The last column left off with him being awarded the first of the dozen for actions in France were he forced one plane down, set another crashing to earth in flames and in the process did what he was originally sent off to do...gain valuable intelligence on enemy movements in the area...and doing so by flying very low and constantly in incredible danger throughout. This was in July 1916. And he had just returned a few months earlier from England were he took further training and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.
Two months later, during the Battle of Cambrai, George was air bound again taking photos of the German defences and also the newly developed German tanks. He as usual had to fly very low to get good intelligence on not only movement and placement of weaponry but also to find evidence of new movement and defenses. While doing so he and his pilot came under attack by two German aircraft but both were driven off. Then they found themselves in the midst of 4 enemy planes but these too were driven off.
About mid November 1916 the British forces finally overtook the village of Beaumont Hamel and the RFC were given instructions to keep an eye of the area for any enemy movements that could result in the village falling to the Germans. It was George and his pilot that came across a massive assembly of about 4,000 enemy not far away obviously gathered to attempt to retake the village. He called in the co-ordinates and directed artillery fire that when completed, saw the massive destruction of the enemy and saved the village from falling again.
Two months later George was awarded the Military Cross for these actions.
Days after his bravery during the Beaumont Hamel incident George's desires to become a commissioned pilot instead of an observer/gunner and co-pilot were supported and he was sent off to England for training. This formally began in January of 1917.
At that time it must be recognized that the training was very limited. You were shown how to get the plane up and down, a little about map work and how to load the Lewis machineguns while air born and little else. The incredible demand for pilots did not give a lot of time for training. And none was given on how to pull out of spiral dives, dogfighting or anything other than the bare bones basics. It was no wonder that in those days the life expectancy of a pilot was only 11 days. But George still took to the basics so fast that he was taking his first solo flight after only 55 minutes of formal training.
Soon graduating and commissioned as a Captain, he would be back in the air over France. And as soon he would be battling in the Arras Offensive were he not only shot down yet another plane but discovered an enemy trench loaded with about 1,000 Germans. He directed the very successful shelling of the trench and two very powerful long range guns. On 18 July he was awarded another MID and another Military Cross for these actions. It would result in the first of two bars he would eventually have on his original MC. Said another way, he would have three Military Cross awards. He was also promoted to Flight Commander.
The oak leaves on this pin represent the medal called the MID or Mentions in Dispatch. The Military Cross is just two medals in ranking below the Victoria Cross.
After numerous other flights and several minor wounds George was sent back to England for a short rest. There his talents were put to good use in the training of the never ending line up of new recruit pilots.
And it would be here that he would be assigned to a Sopwith Camel. A two winged one, not a four legged one.
George continued training the recruits but had heard of development in the airplanes of the enemy back and France and continually pushing his bosses to be reassigned back on the Western Front. Finally after he chose to buzz the training headquarters at a very low height they decided his talents were better used buzzing the enemy instead of the HQ building and sent him packing again back to France and to a squadron of flying Camels to boot.
(And they say, thank goodness cows don't fly, hehe)
In late October 1917 George was leading a squad of Camels in France when they came under attack by the new German very powerful Albatros warplanes. The Brits were attacking a long line of soldiers in a blinding rainstorm. Out of nowhere came the German planes. Two Camels were forced to the ground and George's plane was racked from one end to the other and he was fighting for his life. He went into an immediate tight turn to the right and just missed clearing the tops of some trees and suddenly pulled into a loop that saw him finally pull out when just a few feet off the ground. His burst of shells into a pursuing enemy saw that plane burst into flames. Then another came at him, and again he went into a sudden loop that caught the enemy by surprise. Pulling out of the loop he then shot that plane out of the sky. Two days later he took out yet a third. He was now a war ace with five or more kills to his credit.
George was well on his way to becoming a top ace when plans called for his moving out of the Western Front and into another theatre of war.
More on this on Friday.
But on Wednesday I return to cover a few other matters.
See you then.