In his teens George would become involved with the boy scouts, then the Manitoba Horse, a militia unit of the day and then he'd join the regular army and served in the trenches of France with the First Manitoba Rifles. The 2nd blog told of his crawling out of the trenches after about 8 months and switching into the air force by enlisting with the Royal Flying Corps. By the Fall of 1917, and then with about three years service under his belt George would have been promoted to the commissioned rank of a lieutenant and moved up from a machine gunner and observer to that of pilot.
By the end of the 2nd blog he had already shot down over a half dozen enemy planes and became an air ace in the process. For these he would be awarded the first four of 12 medals he would eventually get for bravery. These were not one, but 2 Mentions in Dispatches, and also 2 Military Crosses for bravery while flying combat missions over France.
With the capture of some 80,000 Italian's near their front and the country's near collapse, the British ordered four squadrons to leave France and do their best to aid the Italians. George would travel with one of the squadrons and would actually command most of the flyers sent. It did not take long for the Brits to realize that the Germans and Austrians commanded the air space, having already had so much success over the Italians. Thus the job for the Brits was to set the tone and let the enemy know that they meant business.
Very soon after arrival George and three other Camels were ambushed by 12 of the enemy, but the Camels took to battle right away and sent a message to the enemy... they had no intention of turning and running. In fact in one of the earliest dog-fights 12 German planes attacked the 4 Camels... and all were driven off with exception of the one George forced into the ground, having already shot of one of its wings.
On another flight George and his squadron came across two large observation balloons tied off quite close to the ground in a large field. A long line of tucks carrying enemy supplies was also in the area. George immediately dropped out of the sky and flew very low and took out both balloons and set the trucks scrambling to safety. Later when he got back to base he was given a lecture from his boss who noted the instructions of the day did not permit such low flying. George simply responded that upon seeing the obvious targets he just forget the order.
Not long after this they came across five balloons and set them all afire and also shot up a German staff car which flipped over under the Camel's intense cannon fire.
Being in good Christmas spirits three Camels including George piloting one of them, flew over an enemy camp and dropped out a large cardboard message... from the RFC to the Austrian Flying Corps, Have a Merry Xmas. They then circled around and fired into the camp site killing over a dozen and left planes and hangars ablaze. No credits were given the men because it, like many others, were unauthorized raids. (Ernest Hemingway's short fictional story... The Snow's of Kilimanjaro was based on this event.)
The next morning about 40 enemy planes woke the Brits to an air attack but it was a sloppy job as most apparently were still under the influence of too much partying the night before. The Brits raced to their planes and after many dogfights drove about a dozen enemy planes to the ground. But en-route back to their base the Brits came under attack by about a dozen of the most formidable German craft... the Gotha bombers. But the Brits managed to drive two out of the air. Again the men were not awarded for the credits they deserved because the enemy attack was due to their disobeying commands earlier and conducting unauthorized raids.
On Jan 1 1918 George was on another mission escorting some Brit bombers, but doing so from off in the distance. The enemy not seeing him when they swooped into for some kills. George then jumped the enemy and blew one from the skies. He would be awarded his first Distinguished Service Order for this action. The DSO is just one medal down from the Victoria Cross. Days later he would be shooting down 2 more enemy craft.
Because of his flying skills, the British command would often turn to George to do the most difficult jobs. One of these being the dropping of spies into certain target areas. He was so successful with numerous missions of this sort that the King of Italy awarded him first a Silver Medal for Valor, and later even a 2nd one. This medal is the highest medal Italy can award a non Italian for war time bravery.
In April, and May of 1918 George would shoot down another 9 enemy planes. A second bar to his Military Cross would soon be presented. And soon the French government presented its Croix de Guerre for his support role in defending their bomber missions into as deep as five miles into those enemy lines. In May one of his victims was an Austrian air ace. By June of 1918 the Austrians had lost about 150 of their 200 aircraft.
So they were little in the mood for George's invite to come and do battle. He had invited the enemy in the past with similar challenges but this time told the enemy his boys would be doing bombing runs for the next 2 weeks and gave the times and places and invited the enemy to come up and say hello. They never showed up. And so the Brits did just what they said they would do. They dropped their bombs with impunity.
In July a new squadron was formed and George, now with the rank of Major was given its command. The following day 3 of his planes ran into 5 of the enemy and drove two from the sky. Days later they would drive five to the ground. Another 24 hrs. would pass and George's team ran into the enemy. This time they decided they wanted nothing to do with the Brits and sped off. Within a few more days George would down 3 more planes. It was at about this time that he would get yet another Mentions in Dispatch.
Now with an acknowelged record of 33 planes and 9 balloons, George was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Service Order. The equivalent of earning two of the very medal just one down from the VC. The numbers were really much higher, but credits were not given for those he shot down before becoming an officer and those shot down on unauthorized raids.
In August of 1918 George flew the Prince of Wales on a flight over the enemy territory so that the Prince could see the battleground for himself.
George's next assignment involved relocating back to England and commanding the fighter pilot training, but I'll bring George's blogs to a close with that story next Wednesday.