Read CHAPTER VI - THE WAR:THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS FROM MONS TO YPRES of The War in the Air Vol. 1, free online book, by Walter Raleigh, on

The German war of the twentieth century, like the German wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was carefully planned and prepared by the military rulers of Prussia. To elucidate its origins and causes will be the work of many long years. Yet enough is known to make it certain that this last and greatest war conforms to the old design. The Prussians have always been proud of their doctrine of war, and have explained it to the world with perfect frankness. War has always been regarded by them as the great engine of national progress. By war they united the peoples of Germany; by war they hoped to gain for the peoples of Germany an acknowledged supremacy in the civilized world. These peoples had received unity at the hands of Prussia, and though they did not like Prussia, they believed enthusiastically in Prussian strength and Prussian wisdom. If Prussia led them to war, they were encouraged to think that the war would be unerringly designed to increase their power and prosperity. Yet many of them would have shrunk from naked assault and robbery; and Prussia, to conciliate these, invented the fable of the war of defence. That a sudden attack on her neighbours, delivered by Germany in time of peace, is a strictly defensive act has often been explained by German military and political writers, never perhaps more clearly than in a secret official report, drawn up at Berlin in the spring of 1913, on the strengthening of the German army. A copy of this report fell into the hands of the French.

‘The people,’ it says, ’must be accustomed to think that an offensive war on our part is a necessity.... We must act with prudence in order to arouse no suspicion.’

The fable of the war of defence was helped out with the fable of encirclement. Germany, being situated in the midst of Europe, had many neighbours, most of whom had more reason to fear her than to like her. Any exhibition of goodwill between these neighbours was treated by German statesmen, for years before the war, as a covert act of hostility to Germany, amply justifying reprisals. The treaty between France and Russia, wholly defensive in character, the expression of goodwill between France and England, inspired in part by fears of the restless ambitions of Germany, though both were intended to guarantee the existing state of things, were odious to Berlin. The peace of Europe hung by a thread.

On Sunday, the 28th of June 1914, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, paid a visit to Serajevo, the capital of Bosnia, and were there murdered by Bosnian assassins. It has not been proved that Germany had any part in the murder, but she was quite willing to take advantage of it. The Kiel canal, joining the Baltic with the North Sea had just been widened to admit the largest battleships, and the German army had just been raised to an unexampled strength. The gun was loaded and pointed; if it was allowed to be fired by accident the military rulers of Germany were much to blame. They were not in the habit of trusting any part of their plans to accident. But the excitement caused by the Archduke’s murder was allowed to die away, and an uneasy calm succeeded. On the 23rd of July the Austrian Government, alleging that the Serajevo assassinations had been planned in Belgrade, presented to Serbia, with the declared approval of Germany, an ultimatum, containing demands of so extreme a character that the acceptance of them would have meant the abandonment by Serbia of her national independence. Serbia appealed to Russia, and, acting on Russia’s advice, accepted all the demands except two. These two, which involved the appointment of Austro-Hungarian delegates to assist in administering the internal affairs of Serbia, were not bluntly rejected; Serbia asked that they should be referred to the Hague Tribunal. Austria replied by withdrawing her minister, declaring war upon Serbia, and bombarding Belgrade. This action was bound to involve Russia, who could not stand by and see the Slavonic States of southern Europe destroyed and annexed. But the Russian Government, along with the Governments of France, Great Britain, and Italy, did their utmost to preserve the peace. They suggested mediation and a conference of the Powers. Germany alone refused. Alleging that Russia had already mobilized her army, she decreed a state of war, and on Saturday, the 1st of August, declared war upon Russia. France by her treaty with Russia would shortly have become involved; but the German Government would not wait for her. They judged it all-important to gain a military success at the very start of the war, and to this everything had to give way. They declared war on France, and massed armies along the frontier between Liege and Luxembourg, with the intention of forcing a passage through Belgium. England, who was one of the guarantors of the integrity of Belgium, was thus involved. At 11.0 p.m. on the 4th of August, Great Britain declared war on Germany, and the World War had begun.

The events of the twelve days from the 23rd of July to the 4th of August, when they shall be set forth in detail, will furnish volumes of history. Those who study them minutely are in some danger of failing to see the wood for the trees. The attitude of the nations was made clear enough during these days. When Austria issued her ultimatum, many people in England thought of it as a portent of renewed distant trouble in the Balkans, to be quickly begun and soon ended. It was not so regarded in Germany. The people of Germany, though they were not in the confidence of their Government, were sufficiently familiar with its mode of operation to recognize the challenge to Serbia for what it was, Germany’s chosen occasion for her great war. The citizens not only of Berlin, but of the Rhineland, and of little northern towns on the Kiel canal, went mad with joy; there was shouting and song and public festivity. Meantime in England, as the truth dawned, there were hushed voices and an intense solemnity. The day had come, and no one doubted the severity of the ordeal. Yet neither did any one, except an unhappy few who had been nursed in folly and illusion, doubt the necessity of taking up the challenge. The country was united. Not only was the safety and existence of the British Commonwealth involved, but the great principle of civilization, difficult to name, but perhaps best called by the appealing name of decency, which bids man remember that he is frail and that it behoves him to be considerate and pitiful and sincere, had been flouted by the arrogant military rulers of Germany. Great Britain had a navy; her army and her air force, for the purposes of a great European war, were yet to make. The motive that was to supply her with millions of volunteers was not only patriotism, though patriotism was strong, but a sense that her cause, in this war, was the cause of humanity. There are many who will gladly fight to raise their country and people in power and prosperity above other countries and other peoples. There are many also among English-speaking peoples who are unwilling to fight for any such end. But they are fighters, and they will fight to protect the weak and to assert the right. They are a reserve worth enlisting in any army; it was by their help that the opponents of Germany attained to a conquering strength. The systematic cruelties of Germany, inflicted by order on the helpless populations of Serbia and Belgium and northern France, are not matter of controversy; they have been proved by many extant military documents and by the testimony of many living witnesses. They were designed to reduce whole peoples to a state of impotent terror, beneath the level of humanity. The apology made for them, that by shortening resistance to the inevitable they were in effect merciful, is a blasphemous apology, which puts Germany in the place of the Almighty. The effect anticipated did not follow. The system of terrorism hardened and prolonged resistance; it launched against Germany the chivalry of the world; it created for use against Germany the chivalry of the air; and it left Germany unhonoured in her ultimate downfall.

The German plan of campaign, it was rightly believed, was a swift invasion and disablement of France, to be followed by more prolonged operations against Russia. By this plan the German army was to reach Paris on the fortieth day after mobilization. There was no promise that Great Britain would help France, but the attitude of Germany had long been so threatening that the General Staffs of the two countries had taken counsel with each other concerning the best manner of employing the British forces in the event of common resistance to German aggression. It had been provisionally agreed that the British army should be concentrated on the left flank of the French army, in the area between Avesnes and Le Cateau, but this agreement was based on the assumption that the two armies would be mobilized simultaneously. When the principal British Ministers and the leading members of the naval and military staffs assembled at Downing street on the 5th and 6th of August, we were already behindhand, and the whole question of the employment and disposition of the expeditionary force had to be reopened. It was expected by some soldiers and some civilians that the little British army would be landed at a point on the coast of France or Belgium whence it could strike at the flank of the German invaders. The strategic advantages of that idea had to yield to the enormous importance of giving moral and material support to our Allies by fighting at their side; moreover, there could be no assurance that the coast of Belgium would not fall into the hands of the Germans at a very early stage in the campaign. Accordingly, it was agreed to ship our army to France, and to leave the manner of its employment to be settled in concert with the French.

The original British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Field-Marshal Sir John French, began to embark on the 9th of August; by the 20th its concentration in a pear-shaped area between Maubeuge and Le Cateau was complete. It consisted of the First Army Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig; the Second Army Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir James Grierson, who died soon after landing in France and was succeeded by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien; and the Cavalry Division, under Major-General E. H. H. Allenby. The Germans made no attempt to interfere with the transport of the expeditionary force from England to France. They had many other things to think of, and there is evidence to show that they viewed with satisfaction the placing of that admirable little force in a situation where they hoped that they could cut it off and annihilate it. That they were disappointed in this hope was due not a little to the activity and efficiency of the newest arm, numbering about a thousand, all told, the Royal Flying Corps.

The Royal Flying Corps took the field under the command of Brigadier-General Sir David Henderson. It consisted of Headquarters, Aeroplane Squadrons Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5, and an Aircraft Park. Fairly complete arrangements, thought out in detail, had been made some months earlier for its mobilization. Each squadron was to mobilize at its peace station, and was to be ready to move on the fourth day. On that day the aeroplanes were to move, by air, first to Dover, and thence, on the sixth day, to the field base in the theatre of war. The horses, horse-vehicles, and motor-bicycles, together with a certain amount of baggage and supplies, were to travel by rail, and the mechanical transport and trailers by road, to the appointed port of embarkation, there to be shipped for the overseas base. The Aircraft Park, numbering twelve officers and a hundred and sixty-two other ranks, with four motor-cycles and twenty-four aeroplanes in cases, were to leave Farnborough for Avonmouth on the seventh day. Instructions were issued naming the hour and place of departure of the various trains, with detailed orders as to machines, personnel, transport, and petrol. On the second day of mobilization a detachment from N Squadron was to proceed to Dover, there to make ready a landing-ground for the other squadrons, and to provide for replenishment of fuel and minor repairs to aircraft. Squadron commanders were urged to work out all necessary arrangements for the journey. How carefully they did this is shown by some of the entries in the squadron diaries. In the diary of N Squadron (Major C. J. Burke’s) a list is given of the articles that were to be carried on each of the machines flying over to France. Besides revolvers, glasses, a spare pair of goggles, and a roll of tools, pilots were ordered to carry with them a water-bottle containing boiled water, a small stove, and, in the haversack, biscuits, cold meat, a piece of chocolate, and a packet of soup-making material.

The programme for mobilization was, in the main, successfully carried out. The headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps left Farnborough for Southampton on the night of the 11th of August, their motor transport having gone before. They embarked at Southampton, with their horses, and reached Amiens on the morning of the 13th. The movements of the Aircraft Park, though it was the last unit to leave England, may be next recorded, because it was in effect the travelling base of the squadrons. The personnel and equipment were entrained at Farnborough during the evening of Saturday, the 15th of August, and travelled to Avonmouth. Of the twenty machines allotted to them only four, all Sopwith Tabloids, were actually taken over in cases. Of the other sixteen (nine B.’s, one B. c, three B.’s, and three Henri Farmans) about half were used to bring the squadrons up to establishment; the remainder were flown over to Amiens by the personnel of the Aircraft Park, or by the spare pilots who accompanied the squadrons. The Aircraft Park embarked at Avonmouth very early on the morning of the 17th, arriving at Boulogne on the night of the 18th. They disembarked, an unfamiliar apparition, on the following morning. The landing officer had no precedent to guide him in dealing with them. Wing Commander W. D. Beatty tells how a wire was dispatched to General Headquarters: ’An unnumbered unit without aeroplanes which calls itself an Aircraft Park has arrived. What are we to do with it?’ If the question was not promptly answered at Boulogne it was answered later on. The original Aircraft Park was the nucleus of that vast system of supply and repair which supported the squadrons operating on the western front and kept them in fighting trim.

On the 21st of August the Aircraft Park moved up to Amiens, to make an advanced base for the squadrons, which were already at Maubeuge. Three days were spent at Amiens in unloading, unpacking, and setting up workshops. Then, on the 25th, they received orders to retire to Le Havre. The retreat from Mons had begun, and Boulogne was being evacuated by the British troops. How far the wave of invasion would flow could not be certainly known; on the 30th of August, at the request of the French admiral who commanded at Le Havre, the machines belonging to the Aircraft Park were employed to carry out reconnaissances along the coast roads; on the following day German cavalry entered Amiens. There was a real danger that stores and machines landed in northern France for the use of the Royal Flying Corps might fall into the hands of the Germans; accordingly a base was established, for the reception of stores from England, at St.-Nazaire, on the Loire. The advanced base of the Aircraft Park moved up, by successive stages, as the prospects of the Allies improved, first from Le Havre to Le Mans, then, at the end of September, to Juvisy, near Paris; lastly, in mid-October, the port base was moved from St.-Nazaire to Rouen, and at the end of October the advanced base left Juvisy for St.-Omer, which became its permanent station during the earlier part of the war.

The squadrons flew to France. N Squadron, at Montrose, had the hardest task. Its pilots started on their southward flight to Farnborough as early as the 3rd of August; after some accidents they all reached Dover. Their transport left Montrose by rail on the morning of the 8th of August and arrived the same evening at Prince’s Dock, Govan, near Glasgow, where the lorries and stores were loaded on S.S. Dogra for Boulogne. N Squadron was at Netheravon when war broke out; on the 12th of August the machines flew to Dover and the transport moved off by road to Southampton, where it was embarked for Boulogne. The squadron suffered a loss at Netheravon. Second Lieutenant R. R. Skene, a skilful pilot, with Air Mechanic R. K. Barlow as passenger, crashed his machine soon after taking off; both pilot and passenger were killed. N Squadron on the 31st of July had been sent to Eastchurch, to assist the navy in preparations for home defence and to be ready for mobilization. From Eastchurch the machines flew to Dover and the transport proceeded to Southampton. By the evening of the 12th of August the machines of Nos. 2, 3, and 4 Squadrons were at Dover. At midnight Lieutenant-Colonel F. H. Sykes arrived, and orders were given for all machines to be ready to fly over at 6.0 a.m. the following morning, the 13th of August.

