Canadians With The Royal Flying Corps & Royal Naval Air Service In The First World War.

By Don Nicks, extracts of articles from Moose Jaw and North Bay newspapers in the late 1990s:
During 1916, the big wigs at the Canadian war Council and Headquarters came to a realisation that Canada should develop their own Air Corps, for overseas Imperial Service. Prior to the date mentioned, considering the CAC was not officially authorised, interest developed in aviation within Canada’s Department of the Militia and Defence. However Ottawa’s expenditures in the war grew at a staggering rate, support amongst MP’s etc., and dwindled attempts in creating a Canadian Air Force lost flight and crash landed. This prompted numerous Canadians to enlist in the Royal Naval Air Service Royal Flying Corps, later both corps merged forming restyled Royal Air Force.


Canadian FWW Pilots

Canadian FWW Pilots


Canadians served on all the fronts of the war, from the Home Front (England) to the Western Front (France and Belgium) down to Italy and the Dardanielles, over the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, and over Egypt and Palestine. Canadians served with pride and distinction (3 Victoria Crosses were won by Canadian airmen), and by the wars end it has been estimated that over 23,000 Canadians served within the air services of the United Kingdom, of whom 1,563 made the ultimate sacrifice. Some of the more famous Canadians were Raymond Collishaw, William “Billy” Bishop, “Wop” May, Roy Brown, William Barker and Alan McLeod to name a few. The exploits of some of these aviators are covered in another article. This early link with British military aviation is where a great many of our customs, traditions and dress codes originated.


William 'Billy' Bishop in a Nieuport aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps.

William ‘Billy’ Bishop in a Nieuport aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps.


At first, the RFC and the RNAS recruited only trained personnel, mainly pilots. This severely taxed on the training services in Canada. At this time candidates had to pay for their own training (about $400 for 500 minutes of flying) and one prominent Canadian’s training school was running at full capacity: J.A.D. McCurdy had a flying school at Toronto Island. However, as the war progressed, the RFC decided to provide pilot training for suitable candidates.
The first Canadians to graduate from McCurdy’s flying school were Homer Smith and Arthur Ince. Later Arthur Ince shot down a German seaplane (14 December 1915) off the coast of Belgium; this was the first Canadian kill in World War 1. Another Canadian who paid for his own training was John Bernard “Don” Brophy, of Ottawa. Don joined the RFC after graduating from the school at Toronto Island and departed for England on 8 December 1915. At the time Don reached the front, the life expectancy for a pilot was three weeks, but Don lasted an incredible five months. During this time, he suffered with most of the problems of the day: engine, airframe and propeller failures were common. In addition, during this time, air fighting was in its infancy: rifles and pistols were being carried in cockpits and bombs were strapped to the side of the aircraft. However, after surviving duty at the front and while serving on the Home Front, Don died on Christmas Eve 1916 when the airframe of his BE12 failed and he spiraled into the ground.


Skilled Canadian Pilots Mechanics, Now is Your Chance


Life in the RFC/RNAS was not “a bed of roses” for the glamorous flyboys as depicted in the movie “The Dawn Patrol”; there were many hardships. A typical air station on the Western Front consisted of an open field (airstrip), canvas hangars, officers’ mess (normally the only solid construction around) and living quarters (generally under canvas). More often than not, there would be another squadron using the same open field, but established on the opposite side of the grass runway. Flying continued throughout the extreme summer heat with its dust and sweat and in winter during the rains (creating quagmires and muddy lakes) and the cold of November to February. Dysentery, fever, nerves and stomach problems were all common place in the air services, and life expectancy for a new pilot in 1918 had decreased to a few days.

Saturday July 21st Bummed around. Company QM stores with Lawrence. Lay under trees across road from hut for an hour. Sat out behind hut and sketched scene for half an hour or so. Went down town to cash postal order. Walked around to 3 different Post Offices. Ate at Maple Leaf Club. returned to camp. Wrote letters, made coffee, had eats. Retired at 10 pm.

