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Dormans French National Cemetery: Case #2 - Unknown Aviator B4

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laughton

This is a spin-off of this topic:

Dormans French National Cemetery: Case #1 - Unknown Aviators B15 and B16

 

Research is progressing on the B15 and B16 case, and the first draft report will be available shortly. We know who the two airmen are, we just need to tidy up some loose ends.

 

The remains in B18 and B19 were identified as 27th Squadron men AUSTER and PHIPSON.

 

There was also an aviator in grave B4 and from the research on the other cases conducted to date, we have a short list of candidates, so it is likely we can resolve the other cases. Most importantly, I don't want to forget about this case. If we can pick these off one at a time then perhaps we can find them all!

 

We had posted this information about the aviator whose remains are in B4:

  • remains were recovered at Dormans 1/20000 260.1 x 206.1 (that is south of Troissy and east of Vassy)
  • reference to Turnberry Ayrchire & Adjudent Aviateur
  • specified Officers Uniform RAF & Black Tie. Maker's name: McBirney & Milne, 433 Strand W.C., 83 Coventry St. W.

 

From the B15 and B16 case, we have a list of candidates of the airmen that were lost during this period (July 1918) in this area, top which I have added the "Comments" column as it relates to this case. The ones marked as red are no longer candidates for this case.

 

Surname

Initials

Death

Rank

Squadron

KIA NKG location

Comments

BABBITT

T E

15/07

Second Lieutenant

43rd Sqdn.

Dormans

attacked near Soilly, 1.3 mi SW Dormans

JAMES

R A

16/07

Captain

54th Sqdn.

Dormans

last seen over Rozoy under control
(assume that is Rozoy-Bellevalle?)

SPENCE

J H

16/07

Lieutenant

54th Sqdn.

Courthiézy

reported Jonchery-sur-Vesle grave 1.C.4

MORTON

E B G

16/07

Captain

98th Sqdn.

Château-Thierry

11 miles west of Dormans

SHAW

F A

16/07

Lieutenant

98th Sqdn.

Château-Thierry

11 miles west of Dormans

DICKIE

C B

18/07

Lieutenant

107th Sqdn.

Fère-en-Tardenois

known to be in Dormans grave B16

DUBBER

R E

18/07

Captain

107th Sqdn.

Fère-en-Tardenois

believed to be in Dormans grave B15

ANDERSON

W A

18/07

Lieutenant

32nd Sqdn.

Grisolles

13 miles northwest of Dormans

IRVINE

V R V T

19/07

Lieutenant

43rd Sqdn.

Château-Thierry

11 miles west of Dormans

FISHER

B

21/07

Second Lieutenant

54th Sqdn.

Château-Thierry

11 miles west of Dormans

ARMSTRONG

W A

25/07

Second Lieutenant

73rd Sqdn.

Fismes

16 miles north of Dormans

COTTON

E

25/07

Second Lieutenant

73rd Sqdn.

Fismes

16 miles north of Dormans

LEWIS

R F

25/07

Lieutenant

73rd Sqdn.

Fismes

16 miles north of Dormans

SYMONS

K W A

30/07

Lieutenant

73rd Sqdn.

Fère-en-Tardenois

combat Arcy going west

(is that Arcy-Sainte-Restitue?)

 

Here is the COG-BR 1996169 (top entry) noting where the remains were recovered at DORMANS 1/20000 260.1 x 206.1. That is on the same east-west line as Captain Dubber and Lieutenant Dickie in graves B15 and B16 (my mistake, see post #7 below as those were the graves of Auster B.18 and Phipson B.19 - 27 Squadron) who were recovered near Vassy (260 x 203). That places the B4 remains due south of Troissy (about 0.8 miles) and 2 miles due east of Vassy. The closest plane to that location I would say was the Sopwith Camel D1778, piloted by Second Lieutenant Thomas Emerson Babbitt. The answer I am sure lies within the two sets of clues we have about this aviator on the COG-BR document - but what do they mean?

