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William Snowdon Hedley


mike j dunn
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William Snowdon Hedley served with the Bulgarian Army during the Balkan Wars 1912-1914. The Bulgarian govevernment recruited a group of foreigners, mainly Italians and Russians, to fly on operations against Turkish forces. Hedley was awarded the Cross of the Military Order for Bravery.

Hedley began learning to fly whilst with the Territorial Force (RE) at Eastchurch in January 1912, and qualified at the Sopwith School (RAeC certificate 274)

At the start of the Great War, Hedley served with the armoured car section of the Royal Naval Air Service. He was commissioned in 1915 and, in May 1916 became an engineering lieutenant, RNVR. A specialist in aero engines, Hedley was attached to the Dover seaplane station. Later, he was posted to the seaplane carrier, HMS Empress. At the time, the Empress was supporting air operations in the eastern Mediterranean. Hedley was discharged from the RAF in 1919.

Hedley was arguably the one of the first Britons to fly in combat.

Does anybody have any further information on Hedley's career, particularly on his activities with the Bulgarian Army

Many Thanks,

Mike

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Do you have his RNAS service register, RNVR officer's records and RAF record?

Empress is covered extensively in Dick Cronin'Royal Navy Shipboard Aircraft Developments,' who cites several references in both ADM and AIR records at Kew.

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Many thanks for the information about HMS Empress. I'll try and dig out a copy of the book.

Where can I get Hedley's RNVR and RAF records? I've seen his ADM 273 entry. Perhaps just as interesting, where could I find a record of Hedley's armoured car service?

It's odd that Hedley, who at the start of the Great War would have been a very experienced piot who had seen action against the Turks, did not becomea pilot in the RFC or RNAS.

With best regards,

Mike

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It depends what unit he was serving with when he was with the armoured cars, you need to establish that. I have checked the online RN service registers and he is not listed. Was he in the RE or RNVR at that point? RNVR other rank and officers records are in ADM 337 at Kew; RAF officers in AIR 76. The Fleet Air Arm Museum also holds records for both RNVR officers and other ranks.

There are not detail records for the armoured car section, the details were kept on a card index since weeded.

There are several mysteries, such as he was in the RE, why did he end up in the RNAS? Eastchurch and Sopwith did have strong connections with the RNAS, but being in the RE should have got him into the RFC. No longer being a pilot may mean he had lost his flying nerve.

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many thanks for the information

Hedley was a member of the London Ballon Company RE(TF). In common with a number of his colleagues, he began learning to fly at Eastchurh, on aircraft loaned by Mr Francis McClean. Three of them gained pilots certificates (H D Cutler, V A Barrington-Kennett and C W Meredith). Shortly afterwards, the War Office raised objections to paying travel expenses for the Territorials. So training at Eastchurh ceased and other Territorials then, individually completed their training at private schools. Hedley was one of them. The London Balloon Company effectively ceased to exist in 1912. In October 1912, Hedley left for Bulgaria to take up an "appointment" with the Bulgarian government. By that point, he would have left the RE (TF).

According ADM 273. Hedley served in armoured cars 9/12/14 to 14/9/15, became an acting Flt Lt 14/9/15 to 5/11/15 and became a Temp Lt RNVR "E" Duties on 9/5/16 (and also entered the Air Service on 9/5/16). He was posted to the Dover Seaplane Station and in December 1916 to HMS Empress

So there are quite a few gaps to fill in: Was he commissioned whilst in armoured cars, what was he actually doing in the period between leaving armoured cars and starting egineering duties

With best regards,

Mike

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If he was an RNAS rating, he should show up on the online search. This is a hunch, but I think he was already commissioned by the time he was with the armoured cars. The first lowest rank you have is (flight) Lieutenant which is an army equivalent of captain suggesting he already held rank. Maybe someone can do a Navy List look up.

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