The missions varied with the aircraft. Originally, the airplane was seen as an observation platform for artillery spotting. Then aviators started arming themselves and shooting at each other, with the occasional success. This brought technology into the forefront, as methods were devised to mount machine guns on aircraft. Some of the early methods were an over wing mount to avoid the propeller, mounting the engine on the rear (pusher type) so a machine gun could be fired out the front of the aircraft, armour plating the back side of the propeller so that bullets fired by the pilot would not damage the propeller (this, however, meant that one in every five rounds fired bounced off the propeller), and finally, after the design was found on a German aircraft, an interrupter gear mechanism (the machine gun ceased firing anytime the propeller swung through the firing arc). In addition, the pilots were also dropping things from aircraft, such as flechettes (large steel darts that could penetrate a steel helmet), progressing to grenades and finally to bombs.

Canadians were involved in all the various aspects of the flying war. Of the twenty-seven allied pilots who had thirty or more combat victories, ten were Canadians, including the top ace (Maj Bishop with 72 victories) and the third top ace (Maj. Collishaw with 60 victories). In addition, as previously mentioned, three Canadian airmen won the Commonwealth’s highest award for valour, “the Victoria Cross”: Maj. Bishop, Maj. Barker and Lt McLeod.


Lecture on rigging, School of Aviation, Royal Flying Corps Canada, University of Toronto.

Lecture on rigging, School of Aviation, Royal Flying Corps Canada, University of Toronto.


William Avery “Billy” Bishop was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, 8 February 1894. At the termination of a very unsuccessful academic career, Bishop joined the Mississauga Horse and at the outbreak of the war was a cavalry Lieutenant. Shortly after his arrival in England, Bishop saw his first airplane and at that point he decided that the only way to fight a war is, “up there above the clouds and in the summer sunshine”. Bishop originally trained as an observer and flew for four months at the front before an injury placed him in the hospital. Upon his release, he discovered he could now apply for pilot training. After completing the course in only fifteen hours, Bishop was posted to a Home Defence unit. Bishop was finally posted to the Western Front in March 1917; reporting to No 60 Squadron RFC. It only took him eight days to score his first victory. Bishop quickly established a reputation as a loner and a crack shot, and his score of combat victories grew very rapidly. On 2 June 1917 Bishop took off before dawn on a mission he and Albert Ball had discussed; the idea was to attack the enemy before he was prepared for the attack. On that day, Bishop single-handedly attacked a German aerodrome and shot down three enemy aircraft for which he won the Victoria Cross. Late in 1917 he departed England for Canada for a well-earned rest. Upon his return in early 1918, Bishop was promoted to Major and posted to command No 85 Squadron, and in his final two weeks in combat he shot down an incredible twenty-five enemy aircraft, twelve coming in the last three days. After this feat, Bishop was posted to a staff job as he was now considered a valuable war symbol. His secondment to the RAF was terminated and he was attached to the Canadian Headquarters Overseas as a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel. While in this staff job he pursued the creation of the Canadian Air Force.


Captain W.A. Bishop, V.C., Royal Flying Corps, who AAA has up to this date shot down 37 German aircraft.

Captain W.A. Bishop, V.C., Royal Flying Corps, who AAA has up to this date shot down 37 German aircraft.


Produced in 1915 as the Admiralty Type 184, but more commonly referred to as 225s due to the horsepower of the initial powerplant, the Short Seaplane established the Short Brothers’ reputation as designers of first-class seaplanes and was extensively used during the First World War. One even made history during the Dardanelles campaign when it became the first Aircraft in the world to sink an enemy ship at sea by means of a torpedo.

