One day I was rummaging in my parents attic, searching for some childhood souvenirs when I came upon a wooden box, unknown to me, sitting in a dark corner. Driven by curiosity I moved the box and opened it...
This box happened to belong to my great-grandfather Georges and I found pieces of uniform, notes, pictures, medals and letters. As I went through the notes I discovered that my great-granddad was passionate about photographs, mechanics and most of all about aviation. Thanks to this notes, I was able to piece together part of the life of my great-grandfather Georges who happened to be a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps.
The pictures dated back from World War I and some showed material ready to be sent to the continent. Indeed, in August 1914, the German forces set off the conflict after the assassination of the archduke François-Ferdinand, heir of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Thence England declared war to Germany in support of France and Belgium which saw their neutrality flouted.
My great-grandfather, native of gentlefolk, joined the military forces, first with the cavalry to move on to the Royal Flying Corps.
At the end of 1914, beginning of 1915 he learned to fly on the Avro 504K. Once graduated he was assigned to a squadron flying the Royal Aircraft Factory Be2c and together with his gunner/observer flew his first war missions in northern France and Flanders.
As I continued reading I found out my great-granddad had a brother, Geoffrey, who enlisted with the new armoured forces. During a visit behind the frontline, he took the opportunity to immortalize his brother with his battle tank.
After some missions on Be2c he was transferred to a Bristol F2b Fighter squadron, heavier, more powerful and better armed. During this period the squadron received the visit of one of its war godmothers, Miss Louise, and I could feel there was immediately a connection between them, proven by the amount of letters found in the box...
1916 was already well on its way and this war, who was supposed to be settled in a couple of days, was dragging on. It was also in 1916 that my great-grandfather moved on to the fighter group, which was essentially his goal, being assigned with a squadron flying the Sopwith Pup, a real fighter aircraft. A fair pilot, he was soon to be considered by the authorities and sent to the Sopwith factory to analyze the advent and manufacturing of the new model, the Sopwith Camel.
Taking advantage of his return to England, he visited Miss Louise and his brother Geoffrey on leave. Visits, entertainment, music-hall were at the rendez-vous before going back to war. Things were this way but it was during this return to England that he married his war godmother Louise and so this lovely lady became my great-grandmother.
Back to the frontline he first flew some missions on the
Bristol M.1.C to move over to a squadron equipped with the Royal Aircraft
Factory SE5A, one of the more popular and sturdy airplanes of the Royal
Flying Corps. He became the Wing Commander of this squadron at the end of
1917. Flying war missions with his SE5A he came across some great names in
aviation such as Baron Manfred Von Richthofen in November 1917, Ernst Udet
beginning of 1918, Edward Mannock in the spring, Eddie Rickenbacker in May
and Karl Degelow in begin November, just a few days before the end of the
|Ready for the war on the continent|
|Per Ardua Ad Astra (Through Adversity to the Stars)|
|Royal Flying School Avro 504K|
|Royal Aircraft Factory Be2c|
|Technicians on duty||German dozzle camouflage as trophy|
|British Tank Company with Mark 4 tank (Brother Geoffrey)|
|Brother Geoffrey and his Mark IV tank|
In the Mark 4 tank
|Bristol F2B Fighter Squadron|
|Godmother of war, Miss Louise|
|Fighter Squadron Sopwith Pup|
|The Sopwith Pup could be equipped with the new rockets...|
|Meeting a Fokker E 3 Eindecker|
|Delegate to the Sopwith Aircraft Factory|
|The new fighter|
|The construction of the new fighter|
|Permission, Tourism and Music Hall|
|In permission with brother Geoffrey|
|Important...The newspapers||Music Hall|
|Wedding of Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother|
|Back to the front on Bristol M.1C aircraft|
|Royal Flying Corps camp in Northern of France|
|Photographic Unit tent|
|Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A fighter squadron|
The cross of the enemy
|In the SE5A|
|Manfred Von Richtofen|
|View in combat|
|Great Grandfather with pilots of the Squadron|
|The Victoria Cross|
What you have been reading and seeing through the images is just a story, but a story certainly lived for a part by some of her majesty's subjects. This story came to life through what we have seen during the World War I airshow organized by the Shuttleworth Collection. Sadly none of the Collection's aircraft took to the skies due to “Bertha”. In 1914 “Big Bertha” (giant mortar of 420mm firing shells of 800 kg) was giving a lot of problems to the allied troops... In 2014, it were the remains of the cyclone Bertha, which set up the bad weather, with stormy rainfalls and strong winds.
Anyway, the organizers did all they could to please the
public by visiting the museum or giving rides on various vehicles. It was
also a commemoration day and at 16.30 hrs a ceremony was held as a tribute
to all the soldiers that gave their life for our freedom. The Last Post,
followed by two minutes of silence was really moving. No one must forget
what our ancestors did so we could live freely !
But let’s go back to the airshow were we wandered around with
great pleasure and interest thanks to the organizers and the members of the
“Dawn Patrol”, who flew some of their beautiful radio controlled scale
models during a little weather lull.
|For more infos, click on each logo|
|Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum and Marc Arys|
|© SBAP 2014|
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