The first machine of N Squadron to start left at 6.25 a.m., and the first to arrive landed at Amiens at 8.20 a.m. This machine was flown by Lieutenant H. D. Harvey-Kelly, one of the lightest hearted and highest spirited of the young pilots who gave their lives in the war. The machines of N Squadron arrived safely at Amiens, with the exception of one piloted by Second Lieutenant E. N. Fuller, who with his mechanic did not rejoin his squadron until five days later at Maubeuge. One flight of N Squadron remained at Dover to carry out patrol duties, but a wireless flight, consisting of three officers who had made a study of wireless telegraphy, was attached to the squadron, and was taken overseas with it. Some of the aeroplanes of N Squadron were damaged on the way over by following their leader, Captain F. J. L. Cogan, who was forced by engine failure to land in a ploughed field in France.

N Squadron moved a little later than the other three. It was delayed by a shortage of shipping and a series of accidents to the machines. When the Concentration Camp broke up, this squadron had gone to occupy its new station at Gosport. On the 14th, when starting out for Dover, Captain G. I. Carmichael wrecked his machine at Gosport; on the same day Lieutenant R. O. Abercromby and Lieutenant H. F. Glanville damaged their machines at Shoreham, and Lieutenant H. M. Brock damaged his at Salmer. The squadron flew from Dover to France on the 15th of August; Captain Carmichael, having obtained a new machine, flew over on that same day; Lieutenant Brock rejoined the squadron at Maubeuge on the 20th; Lieutenants Abercromby and Glanville on the 22nd. Lieutenant R. M. Vaughan, who had flown over with the squadron, also rejoined it on the 22nd; he had made a forced landing near Boulogne, had been arrested by the French, and was imprisoned for nearly a week.

The transport of the squadrons, which proceeded by way of Southampton, was largely made up from the motor-cars and commercial vans collected at Regent’s Park in London during the first few days of the war. The ammunition and bomb lorry of N Squadron had belonged to the proprietors of a famous sauce: it was a brilliant scarlet, with the legend painted in gold letters on its side-The World’s Appetiser. It could be seen from some height in the air, and it helped the pilots of the squadron, during the retreat from Mons, to identify their own transport.

The names of the officers of the Royal Flying Corps who went to France, the great majority of them by air, deserve record. They were the first organized national force to fly to a war overseas. The following is believed to be a complete list up to the eve of Mons, but it is not infallible. Officers and men were changed up to the last minute, so that the headquarters file, having been prepared in advance, is not authoritative. The squadron war diaries are sometimes sketchy. Even when surviving pilots set down what they remember, the whole war lies between them and those early days, and their memory is often fragmentary. The following list is compiled, as correctly as may be, from the diary of Lieutenant B. H. Barrington-Kennett (a careful and accurate document), the war diaries of Squadrons Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5, which were kept in some detail, the headquarters’ records, and the reminiscences of some of the officers who flew across or who travelled with the transport.


Brigadier-General Sir David Henderson, K.C.B., D.S.O.; Commander,
Royal Flying Corps.
Lieutenant-Colonel F. H. Sykes, 15th Hussars; General Staff Officer,
1st Grade.
Major H. R. M. Brooke-Popham, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light
Infantry; Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General.
Captain W. G. H. Salmond, Royal Artillery; General Staff Officer, 2nd
Lieutenant B. H. Barrington-Kennett, Grenadier Guards; Deputy
Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General.


Captain R. H. L. Cordner, Royal Army Medical Corps.
Captain C. G. Buchanan, Indian Army.
Lieutenant the Hon. M. Baring, Intelligence Corps.
2nd Lieutenant O. G. W. G. Lywood, Norfolk Regiment (Special Reserve);
for Wireless duties.


Squadron Commander.

Major C. J. Burke, Royal Irish Regiment.

Flight Commanders.

Captain G. W. P. Dawes, Royal Berkshire Regiment.
Captain F. F. Waldron, 19th Hussars.
Captain G. E. Todd, Welch Regiment.

Flying Officers.

Lieutenant R. B. Martyn, Wiltshire Regiment.
Lieutenant L. Dawes, Middlesex Regiment.
Lieutenant R. M. Rodwell, West Yorkshire Regiment.
Lieutenant M. W. Noel, Liverpool Regiment.
Lieutenant E. R. L. Corballis, Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Lieutenant H. D. Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment.
Lieutenant W. R. Freeman, Manchester Regiment.
Lieutenant W. H. C. Mansfield, Shropshire Light Infantry.
Lieutenant C. B. Spence, Royal Artillery.
Captain A. B. Burdett, York and Lancaster Regiment.
Captain A. Ross-Hume, Scottish Rifles.
Lieutenant D. S. K. Crosbie, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Lieutenant C. A. G. L. H. Farie, Highland Light Infantry.
Lieutenant T. L. S. Holbrow, Royal Engineers.
2nd Lieutenant G. J. Malcolm, Royal Artillery.


Major C. A. H. Longcroft, Welch Regiment; Squadron
Captain U. J. D. Bourke, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire
Light Infantry; Flight Commander.
Captain W. Lawrence, 7th Battalion, Essex Regiment (Territorial
Force); Flight Commander.


Lieutenant K. R. Van der Spuy, South African Defence Forces.


Squadron Commander.

Major J. M. Salmond, Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Flight Commanders.

Captain P. L. W. Herbert, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment.
Captain L. E. O. Charlton, D.S.O., Lancashire Fusiliers.
Captain P. B. Joubert de la Ferte, Royal Artillery.

Flying Officers.

2nd Lieutenant V. H. N. Wadham, Hampshire Regiment. Lieutenant D. L. Allen, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Lieutenant A. M. Read, Northamptonshire Regiment. Lieutenant E. L. Conran, 2nd County of London Yeomanry. Lieutenant A. Christie, Royal Artillery. Lieutenant A. R. Shekleton, Royal Munster Fusiliers. 2nd Lieutenant E. N. Fuller, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve. Lieutenant W. C. K. Birch, Yorkshire Regiment. Lieutenant G. F. Pretyman, Somerset Light Infantry. Lieutenant W. R. Read, 1st Dragoon Guardnd Lieutenant A. Hartree, Royal Artillery. Lieutenant V. S. E. Lindop, Leinster Regiment. Lieutenant G. L. Cruikshank, Gordon Highlanders (Special Reserve). Lieutenant W. F. MacNeece, Royal West Kent Regimennd Lieutenant L. A. Bryan, South Irish Horse. Major L. B. Boyd-Moss, South Staffordshire Regimennd Lieutenant E. W. C. Perry, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve.


Squadron Commander.

Major G. H. Raleigh, Essex Regiment.

Flight Commanders.

Captain G. S. Shephard, Royal Fusiliers.
Captain A. H. L. Soames, 3rd Hussars.
Captain F. J. L. Cogan, Royal Artillery.

Flying Officers.

Lieutenant P. H. L. Playfair, Royal Artillery. Lieutenant K. P. Atkinson, Royal Artillery. Lieutenant R. P. Mills, Royal Fusiliers (Special Reserve). Lieutenant T. W. Mulcahy-Morgan, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Lieutenant R. G. D. Small, Leinster Regiment. Lieutenant W. G. S. Mitchell, Highland Light Infantry. Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck, Liverpool Regiment (Special Reserve). Lieutenant C. G. Hosking, Royal Artillery. Lieutenant H. J. A. Roche, Royal Munster Fusiliers. Lieutenant I. M. Bonham-Carter, Northumberland Fusiliers. 2nd Lieutenant A. L. Russell, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve.

Wireless Flight.

Lieutenant D. S. Lewis, Royal Engineers.
Lieutenant B. T. James, Royal Engineers.
Lieutenant S. C. W. Smith, East Surrey Regiment (Special Reserve).


Captain D. Le G. Pitcher, Indian Army.
Captain H. L. Reilly, Indian Army.


Squadron Commander.

Major J. F. A. Higgins, D.S.O., Royal Artillery.

Flight Commanders.

Captain D. G. Conner, Royal Artillery.
Captain G. I. Carmichael, Royal Artillery.
Captain R. Grey, Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Force).

Flying Officers.

Lieutenant H. F. Glanville, West India Regiment. Lieutenant F. G. Small, Connaught Rangers. Lieutenant R. O. Abercromby, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant C. W. Wilson, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve. Lieutenant H. M. Brock, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Lieutenant R. M. Vaughan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Lieutenant L. da C. Penn-Gaskell, Norfolk Regiment (Special Reserve). Lieutenant A. E. Borton, Royal Highlanders. Lieutenant Lord G. Wellesley, Grenadier Guards. Lieutenant C. G. G. Bayly, Royal Engineers. Lieutenant C. E. C. Rabagliati, Yorkshire Light Infantrnd Lieutenant A. A. B. Thomson, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant L. A. Strange, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant R. R. Smith-Barry, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant D. C. Ware, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant V. Waterfall, East Yorkshire Regiment (Special Reserve). Captain R. A. Boger, Royal Engineers. Captain B. C. Fairfax, Reserve of Officers.


Lieutenant G. S. Creed, South African Defence Forces.


Squadron Commander.

Major A. D. Carden, Royal Engineers.

Flight Commanders.

Major Hon. C. M. P. Brabazon, Irish Guards.
Captain W. D. Beatty, Royal Engineers.
Captain R. Cholmondeley, Rifle Brigade.
Lieutenant G. B. Hynes, Royal Artillery.

Flying Officers.

Lieutenant G. T. Porter, Royal Artillernd Lieutenant C. G. Bell, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reservnd Lieutenant N. C. Spratt, Royal Flying Corps, Special Reserve. Lieutenant R. H. Verney, Army Service Corps.

Something must be said of the machines which flew to France. Experience at manoeuvres had favoured the factory B. biplane; of the other types most in use the Henri Farman had been found fatiguing to fly, and the Maurice Farman was too slow. Accordingly, in the winter of 1913-14 Lieutenant-Colonel F. H. Sykes had urged the gradual substitution of B.E. machines for the Farmans. Major W. S. Brancker, writing for the Director-General of Military Aeronautics, objected to this proposal on the ground that until a satisfactory type of fighting aeroplane should be evolved, the Henri Farman was the only machine that could mount weapons effectively; and further, that a slow machine had some advantages for observation. The first of these objections was not fully met until firing through the airscrew was introduced; the second was for a long time an accepted idea. The war was to prove that a slow machine, exposed to armed attack, cannot live in the air. The battle of the machines ended, for the time, in compromise. It was judged important that the Flying Corps should have four squadrons ready for war by the spring of 1914, and large changes would have caused delay. In the event, at the date of mobilization, N Squadron and N Squadron were furnished throughout with B. machines; N Squadron made use of Bleriots and Henri Farmans, and N of Henri Farmans, Avros, and B.’s. A single type of machine for a single squadron is a thing to be desired; the squadron is easier for the pilots and the mechanics to handle; but in the early days of the war there was no formation flying; each machine did its work alone, so that uniformity was of less importance.

When the Flying Corps arrived in France they were received by the French with enthusiasm, and had their full share of the hospitality of those days. The officers were treated as honoured guests; the men with the transport were greeted by crowds of villagers, who at all their stopping-places pressed on them bottles of wine, bunches of flowers, fruit, and eggs. At Amiens the transport and machines were parked outside the town, without cover, and the officers were billeted at the ‘Hotel du Rhin’ and elsewhere. The hardships of the war were yet to come. Lieutenant B. H. Barrington-Kennett, with his mind always set on the task before them, remarks: ’There seemed to be a general misunderstanding amongst the troops as to the length of time during which rations have to last. They were apt to eat what they wanted at one meal and then throw the remainder away. R.F.C. peace training does not encourage economy with food, as the men are financially well off, and can always buy food and drink in the villages.’

On Sunday, the 16th of August, the headquarters of the Flying Corps, the aeroplanes of Nos. 2, 3, and 4 Squadrons, and the transport of Nos. 3 and 4 Squadrons moved from Amiens to Maubeuge. Second Lieutenant E. W. C. Perry and his mechanic, H. E. Parfitt, of N Squadron, who were flying a B. machine (familiarly known as a ’bloater’), crashed over the aerodrome at Amiens; the machine caught fire, and both were killed. There was another accident on the 18th, when the aeroplanes and transport of N Squadron followed. Second Lieutenant R. R. Smith-Barry and Corporal F. Geard, also flying a B. machine, crashed at Peronne; the officer broke several bones, and the corporal was killed. Three of these machines in all were flown over at the beginning; they had been allotted to the Aircraft Park, and were taken on charge of the squadrons in the field to fill vacancies caused by mishaps. The third of them was the machine flown over by Captain G. I. Carmichael.

At Maubeuge the French authorities gave all the help they could, providing blankets and straw for the troops. The Flying Corps were now in the war zone, but for the first two or three days the conditions were those of peace. They saw nothing of the British army till one evening British troops marched through Maubeuge on their way to Mons. ’We were rather sorry they had come,’ says Wing Commander P. B. Joubert de la Ferte, ’because up till that moment we had only been fired on by the French whenever we flew. Now we were fired on by French and English.... To this day I can remember the roar of musketry that greeted two of our machines as they left the aerodrome and crossed the main Maubeuge-Mons road, along which a British column was proceeding.’ To guard against incidents like this the Flying Corps, while stationed at Maubeuge, turned to, and by working all night painted a Union Jack in the form of a shield on the under-side of the lower planes of all the machines.

While the Flying Corps remained at Maubeuge and began to carry out reconnaissances over Belgium, the little British army had moved up north to Mons, where it first met the enemy. By the 22nd of August it was in position, on a front of some twenty-five miles, the First Army Corps holding a line from Harmignies to Peissant on the east, the Second Army Corps holding Mons and the canal that runs from Mons to Conde on the west. On the right of the British the Fifth French Army, under General Lanrezac, was coming up to the line of the river Sambre.