Although he did not win a Victoria Cross, Raymond Collishaw was another prominent Canadian, finishing the war as third overall allied ace. Collishaw was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, on 22 November 1893. He joined the RNAS in 1914. His first mission over the front was flown in September 1916 with No 3 Wing RNAS. On 1 February 1917 he was transferred to No 3 (Naval) Squadron. In April he was promoted to Flight-Commander and posted to No 10 (Naval) Squadron. With him he took four other Canadians, Ellis Reid of Toronto, J.E. Sharman of Winnipeg, J.E. Nash of Hamilton and M. Alexander of Montreal. With these people Collishaw formed the “Black Flight” (each flight was assigned its own colour and Black was the colour for his flight), one of the most successful flying units on the Western Front. Finally, by January 1918, Collishaw had again been promoted and placed in command of No 3 (Naval) Squadron. Naval squadron commanders were not expected to fly, but Collishaw disregarded this rule as much as he could. On 1 April 1918, Collishaw officially transferred to the RAF and was placed in command of 203 Squadron. In his final four months in combat he scored an additional twenty victories. On 1 October 1918 Raymond Collishaw was withdrawn from the front, promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and posted to aid the formation of the CAF. Raymond Collishaw retired from the RAF as an Air Vice Marshal in 1943.


Canada's Greatest Aces during the FWW..ppjpg


William George Barker was born in Dauphin, Manitoba, in November 1894. He initially joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles and fought in the Second Battle of Ypres. When “Willy” first transferred to the RFC he went as a mechanic, but flew several missions as a machine gunner. In April 1916 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant observer and in late 1916 he returned to England for pilot training. Upon his graduation in January 1917, he was posted back to the Western Front. After flying a tour on RE8s, he returned to England in early September to instruct student pilots. The restless Barker, applied for a transfer to a scout squadron and in late September he was posted to No 28 Squadron. In October the squadron proceeded to Belgium, but by late October it was moved to northern Italy to bolster the sagging Italian Front. This front provided a different opportunity for the pilots, as the Austrians had very few aircraft and, therefore, the mission was primarily ground support. In September Barker was recalled to England to command the school of air fighting at Hounslow. On 27 October, while returning to Hounslow from his attachment to No 201 Squadron, Maj Barker attacked a Rumpler CVII reconnaissance aircraft and shot it down. While following it down, he was attacked by a Fokker DR I. In the ensuing diving fight Barker shot down the DR I, but received a bullet to the thigh. Upon his recovery from this engagement, Maj Barker flew into a German Jagdgeschwader (squadron). During the spiraling melee Maj Barker shot down another three German aircraft, but he also received two more injures (another in the thigh and one in the right elbow). While the Germans withdrew, Maj Barker crash-landed close to the front lines and members of the Highland Light Infantry were able to extract him from the wreckage. Maj Barker won the Victoria Cross for this action.


Skilled Mechanics Urgantly Needed, Imperial Royal Flying Corps. iii jpg


Second Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod of Stonewall, Manitoba, was the third Canadian airman to receive the Victoria Cross. His action was not against the enemy, but for saving the life of his observer. While on a photo-reconnaissance mission, McLeod’s aircraft was attacked by eight enemy tri-planes. After a fierce fight, a bullet eventually penetrated the fuel tank and set the aircraft on fire. McLeod continued to fly his aircraft while his gunner/observer, Lt A.W. Hammond, warded off further attack. The fire became so intense that even with sideslipping McLeod had to climb out of the cockpit. From here he continued to fly the aircraft toward a safe arrival with the ground. He was finally able to crash-land the aircraft in no-man’s land where, though he was wounded five times and his observer six times, he was able to extract his observer from the wreckage. During this fight, the observer was able to shoot down three of the enemy aircraft. For this action Lt A.A. McLeod was awarded the Victoria Cross.


