|The first operational
group dispatched was the half-flight sent to the Mesopotamia. Some
excellent reconnaissance work was completed despite poor machines and
appalling conditions. Three of the four pilots were killed or captured
and a number of ground crew were captured at Kut-el Arama and died in
The most successful Australian Pilot
in British service was Robert Alexander Little from Windsor Victoria.
Commissioned into the Royal Naval Air Service late in January 1916, he
later became a captain and the 8th top-scoring British ace with 47 enemy
fighters shot down. An ace was a flier with five or more victories.
Little was awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice and the
Distinguished Service Cross twice. He was 22 when shot down and killed
on May 27, 1918, while attacking a German bomber.
||The Australian Flying Corps had only
four operational squadrons and one of these, No. 1 Squadron spent most
of the war in the Middle East.
It produced the only Australian air
Victoria Cross winner of the war, Lieutenant F.H. McNamara, who, when
wounded himself rescued a fellow flier in Palestine.
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 Squadrons AFC,
each with 18 planes, flew with the Royal Flying Corps and used many
types of aircraft including the famous Camel, Sopwith Pup, Spad, Bristol
Scout, Bristol Bomber and RE8.
No. 3 Squadron was the first AFC unit to
deploy in France, arriving at Savy on September 10, 1917. It was at once
allotted to the newly formed Australian Corps as "corps
squadron". In this role it scouted for the Australian Divisions,
fought strafing and bombing enemy aircraft, and flew close-observation
or contact patrols during the AIF's 1918 battles.
The squadrons RE8
aircraft established a astounding record of service. Flying from 10
different aerodromes, they logged 10,000 hours of war flying, fired
500,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition at enemy targets, dropped 6,000
bombs, and accounted for 57 enemy aircraft. Numbers 2 and 4 Squadrons
served in an infantry support role with the 80th wing RFC, which became
the Royal Air Force in April 1918.
The leading AFC ace was Captain A.H.
Cobby, DSO, DFC and two bars, of No. 4 Squadron, who shot down 29 enemy
planes and 13 observation balloons. The other two leading AFC aces, also
from No.4 Squadron, were Captain E.J.K McCloughry (23 kills) and Captain
R. King, DSO, DFC, with 22.5 victories. All flew the Camel. No fewer
than 57 Australian pilots became aces.
All the Australian squadrons were made
up of courageous and colourful men who risked their lives in their
flimsy machines every moment they were in the air. Several of them were
former ANZACs and many had fought in the trenches in France. Thus they
always knew, and appreciated, that their primary task was to help the
embattled infantry below.
In all, 460 Officers and 2,234 men
served in the AFC during the war.