Aviation in Canada 1917-1918 Being a Brief Account of the Work of the Royal Air Force Canada, the Aviation Department of the Imperial Munitions Board, and the Canadian Aeroplanes Limited
Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.
Being a brief account of the workof the ROYAL AIR FORCE CANADAthe Aviation Department of theImperial Munitions Board andthe Canadian Aeroplanes Limited
ALAN SULLIVAN, LT., R.A.F.
ROUS & MANN LIMITED
While the contents of this volumepresent an accurate history ofthe R.A.F. Canada, it is to beunderstood that the Air Ministryis not responsible for any statementsmade herein.
Copyright, Canada, 1919,
by Alan Sullivan, Toronto
|The Western Front in 1916||7|
|Aviation Department, Imperial Munitions Board||25|
|Canadian Aeroplanes Limited||44|
|Cost of Training||57|
|Training in General||76|
|The Medical Service||108|
|Records and Recruiting||139|
|The Cadet Wing||155|
|School of Aeronautics||162|
|Armour Heights System||211|
|School of Special Flying||220|
|Royal Flying Corps in Texas||233|
|Engine Repair Park||251|
|Aeroplane Repair Park||256|
|Mechanical Transport Section||275|
|Assistant Provost Marshal||279|
|Royal Engineer Section||280|
The battle of the Somme in the latter half of 1916was the principal factor leading to the formation ofthe Royal Flying Corps, Canada. Aerial conditionson the Western Front were at this period of so tensea nature that they may well be noted before proceedingto the actual history of the Canadian brigade.
The following sketch makes no pretence of absoluteaccuracy. The data available at the moment are notofficial, but are compiled from the memories of severalflying officers serving on the Western front at the time.They may, however, be taken as fairly presenting notonly the development of the Royal Flying Corps, butalso that of opposing enemy aircraft at the period underconsideration.
The British Expeditionary Force commenced operationsin 1914 with a flying arm of four squadrons orsome fifty machines, of which no less than thirty weredestroyed during a severe storm at Christmas time bythe collapse of a large hangar at St. Omer, leaving onthe following day approximately 14 serviceablemachines. At this time all aeroplanes in both forceswere unarmed.
It is difficult to say whether British or Germanmade the first aerial attack on an opposing machine, butit is undoubted that this type of combat, coming howit may, found both sides unequipped with the exceptionof such offensive power as might be securedwith rifle or revolver. British machines had been thusarmed for months, probably in anticipation of forcedlandings behind the German lines and, without question,enemy aircraft were similarly provided. There ensueda series of sporting encounters out of which grew thenecessity of arming aeroplanes with rapid-fire gunsmounted mostly on the top of the centre section sothat bullets might clear the propeller blade. Thisgun was operated by the pilot, who supplied the solemethod of forward shooting, while the observer, whowas at that time placed in the front seat, fired to therear. A year and a half afterwards, the method ofshooting practically through the propeller was evolved,which, gradually developing, has long since reachedmechanical perfection.
In the early summer of 1916, the British strengthhad grown to some 28 or 30 squadrons in France.These numbered approximately 450 machines, distributedfairly equally along the entire front. A view ofour aerial equipment as contrasted with enemy aircraftin the battle of the Somme gives the followingdata, but it must be understood that this was a periodduring which every effort was strained on either sideand type followed type in rapid succession.
|BE2C 2-seater tractor biplane.||Fokker Scout tractor monoplane.|
|1 or 2 Lewis guns.||1 gun shooting through propeller, with deflectors.|
|Observer in front.||Speed 85 m.p.h.|
|Speed 70 miles.||Climb 10,000 feet in 17 mins.|
|Climb to 10,000 ft. in 50 mins.|
|Service ceiling 11,000 feet.|
|FE2B 2-seater pusher biplane.||Albatross Scout tractor biplane.|
|2 Lewis guns.||2 gun synchronized in line of flight.|
|Observer in front.||(First machine thus equipped.)|
|Speed 75 miles.||Speed 100 m.p.h.|
|Climb to 10,000 feet in 40 mins.|
|Service ceiling 12,000 feet.||Also 2 seater Albatross machine.|
|Morane 2-seater tractor||Roland Scout tractor biplane,|
|(French) both mono and biplane.||armed as Albatross but not quite as fast.|
|Same guns as BE2C, but with deflectors.||Also Roland 2-seater fighter, speed 90 m.p.h.|
|Speed 80 m.p.h.||Climb 10,000 feet in 20 mins.|
|Climb 10,000 feet in 30 mins.||Halberstadt Scout tractor biplane,|
|Service ceiling 15,000 feet.||similar to Albatross.|
|DH2 Scout pusher biplane.||LVG 2-seater tractor.|
|1 Lewis Gun on line of flight or swivelled.||Albatross and Aviatik, reconn. bombing, and photo.|
|Speed 90 m.p.h.||1 gun synchronized and 1 swivelled.|
|Climb 10,000 feet in 18 mins.||Speed 85 m.p.h.|
|Service ceiling 16,000 feet.||Climb 10,000 in 25 mins.|
|Service ceiling 18,000 feet.|
|FE8 Scout pusher biplane.|
|1 Lewis Gun swivelled in line of flight.|
|Speed 100 m.p.h.|
|Climb 15,000 feet in 19 mins.|
|Service ceiling 18,000 feet.|
|Nieuport Scout tractor(French).|
|1 Lewis Gun over top of prop. or swivelled.|
|Speed 100 m.p.h.|
|Climb 10,000 feet in 12 mins.|
|Service ceiling 19,000 feet.|
|This was the first allied machine to have a synchronized Vickers or Lewis gun in 1916.|
|Spad Scout tractor biplane.|
|1 synchronized Vickers gun firing in line of flight through propeller.|
|Speed 120 m.p.h.|
|Climb 10,000 feet in 9 mins.|
|Service ceiling 20,000 feet.|
In addition the British had a squadron or so ofSopwith 1½ Strutters, very fast and handy 2-seatertractors with observer in rear. Also some BristolScouts, Vickers pushers and Martynsydes.