Royal Flying Corps, The Fallowing Skilled Tradesmen Requierd.Ioojpg


In April 1918, the RFC, now the Royal Air Force (by Royal decree 1 April 1918), returned to Canada and re-established their stations. In addition, it was decided to establish several advanced flying training units in Canada. By the time the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, the RAF establishment in Canada had a total strength 11,928 all ranks. It was staffed by 993 officers and 6,158 other ranks and had 4,333 cadet pilots and 444 other officers under training. In its twenty and one-half months in Canada, the RFC/RAF training establishment had recruited 16,663 personnel and had graduated 3,135 pilots, of whom 2,539 went overseas and 356 remained in Canada as instructors, and 137 observers, of whom 85 were sent overseas. At the time of the armistice, it had an additional 240 pilots and 52 observers that were ready for overseas service. Additionally, there were 130 fatal crashes involving RFC/RAF aircraft in Canada during this same period.


Canada In The Great World War, Vol. VI., 1921.


Captain (afterwards Lieut-Colonel) William Avery Bishop, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C., R.F.C., Croix de Guerre.

Royal Flying Corps: “For most conspicuous bravery, determination, and skill.” Captain Bishop, who had been sent out [near the Foret de Mormal] to work independently, flew first of all to an enemy aerodrome; finding no machines about, he flew on to another aerodrome about three miles south-east, which was at least twelve miles the other side of the line. Seven machines, some with their engines running, were on the ground. He attacked these from about fifty feet, and a mechanic, who was starting one of the machines, was seen to fall. One of the machines got off the ground, but at a height of sixty feet Captain Bishop fired fifteen rounds into it at a very close range, and it crashed to the ground. A second machine got off the ground, into which he fired thirty rounds at one hundred and fifty yards range, and it fell into a tree. Two more machines then rose from the aerodrome. One of these he engaged at a height of one thousand feet, emptying the rest of his drum of ammunition. This machine crashed three hundred yards from the aerodrome, after which Captain Bishop emptied a whole drum into the fourth hostile machine and then flew back to his station. Four hostile scouts were about one thousand feet above him for about a mile of his return journey, but they would not attack. His machine was very badly shot about by machine-gun fire from the ground.”


Royal Flying Corps In FWW

Royal Flying Corps In FWW


DHH OH CEF 1914-19, P. 1964: Extracts on the Royal Flying Corps as fallows:-


 P.116: “It is hoped very shortly to obtain a machine which will be able to successfully engage the Fokkers at present in use by the Germans”, the Royal Flying Corps* announced in mid-January 1916. In the meantime, there was emphasis on flying in formation for protection. The Corps made an inflexible rule that no machine should proceed on reconnaissance unless escorted by at least three other machines. Should one of these become detached from the formation the reconnaissance was not to be continued. The British answer to the Fokker monoplane was the De Havilland “pusher” (propeller in rear), armed with a flexible Lewis gun in front and capable of about 85 miles per hour. The French reply was the Nieuport Scout, a biplane fighter with a semi-flexible Hotchkiss or Lewis gun on the top wing, above the propeller. In February and March several British squadrons were fully or partly equipped with both types, and the “Fokker scourge”-never as serious as was widely supposed-soon abated. While fighter frequently engaged fighter, the primary role of such aircraft was to attack enemy reconnaissance, artillery observation and bombing planes and protect their own. Aerial reconnaissance included air photography, with which members of the R.F.C. had experimented before the war. Artillery observation was carried out from both aeroplanes and captive balloons, wireless gradually replacing coloured lights and signal lamps as a means of communication with batteries. In the battle of Loos, British planes fitted with proper bombsights had dropped bombs of up to 112 pounds on German communications.

*The R.F.C., formed in 1912, originally consisted of military and naval wings. Shortly before the war the Royal Naval Air Service. On 1 April 1918 the R.F.C. and R.N.A.S. were reunited as the Royal Air Force.


Royal Flying Corps


P.131: During May Canadian patrols reported that German engineers were pushing saps forward on either side of Tor Top. These progressed slowly but steadily in spite of our artillery and machine-guns; and before the end of the month a new lateral trench connected the heads of the saps, now fifty yards in advance of the main front line. The same kind of thing was going on south of Mount Sorrel and at other points beyond. Some weeks earlier observers of the Royal Flying Corps had seen near the Menin Road, well behind the enemy lines, works curiously resembling the Canadian positions near Tor Top. (The history of the German 26th Infantry Division confirms that these were practice trenches used to rehearse the assault.) Other indications of forthcoming action appeared in the bringing up of large-calibre trench mortars, and abnormal activity by the enemy’s artillery, aircraft and observation balloons.