The original German plan was broad and simple. The main striking force was to march through Belgium and Luxembourg into France. Its advance was to be a wheel pivoting on Thionville. Count von Schlieffen, who had vacated the appointment of Chief of the General Staff in 1906, had prepared this plan. He maintained that if the advance of a strong right wing, marching on Paris through Belgium, were firmly persisted in, it would draw the bulk of the French forces away from their eastern fortress positions to the neighbourhood of Paris, and that there the decisive battle would be fought. His successor, von Moltke, believed that the French, on the outbreak of war, would at once deliver a strong offensive in Lorraine and so would themselves come into the open, away from the bastion of the eastern fortresses. He must be prepared, he thought, to fight the decisive battle either on his left wing in Lorraine, or on his right wing near Paris, or, in short, at any point that the initial operations of the French should determine. This was not the conception of Count von Schlieffen, who had intended to impose his will on the campaign and to make the enemy conform to his movements. When he was on his death-bed in 1913, his thoughts were fixed on the war. ‘It must come to a fight,’ were the last words he was heard to mutter, ‘only give me a strong right wing.’ Von Moltke, though he did not absolutely weaken the right wing, weakened it relatively, by using most of the newly formed divisions of the German army for strengthening the left wing.

The French, when the war came, delivered their offensive in Alsace and Lorraine as had been expected, but not in the strength that had been expected. They were held up, and retired, not without loss, to strong defensive positions covering Épinal and Nancy. Meantime, the advance of the German armies through Belgium was met by a French offensive in the Ardennes, which also failed, whereupon General Joffre ordered a retreat on the whole front, and began to move some of his forces westward, to prepare for the battle in front of Paris.

The successes won by the German left wing and centre against a yielding and retreating enemy were mistaken by the German high command for decisive actions, which they were not. The French armies which had been driven back on the Lorraine front rapidly recovered, and on the 25th of August delivered a brilliant counter-offensive, inflicting heavy losses on the Germans, and in effect upsetting all the German plans. The indecision which marked the movements of the German right wing through northern France had its origin in von Moltke’s modifications of von Schlieffen’s plans and in the readiness of the Germans to believe that the war was virtually won.

The heroic stand made by the Belgians at Liege purchased invaluable time for the preparations of the Allies. When, on the 17th of August, the last fort of Liege fell, the great wheel of the German northern armies began to revolve. Its pace was to be regulated by the pace of the armies nearest to its circumference; that is to say, the First Army, under von Kluck, and the Second Army, under von Buelow. Three divisions of cavalry were to advance against the line Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi, moving westward across Belgium in order to discover whether a Belgian army was still in being, whether the British had landed any troops, and whether French forces were moving up into northern Belgium. The Belgian army retired within the defensive lines of Antwerp, and by the 20th of August Brussels was in the hands of the enemy. By the 22nd, von Buelow’s army had entered Charleroi and was crossing the Sambre. The repulse of the French centre in the Ardennes left the British army and the French Fifth Army completely isolated on the front Mons-Charleroi. The French Fifth Army began to retreat. On Sunday morning, the 23rd of August, von Kluck’s army came into action against the British position at Mons.

The British army had taken up its position in high hopes. It was not a British defeat which began the retreat from Mons, and the troops were not well pleased when they were ordered to retire. But the retreat was inevitable, and the most that the British could do was by rearguard actions to put a brake upon the speed of the advancing enemy until such time as they should be able to form up again in the Allied line and assail him. Much depended on their power to gain information concerning the movements of the enemy, so that they might know their own dangers and opportunities. Von Kluck had at first no definite news of the whereabouts of the British army. As late as the 20th of August the German Supreme Command had issued a communication to the German armies stating that ’a disembarkation of British Forces at Boulogne and their employment from the direction of Lille must be taken into account. It is the opinion here, however, that a landing on a big scale has not yet taken place.’ General von Zwehl, Commander of the Seventh Reserve Corps, writing in September 1919, tells how the Germans had no reliable information concerning the British expeditionary force. ’It was only on the 22nd of August,’ he says, ’that an English cavalry squadron was heard of at Casteau, six miles north-east of Mons, and an aeroplane of the English fifth flying squadron was shot down that had gone up from Maubeuge. The presence of the English in front was thus established, although nothing as regards their strength.’ The first news that reached General von Kluck of the presence of the British forces came to him from a British, not from a German, aeroplane.

The first aerial reconnaissances by the Royal Flying Corps were carried out on Wednesday, the 19th of August, by Captain P. B. Joubert de la Ferte of N Squadron, in a Bleriot, and Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck of N Squadron, in a B.E. They started at 9.30 a.m., and flew without observers. Captain Joubert de la Ferte was to reconnoitre Nivelles-Genappe in order to report what Belgian forces were in that neighbourhood; Lieutenant Mapplebeck was to find out whether enemy cavalry were still in force in the neighbourhood of Gembloux. The machines were to fly together as far as Nivelles, ’so that if one was obliged to descend the other could report its whereabouts’. The machines lost their way and lost each other. Lieutenant Mapplebeck eventually found himself over a large town which he failed to recognize as Brussels. Later he picked up his position at Ottignies, and soon found Gembloux, where he could see only a small body of cavalry moving in a south-easterly direction. After leaving Gembloux he was enveloped in cloud for some miles, came down to 300 feet over Namur, followed the Sambre, missed Maubeuge, and landed near Le Cateau, whence he flew back to the aerodrome at Maubeuge. He had been away from 9.30 a.m. to 12.0 midday. Captain Joubert de la Ferte, whose machine was slower than Lieutenant Mapplebeck’s, attempted to steer by compass through the banks of cloud, and after two hours of wandering landed at Tournai. He made inquiries concerning the Belgian army, but nothing was known of them. He left Tournai at 12.15 p.m., lost his way again, and at 2.0 p.m. landed at Courtrai. Here he was told by the gendarmerie that the headquarters of the Belgian flying corps was at Louvain. He left Courtrai at 3.0 p.m. and passed over Ath, Hal, Braine l’Alleud, Nivelles, returning to Maubeuge at 5.30 p.m. He reported occasional trains in the main stations and pickets on the roads to Brussels.

On the 20th Major C. A. H. Longcroft, with Captain U. J. D. Bourke as observer, reconnoitred as far as Louvain and reported a force of all arms moving south-west through Tervueren, and another force moving into Wavre. They also saw an aerodrome just east of Louvain with seven machines on the ground. Lieutenant E. R. L. Corballis, who, with Captain G. E. Todd, flew over the area Nivelles-Hal-Enghien, reported that there was no sign of troops and that all bridges in the area appeared to be intact. The German flood was spreading but was still some distance away. On the following day (an important day of enemy movements) the weather in the morning was too foggy for observation, and in the afternoon was rainy and misty. Three reconnaissances which were made in the afternoon showed that the country immediately in front of the British was very quiet, but in the wood one mile south of Nivelles Lieutenant Corballis reported a large body of cavalry with some guns and infantry (this was later identified as the German 9th Cavalry Division), and another body of infantry moving south on Charleroi. At Pont-a-Celles on the Charleroi canal, south of Nivelles, three villages were seen to be burning.

On the 22nd there were twelve reconnaissances which revealed the presence of large bodies of troops moving in the direction of the British front, and did much to dissipate the fog of war. The first machine to return came in soon after eleven. This was piloted by Captain G. S. Shephard, with Lieutenant I. M. Bonham-Carter as observer. They had landed at Beaumont (about twelve miles east of Maubeuge) for petrol. Here they were informed that French cavalry had encountered German infantry north of the Sambre canal on the previous afternoon, and had had to fall back. The next machine to return came in at 11.50 a.m. with a wounded observer, Sergeant-Major D. S. Jillings of N Squadron. He was the first British soldier to be wounded in an aeroplane, and this casualty seemed to bring the German armies nearer than a dozen unmolested reconnaissances could have done. The machine, piloted by Lieutenant M. W. Noel, had come under heavy rifle fire first of all at Ollignies, south-east of Lessines, and then, after passing over a cavalry regiment just south-west of Ghislenghien, had been met with rifle and machine-gun fire. Frequent rifle fire was encountered all the way back to Ath, and just south-east of Ath, over Maffle, Sergeant-Major Jillings had been wounded in the leg by a rifle bullet. Confirmation of the presence of large bodies of enemy in this area came from Captain L. E. O. Charlton flying as observer with Second Lieutenant V. H. N. Wadham. They started at 10.0 a.m. and passed over Charleroi, Gembloux, and Brussels without seeing any large movements, but reported that the northern part of Charleroi and many other towns and villages in that area were burning. From Brussels they went on towards Grammont, and landed at Moerbeke, two miles south-east of Grammont, to make inquiries. Here they received information which hastened their departure. They learnt that a force of 5,000 Germans was in Grammont, that cavalry and cyclists were in Lessines, and that cavalry were expected from Enghien to arrive in Ath that evening. When passing over Bassilly, about half-way between Ath and Enghien, they were fired on by enemy troops which they estimated at the strength of an infantry brigade, and they drew further fire from patrols in Ath. They came in with their information at 1.10 p.m.; Lieutenant W. H. C. Mansfield just before this had reported large bodies moving into Enghien and Soignies. Afternoon reconnaissances added little that was new except that there were cavalry and infantry in the area north of the Mons-Conde canal, and cavalry as far west as Peruwelz.

The most important reconnaissance of the day is unfortunately not recorded in the war diary. The value of the report when it came in was recognized at once, and Brigadier-General Sir David Henderson took it personally to General Headquarters. It stated that a long column, whose strength was estimated to be that of an army corps, was moving westward on the Brussels-Ninove road. At Ninove the column continued south-west towards Grammont. This was von Kluck’s Second Corps, and the report seemed to show an attempt at an enveloping movement. The same report confirmed what had already been seen, the presence of enemy troops moving along the great Chaussee on Soignies. This column was taking advantage of the trees on either side of the road to shield its movements. This was the first day on which a machine failed to return from over enemy territory. Lieutenants V. Waterfall and C. G. G. Bayly, of N Squadron, started on a reconnaissance in an Avrò at 10.16 a.m. and next day were reported missing. It was the bringing down of this machine, no doubt, which gave the Germans their first assurance of the presence of the British forces. The observer’s report, so far as he had written it, was picked up near the wreckage of the machine by some Belgian peasants, and eventually found its way to the War Office in London.

Sir John French on the evening of the 22nd held a conference at Le Cateau, whereat the position of the Germans, so far as it was then known, was explained and discussed. At the close of the conference Sir John stated that owing to the retreat of the French Fifth Army, the British offensive would not take place. A request from General Lanrezac arrived at 11.0 p.m., asking for offensive action against the German right flank, which was pressing him back from the Sambre. This could not be undertaken, but Sir John French promised to remain in his position for twenty-four hours.

In his book, A Staff Officer’s Scrap Book, Sir Ian Hamilton, who was attached to the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War, has the following entry: ’The Russians are sending up balloons to our front, and in front of the Twelfth Division. Judging by manoeuvres and South African experiences, they should now obtain a lot of misleading intelligence.’ Observation from the air, when the war broke out, had still to prove its worth. The Royal Flying Corps, though confident of its own ability, was a new and untried arm. In the early reports there are occasional inaccuracies. Some of the early observers, among those who were hastily enrolled to bring newly formed squadrons up to strength, had not much military knowledge, and were not practised in reading the appearances of things seen from the air. At the time of the battles of Ypres, 1914, observers of N Squadron, which had prepared itself in hot haste for foreign service, mistook long patches of tar on macadamized roads for troops on the move, and the shadows cast by the gravestones in a churchyard for a military bivouac. Mistakes like these, though they were not very many, naturally made commanding officers shy of trusting implicitly to reports from the air. Yet the early reports of the first four squadrons did show without any possibility of mistake how formidable the German movements were.

Sir John French remained at Mons and was led into fighting a battle in a perilous position against much superior forces. The air reports of the 22nd had given some hints of the success of von Buelow’s army in crossing the Sambre, had indicated a possible enveloping movement from the direction of Grammont, and had revealed something of the strength of the enemy troops on the British front. On the following day the attack began on the position at Mons, and pilots and observers were flying over and behind the battle-field looking for enemy movements, and locating enemy batteries.

On the 24th the retreat was in progress. As early as the morning of the 23rd the Royal Flying Corps had begun to shift its quarters from Maubeuge to Le Cateau. The transport and machines of N Squadron moved southward on that day, and on the 24th headquarters and other squadrons also moved to Le Cateau. ‘We slept,’ says Major Maurice Baring, ’and when I say we I mean dozens of pilots, fully dressed in a barn, on the top of, and underneath, an enormous load of straw.... Everybody was quite cheerful, especially the pilots.’ On the afternoon of the 25th they moved again to St.-Quentin. The rapidity of the retreat put a heavy strain upon the headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps, which had to travel before the retreating army, to select an old aerodrome or to make a new one almost every day, and in the brief hours between arrival and departure to carry on all the complicated and delicate business of ministering to the needs of the squadrons. The places occupied by headquarters during the retreat were as follows:

Sunday, 16th    August          Maubeuge.
Monday, 24th    August          Le Cateau.
Tuesday, 25th   August          St.-Quentin.
Wednesday, 26th August          La Fere.
Friday, 28th    August          Compiègne.
Sunday, 30th    August          Senlis.
Monday, 31st    August          Juilly.
Wednesday, 2nd  September       Serris.
Thursday, 3rd   September       Touquin.
Friday, 4th     September       Melun.

