1st April 18 until 18th May 18 - I'm afraid I haven't a clue who came after that as my research interest is primarily RNAS, not RAF.

 

Norton was posted to Home Establishment on 18th January and was due to be replaced by Collishaw who was "marking time" with 13 Naval but the high profile job with 3 Naval cropped up and Collishaw was "redirected" to 3 Squadron). FCdr RR Winter was in temporary command until Butler arrived at the end of the January.

 

Mike

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topgun1918

From 'Royal Navy Aircraft Serials And Unit 1911-1919' by Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page, COs of No 9 Sqn RNAS/No 209 Sqn RAF were:

 

Sqn Cdr H Fawcett from 1 February 1917

Sqn Cdr T C Vernon from 23 August 1917

Sqn Cdr E W Norton from 15 September 1917

Sqn Cdr C H Butler from 31 January 1918

Maj J O Andrews from 6 May 1918

Maj T F N Gerrard from 12 September 1918

Maj F Redpath from 18 November 1918

 

Graeme

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