P.138: There were exercises with the Royal Flying Corps* based on the newly adopted system of “contact patrol”. The attacking infantry carried flares, mirrors and special signalling panels, and as they advanced they signalled their positions to aircraft assigned solely to tactical observation. The information thus received was then dropped at formation headquarters or sent back by wireless.

*The Royal Flying Corps numbered many Canadians in its ranks. An account of the activities of some outstanding appears in Chapter XVI.

P.145: The Royal Flying Corps dominated the sky above the Somme with 185 aircraft; but on the ground, even with 471 heavy guns and howitzers (including sixteen 220-mm. howitzers attached from the French), the British superiority in artillery was to prove insufficient. The objectives given by Sir Douglas Haig reflected the optimism caught from General Joffre, who was convinced that a strong initial assault on a wide front could break through both the German front line and Second Position.


Curtiss JN-4 aircraft C332 of the Royal Flying Corps Canada.

Curtiss JN-4 aircraft C332 of the Royal Flying Corps Canada.


P.156: The east end of Zollern was already in our hands, and intelligence maps showed Hessian Trench merging with Regina Trench opposite the 1st Canadian Division’s centre. Although low reconnaissance patrols of the Royal Flying Corps had reported on the condition of the German defences in some detail, Hessian Trench, “owing to the uncertainty as to the condition of the wire in front of Regina Trench”, was made the limit of General Currie’s attack.

p.176: “In the air the victory had been more complete”, the historian of the British flying forces records. “From beginning to last of the battle the air war was fought out over enemy territory.”143 The Royal Flying Corps made the most of its local air superiority – a happy situation which it was to enjoy all too infrequently during the rest of the war – to follow the British naval tradition of “seeking out and destroying the enemy wherever he may be found”. The German tendency at this time was to over-emphasize fighters, using them mainly in a defensive role. The enemy’s air policy remained a defensive one, while the R.F.C. continued to wage offensive warfare.

P.228: In order to gain accurate information about possible changes in the German dispositions there were nightly raids into the enemy’s lines during the bombardment.

These varied in size from small patrols to the 600 all ranks sent out by the 10th Canadia Infantry Brigade on 31 March to investigate the defences in front of the Pimple.61 The artillery depended increasingly upon the Royal Flying Corps to seek out hostile gun positions and perform registration and spotting duties for our batteries. In carrying out these tasks No. 16 Squadron, attached to the Canadian Corps, had to contend with bad flying weather and determined opposition from German fighter pilots. Although outnumbered on the Vimy-Arras front, the enemy had the advantage in both speed and fire-power.* Despite heavy losses the R.F.C. continued its reconnaissance programme and undertook limited bombing operations against German airfields and railway installations. Of an estimated 212 guns opposite the Canadian Corps, 83 per cent were located by various means, including aerial observation.63 While much of the air fighting took place over the German lines, Canadian troops noticed and were impressed with the skill and audacity of one of the enemy pilots, identified as Lieut. Baron Manfred von Richthofen.64 Towards the end of 1916 Richthofen had painted his machine red, a colour later adopted by his entire squadron. In the spring of 1917 gaudy colour schemes became quite common among German fighter units.

*Germany’s 115 m.p.h. Albatros biplane fighter carried two machine-guns. In general, British and French fighters of this period were some fifteen miles an hour slower, though more manoeuvrable, and were armed with a single Vickers or Lewis gun.