In some of these places regular aérodromes were available, in others a landing-ground had to be improvised. Sometimes officers of headquarters would be sent on a long way ahead in motor-cars to select a landing-ground, while another officer in a motor-car was detailed to guide the transport. This he did by taking with him a small number of men and dropping them one by one at the partings of the ways. When the route was very complicated, these guides became so many that they had to be carried in a transport lorry. The transport drivers were not as yet skilled in the art of map-reading, and to lose the transport would have left the Flying Corps helpless. Sometimes the officers who selected the landing-ground moved with the transport, and made their choice when the transport reached its destination. The only recognized French aérodromes which were used by the Royal Flying Corps during the retreat were those at Compiègne, Senlis, and Melun.

Whilst the aérodromes were changing almost daily, the officers carried on reconnaissance, sometimes starting out not knowing whether their aerodrome would be in British or enemy hands by the time they should return. On the 24th, whilst the squadrons were moving from Maubeuge to Le Cateau, the enemy advance as seen from the air looked menacing enough. Captain G. S. Shephard and Lieutenant I. M. Bonham-Carter were watching von Kluck’s right wing soon after 4.0 a.m. They returned at six o’clock with news of extensive movement about Ath and Leuze. They reported a broken column nearly ten miles long with its head pointing at Peruwelz. The column branched off the main Ath-Tournai road at Leuze. This was part of von Kluck’s Second Corps, and its line of march would take it to the west of the extreme western flank of the British army. The news was not reassuring. Captain H. C. Jackson as observer with Lieutenant E. L. Conran went up at 8.30 a.m. and came back at 12.30 p.m. with information of long enemy columns moving from Grammont through Lessines into La Hamaide and further troops on the Ath-Leuze road. They had flown as far as Ninove and Alost, but found the country there clear. On returning over Lessines at 11.30 a.m. they saw three German aeroplanes on the ground; they dropped a bomb overboard, but missed.

In the evening of the 24th, the first day of the retreat, the position was on the whole not unsatisfactory. The British Fifth Division had not only defended six miles of front, but with the aid of the cavalry and the 19th Infantry Brigade had met and beaten off von Kluck’s enveloping attack. But that attack was soon renewed. On the following morning a heavy movement of German troops southward from Marchiennes, with cavalry, guns, and transport, was reported at six o’clock. Marchiennes is almost midway between Valenciennes and Douai, to the west of the British line of retreat. This moving line of troops continued southward through Somain for a distance of about five miles, and then bent in a south-easterly direction, pointing straight at Le Cateau, until it reached Bouchain, where there were mounted and dismounted troops extending over three miles. But Le Cateau was not the objective of these troops. General von Kluck believed that the next stand of the British army, after Mons, would be made on a position running east and west through Bavai, and resting its right on the fortress of Maubeuge. The troops seen at Bouchain were intended to envelop it and take it in the rear. Meantime the British army, having escaped the lure of Maubeuge, was continuing its painful march southward on both sides of the Forest of Mormal; and the claw that was extended to catch it closed upon air.

These movements of von Kluck’s army on the 25th were influenced by his own air reports, which appear to have misled him. The army order issued by him from Soignies at 8.30 p.m. on the night of the 24th assumed that the British army would accept battle on the line Maubeuge-Bavai-Valenciennes. Von Kluck was very hopeful. ’The outflanking of the left of the British Army,’ he says, ’on the assumption that it remained in position, appeared to be guaranteed.’ An important air report which reached him at 1.0 a.m. on the 25th led him to suspect that the British were withdrawing on Maubeuge. Speaking of this report, he says: ’Enemy columns of all arms were in retreat on the roads Bellignies-Bavai, La Flamengrie-Bavai, and Gommegnies-Bavai. The direction in which the movement was being made beyond Bavai had not yet been determined; nevertheless, the army commander began to suspect that the British were withdrawing on Maubeuge.’ He sent out orders in great haste by motor-car for the army to advance in a more southerly direction. At 9.0 a.m. however, a new air report came as a surprise. Long British columns of all arms were moving from Bavai along the Roman road to Le Cateau, and numerous small columns, single companies, batteries, squadrons, and cars were crossing the Selle, north and south of Solesmes. ’The enemy was marching in an almost opposite direction to what was supposed earlier in the morning.’ A fresh order was at once sent out to attack the British and bring them to a standstill. Von Kluck does not quote these air reports. But he says enough to show that he was misled chiefly by his own preconceptions. Hope told a flattering tale, and he seems to have been possessed by the idea that the British army would be tempted into the fortress of Maubeuge.

The whole body of information which on any one day was obtained from the reconnaissances of the Royal Flying Corps could be set out in detail only by quoting all the reports in full. That would be too cumbrous a method of writing history. The reports contain much that is comparatively insignificant. But the reader of this book may desire to know exactly what an air report is like, and his curiosity shall be gratified. Here is the report, of no special tactical significance, but full of incident, of a long air reconnaissance made by Lieutenant G. F. Pretyman and Major L. B. Boyd-Moss in a machine of N Squadron, on the day of the battle of Le Cateau:

No. of Reconnaissance: 57. Hour Started: 11.10 a.m.
Date: 26.8.1914. Hour Ended: 1.40 p.m.
Aeroplane No.: 387. Pilot: Lieutenant G. F. Pretyman.

Observer: Major L. B. Boyd-Moss.

Time. Place. Observation.

11.50 Honnechy. Gun-fire and shells bursting all along
the line from Honnechy towards
Cambrai. Caudry partly in flames.

11.52 Le Cateau. Burning. Howitzers open fire on us.
Artillery moving through village
of Ors. Several motor-cars moving
south through Croix.

11.55 Foret de Big column of troops moving along
Mormal. the road running along western
edge of the forest. Head at Englefontaine-Rear
at point where the
branch road leads off to Gommegnies.
Artillery moving through
centre of forest towards Landrecies.

12.0 Le Quesnoy. Full of troops.

12.5 Bavai. Scattered parties of troops and
wagons on all roads leading N.
No big columns.

12.15 Blaugies. Blocked with transport. Dropped
bomb into transport parked 1/2 mile
S. of village. Transport stretching
along the road from Dour
to Houdain (not closed up-big

12.40 Wargnies. Can make very little progress against

12.50 Saultain. Transport from Saultain to Preseau
moving south.

12.59 Valenciennes. All roads leading E.-N.E. and S.E.

1.5 Valenciennes. No troops visible in town.

1.6 Landing-cross and two aeroplanes
close to Valenciennes-Cambrai
road 1-1/2 miles from Valenciennes.
Aircraft gun fires on us from landing-place.
Mechanical transport halted on road. Squadron
of cavalry in bivouac.

1.15 In clouds-making very little progress.

1.30 N. of Cambrai. Descend to 3,000 out of clouds. Troops marching
S.W. down main road.

1.35 Cambrai in flames and occupied by Germans.

1.40 W. of Cambrai. Under heavy infantry fire. Engine put out of
action by bullet. Glide two miles farther W.
clear of enemy, and land. Burn machine and join
French Cavalry retreating towards Arras.
Commandeer two bicycles and go to Gouzeaucourt
where we get car and report to
Brigade near Le Catelet.

Get back to St. Quentin about 11.30 p.m. and
report to General Smith-Dorrien.

(Signed) L. B. BOYD-MOSS, Major.

The machine, it will be seen, dropped a bomb on a park of transport vehicles, was fired at by howitzers, and was brought down by heavy infantry fire. A more dreaded enemy here makes an early appearance-the prevailing westerly wind. This wind was the heaviest trial for pilots during years on the western front; it made it easy to get at the enemy and difficult to get away from him; the road to safety always, while the west wind was blowing, lay uphill.

On this same day-the day of the battle of Le Cateau-the First Army Corps under Sir Douglas Haig was delayed, and failed to reach its appointed position in touch with the Second Army Corps. Lieutenant A. E. Borton and Lieutenant F. G. Small were dispatched from headquarters in a machine of N Squadron to ‘find Sir Douglas Haig’. With them went Lieutenant D. S. Lewis in a B.E. machine fitted with wireless apparatus. He was to report by wireless when Sir Douglas Haig was found. Lieutenants Borton and Small in their Henri Farman, being unable to find a suitable landing-ground in the rear of the First Army Corps, landed between the firing lines in a field protected by a rise in the ground from the direct fire of the enemy. With the aid of a cavalry patrol they succeeded in delivering their message to Sir Douglas Haig, after which they returned to their machine, started up the engine, and flew away in the presence of two Uhlans, who had just ridden into the field. Meantime, Lieutenant Lewis, to whom they were unable to signal, lost touch with them; he circled in the air for an hour under fire, and returned with one shell splinter and four bullet-holes in his machine, and with one of his hands grazed by a bullet. Captain L. E. O. Charlton was also sent at 11.30 a.m. to report to General Smith-Dorrien at Bertry. ‘I found him’, he says, ’in considerable anxiety as to his left about Haucourt and Selvigny. Having been on that flank at 9.30 a.m., I was able to reassure him as to its safety, and made another ascent to confirm my previous reconnaissance. During the reconnaissance I was able to report that the enemy had made no progress, though their shell-fire had increased. I was sent up again to examine the right about Le Cateau, and on reporting at 2.45 p.m. the General told me that the Fifth Division had been unable to withstand a most determined artillery attack, and had come back. He added that he had no doubt he would succeed in getting them back somehow, and requested me to inform Sir Archibald Murray. I left at 3.0 p.m. and reported to General Headquarters as ordered.’

General Smith-Dorrien did succeed in getting them back. The stand made at Le Cateau was a great fight against odds; and the part played in the battle by the Royal Flying Corps seems a little thing when it is compared with the gallant resistance of the infantry. But British machines were flying over the enemy, under fire, within full view of the British army, and some British officers who took part in the battle have described how the sight of our aeroplanes above them raised the spirits of the troops and gave them a feeling of security.

Copies of the original reports made out by observers before and during the retreat from Mons are preserved in the war diary of headquarters, Royal Flying Corps. It is not possible to say when each of these reports reached General Headquarters; they were sent in as soon as possible after the machines landed-some of them at once by telephone. When the reports are systematically mapped out, day by day, they give a fairly accurate picture of the German advance and throw light on the German plans. General von Kluck speaks more than once of driving the British army before him, but the complete map of the German movements, as they were reported day by day from the air, shows that his predominant idea was to envelop them. Always the crab-like claw is seen extended to the west and beginning to close in on the line of the British retreat; always the British army is already at a point farther south on the line, out of the reach of the claw. When with swollen and blistered feet and half asleep on the march, the patient British soldier carried on, he was doing more to defeat the Germans than he could have done if his dearest wish had been granted and he had been allowed to make a desperate stand. It is a wonderful army that can suffer the long depression and fatigue of such a retreat and yet keep its fighting quality unimpaired.

Von Kluck’s advance after the battle of Le Cateau was directed to the south-west. Speaking of the situation on the 28th. of August, he says, ’The occupation of the Somme area marked the conclusion of the fighting with the British Army for the time being. In spite of the great efforts of the First Army the British had escaped the repeated attempts to envelop them. They continued their retreat southwards.’ On the same day the headquarters of the German army propounded a new task. ’The left wing of the main French forces’, they wrote, ’is retreating in a southerly and south-westerly direction in front of the victorious Second and Third Armies. It appears to be of decisive importance to find the flank of this force, whether retreating or in position, force it away from Paris, and outflank it. Compared with this new objective the attempt to force the British Army away from the coast is of minor importance.’

The German Supreme Command were giving most of their attention to the operations on their left wing, where the Fifth and Sixth German Armies were converging for the attack on Nancy, which town, when it fell, was to witness the triumphal entry of the German Emperor. Meantime, the French, trusting to the strength of their eastern fortifications, were rapidly taking troops away from their eastern armies to form a new French army, the Sixth, which was to operate to the north of Paris and was to take part in the counter-offensive against the German First and Second Armies. This was unknown to the German Command, who thought that victory lay within the grasp of their eastern armies.

On the evening of the 30th of August General von Kluck received wireless messages from the headquarters of the Second Army reporting a decisive victory, and asking the First Army to wheel inwards towards the line La Fere-Laon in order to gain the full advantages of the victory. General von Kluck replied that the First Army had wheeled round towards the Oise and would advance on the 31st by Compiègne and Noyon to exploit the success of the Second Army. This was the much-discussed wheeling movement, or swerve, which was discovered by the British from the air. Von Kluck had been ordered by the German Supreme Command on the 28th to continue his march towards the Lower Seine. Now, in response to von Buelow’s request, he wheeled his army south-eastwards towards the Oise. The German Supreme Command was informed of this, and replied, ’The movement begun by the First Army is in accordance with the wishes of the Supreme Command’. The Royal Flying Corps reports of the 31st of August gave to the British Command the first intimation of what was happening. Here is one of them:

Date: 31.8.1914. Pilot: Lieutenant A. E. Borton.
Observer: Captain E. W. Furse.

Hour at which reconnaissance commenced: 9.20 a.m.

Time. Place. Observation.

9.55 Villeneuve. Motor T.

9.58 E. Roberval. "

10.2 At Station N. of Motor T. halted clear of road.

10.6 La Croix. Cavalry and transport much opened
out, head La Croix.

10.13 Compiègne. Clear.

10:20 Chevincourt. Cavalry about 1 Bde. moving towards
Thourotte. Head near that
place. More cavalry and guns
following across fields. Bivouac at
Chevincourt. Transport coming
in from Marest road 10.25.

