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- Fire in the Sky
- Full text of "The Australian Flying Corps in the western and eastern theatres of war, "
Some were awaiting discharge, others were convalescents returned from overseas, and some were able to perform light duties. A large staff of over military personnel as well as nursing sisters and masseuses kept the long-term rehabilitation hospital running smoothly.
Lieutenant Colonel W. Read, an experienced wartime medical veteran, ran a disciplined hospital of beds. By the hospital was closed but its wards were converted to barracks and offices and continued to be used by the military.
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Today many of these original hutted buildings still remain and have been carefully conserved by the Harbour Trust. Vast tracts of our state were settled by returned servicemen and women in the aftermath of the Great War: the rural communities they established lie at the heartland of regional Australia. Stone Cold Andrew Faulkner. Lancaster Men Peter Rees. Charles Bean's Gallipoli edited by Phillip Bradley. Descent into Hell Peter Brune. Stubborn Buggers Tim Bowden. Jungle Warriors Adrian Threlfall. Horrie the War Dog Roland Perry.
Back to top. Bristol's BF2b, a two-seat fighter-bomber known as the Bristol Fighter, could climb to 10, feet in 11 minutes and fly at miles an hour when it got there.
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The famous Sopwith Camel could reach 12, feet in 12 minutes, fully loaded with weapons and ammunition, and fly as quickly as the Bristol Fighter. Pilots and observers sat exposed to the elements in noisy open cockpits. The view from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel. Not everyone was suited to this new field of military operations. Light horsemen or "bushmen" were thought to be physically fitter and have quicker reflexes and a better "character" than other men; they were common in No.
Many of its later recruits came from the ranks of the Light Horse; most of these already had years of active service. Two Bristol Fighters of the Australian Flying Corps, flying at top speed to reach their aerodrome before the gathering storm burst. Many of those who joined the squadrons on the Western Front also had prior service.
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The list of candidates for appointment to become flying officers in June , for example, records a mixture of officers and other ranks: some had been gunners, others clerks, drivers, infantrymen, or members of the medical services. Many were recommended for admission by their commanding officers on no other ground than their good record as soldiers in the line. Given the nature of warfare on the Western Front, it is not difficult to imagine why men would seek to transfer into the AFC. Many had experienced the misery and squalor of the trenches. Those who knew they would face danger as long as they were in the AIF, preferred to face it in a corps which offered the promise of independence and glamour, as well as a degree of comfort unknown to the men in the trenches.
Those who served in the Middle East, although spared the worst miseries of the Western Front, shared a similar desire to escape their own discomforts: sand, dust, and flies.
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Men who had already served in the ground forces reasoned that if they survived the day's flying they would at least have the chance to sleep in a comfortable bed. Not everyone, however, survived the day's flying. Many pilots were killed in accidents long before they could join a line squadron. Over a third of the AFC's wartime fatalities occurred in Britain. Some trainees died after the war had ended.
As one pilot wrote in March A great pal of mine was on his very last flight — his last test before qualifying He had enlisted in , gone through much front-line service, only to be killed on his absolute final exploit, four months after the armistice. Pilots who survived training were posted to operational squadrons where the thought of meeting the enemy in the sky was enough to give even the bravest men pause for thought.
Harry Cobby, who went on to become the AFC's leading ace, admitted his own fear of being posted to the front:. I quite freely admit that if anything could have been done by me to delay that hour, I would have left nothing undone to bring it about.
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Captain A. Owen Lewis, an observer in No. An entry in his diary on a day when bad weather prevented flying reveals his feelings about operations: " This morning I was pleased when the weather was fairly dud — I am afraid I am always pleased when that is so. On 12 April , the day after he had teamed up with a new pilot, both men were killed in action. Two main types of aircraft were used by the AFC: two-seater reconnaissance planes, in which the observer, armed with machine-guns, sat behind the pilot; and single-seater fighters.
The latter dominated the popular imagination: they were the aces, the fastest aircraft fighting duels with men like themselves above the trenches. In reality, aerial combat was a difficult skill to master, requiring split-second timing and complete mastery of aircraft and weapons. A man in No. We go hell-for-leather at those snub-nosed, black crossed busses of the Hun, and they at us.
Full text of "The Australian Flying Corps in the western and eastern theatres of war, "
Hectic work. Half-rolling, diving, zooming, stalling, "split-slipping", by inches you miss collision with friend or foe. Cool precise marksmanship is out of the question. He was in fact the observer in a two-seater and thus did not have the opportunity to use a forward firing machine-gun. Those like Cobby, who flew in fighters, also found that in a dog-fight, which by the end of the war could involve up to aircraft, hitting the enemy was very difficult:.
The air was too crowded, there was little opportunity to settle down and have a steady shot at anything. You would no sooner pick out someone to have a crack at, than there would be the old familiar "pop-pop-pop-pop" behind you, or you would just glimpse an enemy pilot getting into position to fire on yourself — so hard boot and stick one way to save your skin.
Most of Cobby's kills appear to have been scored against unsuspecting victims over whom he had the advantage of surprise and speed. When two skilled opponents met in the air, the fight was often lengthy: both men knew only one would survive. The German airman, Ernst Udet, described one such such combat: "I tried every trick I knew — turns, loops, rolls, and sideslips - but he followed each movement with lightning speed and gradually I began to realise that he was more than a match for me As Udet discovered, the air war could sometimes be chivalrous.
As the Australian historian, F. Cutlack, wrote, "the star airmen of the opposing armies regarded each other with a curious mixture of personal esteem and deadly hostility. When he was killed, Australian airmen placed wreaths on his grave. It was not uncommon for him to drop messages from and photographs of recently captured Australian airmen on their home field. The Australians did the same for the Germans and drank toasts to Felmy in their mess. On the Western Front captured enemy pilots were treated with respect by their allied counterparts and vice-versa.
Oberleutnant Gerhardt Felmy right poses with Lieutenant C. Vautin of No.