FWW Royal Flying Corps


P.230: Shortly before dawn there was a further drop in the temperature and a driving north-west wind swept the countryside with snow and sleet. Consequently a bombing programme by the Royal Flying Corps had to be abandoned. Physically discomforting as the storm was to the waiting troops, it gave them the advantage of assaulting with the wind at their backs and in the defenders’ faces. It also had the effect of prolonging the darkness beyond zero hour, which had been set to coincide with first light; but so well had the attackers rehearsed their roles that the continued darkness was no serious handicap.

P.249: The entire period March-April 1917 had been a bad one for the Royal Flying Corps, but May was to see a marked improvement in the air situation. Most writers seek to account for this change in terms of equipment – the arrival of new fighters comparable if not superior to the German Albatros. Yet only a few such machines reached the front before midsummer, and at first these impressed neither their own crews nor the enemy. Part of the reason for the improvement was that British pilots, having survived early encounters with the Albatros, learned how to handle their 1916-pattern machines to the best advantage and so developed confidence in them. Furthermore, at the end of April the enemy began to improvise massed formations of twenty or more fighters, and thus localized his efforts. The immediate answer to the “circuses”, as these large brightly coloured formations were called, was to keep aloft increasing numbers of five-man fights.

Successive groups of that size, it was found, could exert more influence on the “dogfight” than the same total number involved continuously from the outset; they were more manageable, and their striking power grew while that of the circuses tended to dwindle.

P.251-52-53: In the air there were indications that the enemy would not long continue to enjoy his superiority. The day before the battle fighters of the Royal Flying Corps had destroyed or damaged eight observation balloons opposite the First Army’s front.* While the work of contact patrols during the operation was hampered by the incessant bombardment and the confusion of attack and counterattack, air observers operating with the 13th Corps were able to report preparations for a counter-attack south of Oppy. Elsewhere bombers engaged ammunition dumps and railway junctions and bridges well behind the enemy lines. Meanwhile German artillery observation planes operated over the area of the Canadian attack unmolested. On 13 June London suffered its first daylight raid, with 162 persons killed and 432 injured – the heaviest casualties inflicted in any one air raid on England in the war.35 Among the counter-measures recommended by the G.O.C. Royal Flying Corps (Major-General H. M. Trenchard) was the capture of the Belgian coast up to Holland. If this were done German aircraft would have to operate from landing-grounds farther away from England, and their route would either cross the Allied lines or pass over neutral country. During the latter part of May the Canadian Corps lost to the Second Army five heavy artillery group headquarters, two heavy batteries, ten siege batteries and five brigades of field artillery. 254 Other suggested countermeasures included retaliation in kind. As air power thus became recognized as an independent means of waging war, the R.F.C. and the Royal Naval Air Service were expanded and eventually, as we have seen (above, p. 132), reunited as the Royal Air Force.

P.472: Another task undertaken by Canadian forestry units from the autumn of 1916 onward was the construction of airfields for the Royal Flying Corps. Nine Canadian companies, especially organized for this employment, prepared more than a hundred sites in France and England. In France the work included erecting Nissen huts and hangars and the construction of emplacements for anti-aircraft guns.


Canadian Royal Flying Corps


P.478-79: From the summer of 1917 onward, the Flying Corps and later the Air Force showed a preference for khaki aircraft; personal markings,”gaudy colours on wheels, cowlings, etc.”, were forbidden. Nevertheless former naval squadrons of the R.A.F. retained something of their brilliant plumage. A month after the amalgamation we find one such unit still sporting red noses. An interim answer to the massing of German fighters, as we have seen, had been to put up more British flights. But while the enemy learned to control still larger formations with less loss of striking power, the British found the necessary number of flights increasingly difficult to handle. Accordingly, early in 1918, British fighter squadrons were gradually converted from primarily administrative into tactical units – still only three flights of five or six aircraft, but designed to fight as a squadron and to work with other squadrons. In short, the final answer to the “Circus” was something not unlike it. This tendency to imitate each other’s tactical organization was paralleled in another field. Although Allied fighter models of 1916 pattern were superior to the early 1917 Albatros in manoeuvrability and climbing power, it was not until the middle of that summer, when the Scout Experimental 5 (one Vickers and one Lewis gun) and the Sopwith Camel (two Vickers) became available in quantity, that British airmen could match the Germans in speed and firepower. The enemy then turned partly from the 125-m.p.h. Albatros D V to the slower but more manoeuvrable Pfalz D III biplane and Fokker triplane. Early models of the 1918 Fokker biplane were barely faster than the German fighters of the previous spring. What became the standard D VII model (above, p. 421) realized perhaps the happiest combination of speed (125 m.p.h.) and agility, supplemented by easy handling, an exceptional rate of climb, and the ability to “hang on its propeller” and pepper the underside of an opponent. Its British equivalent in all round fighting performance, the Sopwith Snipe, appeared only in the last few weeks of hostilities, and then not in significant numbers.