10.26 Mareuil. Cavalry column still continues-opened
out-new column trotting S.

10.27 Lassigny. Artillery just S. of town moving
south. Column ended just S. of
Lassigny (1/2 mile). Another column,
tail Lassigny, was moving towards Thiescourt.
Also mounted troops. About one mile N. of
Lassigny mounted troops in bivouac
and on road from Roye, stretching
right up to Roye. Columns included
guns and motor transport.
Parked transport just N. of Roye.

10.50 Roye. Three Batteries halted in field 1-1/2 m.
S.E. of Roye. Besides the column
stretching south to Lassigny,
there was another column stretching
S.E. on Noyon road. German
aeroplane on ground S. of Roye.

10.55 Conchy. Infantry and guns moving due east
through Conchy.
Orvillers. Few troops in village.

11.0 Ressons. Went up road east of railway. This
was clear.

11.3 Margny. Squadrons moving S.E.

11.7 Compiègne road Troop car moving towards Compiègne.
2-1/2 miles S.E. of

Estrees-St.-Denis. Squadrons at intervals down this
road from Roye. Just S. of
Estrees a Bde. of Cav. and one
battery halted clear of road.

Bazicourt. Cav. Inf. and Transport seen.
Squadron Cav. moving N. out of
Bazicourt. Inf.-much opened
out-moving east into Bazicourt
from Rosoy. Inf. looked in dark
uniform. Transport-some halted
and some moving south.

11.25 Sarron. 2 Regts. Cav. moving east from

11.27 Pont-St.-Maxence. Motor Transport. Some halted.
Some going south.

No bridges over Oise appeared to be destroyed. Some barges might have been sunk in stream at Compiègne.

(Signed) E. W. FURSE.

It will be seen that Captain E. W. Furse, when he picked up the enemy, first observed Marwitz’s cavalry corps which crossed the Oise at Thourotte on the morning of the 31st. He then saw part of the German Third Corps, which, after spending the night in Roye, moved on the 31st through Lassigny, crossed the Oise at Ribecourt, and in the evening reached Attichy on the Aisne. The remainder of the Third Corps moved on Noyon and at night reached Vic on the Aisne. These movements on Noyon and Ribecourt differed in direction from the previous movements of the German left wing.

The reports supplement and confirm one another. Captain D. Le G. Pitcher, of N Squadron, had gone up with Captain A. H. L. Soames soon after 7.0 a.m., and had returned at 8.40 a.m. with the news of a column stretching from Roye to Chevincourt. This information was at once telephoned from the aerodrome at Senlis to General Headquarters. The movements of some of the other formations of the German First Army were also seen to have changed direction. Lieutenant C. G. Hosking and Lieutenant K. P. Atkinson on a B.E. of N Squadron flew over Roye and Lassigny, confirming the report of movements in that area. Then turning west they passed over various columns moving in a southerly direction until they reached the road that follows along the east bank of the river Avre from Amiens through Montdidier, and here they found part of the German Second Corps. The head of the main body was in Montdidier at 2.0 p.m., and its tail was in La Neuville. Flying south along the road they found the advanced guard of the column at Le Ployron.

All these air reports left little doubt as to the enemy’s movements, and the operation orders sent out by General Headquarters from Dammartin-en-Goele at 8.50 p.m. on the 31st of August gave the information that the enemy appeared to have completed his westerly movement, and that large columns were advancing in a general southerly or south-easterly direction on Noyon-Compiègne. Sir John French directed that the retirement should be continued on the following day in a south-westerly direction.

Air reconnaissances of the 1st of September, whilst confirming the news of von Kluck’s wheel in a south-easterly direction, also reported heavy columns as having reached Villers-Cotterets and Crepy-en-Valois. To withdraw the British out of reach of a night attack Sir John French decided to continue the retreat earlier than he had intended. The corps commanders were ordered to get clear by a night march. We know now from von Kluck’s own statement that, perturbed at leaving the British army on his flank, he determined to make another effort to catch them up. He therefore ordered his corps to turn south to settle with the British. So on the 1st of September he was again in pursuit of the British, but the British were slipping from his grasp. There was fighting on this day, which held up the pursuit, and by the evening the German army had made an average advance of no more than ten miles.

Von Kluck persisted on the following day, but in vain. The British escaped towards the Marne. ‘A chance of dealing a decisive blow’, he says, ’against the British Army was now no longer to be hoped for, and it was therefore decided to move the two Corps on the left wing, the Third and Ninth, in the general direction of Chateau-Thierry against the flank of the French retreating from Braisne-Fismes on Chateau-Thierry-Dormáns in front of the Second Army.’

The air reports which came in on the 3rd of September showed much of this further change of plan. Long columns were seen marching almost due east towards the Ourcq and later in the day other columns were nearing the Marne. Some had already crossed the Marne at Chateau-Thierry, whilst others were making for crossings west of that town. At 4.35 p.m. General Headquarters sent out the following telegram:

’Present information leads to the belief that the enemy is moving from west to east and that no immediate attack is intended. Unless the situation again changes troops will remain in their present billets. The Commander-in-Chief is most anxious that the Army should have a complete rest to-morrow. No digging or other operations except those necessary for protection will be undertaken unless special orders are issued.’

Pilots who went out soon after dawn on the morning of the 4th found a thick mist over the river Marne extending to the depth of a mile on either bank, but various columns were seen stirring out of bivouacs on the north of the river and there were other movements well to the south of the river. At 12.20 p.m. Lieutenant R. P. Mills saw movements between Bellot and Rebais and artillery in action on the high ground one mile south-east of Bellot. In the afternoon there came fuller reports of movements towards the Petit Morin. The situation as traced at Royal Flying Corps headquarters on the night of the 4th from observations made during the day is very accurate. It shows that the German Ninth Corps, which had secured the crossings at Chateau-Thierry on the previous evening, had progressed to near Montmirail; that the Third and Fourth Corps had got well clear of the Marne and were about and across the Petit Morin; and that the Second Corps and Marwitz’s cavalry were held up at the Marne east of Meaux.

Von Kluck had marched into a bag between the Fifth French Army on the Marne and the newly formed Sixth French Army advancing to the Ourcq. Just at this time the German Supreme Command seems to have become aware of the danger threatening the German armies on the right wing. On the night of the 4th of September orders had been sent out from German First Army headquarters at La Ferte Milon, detailing the movements to be made on the following day. These movements had already begun when at 7.15 a.m. on the 5th fresh instructions arrived from the Supreme Command ordering the First and Second Armies to remain facing the eastern front of Paris; the First Army between the Oise and the Marne, occupying the Marne crossings west of Chateau-Thierry, and the Second Army between the Marne and the Seine, occupying the Seine crossings from Nogent to Mery. This led, says von Kluck, to ‘the difficult backwards wheel’ of the First Army, and to what he calls ’the important events that occurred during the second week of September’-events known to history as the battle of the Marne. Von Kluck allowed the original movements ordered for the 5th to be carried out, and, he says, ’the conclusion of this advance marked the culminating point of the operations of the First Army’. On this same day General Joffre told Sir John French that he intended to take the offensive forthwith as the conditions seemed favourable, and on the morning of the 6th this offensive opened.

The main work of the Royal Flying Corps throughout the days of the retreat was reconnaissance, and enough has been said of their reports to show that Sir John French was well served by his new arm. He had been warned before the battle of Mons, not only of the heavy movement on his front but of the enveloping attempt on his flank, and throughout the retreat he was punctually informed of von Kluck’s enveloping efforts. The change of direction made on the 31st of August was immediately seen and reported. Von Kluck’s renewed pursuit of the British on the two following days did not escape observation. Finally, the German swerve to the left on the 3rd of September was closely followed from the air. These are the main conclusions that come from a study of the air reports of those days. General Headquarters were perhaps at first a little shy of trusting the air reports, but they realized their value during the retreat, and paid more and more attention to them-an attention which found practical results in the operation orders issued. The Royal Flying Corps played their part in helping the British army to escape. Further, they were making themselves, and were improving in skill every day. The lessons learned on the retreat from Mons bore their full fruit at a later period, when the officers of the original squadrons held the command of those Flying Corps units which operated in the mobile campaigns of distant theatres of the war.

Their work during the retreat was done under difficulties. There were alarms at Compiègne of Uhlans seen in the vicinity of the aerodrome, and a guard was provided from the Camerons. Major B. H. Barrington-Kennett remarks on the difficulty of defending a Flying Corps camp from attack by cavalry. It would seem advisable, he says, when camped in an open aerodrome to park the aeroplanes inside a laager formed by lorries and cars. The head-lights of the cars would lighten a good field of fire, and would probably, if switched on at the approach of cavalry, cause the horses to stampede. The Royal Flying Corps, he adds, should be armed and practised with machine-guns and rifles, so that they may protect themselves without asking for an escort.

At Juilly on the 1st of September there was another alarm. The country to the north was thickly wooded, and German cavalry, which proved later to be those escaped from the affair at Nery, were reported within a few miles, with no British troops between. General Headquarters at Dammartin-en-Goele, some two miles away, hastily took their departure, and the Royal Flying Corps transport was sent off at once to Serris. But the aeroplanes could not leave, for already it was dark. The suggestion was made that the aeroplanes should fly off in the dark, but fortunately, says Major C. J. Burke, this was not attempted. The Flying Corps stood to arms to defend itself. A sunken road running east and west past the aerodrome was occupied, rifles and ammunition were served out to the mechanics, and machine-guns were set in position. After a time a troop of North Irish Horse arrived, to aid in the defence. All night watch was kept, but the German cavalry did not appear. In the morning, for the first time since the beginning of the retreat, there was no ground mist, and the machines got away at once.

The history of the retreat is made up of incidents like this. Some of the flying officers have kindly communicated their memories and impressions. ‘The extraordinary part about the retreat’, says Wing Commander P. B. Joubert de la Ferte, ’was the contrasts that one experienced from day to day; one night sleeping under a hedge in a thunder-storm; the next in a comfortable private house; the third in the most modern type of hotel with every luxury and convenience, the whole forming a picture the impression of which has lasted throughout the war.... One curious thing was, unless one was brought down or left behind near the firing line one never came up against the actual unpleasantnesses of war, and it was not until the advance to the Aisne started that those of us who had not been on ground duty, or unlucky, saw any signs of fighting other than from the air. What we saw during the advance confirmed our impressions from the air as to the unspeakableness of the Hun in his methods of dealing with the civilian population. I saw half a dozen villages on fire during the first day of the battle, twenty miles west of Mons, where by no possible means could there have been any armed resistance to the passage of the Huns. It was simply frightfulness on the part of the Uhlans, and what we saw later on the ground at Pezarches, Coulommiers, and La Fere was a clear indication of wilful and unnecessary destruction of private property. The sight of a draper’s shop with every window smashed, every shelf emptied, and the contents thrown into the street was quite a common one.’

Major F. G. Small says, speaking of the 27th of August: ’The retreat continued to Compiègne Forest, Huns pressing our troops all the while. On returning from late reconnaissances in the dusk, it was most interesting to watch the local fighting in the roads between their vanguards and our rearguards. The spreading of fires all over the country around Compiègne Forest was a more curious sight than even the later trench offensive, the fires spreading like long flaming worms along the main road, as the Huns fired each village they went through. The northern portion of Compiègne Forest was blazing at this date.’

The speed of the retreat caused some embarrassments. On the 31st of August, while the Flying Corps occupied Senlis racecourse, two officers, belonging to Nos. 4 and 5 Squadrons, motored to Paris to get some aircraft spares, and returning in the evening found the Germans in occupation. In the dusk they were mistaken for German officers and drove their car right up to the cottages which a few hours earlier had been the headquarters of the Flying Corps. Aviation teaches quick resource; the officers managed to escape.

The pilots were not down-hearted. At Compiègne, where they were billeted in a school, Major Baring records that they were in tearing spirits. Besides their main duty of observation from the air, they rendered other occasional services. ‘The usual orders on the retreat’, says Wing Commander L. A. Strange, ’were dawn reconnaissances, dropping hand-grenades and petrol bombs on the enemy, and when it was impossible to notify pilots of the next aerodrome, the orders were to fly approximately twenty miles south and look out for the remainder of the machines on the ground, if machines had left the last aérodromes.’

During the retreat the dropping of bombs was still in an early experimental stage. There were some mildly successful exploits. About dusk on the 1st of September an unnamed officer of the Flying Corps, flying over the woods north of Villers-Cotterets, noticed two columns of the enemy’s cavalry converging at the angle of cross-roads. He dropped two bombs, which caused confusion and a stampede. There was no bomb-dropping gear in use at this time, but small hand-grenades were carried in the pockets, and larger bombs were slung or tied about the person. The first experience of German bombs was at Compiègne on the 29th of August; while the Flying Corps were stationed there a German machine flew over the aerodrome and dropped three small bombs, which did no harm. On our side there was no time during the retreat for experiment with new devices; it was not until the Germans took up fixed positions on the Aisne that the inventive powers of the Flying Corps got to work on the devising of bombing gear, the improving of artillery observation, and the mounting of machine-guns.

