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Sagittarius Rising


Adrian Roberts
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Another of my long-winded questions…..

I read Cecil Lewis’s book “Sagittarius Rising” last year - should have done years ago but somehow never did. Excellent stuff, though like many first-hand descriptions, it is meant as a personal and emotional account rather than primarily as a work of reference.

Can anyone help with the following details?

1] Who was “Patrick”? He was based at St.Omer aircraft depot in March 1916 and Lewis describes him as the O.C. of the Testing and Ferry pilots and “one of the finest pilots in the force”. He saw to it that Lewis added considerably to the twelve flying hours with which he arrived in France, before going to the Front, and so probably saved his life.

We next meet him in about June 1917, when Lewis shows off in his SE5a by doing a mock attack on a “new Sopwith Dolphin”; the Dolphin turns the tables on him and the pilot turns out to be Patrick. However there could be a problem here - the Dolphin first flew in May ‘17 and entered service in the autumn, so I am a little surprised one was in France that early.

2] Who was “Bill”? He was with 44 Home Defence squadron in late 1917, and allegedly had been a secret agent before that. He was killed in a freak accident with 151 squadron in France in late ‘18.

It could be that Lewis is using pseudonyms, but I have been able to cross-reference other names to other sources.

3] What about the “good-looking Norwegian” who was with 44 in late ‘17? Could this be Trygve Gran, who IIRC was with Scott’s Antarctic expedition [not Amundsen’s!] pre-war and then served with 56 sqdn?

4] Lewis left 44 sqdn after the new CO allegedly took an unreasonable dislike to him. Having said that, Lewis by his own admission was conceited and unpopular (but remember he was only 19) so it could have been a mutual personality clash. Who was this CO, and who was the more popular one he succeeded? Unfortunately the date of the change is not clear - probably between late ‘17 and spring ‘18.

5] With 152 Sqdn at the end of the war, Lewis was flying night-fighter Camels in France. These had the pilot’s seat moved backward, to allow more visibility at the expense of some manoeuvrability. Do any of you have a picture of one of these - I can’t recall seeing one? Apparently, the pilot’s seat was swapped with the fuel tank - I was surprised the tank was in the vulnerable position behind the pilot in the standard Camel - did the Camel have a reputation as a “one-shot lighter”?

Adrian

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Adrian

I can answer some of your questions at the moment, but not all.

2] Who was “Bill”?

Captain William Harold Haynes DSO of No 151 Sqn RAF, formerly 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in an accident on 26 September 1918. He is buried at Abbeville, France.

3] What about the “good-looking Norwegian” who was with 44 in late ‘17?

I'm pretty certain that this would be Capt Trygve Gran. He served with Nos 39 and 44 Home Defence Squadrons in 1917.

5] Do any of you have a picture of one of these [night-fighter Camels]?

A photograph of a Camel night fighter from No 44 Sqn is below.

I'll keep looking for the other answers.

Best wishes

Gareth

post-45-1144470055.jpg

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Adrian

I've now had time for some further research, and can provide some more information.

1] Who was “Patrick”?

Lt William Charles Kennedy Cochran-Patrick was OC of the Pilot's Pool in March 1916. He was credited with the only victory achieved by a pilot from No 1 Aircraft Depot when, while flying Nieuport Scout 5172, he shot down an LVG two-seater from FA 5 on 26 April 1916. Major Cochran-Patrick DSO, MC and bar, went on to be credited with 21 victories while flying with Nos 70, 23 and 60 Squadrons. About 40 years ago I met a former SPAD pilot from No 23 Sqn who told me that, in his opinion, Cochran-Patrick was the best patrol leader that the RFC had. I can't work out Lewis's Sopwith Dolphin reference - perhaps he had the date confused?

4] Who was this CO [of No 44 Sqn], and who was the more popular one he succeeded?

The Commanding Officers of No 44 Sqn were:

Major T O'B Hubbard from 24 July to 29 August 1917;

Capt (Major from December 1917) G W M Green from 29 August 1917 to 11 June 1918;

Major A T Harris (of WWII Bomber Command fame) from 11 June 1918 to the Armistice.

I hope that this helps

Regards

Gareth

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Adrian - if you enjoyed Cecil Lewis can I recommend McCudden's "Flying Fury: Five Years in the RFC", in case you havent already read it.

Regards.

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{snip}

A photograph of a Camel night fighter from No 44 Sqn is below.

{snip}

Best wishes

Gareth

Gareth,

Are those twin Vickers K machine guns on that Camel?

Cheers,

Tim

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Gareth,

Are those twin Vickers K machine guns on that Camel?

Cheers,

Tim

Tim

Hello, fellow Castle Hill dweller!

No, they're twin Lewis guns. I'm pretty sure that the Vickers K was a Second World War weapon.

Cheers

Gareth

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Adrian

There are some inaccuracies in Cecil Lewis' book which I think are down to the book being written 20 years after the war and a rather generalised recollection. Having recently re-read the book I am glad you asked these questions - particularly the first one. I was also puzzling over the reference in Maurice Baring's book to Patrick colliding on the ground with the General's aircraft - it wasn't clear whether he was in the captured Fokker at the time. Lewis wrote a good account of the Fokker EIII trial at St Omer (Apr 16) and Baring mentions Patrick as having been flying it (in some of the trials at least).

This is a night fighter Camel in the Imperial War Museum, London.

APW

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Tim

Hello, fellow Castle Hill dweller!

No, they're twin Lewis guns. I'm pretty sure that the Vickers K was a Second World War weapon.

