||5 May 1919
||BE2, BE12, DH.6, Martinsyde G.100,
Martinsyde G.102,Bristol Scout,
Nieuport 17, RE8, Bristol Fighter, Handley Page 0/400
||Ross Macpherson Smith,
Adrian Trevor Cole,
George Clifton Peters,
Edward Patrick Kenney,
Paul Joseph McGinness,
Allan Runciman Brown
||Point Cook: January - March 1916
Heliopolis: April - December 1916
Mustabig: December 1916 - January 1917
Kilo 143: January 1917- March 1917
Rafa: March - June 1917
Deir-el-Belah: June - September 1917
Wehi Sheikh Nuran: September - December 1917
Julis: December 1917 - February 1918
El Mejdel: February - April 1918
Ramleh: April - October 1918
Haifa: October - November 1918
Ramleh: November 1918 - February 1919
Kantara: February - March 1919
|The first complete
squadron of the Australian Flying Corps, the squadron was formed at
Point Cook in January 1916. It was formed under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel E H Reynolds.
After arriving in Egypt in early April
the squadron was packed off to England for training when it was noted
that there was a serve shortage of experienced personnel in the
squadron. The ground staff were to receive further training with various
squadrons already operating in the desert.
The squadron spent the war in the
Palestine theatre of operations and supported the Light Horse in it's
campaigns. One of it's main tasks during this time was long range photo
reconnaissance, which involved deep penetrations into enemy territory.
The squadron brought back high quality photo's, and due to the fact they
were flying Bristol Fighters, were rarely bothered.
They flew a large array of aircraft.
These included Maurice Farman , BE2a's , BE2c's , BE2e's , BE12's , RE
8's , Bristol Scouts , Vickers Gunbuses , Bristol Fighters , SE5a's , a
Handley Page 0/100 and a captured Albatros which was flown from time to
Several notable people served in 1
squadron AFC during the course of the war.
|Lieutenant L J Wackett
||A founding member of the Australian
|Captain R Smith
||Won the 1919 England to Australia air
|Lieutenant H Fysh
||A founding member of Qantas.
|Major R Williams
||Later the RAAF's first Chief of Air
Ross Macpherson Smith
1 Squadron AFC
|One member of 1 AFC was
Lt F.H McNamara from Rushworth , Victoria. He flew his first sortie in
December 1916 with No. 1 Squadron, AFC and on the 20th of March 1917
McNamara was involved in a sortie where he picked up a downed airman
despite being wounded and under fire from Turkish Cavalry and flew to
his home airbase. McNamara fell unconscious as the plane landed. He
received the Victoria Cross for his bravery and gallantry however he
was repatriated to Australia after recovering from his wounds. He
achieved the rank of Air Vice Marshal in WW2
|On October 31 1918 Turkey
surrendered and after moving back to Kantara 1 Squadron AFC was finally
disbanded on May 5, 1919.
1 Squadron AFC in the
One February morning in 1918, as a fleet of Turkish launches were ferrying supplies across the Dead Sea, a dull hum sounded on the lake behind them. Alarmed, the crews looked over their shoulders. All they could see was a swirl of spume approaching at a great speed. The Turks stared in terrified disbelief as the object
drew level. Fitted with a large propeller in front and mounted on floats, it was a cross between an aeroplane and a boat. Suddenly a Lewis gun at the rear sputtered into action and the sailors dived for cover.
Actually the craft was an Australian Flying Corps Martinsyde scout aeroplane that had been stripped of its wings and tail unit and
With its 160 horse-power Beardsmore engine, far too powerful for its purpose and its single Lewis gun only
able to fire over the stern, the converted aero-plane was a grotesque craft which threatened to capsize at the smallest provocation. But it was highly effective in cleaning up the Turkish ferry-boats on the Dead Sea. And Australian airmen of No. 1 Squadron,
famous for their ability to extract the last ounce of potential from their obsolescent aircraft, hailed it as their proudest creation.
All that could be spared to the Australians in the way of aircraft were British BEs (Bombing
Experimental) which were slow and poorly-armed and no match for the latest German
Fokker. Yet under Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, from South Australia, 1 Squadron slowly built up the most remarkable group of fliers possessed by either side in the Middle East. The pilots, recruited mostly from the Light Horse, were adventurers who joined the flying corps mainly for the thrill of flinging their primitive machines around the sky.