929303384_FrenchTrenchMapB4versusB158B19.jpg.40429233e1e38a1358ca01341f94a8ac.jpg

 

At this time, I don't have a lot of detail on Lieutenant Symons, who has to be considered as he was reported near Fère-en-Tardenois, as what Dubber and Dickie. If I have comprehended the details correctly, he was going west, thus away from where the remains were recovered.

 

doc1996169.JPG

 

Edited by laughton
B18 and B19 are already identified; corrected error; corrected map

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fetubi

Richard,

 

Going through these, one at a time, with great care, none seem viable with the B4 Map Ref. The latter is so far east, by comparison. Puzzling.

 

Trevor

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laughton

Notes:

  • the ICRC number is 1773 and all others are 1778 for the plane
  • was he flying eastward from SOILLY over DORMANS, with a continued decent to where B4 was recovered (3 miles east of DORMANS)?

 

Babbitt has an ICRC card but no additional information:

C_G1_E_15_01_0003_3436_0.JPG

 

1172501896_58911300000614762ndLieutenantBabbitt-cropped.jpg.381313c127353861c3eb695e81bf59de.jpg.fece7defaac88f32ad8215fd1e2abfb0.jpg

 

Edited by laughton

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laughton

When I first looked at this case, a month ago today, I did look for some meaning to the term "Turnberry Ayrchire" that was written on the COG-BR. Today I went quite a bit further to see if had any link to someone from the air force in the Great War - it sure did! It may be so significant that it ties to every one of the candidates.

 

758109803_COG-BRCropped.jpg.27ff876798b11a965d7f49be81848325.jpg

 

On the assumption that it is a spelling mistake, the reference is to an area on the southwest coast of Scotland: Turnberry Aryshire. It appears that the serious golfer would be familiar with that name and the location. Assuming this man was buried by the French, as he was named an "Adjutant Aviateur", an assistant to a higher ranking officer. What may be important is what the French referred to by that term, not what the english translation may mean. Did it imply some form or rank, such as a "Warrant Officer"? In the French Army it is reported that an Adjutant-Chef would have the similar duties as a Lieutenant and has reference to a Chief Warrant Officer. The French air force was a branch of the french army, not a stand alone entity.

 

Turnberry was the home of the "Turnberry School of Aerial Gunnery and Fighting: during the Great War (IWM reference), perhaps suggesting we are talking about someone who trained there and was wearing some form of insignia that reflected that training? There are 105 names on the Great War Memorial (seems to also have some WWI) for the school - is there a match to any of the candidates (Link to List)? None that I could see, at lease not for the July 1918 casualties.

 

Later in the war Turnberry also became the site of a pilot training facility (web link).

Quote

Turnberry Hotel and Golf Course was requisitioned as a site for another school, with Ayr Racecourse also used to create a new generation of fighter pilots. Both merged to form the No. 1 Fighting School which become the biggest training school in Britain after the formation of the RAF on April 1, 1918.

 

Turnberry Airfield: (the green dot)

 

495618518_TurnburryWWISchool1900sMap.jpg.78f2550f0f45b4afca0804b6aea015e7.jpg

The aerodrome was returned to Turnberry golf club in 1919, but re-occupied in the Second World War. Nothing of the First World War occupation survives.

Turnberry military aerodrome was established on Turnberry golf course in January 1917 as ‘No. 2 Auxiliary School of Aerial Gunnery’. It occupied an area of 150 hectares, measuring 1645m by 1143m. In the 1918 RAF survey of aerodromes it was recorded that there were four aircraft hangars, a repair shed and a salvage shed; in addition there were no fewer than 16 canvas Bessonneaux hangars, as well as workshops and training huts. The officers’ mess was in the luxurious Turnberry Hotel; the other ranks were accommodated in 25 huts. In the autumn of 1918 Turnberry was one of the largest air stations in Scotland, with an establishment of 1215 officers and other ranks, of whom 205 were women, and 204 pilot officers under instruction.

