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Adrian Roberts

Book: "In the RNAS"

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Adrian Roberts

A couple of years ago I picked up an antique copy of a most fascinating book, “In The Royal Naval Air Service”. It is the letters to his parents of Flight Lieutenant Harold Rosher, who joined the RNAS on the first day of WW1 and was with 1 Sqdn by December 1914, having learned to fly in the interim. Can anyone help me with some background?

Question 1]: The book was published in September 1916; my copy is from the second impression of the same month. Does this make it the earliest first hand account of flying, or at least of war flying? I believe the autobiographies of McCudden (Flying Fury) and von Richthofen were not published until 1917.

Just to select one episode, Rosher took part in the raid on the submarine base (he refers to “submarines” not “U-boats”) at Hoboken, on 24th March 1915. He was flying Avro 504 no. 873 (previously flown by Sidney Sippe on the Friederichshafen raid). He describes heavy return fire, including “great bunches of what looked like green rockets, but I think they were flaming bullets”.

Question 2] The report by Wing Commander Longmore (later Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur) states: “Considerable damage was done to the works and the submarines”, and a French report says: “Two submarines were destroyed and a third damaged”. Given the size of the bombload they were likely to have been carrying, were these claims optimistic?

Sadly, while serving as second in command of the Dover Aeroplane Station on 27th February 1916, Harold Rosher was killed when his aircraft unaccountably nose-dived from 300 feet.

Question 3]: What aircraft was he flying?

He seems to have been very highly thought of. Even allowing for the temptation to eulogise the dead by the writer of the foreword to the book, Rosher seems to have had promising leadership qualities and been a skilled pilot. He was due to go out to France as a Flight Commander. He seems to have been known personally to Commodore Murray Sueter, C-in-C of the RNAS.

Question 4] The writer of the foreword (Arnold Bennett, a literary figure not an aviation specialist) suggests that “the controls failed”. I’ve seen this suggestion for several crashes of that era, and it seems a rather lame suggestion to me - not impossible, but how likely was it even at that time, and would it have produced a sudden nose-dive? My theory is that he was cold and tired (he had been working very hard) and let his airspeed drop so that he stalled. ASIs were not reliable at the time - if indeed the aircraft had one; if it did it may have been the liquid in tube type not a dial.

Rosher was buried at Charlton Cemetery, near Dover. Have any local forumites seen the grave?

One last Question (5): The book mentions a Squadron Commander Ivor T Courtney RN (also described as a Major RMLI). He is mentioned in some other books of about that period and seems to have been prominent in the RNAS in the early years. But as far as I can tell, he never achieved Air Rank. Was he killed later in the war?

Adrian

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Dolphin

Adrian

I can provide some of the information you're seeking.

According to U-Boat Offensive 1914-1945, no U-boats were lost as a result of air action in March/April 1915, so I suspect that the claim was coloured by a little wishful thinking.

Flt Lt Harold Rosher of No 5 Wing RNAS, a native of Wimbledon, Surrey, was killed in a flying accident on 27 February 1916 while flying Bristol Scout C No 1258. He is buried at Charlton, Kent.

Squadron Commander I T Courtney was appointed to be the Naval Representative on the British Aviation Commission in Paris on 1 January 1916. This was the joint service body charged with purchasing French aeroplanes for both the RFC and RNAS.

I hope that this little helps.

Gareth

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Adrian Roberts

Gareth

Thanks. The aircraft type that he died in was the most specific peice of info I wanted.

As to the submarines - I thought as much! Rosher himself didn't specifically say that any were destroyed.

If I T Courtney doesn't crop up in ADGW, he presumably survived.

Adrian

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Andrew Smith

G'day Adrian,

An Australian, Ivon Terrance Courtney was born in Sydney on October 14th, 1885. He was a professional soldier graduating from Sandhurst in 1904. He was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant with the RMLI the same year. He obtained his RAeC in 1912 and was appointed as a flying officer in the Naval Wing of the RFC also in 1912. I have his various postings but there are far too many to list. He was appointed a Lieut. Col. on April 1 1918 and was awarded the OBE and made a CBE in 1918. He remained with the RAF post war and passed away just after his birthday in 1978.

I have more but I am saving it for the book. ;)

Regards,

Andrew

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Neil Clark
Adrian

I can provide some of the information you're seeking.