The retreat also witnessed the beginnings of fighting in the air. The first German machine to be seen by the British appeared over the aerodrome at Maubeuge on the 22nd of August. There are various accounts of this. Major C. J. Burke in his diary says: ’At about 2.25 p.m. an Albatross biplane passed over the town. Major Longcroft with Captain Dawes as passenger, Lieutenant Dawes with Major Burke as passenger, on B.E.’s, gave chase. The gun machine piloted by Lieutenant Strange also went out. The machine (Albatross) had far too long a start, and got into a rain cloud.’ Wing Commander L. A. Strange says: ’Chased a German Albatross machine for forty-five minutes, Lieutenant Penn-Gaskell observer, with Lewis gun. Was unable to get higher than 3,500 feet, while the Albatross was at about 5,000 feet. Observed no effect from the fire. As a result of this received orders to discard Lewis gun and mounting, and transfer the controls from rear seat to the front seat, the passenger to carry rifle in the back seat.’ Major J. T. B. McCudden says: ’About the 22nd August a strange aeroplane flew over us at about 4,000 feet, and the aerodrome look-out reported it to be a German machine, the first we had seen in the War. We all turned out armed with rifles, and about six machines got ready to go up in pursuit.... All the machines which went up were loaded with hand-grenades, as the intention then was to bring a hostile aeroplane down by dropping bombs on it. The German easily got away, although it looked at one time as if Captain Longcroft would be able to intercept him on a B. a. About half an hour after the German had departed a Henri Farman of N Squadron, fitted with a machine-gun, was still climbing steadily over the aerodrome at about 1,000 feet in a strenuous endeavour to catch the Boche.’

N Squadron from the first had been zealous in experimenting with machine-guns. Experience of fighting in the air, which began with this adventure, soon taught how enormous is the advantage, whether for attack or escape, given by superiority in height.

It was not, however, until the 25th of August that an enemy machine was brought down by a British aeroplane. Sir John French in his first dispatch, dated the 7th of September 1914, alludes to the earliest combats. His tribute must be quoted in full: ’I wish particularly to bring to your Lordships’ notice the admirable work done by the Royal Flying Corps under Sir David Henderson. Their skill, energy, and perseverance have been beyond all praise. They have furnished me with the most complete and accurate information, which has been of incalculable value in the conduct of operations. Fired at constantly both by friend and foe, and not hesitating to fly in every kind of weather, they have remained undaunted throughout. Further, by actually fighting in the air, they have succeeded in destroying five of the enemy’s machines.’

Unfortunately during the retreat combat reports were not made out, so that there is no account in the war diaries of the actual fighting. Some of the fights are mentioned. On the 25th of August three machines of N Squadron chased an enemy monoplane. It was forced to land; Lieutenant H. D. Harvey-Kelly and Lieutenant W. H. C. Mansfield landed near it and continued the chase on foot, but the Germans escaped into a wood. When some trophies had been taken from the machine it was burnt. Another German machine was forced to descend on the same day near Le Quesnoy, where it was captured. Aeroplanes at this time had no special armament; officers carried revolvers and sometimes a carbine; but the confidence and determination with which they attacked did the work of a machine-gun, and brought the enemy down. In one instance, a little later on, a British pilot and observer, who were destitute of ammunition, succeeded by manoeuvring boldly above a German machine in bringing it to the ground and taking it captive.

On the afternoon of the 5th of September neither the German Supreme Command (which had its headquarters at Luxembourg) nor the staff of the German First Army had any idea that an offensive of the whole French army was imminent. The Supreme Command was expecting a decisive victory in the east against the Verdun-Nancy-St.-Die defences. They believed that the German First and Second Armies could easily hold the weak French forces around Paris until this decision should be achieved, and they did not know how great a part of the French strength had been transferred from the east to the west. From the 5th to the 9th of September they issued no orders to their First and Second Armies, who were left to fight out the decisive battle of the war, without their help and almost without their knowledge, against superior forces.

General Joffre’s ‘Instruction’ for the offensive on the 6th was brought to British General Headquarters by a French staff officer at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 5th. Unfortunately, orders to the British army to continue the retreat in accordance with General Joffre’s previous instructions had already been given to the corps commanders. The Second Corps had moved off before midnight and the First and Third Corps a little later. Consequently the British army by the end of the day was some twelve to fifteen miles farther back than the French Commander-in-Chief expected, and although its subsequent advance across the Marne had a decisive effect, the hard fighting of the battle was borne by the French army on the Ourcq. During the 5th, General Maunoury, commanding the Sixth French Army on the British left, and later on General Joffre himself, visited Sir John French, and all arrangements for the morrow’s offensive were discussed. Sir John French’s operation orders issued at 5.15 p.m. on the 5th of September directed the army to advance eastward with a view to attacking. The preliminary movement of the British army, a wheel to the east, pivoting on its right, was to be completed by the right wing at 9 a.m. and by the left wing at 10 a.m. on the 6th.

On the early morning of the 6th Sir John French gave verbal instructions that the Royal Flying Corps were to send aeroplanes to report for reconnaissance direct to the First and Second Corps. The officer commanding N Squadron, with three machines, was to report for tactical reconnaissance direct to Sir Douglas Haig at Chaubuisson farm, one and a half miles east of Fontenay; and the officer commanding N Squadron, also with three machines, was to report direct to Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien at Combreux Chateau, near Tournan. With each detachment was to go a wireless aeroplane from N Squadron to keep Royal Flying Corps headquarters informed by wireless. The machines were to return to headquarters at night. This was the beginning of the decentralization of the Royal Flying Corps, whereby certain squadrons, which came to be called corps squadrons, were attached to the corps commands. The German air service from the beginning had been thus organized. With the German First Army headquarters there was one aeroplane section for long-distance strategic reconnaissance and each of the corps, with the exception of the Fourth Reserve Corps, had its own section for tactical work. From Maubeuge to the Marne the squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps had been kept together under the immediate control of General Henderson. The experiment of detaching machines to report direct to the First and Second Corps worked well on the 6th of September, and Sir John French gave orders that this arrangement was to continue.

Aeroplanes which were sent out on the morning of the 6th brought information of confused movements of the German First Army. On the British front a certain amount of movement northwards was seen in the afternoon. Of the progress of the battle on his flanks Sir John French had little knowledge. Aeroplanes were sent up to reconnoitre the position. One which flew over the area of the Sixth French Army west of the Ourcq saw at about five o’clock a good deal of movement and shells bursting in the area Etavigny-Marcilly-May-en-Multien. Another machine which flew along the line of the Fifth French Army on the British right came back with the information that at four o’clock fighting was going on south of Esternay and north of Villiers-St.-Georges. By seven o’clock that evening Sir John French had no definite news of the progress of the French armies on his wings save what was contained in these air reports, and the orders which he issued stated simply that all troops should be ready to move at any time after 8.0 a.m. on the morrow.

Early on the 7th the situation became clearer; a general retirement of the Germans on the British front was in progress. Sir John French had issued orders at 8.0 a.m. for the advance to be continued in the direction of Rebais, the army to move in echelon from the right and to attack the enemy wherever met. Aeroplanes on morning reconnaissance returned soon after the army began to move with information of early activity behind the German lines and general movement northwards. Later in the morning columns were seen moving in a north-westerly direction towards the Ourcq. These reconnaissances seemed to show that von Kluck was hurriedly withdrawing two of his corps-the Second and the Fourth-to reinforce his right wing across the Ourcq.

Early reconnaissances on the 8th told of congested movement over the bridge at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, south of which masses of troops were awaiting their turn to cross. But the British advance was necessarily slow. The country was well suited to rearguard actions and skilful use was made of the ground by the German machine-gunners. By the evening the British had forced the passage of the Petit Morin, but they spent the night south of the Marne. Meantime, as air reports showed, von Kluck’s right was heavily engaged by Maunoury’s Sixth Army to the west of the Ourcq. On the night of the 8th General Joffre, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the two German corps from the British front, ordered that Maunoury’s army should hold the enemy troops on the right bank of the Ourcq, whilst the British on the following day should advance across the Marne between Nogent l’Artaud and La Ferte-sous-Jouarre against the left and rear of the enemy on the Ourcq. The Marne with its steep wooded sides was well suited to rearguard actions and a stubborn resistance was expected. But air observers who came in early on the morning of the 9th brought back the news of enemy columns formed up facing in a northerly direction. Some were already on the move, and it became apparent that the enemy intended no determined, but only a delaying stand on the Marne.

Captain D. Le G. Pitcher, piloted by Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck, whilst reconnoitring near Chateau-Thierry about 12.45 p.m. saw large bodies of enemy troops in the neighbourhood of Chateau-Thierry and infantry moving on Domptin. This position was west of the British Third Infantry Brigade, and the whole of the First Corps was ordered to halt until the situation should be cleared up. The First Corps did not move forward again until 3.0 p.m. By the evening of the 9th the First and Second Corps were across the Marne, but the Third Corps on the left had been held up and was mostly south of the river. General Maunoury had had a hard fight, but by the late afternoon the Germans, pressed by the advance of the British across the Marne, had begun to retire in a north-easterly direction. Captain R. A. Boger, piloted by Captain R. Grey, brought this welcome news direct to the General Officer Commanding the Third Corps (Lieutenant-General W. P. Pulteney) at 5.0 p.m. He had seen long columns moving north-east from Lizy through Ocquerre on to Coulombs. This was believed to be von Kluck’s Fifth Division. Other observers came in with similar information. By the evening of the 9th the retirement of the enemy was general from the Ourcq to Verdun. The battle of the Marne was won. The German armies retired, with no very great disorder, to strong positions along the heights of the northern bank of the river Aisne. Paris was saved; for the first time for over a hundred years an invading Prussian army had been turned and driven back; but the war was yet to come.

During the battle the Royal Flying Corps had been active over the enemy, and, as has been shown, reported his movements fully day by day. The machines which worked direct with the corps had supplied much useful tactical information, which was passed on direct to the corps commanders as soon as the machines landed. The observers usually reported by word of mouth, and so were able to convey a full and true impression. They reported which river-bridges were broken and which intact, and they dropped messages on to the advanced British infantry in places, warning them of danger ahead. They sometimes located for corps commanders the head of the leading troops of their corps. After a three days’ stay at Melun, the headquarters of the Flying Corps moved on the 7th of September to Touquin-the first move forward since the retreat from Mons. At Pezarches, about a mile away, a field was chosen for an aerodrome. Fighting had taken place there, and small one-man trenches had to be filled in before any machine could land. On the 9th of September headquarters moved forward again to Coulommiers, and on the 12th to Fere-en-Tardenois, which place became the headquarters for the battle of the Aisne. Here the squadrons were established at Saponay, some two miles to the north-west. For many long months and years the Flying Corps was not again to be employed in a war of movement against a powerful European army, so that the work they did from the time when they arrived at Maubeuge to the time when they settled at Fere-en-Tardenois has a unique value. The French Commander-in-Chief paid tribute to their skill. His message ran: ’Please express most particularly to Marshal French my thanks for the services rendered to us every day by the English Flying Corps. The precision, exactitude, and regularity of the news brought in by them are evidence of their perfect organization and also of the perfect training of pilots and observers.’

The weather during the early part of the Marne battle had been excellent for flying. The air had been still and the heat tropical. On the 9th of September, the critical day of the battle, the weather broke, and for the next few days there were violent storms and heavy rains which greatly impeded air work of any sort. The worst of these storms occurred on the night of the 12th of September, when the squadrons had newly arrived at Saponay. Four machines of N Squadron were completely wrecked, and others damaged. Lieutenant L. A. Strange saved his Henri Farman machine, which had made a forced landing, by pushing it up against a haystack, laying a ladder over the front skids, and piling large paving-stones on the ladder, using hay twisted into ropes for tying down the machine. A diary of N Squadron records that when the machines of that squadron arrived at Saponay, about five hours before the transport, ’a terrible storm was raging, and before anything could be done to make the machines more secure the wind shifted, and about half the total number of machines were over on their backs. One Henri Farman went up about thirty feet in the air and crashed on top of another Henri Farman in a hopeless tangle. B.E.’s of N Squadron were blowing across the aerodrome, and when daylight arrived and the storm abated, the aerodrome presented a pitiful sight. The Royal Flying Corps in the field had probably not more than ten machines serviceable that morning.... Hangars were not yet issued.’ The protection of machines from accidents like this became comparatively easy when the line of battle was stabilized and fixed aérodromes were made.

On Sunday, the 13th of September, the Allied armies had crossed the Aisne, but were held up by the enemy line of defence which, ran along the heights from east of Compiègne to north of Rheims. There was dogged fighting, with attacks and counter-attacks, but little or no progress was made. The Germans had regained the initiative, and the British army was forced to dig itself in along the line of battle. On the 18th of September General Joffre changed his plans and began to push forces up on the Allied left in order to envelop the German right flank. To give this movement a chance the enemy had to be held on the front, and the cavalry were called on to take their turn in the trenches-a duty which before long became very familiar to them. But the Germans extended and reinforced their line for a similar outflanking movement. These enveloping attempts did not cease until the opposing armies were ranged along a line of trenches stretching from the Swiss frontier to the coast of Belgium.

During the battle of the Aisne, from the 12th to the 15th of September, the British forced the passage of the river and captured the Aisne heights including the Chemin des Dames. Thereafter fighting degenerated into a sullen trench warfare, culminating on the 26th of September and the two following days in a series of fierce attacks by the Germans. These attacks were repulsed and were not again renewed.

On the 12th of September Lieutenant L. Dawes and Lieutenant W. R. Freeman, of N Squadron, had a notable adventure. They left in the morning to carry out an aerial reconnaissance to St.-Quentin. A little south of Anizy--Chateau, between Soissons and Laon, their machine began to rock and vibrate in the air, as if the tail were loose. They planed down at once, and landed in a small field, finishing up in a wood, where they damaged their undercarriage, wings, and airscrew. Large German columns were on the roads on both sides of them, within about two hundred yards. Taking only a biscuit and some tubes of beef extract with them, they hid in another wood close by. Some German cavalry came up to the machine, and then went all round the first wood, but found nothing, and after an hour and a half went away. The two officers lay hid until the evening, and then started in the direction of the Aisne, some eight miles distant. During the night they passed several German pickets, but the war was young, the spirit of exhilaration still prevailed in the German army, and the pickets were making so much noise that they passed unobserved. At 3.0 in the morning they reached the Aisne, where they lay down and slept. At 6.0 they were wakened by the firing of a gun close by, and realized that they were in front of the German position. German cavalry patrolled the road in front of them, and they were under heavy shell-fire from the British. They swam the Aisne, dried their clothes in a house by the canal, and then walked to the British guns, which were still in action. They were given food by the Third Cavalry Brigade, and were taken back on a supply column to rejoin their squadron after an absence of more than two days. It might be supposed that their troubles were now at an end, but they had yet to face their squadron commander, Major Burke, who sternly rebuked them for violating the order that no two pilots should fly together in the same machine.