The German was in 1916 provided with a gun whichdid fire through the propeller. This was on the Fokker.The advantage thus held by the enemy was alsoincreased by the fact that their two-seaters carriedpilots in front, thus affording the observer a betteropportunity of firing to the rear. Our BE2C, forinstance, found itself under a handicap in this respect.The downfall of the Fokker rests with the DH2, apusher machine, which gave the forward-seated pilot aclear field of fire to the front. The DH2, in turn,yielded supremacy to the German Albatross Scout,a fast and efficient fighting machine. Thus went thebattle, till in December, 1916, the Nieuport, Spad andSopwith Scouts were our kings of the air.
In April of this year began a concentration ofBritish aerial force on the Somme, where artilleryobservation was for the next three months carriedto the utmost in preparation for the great offensivestaged to commence in July. At first it seemed asthough our machines had the air to themselves, for uptill the first week in June our registration proceededwith practically no counter-battery work. So quietwas this front, that one pilot reports that he cannotremember seeing more than two German aeroplanes forsix weeks.
In June came greater activity on the part of theenemy, but it is without question that we held superiorityuntil September, if at considerable cost. FromSeptember, however, to the middle of October, theRoyal Flying Corps had its work cut out to cope withthe increase in numbers and efficiency of German pilots,and the introduction of two fast and improved fightingscouts, the Halberstadt and Albatross D3 and D5.
On the Somme front, approximating twenty-fivemiles, we had about twenty squadrons, equallingabout 300 machines; these constituting the majorityof our aerial force in France. Twelve were disposedfor artillery work, the remainder for photography,reconnaissance and fighting.
The battle proceeded with unprecedented intensity,and with it a never-ending aerial warfare.Pilots were rushed from England with a few hours’solo work and absolutely no gunnery practice, tofind themselves instantly in the thick of the combat.It is, therefore, not astonishing that the wastage ofour fighting men ran up to twenty-five per cent. permonth.
The filling up of the Royal Flying Corps combatantstrength was made additionally difficult, as the Corpscould no longer draw from regimental officers nowneeded for the coming offensive by which it wasproposed to relieve the tremendous pressure on theFrench at Verdun.
It is true that the strength of the Force was, inanticipation, more than doubled during the three weekswhich preceded the Somme, but this largely exhaustedthe available supplies of fighting personnel.
How reasonable, therefore, that the establishedsuccess of Canadian pilots, and the fact that in Canadalay an almost untapped reservoir of future strength,should turn the eyes of the War Office to that Dominion.Double operations were planned for theSpring of 1917. The need was instant and imperative.
Authority for the Royal Flying Corps, Canada,was given at the War Office in December of 1916,and shortly after, on December 21st, an importantmeeting took place at Adastral House, the headquartersof the Air Board. Representatives fromvarious branches of the service were present, and thesituation in Canada was fully discussed with thefollowing results.
Formation of squadrons was to be pushed at once,and personnel sent out as opportunity offered. Recruitingoffices were authorized, also one large aircraftpark, its location to be fixed later. As to equipment,Curtiss machines had already been ordered anddelivery would commence almost at once fromBuffalo. An establishment of 400 engines with amonthly wastage of 100 was considered reasonable.
The use of other machines was discussed but leftin abeyance for the meantime, and the meeting closedwith the opinion that training could be carried on inCanada the year round except in February, theweather in that month being doubtful.
It was decided at the outset that everything of abusiness nature, such as the erection of buildings, preparationof aerodromes, purchase of supplies, etc., wasto be handled by the Imperial Munitions Board,through a Department of Aviation. This conclusionwas largely influenced by the fact that in correspondencewith the Ministry of Munitions, the Imperial MunitionsBoard had placed itself at the disposal of the WarOffice to aid in the formation of a Canadian trainingwing. Two engineer officers would be detailed toact as advisers on buildings and aerodromes.
Such was the formal birth of the Royal FlyingCorps, Canada. It may be asked why it was purposedto recruit and train in Canada by the agency of anImperial wing, but it suffices to say that the workof this unit has been only one of the countless instancesof coöperation between the mother country and theDominion, that furthermore all arrangements enteredinto carried not only the consent and approval of theCanadian Government, but also the promise of everyassistance, and that the utter fullness of the dischargeof this promise is known best to those who are personallyconversant with the various phases of the historyof this unit of the Royal Flying Corps.
At the further meeting of the Air Board, held atAdastral House, January 1st, 1917, the personnel of theadvance party was selected. The administration sectionconsisted of the Officer Commanding, at that timelieutenant-colonel; two squadron commanders—a majorand a captain; one flight commander—a captain;one flying officer—a lieutenant. The supply sectionconsisted of one park commander, one first-classequipment officer and two second-class equipmentofficers; these a major, captain