The No. 1 School of Aerial Fighting transferred to Turnberry in May 1918. In autumn 1918 the station had 96 aircraft: 24 Avro 504s, 8 Bristol fighters, 16 DH4 or DH9, 30 Sopwith Camels, 12 SE5, and 12 Sopwith Dolphins, as well as captured German aircraft, for training purposes.

 

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laughton

Of all the names on the candidates lists for June and July 1918, I only found one (1) that has a possible match to the "Turnberry School for Aerial Gunnery and Fighting". All that it says for the memorial is "J. Hughes" and that he was Royal Air Force. There is no second initial or a full first name.

 

There was only one (1) "J. Hughes" lost and with no known grave and that was candidate Lieutenant John Meirion Hughes, dead on 16 June 1918. There were three (3) others lost in the Great War, so it could also be a reference to one of those men. I am not sure if it is possible to find out which one they were referring to on the memorial. Two (2) of the three were killed after the school opened, if I recall in May 1918 but existed as far back as January 1917. As far as we know, Hughes was well to the northwest of where the remains were recovered.

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laughton
Posted (edited)

Another thought, was one of these men that are in a KNOWN GRAVE improperly identified? These are the men in the squadrons that Trevor identified as being in the area in July 1918.

 

In particular, I will need to look at those flying alone and most likely were a non-commissioned officer. A task for tomorrow morning!

 

The ones at the bottom of the list do not have a squadron affiliation on the CWGC site - I will need to look them up.

 

surname initials death rank squadron cemetery
HOUSTON C T 7/22/1918 Second Lieutenant 103rd Sqdn. CABARET-ROUGE BRITISH CEMETERY, SOUCHEZ
MOLLET F N 7/18/1918 Lieutenant 107th Sqdn. VAILLY BRITISH CEMETERY
RAWLINGS B 7/18/1918 Second Lieutenant 107th Sqdn. VAILLY BRITISH CEMETERY
PHIPSON H G S 7/16/1918 Lieutenant 27th Sqdn. DORMANS FRENCH NATIONAL CEMETERY
ROBINSON C E 7/24/1918 Second Lieutenant 27th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
STECKLEY H B 7/22/1918 Second Lieutenant 27th Sqdn. VAILLY BRITISH CEMETERY
TELFER W H 7/24/1918 Second Lieutenant 27th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
JAQUES H M 7/30/1918 Second Lieutenant 43rd Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
AITKEN J 7/16/1918 Second Lieutenant 49th Sqdn. DORMANS FRENCH NATIONAL CEMETERY
MELBOURNE S W 7/16/1918 Serjeant 49th Sqdn. DORMANS FRENCH NATIONAL CEMETERY
PEACOCK J T 7/16/1918 Lieutenant 49th Sqdn. MELUN NORTH CEMETERY
DOBBIE R S 7/23/1918 Serjeant 49th Sqdn. ST. MARTIN-D'ABLOIS (ABLOIS-ST. MARTIN) COMMUNAL CEMETERY
LEWIS M B 7/15/1918 Lieutenant 54th Sqdn. LA VILLE-AUX-BOIS BRITISH CEMETERY
WILLIAMS P H 7/15/1918 Serjeant 54th Sqdn. LA VILLE-AUX-BOIS BRITISH CEMETERY
CUFFE R T 7/21/1918 Lieutenant 54th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
McHARG L H 7/31/1918 Lieutenant 54th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
FREEMAN R H 7/21/1918 Major 73rd Sqdn. RAPERIE BRITISH CEMETERY, VILLEMONTOIRE
CARRUTHERS G K 7/25/1918 Second Lieutenant 98th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
SAYERS L F C 7/31/1918 Second Lieutenant 98th Sqdn. COULOMMIERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY
PAUSCH A W 7/16/1918 Lieutenant   HUBY-ST. LEU BRITISH CEMETERY
STENT H R 7/20/1918 Second Lieutenant   MARFAUX BRITISH CEMETERY
MacVICKER J E C 7/22/1918 Lieutenant   SAUCHY-CAUCHY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
BURGE P S 7/24/1918 Captain   DUD CORNER CEMETERY, LOOS
TOWILL A C 7/24/1918 Private 1st Class   VENDOME TOWN CEMETERY
BELL C G 7/29/1918 Captain   LES GONARDS CEMETERY, VERSAILLES
McELROY G E H 7/31/1918 Captain   LAVENTIE MILITARY CEMETERY, LA GORGUE
Edited by laughton
table corrected - missed 27 Squadron