Without a machine like the Fokker, which could fire forward through the propeller, the squadron had no hope of dealing with German bombers. So Williams discussed the problem with a junior officer, Lieutenant Lawrence Wackett, who came up with his own interrupter gear. But Wackett punched so many holes through propeller blades that his experiment had to be called off before he could perfect his invention. Instead, the flier concentrated on building a special
machinegun mount for his own BE, which allowed the weapon to fire over the propeller. With his aeroplane's fire power now doubled, Wackett became the first Australian pilot to hold his own in a dog-fight with a Fokker.
As English and Anzac forces drove the Turks from the Canal Zone and advanced into Palestine, aircraft of 1 Squadron reported and photographed the opposing positions, spotted for the guns during battles and harried the enemy's line of retreat. Month by month the Australians' record of hours flown
far exceeded that of any other squadron in the Middle East.
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 2 Corps' job. But former Light Horsemen
flying with the squadron persuaded Williams ,h2t 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.
The ingenuity of Williams' men was also responsible for solving a more serious problem. As
Allenby's forces pushed north beyond Jerusalem, it became obvious that the Turkish 7th Army was heavily dependent on food supplies being ferried north across the Dead Sea. Given the task of destroying the enemy's supply line, pilots of 1 Squadron made low-level bombing and machine-gun attacks on successive convoys. But their
slow flying cumbersome machines, almost impossible to manoeuvre when loaded with bombs' gave the Turks plenty of time to zig-zag out of the way.
It was coincidental that just at that stage many of the squadron's ancient aircraft were being replaced by up-to-date Bristol fighters. Williams had a brain-wave.
The old Martinsydes, or Tin Elephants as they were better known, were unwieldy craft in the air. But with their high-powered engines they could give high speed on the ground. Williams ordered that one machine should be stripped down and
converted into a boat. The idea was a spectacular success. Although the Martinsyde's lightning
hit-and run raids on Turkish convoys failed to cause serious casualties it may have had an important psychological effect. Apparently demoralised by the spectacle of the strange monster roaring at them over the lake in a blur of salt spray, the Turks suspended the convoys.
Finally, equipped with the latest in aircraft and weapons, the airmen of 1 Squadron set up an amazing record in the last stages of the war by shooting down 17 enemy planes in
flames and forcing another 33 to land in Allied territory. Then, having blasted the enemy 'from the sky, they reduced his aerodromes to rubble heaps in more than 150 bombing raids. Thus not a single German plane was sighted overhead as
Allenby's advance columns raced into Damascus.
The men Williams had forged into the crack air force unit of the Middle East played a decisive role in the defeat of Turkey. But their record of success in war was more than matched by their achievements in peace.
Williams became the RAAF's first air marshal and first Chief of Air Staff. After retiring from the service he served as
Director General of Civil Aviation. Lawrence Wackett was the founder of the first experimental
air station to be established in Australia and later became chief of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Two of 1 Squadron's airmen, Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh, founded
QANTAS, while another, Pard Mustar, went to New Guinea to pioneer an air-freighting technique which, at one stage, was responsible for the island having more goods freighted by air than the rest of the world put together. Finally Captain Ross MacPherson Smith, one of Williams' greatest fighting pilots, in December 1919 became the first to fly from England to Australia.
Aircraft of the No. 1 Squadron reported and photographed the enemy's positions in the Middle East. For many months, the Australians' record of hours flown for exceeded that of any other squadron in the war zone.
A VC to the
AFC. F H McNamara
0900 Martinsyde-7486, Passengers-Nil, Time-2hrs.
Two BE2e's (Rutherford and Drummond),
two Martinsydes (Les Ellis and self). We each took six 4.5 Howitzer
shells (35lbs) to bomb a section of railway just across WADI HESSE.
Shells had delay action of 40 seconds. Ellis started bombing railway and
when a Hun appeared turned his attention to it. I followed him dropping
3 on train and 2 on railway. No.5 exploded prematurely wounding me in
the right buttock. Planes ripped about but engine unhurt. Dropped two
smoke bombs for other machines and started off home. Looked again at
railway curve and saw Rutherford (2c) on ground with the smoke bomb out.