The work of observation now entered a new phase. When armies are in fixed positions movement behind the front and along the lines of communication does not greatly vary from day to day. The Flying Corps were employed to map out the enemy’s chief railheads, his aérodromes (which were surprisingly numerous), his camps, and his dumps. They began also to observe the positions of enemy batteries in order to range them for our own artillery, and they made some attempts to take photographs from the air of the enemy trenches and lines of communication.

Maubeuge had fallen on the 7th of September and, in addition to the Seventh Reserve Corps and other troops, the siege artillery which had been used to reduce Maubeuge was brought down to the Aisne, and the British guns were outranged and outnumbered. The spotting of hostile batteries became an operation of the first importance, and the Flying Corps quickly rose to its opportunities. When trench warfare began, the aeroplanes attached to corps commands took up artillery officers daily from each division over the German batteries. The positions of these batteries were noted on maps, and the maps were sent in every day to the divisional artillery commander, who allotted the targets to his batteries. When any part of the British lines was shelled, information was obtained from the air and orders were given to those of our batteries which could best reply, to concentrate on the enemy’s guns. The wireless machines of N Squadron had been attached to the army corps direct during the battle of the Marne, but their opportunities had been few. On the Aisne they were first used to observe for the artillery. Two pioneers of wireless telegraphy are associated in work and in memory with these early attempts at wireless co-operation with the artillery-Lieutenants Lewis and James. Donald Swain Lewis had joined the Royal Engineers in 1904, and, after qualifying as a pilot in May 1912, had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in December 1913. By example and precept he had done all that he could before the war to adapt wireless telegraphy to the uses of the Flying Corps and to convince others of its necessity. Before the battle of the Aisne ended he had won his victory. He was in the habit of going out alone in a B.E. machine, piloting the machine and operating the wireless at the same time. A brother-officer noted of him in a diary: ’Lewis, R.E., came in from spotting with his machine shot full of holes; I believe he likes it!’ Later on in the war, at home and in the field, he continued his work. In April 1915 he was appointed to command N Squadron, in succession to Major J. M. Salmond, and did much to maintain and advance the great reputation of that pioneer among squadrons. After a spell at home during the winter of 1915-16, he returned to France in February 1916, to command the Second Wing, co-operating with the Second Army in the Ypres salient. By this time he held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, but he continued to fly over the enemy lines. On the 10th of April 1916, flying a Moräne parasol, east of Wytschaete, with Captain A. W. Gale, an officer of the Trench Mortars, as passenger, he was brought down by a direct hit from the enemy’s anti-aircraft guns. He had been showing Captain Gale some of the objectives on which the trench mortar fire had been directed during the week, and was killed in action while he was carrying out the duties of that artillery observation which he had done so much to perfect.

Baron Trevenen James had been a mathematical scholar and head of his House at Harrow; in 1907 he passed into Woolwich, and two years later was commissioned in the Royal Engineers. He was early interested in aviation; in June 1912, after only three days’ practice, he obtained the Royal Aero Club certificate at Hendon, flying a Howard Wright biplane. In April 1913 he joined the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, and was at once employed in carrying out experiments with wireless. In December 1913 he was joined by Lieutenant Lewis, and the two became famous for the theory and practice of their craft. On the outbreak of war Lieutenant James was attached to N Squadron for wireless duties; when in September 1914 the headquarters wireless telegraphy unit was formed, under the command of Major H. Musgrave, at Fere-en-Tardenois, Lieutenant James was attached to it, and shared with Lieutenant Lewis the duty of reporting by wireless over the fire of the enemy guns. Like Lieutenant Lewis, he was subsequently killed in the air. On the 13th of July 1915 his commanding officer reports: ’He was observing from the aeroplane alone, as he generally did. He was ranging a battery, and was being heavily shelled. His machine was hit by a shell, and was seen to dive to the ground from a great height. The Germans dropped a note from one of their machines saying that he was dead when he fell.... He met the end I am sure he would have wished for-if it had to be-suddenly, alone, and doing his duty.’

These two, then, Lieutenants Lewis and James, had been untiring in their enthusiasm and perseverance during the years before the war. On the Aisne their reward was granted them. ‘I wish to express’, says General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien in a telegram dated the 27th of September 1914, ’my great admiration for the splendid work the Royal Flying Corps is doing for my Corps from day to day. Nothing prevents them from obtaining the required information, and they frequently return with rifle or shrapnel bullets through their aeroplane or even their clothing, without considering such, to them, ordinary incidents as worth mentioning. To-day I watched for a long time an aeroplane observing for the six-inch howitzers for the Third Division. It was, at times, smothered with hostile anti-aircraft guns, but, nothing daunted, it continued for hours through a wireless installation to observe the fire and indeed to control the Battery with most satisfactory results. I am not mentioning names, as to do so, where all are daily showing such heroic and efficient work, would be invidious.’ Lieutenants Lewis and James are now beyond the voices of envy, and their names may fitly be recorded in the memory of their country.

One of the earliest of the messages sent down by wireless from the air is dated the 24th of September 1914. It is worthy of full quotation:

4.2 p.m. A very little short. Fire. Fire.
4.4 p.m. Fire again. Fire again.
4.12 p.m. A little short; line O.K.
4.15 p.m. Short. Over, over and a little left.
4.20 p.m. You were just between two batteries. Search two
hundred yards each side of your last shot.
Range O.K.
4.22 p.m. You have them.
4.26 p.m. Hit. Hit. Hit.
4.32 p.m. About 50 yards short and to the right.
4.37 p.m. Your last shot in the middle of 3 batteries in action;
search all round within 300 yards of your last
shot and you have them.
4.42 p.m. I am coming home now.

The later signals directing artillery fire were not so full of colour as these early messages. They consisted of code letters. The clock code for signalling the results of artillery fire was first used in 1915 and afterwards generally throughout the war. The target was taken as the centre of a clock and imaginary lines were circumscribed around it at distances of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards. These lines were lettered Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E, F, respectively. Twelve o’clock was always taken as true north from the target and the remaining hours accordingly. An observer noted the fall of the rounds with reference to the imaginary circles and clock-hours and signalled the result, for instance, as Y 4, or C 6. A direct hit was O.K, and there were other signals. Messages from the battery or any other ground station were signalled to the observer in the aeroplane by means of white strips which were laid out on the ground to form the letters of a code.

During the battle of the Aisne, the wireless machines were few in number and other methods of signalling were mostly in use. On the 15th of September Captain L. E. O. Charlton fired Very lights over enemy guns previously observed. On the 24th of September ’Lieutenant Allen and two others with aeroplanes indicated targets and observed fire, communication being by flash signals’. Sometimes the pilots returned and landed to report on gun positions. But when once the gunners had profited by the superior accuracy and speed of report by wireless, they were hungry for more machines. On the 23rd of September the commander of the Second Corps telegraphed to General Headquarters: ’I hope that you will be able to spare the wireless aeroplane and receiving set to Third Division again to-morrow. The results were so good yesterday that it seems a pity not to keep it with the Division, which has got accustomed to its uses and is in a position to benefit even more largely by the experience gained.’ The answer was that the machine had been damaged by anti-aircraft fire, but would be ready again shortly. A wireless aeroplane was as popular as an opera-singer, and the headquarters wireless section soon developed into N Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. The attitude of the gunners may be well seen in an entry made in the war diary of N Siege Battery, dated the 23rd of January 1915-’Airman’ (Captain Cherry) ’reported for co-operation (lamp only, alas!).’

The photography was a mere beginning. On the 15th of September Lieutenant G. F. Pretyman took five photographs of the enemy positions; these were developed later on the ground, and were the forerunners of that immense photographic map of the western front in thousands of sections, constantly renewed and corrected, which played so great a part in the later stages of the war. Some other experiments had no later history. Steel darts called ‘fléchettes’, about five inches long and three-eighths of an inch in diameter, were dropped over enemy horse-lines and troops by N Squadron. A canister holding about 250 of these darts was fixed under the fuselage; by the pulling of a wire the bottom of the tin was opened and the darts were released. To do any harm these darts had to score a direct hit on some living object, so that a whole canister of them was probably a less formidable weapon than a bomb. Even on a battle-field life is sparsely distributed on the ground.

There was hardly any fighting in the air during the battle of the Aisne, and reconnaissance machines were not attacked by other aeroplanes. They were fired at from the ground by anti-aircraft artillery. The anti-aircraft guns got their name of ‘Archies’ from a light-hearted British pilot, who when he was fired at in the air quoted a popular music-hall refrain-’Archibald, certainly not!’ The Germans used kite balloons for observation. In the attempt to drop a bomb on one of these Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck was attacked, on the 22nd of September, by a German Albatross, and was wounded in the leg. He was the first of our pilots to be wounded in the air from an enemy aeroplane-a long list it was to be.

The Royal Flying Corps were few indeed in comparison with the air forces opposed to them, but they were full of zeal and initiative. On the 19th of September they received a valued compliment from the French General Staff, who asked the British Commander-in-Chief to permit them to carry out reconnaissances along the front of the Fifth French Army. This was already being done, but Sir David Henderson promised to take measures to make the reconnaissance more complete.

In the battle of the Aisne the British forces were co-operating with General Maunoury’s Sixth French Army on their left. The so-called race for the sea was, in fact, a race for the flank of the opposing army. On the 20th of September De Castelnau’s army formed up on the left of Maunoury and at first made some progress, but was pushed back by the reinforced army of General von Buelow, and was held on a line extending from Ribecourt on the Oise to Albert. On the 30th of September General Maud’huy’s army came into position on the left of De Castelnau, along a line extending from Albert to Lens, while at the same time cavalry and territorials occupied Lille and Douai on the German right. This army in its turn was opposed by the German Sixth Army sent up from Metz, which pushed the French behind Arras, occupied Lens and Douai, and began to shell Lille. General Maud’huy could do no more than fight to hold his ground till another army should come to his relief on his left. For this purpose the British army was shifted from the Aisne to its natural position in defence of the Channel ports, and came into action along a line extending northwards from La Bassee. The actual line was fixed by a series of fierce engagements culminating in the battles of Ypres, 1914.

The Allied plan was to hold the French and Belgian coast and to take the offensive in the north. With this purpose in view the Seventh Division of the British army and the Third Cavalry Division, both of which came under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson, were disembarked, from the 6th of October onward, at Zeebrugge and Ostend. But Antwerp was taken by the Germans on the 9th of October, and the first business of this famous force was to cover the Belgian retreat along the coast. The German Fourth Army was being rapidly pushed forward into Belgium; Lille capitulated on the 13th of October; Zeebrugge and Ostend were occupied by the Germans on the 15th. Still the idea of a counter-offensive was not abandoned, and the works and defences of Zeebrugge were left intact in the hope of its speedy recapture. On the night of the 1st of October the British army had begun to move northwards from the Aisne. By the 9th of October the British Second Corps had detrained at Abbeville and received orders to march on Bethune; on the 12th the Third Corps began detraining and concentrating at St.-Omer and Hazebrouck, and subsequently moved up to Bailleul and Armentieres. A week later, on the 19th, the First Corps under Sir Douglas Haig detrained at Hazebrouck and moved on Ypres. General Headquarters left Fere-en-Tardenois on the 8th of October and after a five-days’ stay at Abbeville established themselves at St.-Omer.

The Royal Flying Corps had moved north with the British Expeditionary Force, from Fere-en-Tardenois by way of Abbeville, to St.-Omer, where they were established by the 12th of October. N Squadron remained behind for a few days, to carry on with Sir Douglas Haig’s corps on the Aisne, but joined up at St.-Omer on the 17th of October. In addition to the four original squadrons, N Squadron, newly arrived from England under Major J. H. W. Becke, came under Brigadier-General Henderson’s orders on the 16th of October. This squadron had been stationed at South Farnborough as a reserve for the squadrons in the field. When General Rawlinson’s force was sent to Ostend, to attempt the relief of Antwerp, Lord Kitchener said, ‘I want a squadron to go with it’. He ordered that N Squadron should be ready in forty-eight hours. The squadron was hastily completed; some pilots and machines were obtained from the Central Flying School; some machines were bought from private firms; equipment, tools, and the like were collected at night; and on the 7th of October the squadron flew to Bruges and began at once to carry out reconnaissances. On the following day they flew to Ostend, and, their transport having arrived, were concentrated on the racecourse. Five days later they retired to Dunkirk, and by the 16th of October were established at Poperinghe, where they came under the orders of headquarters at St.-Omer.