According to U-Boat Offensive 1914-1945, no U-boats were lost as a result of air action in March/April 1915, so I suspect that the claim was coloured by a little wishful thinking.

Flt Lt Harold Rosher of No 5 Wing RNAS, a native of Wimbledon, Surrey, was killed in a flying accident on 27 February 1916 while flying Bristol Scout C No 1258. He is buried at Charlton, Kent.

Squadron Commander I T Courtney was appointed to be the Naval Representative on the British Aviation Commission in Paris on 1 January 1916. This was the joint service body charged with purchasing French aeroplanes for both the RFC and RNAS.

I hope that this little helps.

Gareth

Harold Rosher is in fact buried at Charlton Cemetery, DOVER, Kent. I have a photo of his headstone somewhere if you want it. It's a private non CWGC headstone if memory serves me correctly.

I agree with you that it's a remarkable book. I obtained a reprint from NMP last year.

Neil

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Adrian Roberts

Andrew

Thanks for that info - good to know he lived a long life.

The book says "Ivor"; probably he spent his entire life spelling out his name!

Is this your man? - see attached

Neil:

if you can find the photo easily and scan it to an attachment, that would be great - but don't worry if it would be a problem.

Adrian

post-3755-1152230574.jpg

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Andrew Smith

G'day Adrian,

Thats him. His birth certificate says Ivon, perhaps he changed it after all the confusion or perhaps the clerk got it wrong on his birth certificate?

He was a wonderful character.

I hope to have the book out early next year, the last hurdle i have is to find a willing publisher.

Regards,

Andrew

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per ardua per mare per terram

In the Navy & Air Force Lists, plus RMLI service record he is shown as Ivon, so the publisher had a typo moment.

Just to heighten the tension for Andrew's book: he entered France 27th August 1914 (Star and clasp) to accompaniy the brief Ostend expedition and his final rank was Group Captain - very few officers ever made it to admiral, general or air rank.

Andrew, was his brother Sir SL Courtney RN, RNAS, RAF?

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Andrew Smith
In the Navy & Air Force Lists, plus RMLI service record he is shown as Ivon, so the publisher had a typo moment.

Just to heighten the tension for Andrew's book: he entered France 27th August 1914 (Star and clasp) to accompaniy the brief Ostend expedition and his final rank was Group Captain - very few officers ever made it to admiral, general or air rank.

Andrew, was his brother Sir SL Courtney RN, RNAS, RAF?

G'day,

I don't have a connection to SL Courtney, but don't take that as a no. He is not mentioned in Ivon's obit but again it is not conclusive. I will dig through my hand written notes to see if I have recorded the names of his siblings. The most surprising aspect of this book is that I have over 180 Australians serving with the RNAS.

Regards,

Andrew.

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Adrian Roberts

I may as well post up a photo of Harold Rosher:

Andrew - let us know when the book comes out!

Adrian

post-3755-1152318832.jpg

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per ardua per mare per terram

2] Exaggeration of the achievements of bombing have been a feature of the air forces from that day to this! Rosher and Courtney were flying single seaters and I‘m sure they had a lot on their mind. An unsubstantiated French report is quoted on an event in German occupied Belgium; I suspect wishful thinking or an agent trying to please his paymasters. The incident is described in HA Jones ‘War in the Air’ Vol II mostly by quoting from Rocher’s letter home, by that time the results were regarded as minmal.

3] Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page ’ Royal Navy ‘Aircraft an Units 1911-1919’ record the following incidents and aircraft for Rosher: Avro 504 no. 876 Anti Zepperin Patrol night of 9/10/5/15; damaged propeller, wing and under carriage of BE2c 974 on landing 14/6/15; in Bristol Scout type C no.3039 he flew 3 hostile aircraft patrols (9/2/16&20/2/16 twice); in Nieuport type 10 no. 3173 hostile aircraft patrol 15/1/16; in Nieuport type 10 no. 3967 hostile aircraft patrol 8/1/16; in Bristol Scout type C no.1258 nosedived in from about 260 feet 27/2/16. Just for interest, they have 875 as Sippe’s plane for the Friederichshafen raid.

