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Remembered Today:

Trench straffing in Ypres area 1917


DRIFTER
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My grandfather was killed on 4th July 1917 in the Left Sector north of the Ypres - Comines canal (probably somewhere around The Ravine - Hill 60 area). The trenches were under attack by German planes described by Lt.Colonel Hughes commanding 1/17th London Rgt. as part of the 'Red Squadron', presumably because of the colour of their aircraft. He says that they flew low at around a hundred feet while attacking the British trenches with machine-gun fire which probably killed my grandfather. It has been suggested in another topic that the aircraft may have been 'trench fighters' specfically for the task adapted from Halbrtstadt CL-types. Does anyone have information about types/units in the area at that time or any ideas or views that might be worth following please?

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The Halberstadt CL II and CL IV were never adapted into special trench fighters, they were used as they were for trench strafing and ground attack by the German Schlachstaffeln (Battle Flights) with great success. However the CL II was not used until September 1917 onwards and the CL IV until 1918. These dates preclude the action on the 4th July 1917. It is possible that the attack was carried out by one or more Flieger Abt. (Infanteriefieger ) Close support flights. In 1917 these used a number of types including D.F.W and L.V.G C types modified by the armouring of seats and tanks. LVGs with a fully armoured nose were also used but I think later than July 1917. The other type used was the Junkers JI Panzer a heavily armoured ground attack aircraft but this aircraft was so distinctive in size and shape that one would have expected it to have been recognized and commented upon. The Albatross J I ground attack aircraft was not introduced until autumn 1917 and can be ruled out.

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Thanks Centurion, that's helpful. Any ideas as to units etc? The reference made of the 'Red Squadron' by Lt. Col. Hughes at the time of the event is possibly helpful to those with special knowledge of aircraft and units although it may not be accurate. Having been 'straffed' while in command of a merchant ship in a more recent war zone I can say with absolute certainty that colours and types of aircraft are not a target's immediate top priority!

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I think that it will be very difficult to identify the German unit involved, at least without access to whatever unit diaries are available. The reference to a 'Red Squadron' suggests a fighter unit, or Jasta, as the two-seater units tended not to apply such distinctive colours to their aircraft - though there were some exceptions. The unit usually associated with red markings is Rittm Manfred von Richthofen's old unit Jasta 11 (who were operating on the 4. Armee front near Ypres at the time) but, as far as I know, they didn't do much ground attack work.

I'm sorry that I can't be of further help.

Gareth

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Official instructions for German fighters when engaging ground targets was not to fly low (ie 100 ft) but to attack in a steep dive, strafe the target whilst diving and essentially get back to altitude (and away from ground fire) ASAP. This does not sound like the aircraft tactics used as described in the first posting, which are more akin to those used by the Flieger Abt. (Infanteriefieger ) especially the Junkers J I flights. Some of the close support flights used coloured pennants or streamers as a way that their own ground troops could identify them. Its possible therefore that the 'Red Squadron' refers to such a flight with red streamers.

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Nice drawing but no the aircraft cannot have been Halberstadts as they started operations in September 1917 and the action took place on the 4 July 1914 - see my first posting.

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Doesn't have to be red paint - as I said the close support flights used to have tactical identifying pennants or streamers. This was to allow ground control to identify them and signal via panels - eg. Red (Rotte) flight attack enemy in this direction. These streamers would of course be also visible to those being attacked.

The original account doesn't say anywhere that the aircraft were painted red - it just refers to the red squadron.

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Thanks to you all for this, very much appreciated.

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Having thought about when the various aircraft types the Germans used for trench strafing were introduced into service the DFW CV would seem to be the most likely culprit.

post-9885-1206116151.jpg

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