A good deal of reconnaissance was carried on by the squadrons during the northward move of the army. On the 29th of September unusual and heavy movement in a northerly and north-westerly direction had been observed behind the enemy lines on the Aisne. On the 1st of October air reconnaissances showed that the trenches in front of the British First Army Corps were unoccupied or very lightly held, and during the next few days there were many indications that one or two German army corps were being withdrawn to the north. Meantime the enemy took more trouble than usual to interfere with our aircraft, and employed an increased number of anti-aircraft guns. In the north our strategic reconnaissances were not so successful, and the formidable enemy movement against the Ypres line developed undetected. Not many aeroplanes were available at this time for the wider sort of strategic reconnaissance. Nos. 2, 3, and 5 Squadrons had been attached, by an order issued on the 1st of October, to the First, Second, and Third Army Corps respectively, while N Squadron was detailed for strategical reconnaissance. The General Officers Commanding army corps had learned the value of aeroplanes and demanded their assistance. Much of the country over which they were operating in Northern France and Flanders was flat and enclosed, unsuitable either way for cavalry reconnaissance.

Long-distance work was done chiefly from headquarters. On the 3rd of October, when the situation at Antwerp had become critical, Lieutenant-Colonel F. H. Sykes flew direct to Bruges from Fere-en-Tardenois, with a message from Sir John French to the Belgian Chief of Staff at Antwerp. On the following day he returned and reported that the Germans had broken through the south-eastern sector of the outer defences of Antwerp, that the Belgians were awaiting help, and that they might possibly hold out for two or three weeks. In forwarding the report to Lord Kitchener Sir John French adds, ’The relief of Antwerp I regard as my first objective’. This mission was followed by others, and a few days later Sir John French speaks of reports which he is receiving daily by air from General Rawlinson.

Meantime a squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, as shall be told in the next chapter, had been operating for some weeks from Ostend and Dunkirk with French territorial forces. The French territorials were hastily embodied troops taken from civilian life and were not of much use for a fight against odds. When the Seventh Division was landed at Ostend and Zeebrugge during the first week of October, and the improvised British Naval Division arrived at Antwerp, the situation was already out of hand. The British army was small; it had helped to save Paris, and now paid the price in the loss of the Belgian coast. The Seventh Division occupied Ghent, and after covering the retreat of the Belgian army, which halted along the line of the Yser, from Dixmude to Nieuport, fell back by way of Roulers to a position east of Ypres. When the whole British force came into line, it held a front of some thirty-five miles, with Maud’huy’s Tenth French Army on its right across the Bethune-Lille road. On its left the line was held, from a point north of Ypres to the sea, by the Belgian army, assisted by four French cavalry divisions under General De Mitry.

The German army had failed to take Paris; all its efforts were now concentrated on the seizure of the Channel ports, and its pressure on the defending line was like the pressure of a great rising head of waters against the gates of a lock. The glory of the defence belongs to the infantry. The men who flew above them could only watch them and help them with eyes. The infantry were often unconscious of this help; they disliked seeing hostile observers above them and often fired on aeroplanes with very little distinction made between friends and foes. On the 26th of October Major G. H. Raleigh, of N Squadron, reports an artillery reconnaissance as follows: ’Hosking and Crean did a tactical reconnaissance early, but were unable to locate batteries owing to clouds. They went up later and did it. The clouds were low, so it was arranged that they should fly over one of our batteries to observe for ranging. The machine came down in flames and was completely demolished. Pilot and passenger had both been wounded by our own infantry fire when at a height of about a thousand feet with the large Union Jack plainly visible.’

Wing Commander W. D. Beatty tells how, before this time, the disadvantage of the Union Jack marking on the planes was becoming evident. The officer in command of an aviation camp at Paris had pointed out to him that, at a height, only the red cross of the Union Jack was clearly visible, and that it was mistaken by the French for the German marking. A suggestion was made that the British should adopt the French circular marking. The mishap of the 26th of October hastened the adoption of this suggestion, and thereafter the French target was painted on British aeroplanes, with the alteration only of blue for red and red for blue, to preserve national distinctions.

Commanding officers sometimes complained that our machines were little in evidence. The aeroplane observers, operating over enemy territory, reported to their own command, and their reports, forwarded to the proper quarters, took effect in the orders issued by Headquarters, so that crucial improvements were sometimes made in our dispositions, by information obtained from the air, though the infantry had seen no machine in the air above them. The use of machines for more local needs, such as artillery ranging, hastened the recognition of the services rendered by the Flying Corps, and brought it into closer touch with the other arms. Photographic cameras and fittings were still very imperfect, and photography from the air was not much practised, but sketch-maps of enemy trenches and gun-pits, as located by air reconnaissances, were issued by Headquarters during the battle of Ypres. Good work was done in directing the fire of the artillery, and the few wireless machines were much in demand. A telegram sent on the 28th of October from Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien to the Royal Flying Corps headquarters runs: ’Can you send us a second machine, with wireless installation, for use to-morrow? The aeroplane now working without wireless with Fifth Division has more to do than it can accomplish owing to observation being required for French artillery as well as our own.’ But the wireless machine was required by the First Corps, at the northern end of the line, and a machine without wireless was sent instead.

The deadly and effective method of directing artillery fire on hostile batteries by means of wireless telegraphy played a great part in winning the war, but for the first battle of Ypres the wireless machines were not ready in quantity. The penalty which had to be paid for this unreadiness was heavy. Precious shells, which were all too few, had to be expended for ranging purposes. On the 4th of November Lord Kitchener wired to Sir John French: ’I have been talking to David Henderson about giving more observation to artillery by aeroplanes. As this saves the ranging ammunition, which is worth anything to us, please insist upon it.’ Failing wireless, other methods of ranging had to be employed. These methods had been set forth in an official paper issued on the 28th of October. The aeroplane flies at any convenient height and when it is exactly above the target it fires a Very light. The battery range-finders, who have been following its course, then take its range and another observer with the battery takes its angle of elevation. These two observations are sufficient to determine the horizontal distance between the battery and the target. It was sometimes found difficult to take the range of an aeroplane, at a given moment, with an ordinary range-finder, and an alternative method of ranging is suggested. By this method the aeroplane flies at a prearranged height, and, as before, fires a light exactly over the target. But this method also is liable to error, for an aeroplane determines its height by the use of a barometer, and barometers are only approximately accurate for this purpose. So it was suggested that the two methods should be combined: the aeroplane should endeavour to fly at a fixed height, and the range-finders should, if possible, also make their calculations. These methods cannot attain to the accuracy of wireless, but they were found in practice to give fairly good results. They were not quickly or generally adopted; many battery commanders continued to prefer the reports of their trained ground observers to the indications given from the air. When wireless machines were increased in number, artillery observation from the air came into its own. In a report dated the 5th of February 1915, Brigadier-General Stokes, commander of the 27th Divisional Artillery, lays stress on the enormous advantages of wireless. He says that the 116th Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, which had at its disposal an aeroplane equipped with a lamp, had succeeded in registering only three targets in fifteen days, whereas the 130th Howitzer Battery, which had a share in the services of a wireless aeroplane, had registered eight targets in seven days. The disadvantages of the older and cruder method are many; a thin mist which does not prevent the aeroplane from observing the target is enough to prevent signalling to the battery; the lamp is difficult to use on a rough day, and difficult to read against the sun; the aeroplane has to be kept under continual observation by the battery. To get better value out of our artillery, the general concludes, the wireless service must be largely increased.

Reconnaissance from the air was much impeded, during the second half of October, by low clouds and bad weather, but enough was observed to give some forecast of the tremendous attack that was impending. The Germans outnumbered the British three or four times, and threw their whole weight, now against one part, and now against another, of the thin line of infantry fighting in mud and water. Those who would judge the battle will find no escape from the dilemma; either the British defence, maintained for thirty-four days, from the 19th of October to the 21st of November, against an army which esteemed itself the best army in the world, must be given a high and honourable place among the great military achievements of history, or the German army was disgraced by its defeat. But the German army was a good army, and was not disgraced. The Germans themselves respected their enemy, on the ground and in the air. On the 21st of November, at the close of the battle of Ypres, two German second lieutenants of the air corps, called Fribenius and Hahn, were taken prisoner near Neuve-Chapelle, and were examined. They said that the performances of British aeroplanes had caused instructions to be issued that a British aeroplane was to be attacked whenever encountered. British aeroplanes, they said, were easily distinguishable from others, for they always showed fight at once. What prisoners say under examination is not evidence, but this early tribute to the fighting quality of the Royal Flying Corps is repeated in many later testimonies.

The crisis of the battle of Ypres came on the 31st of October, when the line of the First Division was broken and the left flank of the Seventh Division exposed, at Gheluvelt, some six miles east of Ypres. The counter-attack by the First Guards Brigade and the famous bayonet charge of the Second Worcestershire Regiment retook Gheluvelt, and re-established the line. The last act of the long agony came on the 11th of November, when a great attack was delivered all along the line. The place of honour on the Ypres-Menin road was given to two brigades of the Prussian Guard Corps, who had been brought up from Arras for the purpose. The First Division of the British army met this attack at its heaviest point of impact, and by the close of the day the Prussians had gained five hundred yards of ground at the cost of enormous losses. The story of the battle belongs to military history; the loss and profit account can be summarized in two facts. The First Brigade, which met the Prussian spearhead, was taken back into reserve on the following day. It had gone into the battle four thousand five hundred strong; on the 12th of November there remained, of the First Scots Guards, one officer and sixty-nine men; of the Black Watch, one officer and a hundred and nine men; of the Cameron Highlanders, three officers and a hundred and forty men; of the First Coldstream Guards, no officers and a hundred and fifty men. This is not a list of the surrendered remnant of an army: it is a list of some of the victors of Ypres. The other fact is no less significant; after a week of fighting the German attack fainted and died, and when the next great assault upon the Ypres salient was delivered, in April 1915, it was led not by the Prussian Guard but by clouds of poison-gas.

No extraordinary or signal services were rendered by the Flying Corps during the crises of the battle. The weather was bad, and on some days flying was impossible. Yet by every flight knowledge was increased. When the British troops arrived in Flanders and were sent at once into the battle, the country in front of them was unknown. The dispositions of the enemy forces were not even guessed at. Then by the aid of the Flying Corps the enemy’s batteries were mapped out, his trench lines observed and noted, his railheads and his roads watched for signs of movement. The reports received just before the battle do not, it is true, indicate the whole volume of movement that was coming towards the Ypres area. The newly raised reserve corps which formed part of the German Fourth Army, the transport of which to the western front began on the 10th of October, were not definitely seen from the air until just before the battle. But observers’ reports did indicate that many troops were moving on the Ypres front, and once battle was joined enemy movements were fully reported on.

When at the end of October the Belgian army mortgaged great tracts of their ground for many years by opening the canal sluices and letting in the sea, the Germans were enabled to divert the Third Reserve Corps southwards. The movements of troops from this area were observed by the Royal Flying Corps, and General Headquarters on the 1st of November issued this summary: ’The coast road from Ostend to Nieuport was reported clear this morning, and there are indications generally of a transference of troops from the north of Dixmude southwards.’ Again, when the attack on Ypres had failed and died away, the Germans transferred many troops from the western to the eastern front; these movements also were seen by the Royal Flying Corps, who reported on the 20th of November an abnormal amount of rolling stock at various stations behind the German front. ’The rolling stock formerly parked on the Ostend-Thourout and Ostend-Roulers lines has evidently been broken up’, says General Headquarters Intelligence Summary for the 20th of November, ’and distributed to a number of stations along the Lys and in the area immediately north of it, which would be suitable points of entrainment for the forces in that district.... This redistribution of the rolling stock, together with the apparent reduction in motor transport, would seem to point to some important movement away from this immediate theatre being in contemplation.’ Air reports for the following day proved that much movement eastwards had already taken place.

Throughout the battle tactical reconnaissances had been maintained to a depth of from fifteen to twenty miles behind the German lines. There were some few fights in the air, and a little bombing, but observation was still the principal duty of the Royal Flying Corps. They were greatly privileged; at a time when our people at home knew nothing of what the army was doing, they, and they alone, witnessed the battle of Ypres.

They would gladly have done more. Many of them had been infantry officers, and were eager to lend a hand to the infantry in that heroic struggle, but they lacked the means. Not until the summer of 1916 were they able, by organized attacks from the air, to help to determine the fortunes of a battle.

With the close of the battle there came a lull in the fighting. This lull continued throughout the dark and damp of the first winter, and the interest of the war in the air shifts to the preparations which were being pressed forward at home for renewing the war during 1915 on a larger scale and with better material.

One incident which occurred just after the battle of Ypres shall here be narrated; it serves to illustrate how the air work of the Germans may sometimes have been impeded by a certain defect of sympathy in the German officer class. German two-seater machines were commonly piloted by non-commissioned officers, who took their orders from the officer in the observer’s seat. On the 22nd of November Lieutenants L. A. Strange and F. G. Small, of N Squadron, were returning from a reconnaissance, flying at a height of about seven thousand feet. Their machine, an Avrò, with an 80 horse-power Gnome engine, carried a Lewis gun, which had been mounted by them, against orders, on rope tackle of their own devising, just above the observer’s seat. In the air they met a new German Albatross with a 100 horse-power Mercedes engine. They showed fight at once. Diving from a height of five hundred feet above the German machine, and at right angles to its line of flight, they turned underneath it and flew along with it, a little in front and less than a hundred feet below. From this position, which they maintained while both machines made two complete turns in the air, they were able to empty two drums of ammunition into the German machine. After the second drum the German pilot lost his nerve, and the machine side-slipped away and down, landing behind our lines, close to Neuve-Église. There were twenty bullet-holes in the German machine, but the pilot and observer were both uninjured. The British officers landed close by, to claim their prisoners. The German observer, a commissioned officer, took little notice of them; as soon as his machine landed he jumped out of it, and dragging the partner of his dangers and triumphs out of the pilot’s seat, knocked him down, and began to kick him heavily about the body. If ever a collection of incidents shall be made, under the title ‘How the War was Lost and Won’, to illustrate the causes of things, this little drama will deserve a place in it.