Lots of smoke about. Turkish cavalry approaching 2c near railway.
Switched off, landed and taxied up to Rutherford. Latter trying to burn
his machine at fuselage. Yelled him to hurry. He ran up and climbed on
to engine cowl in between centre bay. Opened up, turned around and
started to take off. Right leg pretty dud. Machine doing about 35 mph on
ground when started swinging to left. Could not counter with right foot.
Swung around crashing prop, lower left plane and undercarriage. Got out
fired bullet into petrol tank followed with Very Light. Rifle fire from
the Turks. Started to Rutherfords BE which was not on fire yet. In
landing he had ripped off a tyre, broken centre section wires, cracked an
ilereron, dropped a lewis drum under rudder bar. Just now the remaining
35lb shell exploded! Blowing Martinsyde to pieces. Leg pretty dud and
bullets whizzing about. Reached Rutherfords machine. Sat in pilots seat,
enticed stuff from under rudder bar. Rutherford gave prop a swing
'Contact' and she started. He jumped into observers seat. Turned machine
around to take off. Opened up throttle. She stuck 3 times on soft
ground, then lifted off ground. Just in time to escape rush. Nearly
fainted on way back. Put wind up Rutherford. Took about 1hr 20min to
reach 143. Landed alright - 3 bombs still on rack. Evacuated on Hospital
train 7.15 pm."
1 Squadron AFC
Following an invitation from Britain
to the dominions to form complete flying squadrons for service with the
British forces, the first squadron of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
was formed at Point Cook in Victoria in January 1916. It sailed from
Melbourne on 16 March, and arrived in Egypt on 14 April. The
squadron’s less experienced pilots were sent to the United Kingdom for
further training, while other personnel were attached to the Royal
Flying Corps to further hone their skills. Upon joining the British
forces in Egypt the squadron became known as 67 (Australian) Squadron,
Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and would not revert to its original name
until 19 January 1918.
The squadron began flying operations
in its own right on 12 June 1916, although its three flights operated
independently from dispersed airfields. Initially the squadron’s main
role was aerial reconnaissance and its aircraft operated both out across
the Sinai desert in search of Turkish forces, and across Egypt’s
western desert to monitor activity by the rebellious Senussi.
Increasingly, though, its aircraft were involved in attacks against
Turkish ground forces.
After being reunited in December 1916,
the squadron supported the British and dominion advance into Palestine.
It became a “jack of all trades” carrying out reconnaissance,
photography, ground attack and liaison missions, in addition to having
to fight off aggressive German adversaries. For his actions following an
attack on the railway line at Tel el Hesi, near Gaza, on 20 March 1917,
Lieutenant Frank MacNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross. During the
raid one of McNamara’s comrades was forced down and, despite being
wounded himself, McNamara landed to rescue him from beneath the guns of
a Turkish cavalry unit.
With the arrival of new aircraft in
the second half of 1917, the British and dominion air forces were able
to gradually wrest control of the air from the German squadrons. This
allowed them to range over Turkish territory with virtual impunity and
airpower contributed greatly to the success of British and dominion
operations in 1918, particularly the last great offensive of the
campaign, launched with the Battle of Megiddo on 19 September 1918. The
Turkish forces surrendered on 31 October. Addressing the squadron after
the Armistice, General Sir Edmund Allenby, the British
Commander-in-Chief, congratulated it for its role in the victory:
This squadron played an important part
in making this achievement possible. You gained for us absolute
supremacy of the air, thereby enabling my cavalry, artillery and
infantry to carry out their work on the ground practically unmolested by
hostile aircraft. This undoubtedly was a factor of paramount importance
in the success of our arms here.
1 Squadron returned to Egypt in
February 1919, embarked for home on 5 March, and was disbanded upon its
arrival in Australia. Text from AWM
- 10 dead, 5 wounded
- 1 VC
- 1 DSO
- 1 OBE
- 18 MC
- 20 DFC
- 2 MM
- 9 MSM
- 3 AF MSM
- 39 MID
- 2 foreign awards