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laughton
Posted (edited)
On 08/05/2020 at 16:47, laughton said:

I will need to look them up.

  • Melbourne and Aitken of 49 Squadron are the two that were switched within the findings of the DORMANS Communal Cemetery for Auster and Phipson (GRRF2254167). The COG-BR documents for Auster and Phipson in B.18 and B.19 are on the same COG-BR 1996169 as the remains for B.4.
    • I have to correct the initial post in this topic as it was B.18 and B.19 found at 206 x 203 not B.15 and B.16
    • Oddly, there are no concentration documents on the CWGC site for Melbourne (Plot 10 Grave 20) and Aitken (Plot 10 Grave 14), so we do not know what caused the confusion nor what was on the original crosses at the communal cemetery.
    • Plot 10 may be separate from the British Plot, but there is no schematic on the CWGC site?
    • An aerial view of the cemetery, as compared to the CWGC photographs suggests the British Plot are the stones on the northwest corner of the cemetery along the border - see 49° 4'41.03"N 3°38'47.75"E. There are 20 named graves in the British Plot, which agrees with the CWGC photograph and the Google aerial.
    • Found some photographs of the cemetery on Google:
      Aitken Plot 10 Grave 14Dormans_French_National_Cemetery.JPG

      B.1 Lyon in right corner B.1

      Dormans_French_National_Cemetery_-2.JPG


       
  • Dobbie, also 49 Squadron, is listed (TSTB2) as down on 15 July 1918 with C. C. Conover. Dobbie later died of wounds as noted for 23 July 1918. Conover survived until he went down again on 24 September 1918 and was captured west of the Forest of Mormal.
     
  • Williams of 54 Squadron (the supporter of the Bertie Jeffs case) was concentrated from DORMANS 202.1 x. 261.1 (or Soissons 22 6. H. 85 x 95), which is on the west side of Vassy on the exact same parallel (260 Y axis) as the remains in B4, B15 and B16 B18 and B19. He was initially an unidentified British Officer that was presumed to be RAF, later identified by a signet ring with the initials P.H.W. (COG-BR 2301638). He supports Bertie's case because he is the NCO noted as wearing Officers Clothing, which the CWGC refuted in the Bertie case. Williams is buried beside Lewis, also of 54 Squadron who was reported MIA on 15 July 1918 and buried on 21 July 1918. The planed D1945 was found with Lewis, although it was identified as a French S.P.A.D. not a Sopwith Camel. Lewis was recovered from a different location than Williams (198.9 x 257.7 or 6.H. 30 x 60).
Edited by laughton
correction of B18 and B19 as noted in red

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laughton
Posted (edited)

@fetubi

 

My right hand wants to click on the "X" and close the window, thus the case, because there appears to be no candidate for the remains in grave B.4. My left hand is in dispute and says "keep going" there has to be a reasonable answer. Is it coincidence that the B.4 remains were found east of the B.18 and B.19 remains (the ones that changed names) and reported on the same COG-BR 1996169?

 

We have to "think outside the box" - what else could have gone wrong with these cases?