4] I think it is dangerous for us to project back causes onto crashes. These aircraft and instruments were primitive. Flying at low heights was dangerous; later on 23/4/16 Nieuport type 10 no. 3173 slide slipped in from150-200 feet. Douglas Bader lost his legs in later aircraft at low level and McCudden was killed in a flying accident. As ASI were not reliable, that could be seen as control failure. But air crash investigation were non existent, they just had to go on guesses for causes, I remember vaguely of reports of people walking away from crashes including ones with control failure. Rosher was not the only one to have been working hard so had the plane, cables could have snapped and he nose dived in. He wouldn’t have been the last to die from metal fatigue, for one example amongst many possible explanations.

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Adrian Roberts

There's a photo of 873 in the book labelling it as Sippe's plane, but later research may be more accurate.

Ironically, on about 30/4/15, Rosher survived this crash in a Morane, and was alledgedly under the aircraft when the photo was taken.

Adrian.

post-3755-1152576674.jpg

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david murdoch

Adding to this old thread as it concerns RNAS. I'm researching an officer as part of my MMGS research. His name  Maurice Arthur Haines he was a Flight Sub Lieutenant with R.N.A.S

His pilot's licence is consecutive to Harold Rosher's and they qualified the same day 30/9/1914. So obviously would have known each other. What I'm after is if there are any mention of him having active flying service with RNAS. The reason he's of interest to me is that he appears to have transferred to the Army ( Motor Machine Gun Service)sometime in 1915. I have him on the army list of 1916 as a Lieutenant with seniority 19/10/1915, though he may have transferred some months previously as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He was a Section Officer in 19th MMG Battery and went to France with them on 6/2/1916, but he has a claim on his MIC for 14-15 Star. He stayed with them and went with them to India in late 1917 until late 1919 (after 3rd Afghan War). He then joined the Indian Army and served as Captain with 4/39th Garhwal Rifles. He appears to have stayed in India but married a Canadian woman. He reached rank of Lt Colonel. He died in Vancouver 22/2/1974. I have him arriving Los Angeles from Calcutta in 1946  (en route to Vancouver) and given as Lt.Col Indian Army, and then later in the Canada voters rolls as Col. Retired, so most likely served WW2 as well.

31032_A200026-00040.jpg

31032_A200026-00041.jpg

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horatio2

His ADM 273 RNAS record shows that the Admiralty "dispensed with his services" on 1 December 1914. No reasons given and no record of any flying appointments in the RNAS.

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horatio2
Posted (edited)

Entered army as Ty 2/Lt (infantry) 1 April 1915.  https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29120/supplement/3419/data.pdf

See also - https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29159/supplement/4543/data.pdf

He was entitled to the British War Medal for his brief RNAS service but he never claimed it from the Admiralty.

Edited by horatio2

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david murdoch
1 hour ago, horatio2 said:

His ADM 273 RNAS record shows that the Admiralty "dispensed with his services" on 1 December 1914. No reasons given and no record of any flying appointments in the RNAS.

Interesting wording - maybe flying wasn't for him! So probably not much to add regarding his RNAS service leaving about 3 months after pilot qualification. Also interesting he did not go directly to MMGS. His MIC is "busy" to say the least. He was put in for BWM and VM by the OC of 19th MMG in 1919, and by the dates applied for 14/15 Star shortly after - which he does not appear to have got. His BWM and VM were eventually issued on the Indian Army officers roll. He appears on various army lists through to WW2 and one shows he was Lt. Colonel, 8th Punjabi Regiment.

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pjwmacro
On 30/06/2019 at 20:15, david murdoch said:

Interesting wording - maybe flying wasn't for him!

David - if I recall correctly, James Hargreaves, who was RMAS and then went to India with 22 Bty MMGS has a similar wording on his ADM 273 RNAS record - but I have absolutely no further details.

 

Also noting the mention and photos of Sub-Lt Harold Rosher.  Is Beckenham 18 Nov 1994 - on your photo - a place and date of birth? You will recall that there was a Max Roescher in 22 Bty - who was of German extraction, who was sent to India because of this, and subsequent to the war changed his name to Rosher (he has 2 MICs - one in each name!). I am assuming this is a coincidence and that Harold and Max are not related? (I`m not linked to my Ancestry information at present - I cannot recall who much work I did on Max's family tree - whether he had brothers.)

 

Regards, Paul

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear All,

Fascinating stuff! Interesting that the RNAS attracted numerous Australians.

Haines is also unusual, as can be seen by his entry in the 1941 Indian Army List.1004621172_MajM.A.Haines.jpg.5427630ecbdf0783099e15a6061cc9ec.jpg

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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