It was in a Snipe that Major W. G. Barker, formerly a machine-gunner in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, fought an heroic single-handed combat against an overwhelming number of enemy scouts in the vicinity of Valenciennes.* On the morning of 27 October 1918 he shot down an enemy two-seater (his 47th victory) at the unusual height of 21,000 feet. He then came under fire from a Fokker D VII “standing on its tail” and was wounded. A spinning fall brought Major Barker into the midst of fifteen Fokkers. He attacked three of these, accounting for at least one. Wounded a second time, he lost consciousness. As he spun down to another enemy formation, Barker rallied and sent one D VII down in flames. He was again wounded, and at 12,000 feet he found himself attacked by two more Fokkers, one of which he shot down at less than ten feet. Eventually he crashed behind his own lines, escaping with a broken nose. Already a three-time winner of the Military Cross, and twice awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Italian Cross of Valour, Major Barker now received the Empire’s highest decoration. Fittingly enough, Canada’s remaining air V.C., 2nd Lieut. A.A. McLeod, represented those who flew the less publicized multi-purpose two-seater aircraft. While carrying out a bombing and strafing mission east of Albert on 27 March 1918, McLeod was attacked by eight Fokker triplanes. The Canadian pilot’s skilful manoeuvring enabled his observer to drive off three triplanes, but a fourth Fokker set the British aircraft on fire. Climbing out on the lower wing, Lieutenant McLeod maintained control of the machine, sideslipping to keep the flames on the other side while his observer carried on the fight. Both men were wounded a number of times before their plane crashed in no man’s land. McLeod dragged his companion away from the burning wreckage, and despite ground fire and his own condition – he was now wounded a sixth time – got him to a place of relative safety. The observer recovered with the loss of a leg, but Lieutenant McLeod died later in hospital of influenza.

Another high-scoring Canadian ace with the R.A.F. was Major Collishaw. He served as a Squadron Commander with No. 3 Naval Squadron, which was redesignated No. 203 Squadron R.A.F.* when the R.N.A.S. was merged with the Flying Corps at the beginning of April 1918. After hostilities had ceased in the West, Collishaw led an oversize squadron of scouts and bombers in South Russia. Of his 62 flying officers 53 were Canadians. He subsequently commanded an R.A.F. detachment in Persia. During the summer of 1918 Collishaw and Bishop, both of whom finished the war in the rank of lieutenant colonel, were transferred to London to take part in the organization of the future Canadian Air Force. Of some 290,000 all ranks in the Royal Air Force at the end of the war, approximately 24 per cent of the officers and six per cent of the other ranks – a total of 6623 officers and 15,679 cadets and men – came from Canada. The Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower at Ottawa records the names of a further 1563 that fell in action, were killed accidentally or died from other causes. Besides the three Victoria

Crosses to which we have referred, Canadian airmen were awarded more than 800 decorations.

* was only learned afterwards that he was a Canadian, and which echoed across the battle front was never matched … on any other occasion.”

* Always largely Canadian in personnel, at the end of the war all its pilots were Canadians.


Free PDF Download:
Aviation in Canada, 1917-1918. Being a brief account of the work of the Royal air force, Canada

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