Cheers

Gareth

G'Day Gareth,

A sunny and cool morning it is here in Castle Hill, is it not? :D

Looking at it again, the drum magazine does look more like a Lewis Gun. The lack of the "sleeve" on the Lewis Gun threw me.

And yeah, the Vickers K was developed in the late 1930's. :rolleyes:

Cheers,

Tim

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APW,

This is a night fighter Camel in the Imperial War Museum, London.

Sorry, that's a 2F1 "Ship's Camel", in fact it's Flt Stuart Culley's Camel, N6812, with which he took off from a towed "lighter" and shot down Zeppelin L53 on the 11th August 1918.

Mike

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The lack of the "sleeve" on the Lewis Gun threw me.

Tim

Yes, it's a glorious morning here, though we all desperately need rain.

The airborne version of the Lewis gun didn't need the radiator that surrounded the barrel and gas cylinder on the gun when it was used by ground forces, so it was removed. Over-wing Lewis guns were used on modified Camel night fighters as the muzzle flash from the standard Vickers guns dazzled the pilot.

Regards

Gareth

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Gareth

Thanks for all that, great stuff.

I wouldn't be surprised if the CO at 44 sqdn with whom Lewis clashed was "Bomber" Harris. I doubt that he would have been too thrilled with Lewis' stunt flying that he admits to; there certainly wouldn't have been room for two strong egos on the aerodrome. Major Green would have taken over too early to fit in with the chronology of Lewis's service - he must have been the earlier, easy-going CO.

Jonathon:

Adrian - if you enjoyed Cecil Lewis can I recommend McCudden's "Flying Fury: Five Years in the RFC", in case you havent already read it.

I read McCudden's book when I was at school, not long after graduating from Biggles. I certainly must read it again sometime - though it would have to wait in a long backlog of books.

Gareth, Tim

Yes, it's a glorious morning here, though we all desperately need rain.

You too? Over here in London, they've just imposed a hosepipe ban after after 18 months of below average rain. But here, drought doesn't necessarily equate to being warm!

Adrian

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Adrian,

We have been in severe drought here in NSW for years now. The worst drought in over 100 years we keep getting told.

We've had stage 2 water restrictions for ages now. You get used to it.

The main dam that supplies Sydney's water supply is only around 40% full.

But as Gareth said, as lovely as the weather is, we really need the rain and loads of it!

Cheers,

Tim

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Jonathon:

I read McCudden's book when I was at school, not long after graduating from Biggles. I certainly must read it again sometime - though it would have to wait in a long backlog of books.

Adrian,

I wrote a piece for Bygone Kent on the McCudden family last year about 4000 words so wont take too long to read. Would be happy to send you the article to wet your appetite and help get McCudden's book closer to the top of your list. If your interested send me your email address and I will oblige.

Jon

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I looked up William Cochrane-Patrick on theaerodrome.com

He was less than two years older than Cecil Lewis, and would have been only 19 when OC Ferry pilots at 1AD in Spring 1916 (assuming the DOB given is correct). Yet Lewis clearly had a very high regard for him, and it would seem from Gareth's contact that he was not the only one.

At the time of the mock dogfight between them mid 1917, CP was with 23 (Spad) squadron. As the Dolphin was still a prototype, it seems likely that Lewis's memory was at fault and CP was flying a Spad not a Dolphin - unless it was the date not the type that Lewis was confused about.

It seems CP was killed when he stalled in a DH Dragon on take-off at Johannesburg in 1933. Was this a moments lack of concentration leading to a stupid accident, or did the Dragon have undesirable stall characteristics?

On a whim, I also looked up Arthur Harris on theaerodrome.com. I was surprised to find he was a WW1 ace with five victories, two on Camels. For some reason I always associated him with bombers.....!

Adrian

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Jonathan

Thanks - printed it out ok, I'll get back to you when I've read it properly.

Everyone

Re the COs of 44 sqdn that Gareth named. I re-read Lewis's chapter on this period: he joined 44 in approx end June '17, and was there only three months, and was with then with 61 for nearly a year. So the CO with whom he clashed would have been Green, who arrived 29/8.

So Harris was not guilty this time!

Adrian

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Adrian

Just to add a bit of detail to the story, Capt C A Lewis flew a number of Home Defence sorties while with Nos 44 and 61 Sqns:

No 44 Squadron

12 August 1917 (daylight) in Camel B3930;

22 August 1917 (daylight) in Camel B3837;

30 September 1917 (night) in Camel B3859;

1 October 1917 (night) in Camel B3859;

No 61 Squadron

18 December 1917 (night) in Camel C9486;

29 January 1918 (night) in SE 5a B658;

16 February 1918 (night) in SE 5a B658;

17 February 1918 (night) in SE 5a B658;

19 May 1918 (night) in SE 5a B658.

I hope this is interesting.

Gareth

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  • 10 years later...
Guest 7527crater

With Regard to Arthur Harris, it seems to me that he gets a bad press because of his allegedly gruff and uncompromising attitude as OC Bomber Command in WW2. In WW1, as in WW2, he was a leader who was looked up to by his men and who cared for them as far as it was possible to do so. Equally, Maj T. O'B Hubbard is recorded elsewhere as a well liked and respected officer. I think it entirely possible that he was the better of the two squadron commanders mentioned by Lewis and Green the less congenial..

It is also worth noting that Lewis' memoir, written, as he says, largely from memory, is not reliable as to dates. In particular he says that 'Pip' was killed in September 1916 while flying as observer for 'Kidd'. In fact 2nd Lt F.E.S. Phillips and Lt L.C. Kidd were killed in action on the 12th (possibly the 13th) of October that year. So it is more likely that Lewis got the date wrong on which he had the mock combat with 'Patrick' than the aircraft type.

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