 

Here is the close up enhanced text of COG-BR 1996169 for B.18 and B.19 found at DORMANS 260 x 203 to the west of the remains in B.4 and 260 x 206:

 

1248092123_doc1996169B18B19enhanced.jpg.9f57304b730a98ee4fb54b60f22001b4.jpg

 

The remains in these two graves were initially named to be MELBOURNE and AITKEN (49th Squadron) and then changed to AUSTER and PHIPSON (27th Squadron). Did they get it correct the second time or was this another case that paralleled that of Francis Mond (GRRF 2254193), as detailed in Van Emden's book? What are the facts that we have to deal with in this case:

  • the remains in Grave B.18
    • The reference to the Officers Uniform would contradict the idea that they were the remains of Acting Serjeant S. W. Melbourne, if it was not for the two cases of P. H. Williams and B. Jeffs. We now know that the IWGC at the time was not correctly identifying flight uniforms and that NCOs were being assumed to be Officers. Most recently I have seen a number of pictures with Corporals and Serjeants in what would appear to be Officers' kit, but with the NCO stripes on the right arm.
    • This person had an "Observers Wing" so that does make it either MELBOURNE or AUSTER, the two observers. That in itself is confusing, as in other cases the reference to the "wing" has led to the assumption the man is the pilot. I don't know enough about the insignia to address that question in detail. It appears from GOOGLE that the Observer badge only had ONE (1) wing and the Pilot badge had TWO (2). That makes sense and they do report a "Wing" not "Wings". Much like the issue of the "Star" versus "Stars" for the Lieutenants (see below).
       
  • the remains in Grave B.19
    • In this case we have an "Officers Uniform" again but we also have him with  "Lieutenants Stars". A Second Lieutenant would only have a "star". That fact provides support for the modified version that shows those to be the remains of Lieutenant Phipson and not Second Lieutenant Aitken. That might not be true if Phipson was not a full Lieutenant but was another case of the CWGC reporting a posthumous correction. We can check that particular issue.
    • This Officer was wearing "RFC badges" thus we have to check that one or more of the two men (AITKEN or PHIPSON) came to the RAF via the RFC.
    • The last item has been touched on before, that being the reference to the plane that had a piece of material marked as the "Highbury Aircraft Coy".
       
  • the location of the remains of the men and aircraft
    • We have two men and the residual of their aircraft found at DORMANS 260 x 203
    • If the change was made correctly, then we should be able to confirm that AUSTER and PHIPSON were in that area near VASSY when the plane went down.
    • In the alternative to that, do we know that MELBOURNE and AITKEN were not in the vicinity of VASSY?

They moved the names of MELBOURNE and AITKEN from the initial graves in B.18 and B.19 to the new locations in Plot 10 Grave 14 and Plot 10 Grave 20 (GRRF 2254168), still in the Dormans French National Cemetery. The CWGC reports that there are twenty-two (22) commonwealth casualties buried in the cemetery, twelve (12) identified and ten (10) unknowns. These are located as follows:

  • The British Plot (B) has twenty (20) burials. The UNKNOWNS are in B2, B4, and B9 to B16, which does add up to ten (10). Two of those (B15 &B16) we have now named in the related topic, removing them as candidates for other graves in the cemetery.
  • The other two (2) are the two aviators in Plot 10 Graves 14 & 20. I have no idea why they were not moved to the British plot with the others? Unfortunately there is no published COG-BR for those two graves, so we do not know where they were recovered and how they came to name them as MELBOURNE (RAF Vault) and AITKEN (RAF Vault). I repeated the document search to see if there were hidden forms, but none were found.

My real question is DO THE DETAILS FOR THESE FOUR (4) AIRMEN ALL MAKE SENSE? In the end, did the IWGC get it right or is the reason we can not find the man in B4 is because the other identities are incorrect?

 

If all the named burials are CORRECT then there is no question that the remains in B4 are one of those that is still listed as an UNKNOWN. It has to be one of them, which one? Most importantly, we can not assume that whatever is in the records at this time is correct.

 

I yield my remaining time to the learned aviation historian from Australia.

:D

Edited by laughton
updated

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