Albatros D.V in combat with a Spad of 23 Squadron, by Terry Jones
Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport has over 40 million passengers arriving and departing every year.
Charles Kingsford-Smith became a household name between and after the wars because of his record-breaking Trans-Pacific flights with Charles Ulm and P.G. Taylor, and mysterious disappearance in 1937.
Less known are his experiences as a combat pilot in 1917, where his flying life was forged in the fires of adversity. In his autobiography he recalled
Sometimes our squadrons would sweep the sky in bands 20 strong, looking for trouble in the shape of Hun machines, and generally finding it. We flew low over enemy aerodromes and trenches, ground strafing and attacking anything in sight with our drums of Lewis fire. At other times we flew high, waiting At 15,000 ft. to pounce on our enemies, and there were exciting and adventurous occasions when we deliberately cultivated a spinning nose dive to in an effort to avoid attack, or with nonchalant abandon rolled carefree.
..We did the job to the best of our ability in what seemed to be the craziest old antiquarian contraptions imaginable- the machines of the Royal Flying Corps.. And we were up against an enemy that was ahead of us in aircraft design, and certainly not our inferiors in courage, élan and dash.
SYDNEY AIRMAN. (1918, March 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15778624
Sopwith Pup of 66 Squadron. Lt. P.G Taylor shoots down Albatros, by Mark Postlethwaite.
100 years ago a handful of Royal Flying Corps pilots — including the newly graduated 2nd Lieutenant P.G. Taylor — contested the skies with German Flying Circus hunting squadrons, lying in wait to destroy any aircraft straying into their territory.
The life expectancy of an RFC pilot averaged only about 18 hours in April 1917. Many died because they flew, in the words of ‘Bill’ Taylor, a motley assortment of ‘…appallingly makeshift aeroplanes.’
This is their story…
Visiting Canberra? Those with an interest in Mosman’s connections with WWI are well served by the National Gallery of Australia’s exhibition, Artists of the Great War.
Photographs of strike-breakers at Taronga Zoo and a digitised image of a letter written by a Mosman mother enquiring about her son, give us a glimpse into Australian society in the early 20th century.
The body of an Australian soldier killed in the German 2nd line, photographed by Hauptmann Eckart, intelligence officer of the 6th Bavarian Division. Image: AWM A01566
Stammering scores of German machine-guns spluttered violently, drowning the noise of the cannonade. The air was thick with bullets, swishing in a flat, criss-crossed lattice of death … The bullets skimmed low, from knee to groin, riddling the tumbling bodies before they touched the ground. Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked from a comb … Men were cut in two by streams of bullets [that] swept like whirling knives … It was the Charge of the Light Brigade once more, but more terrible, more hopeless – magnificent, but not war – a valley of death filled by somebody’s blunder.
– Private Jimmy Downing, 57th Battalion