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Category: Air support

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For a full account of the Australian Flying Corps go to the AFC section. There you will find all the aircraft, all the squadrons and the men who made history. This page deals only with the activities of the AFC when it was acting in close support of the infantry.

The AFC spent thousands of hours taking photos of enemy positions, they dropped thousands of bombs and performed thousands of strafing raids on enemy trenches as well as getting into dog-fights with the enemy fighters and shooting down his bombers and observation balloons. Although there were many occasions were air support was obtained two stand out as the highlights of co-operation between soldier and airman. The details are below.

Supply Dropping IMPROMPTU

Once during the fighting around Gaza a unit of Light Horse was cut off. Fliers of 1 Squadron came to the cavalry's rescue flying ahead to detect a weak spot in the enemy's line, and then guiding the horsemen through it back to safety.

Another time a hard-pressed detachment of Light Horse which was holding a vital forward position during Allenby's advance on Damascus, was forced to exist on reduced iron rations. Providing the cavalry with special amenities was really no part of the Air Corps' job. But former Light Horsemen flying with the squadron persuaded Williams that their old comrades should not be allowed to go hungry. A desperate SOS to the Australian Comforts Fund brought quantities of tea, sugar, soap and cigarettes. Then the squadron was faced with the problem of getting the supplies to the beleaguered horsemen. After spending a day practising drops with dummy supply boxes, the pilots decided they were ready for the real thing. Individual packets of cigarettes and boxes of matches floated down beneath tiny handkerchief-sized parachutes. The other commodities were packed in short lengths of motor-car inner tubes which cushioned the landing shock so effectively that the Light Horse received all the supplies intact.

Supply Dropping PLANNED

Capt L J Wackett DFC

Capt. Lawrence J Wackett DFC   Nov 1918

  • The early morning mists of 4 July 1918 were witness to a unique air-to-ground operation on the Somme front in France. 

At 5.45am an RE8 flown by Lt G Newton with Lt A Renolds as his observer lifted off from the airfield of 3 Sqn AFC at Villers Bocage for a 10 minute flight to the battle front near the German held village of Hamel. 

It was the first of 13 RE8 machines that would continually return to that area throughout the day, contributing to the success of the ground offensive- and also making aviation history. 

Visibility in the air was reported to be fair with some cloud at the 2000 foot level. At about 6.00am Newton pulled the wooden toggle of his Bowden cable operated bomb release but instead of the usual 20lb Cooper bombs falling away, two heavy wooden crates attached to a 14ft diameter parachute floated gently down to earth. Each of those boxes weighed approximately 100lbs and contained four 250 round belts of ammunition for a Vickers machine gun. This was the first ever recorded supply of ammunition by parachute to troops in battle. It was an Australian organised operation, carried out by 3 Sqn AFC with some practical assistance from RAF.            Extract from a Cross & Cockade article.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces