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"Gardens of Memory"
Memorials to the Sacrifices of 3RD Squadron Australian Flying Corps
in the Great War.

Photos by Vicki CRIGHTON, 3SQN Assn. NSW Secretary


One of the Memorial Placards composed by Vicki.
[Showing an RE8 two-seater aircraft.]

100 years after the momentous events of the Great War, our 3 Squadron Association NSW Secretary, Vicki CRIGHTON, toured areas of the UK, France and Belgium, placing small 3SQN Assn. placards next to the graves of many of the 3 Squadron personnel who died in the service of their country. 

These men voyaged away from their homes in Australia, and never returned. 

These memorials are now found in such peaceful locations that it is difficult to imagine the devastation, the noise, the dust and the horror which once prevailed there.  Beautiful gardens now stand to the credit of these men and their memorials are maintained in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to honour their sacrifice.

Editor's Note:  Many Thanks to Gareth MORGAN, President of the Society of WW1 Aero Historians, for the biographical research quoted below.  

Our Squadron's name morphed several times as WW1 progressed:
- It was originally titled No.2 Squadron, AFC;
- Changed by the British (for a short while) to No.69 (Australian) Squadron, RFC;
- Then to No.69 Squadron, AFC;
- Then (briefly, due to a clerical error) to No.3 Squadron AFC;
- And finally [January 1918] to the 3rd Squadron, AFC. 
 

 

1.  Lincoln (Newport) Cemetery, Lincolnshire, England
"First Loss."
 The Squadron is sent to the UK for Training.

Air Mechanic Class II George Edmund HANSEL, (608) No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC.
George Hansel came from Woollahra, NSW.  He was a Mechanical Draftsman, aged 21, when he joined the AFC in Sydney on 4 September 1916.  On 25 October he embarked on HMAT A38 Ulysses at Melbourne for travel to the UK.  After arrival in Britain he attended an RFC trade school for fitters, before arrival at No.69 (Australian) Sqn on 7 February, where he was made an Acting Sergeant.  Two days later he was admitted to hospital with cerebro-spinal fever.
He died from meningitis in Lincoln Hospital on 13 February 1917.

AMII G. E. Hansel is buried in Grave D 452 at Lincoln (Newport) Cemetery, Lincolnshire, England.

 

2. Lincoln (Newport) Cemetery, Lincolnshire, England.
"Training Accidents"

Second Lieutenant Harold Strachan KITSON, No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC (attached to No.45 Training Sqn RFC).
Harold Kitson came from Melbourne, where he was born on 26 October 1894, and was working as a Clerk when he originally joined the 10th Infantry Battalion at Morphettville, South Australia, on 22 August 1914.  He was discharged as unsuitable on 22 September. 

In March 1916, he joined the AFC in Melbourne, only to be discharged in June as being surplus to requirements.  On his third attempt to serve, after becoming an Engineering Student, he enlisted in No.2 Sqn AFC in Melbourne on 5 October 1916 and left Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 25 October, after being commissioned.  On arrival in England he trained as a pilot with No.49 Reserve Sqn RFC.  He was taken on strength by No.69 (Australian) Sqn from No.63 Sqn RFC in May, before No.63 Sqn left for Mesopotamia in June, and was posted to No.45 Training Sqn RFC for further training.

He was killed in an aircraft accident 3 miles north-east of South Carlton, England, on 15 June 1917, while flying Sopwith Pup B1734, when the aeroplane did not recover from a spinning nose-dive after an attempted loop and spin from 8,000 feet.  The Court of Enquiry determined that Lt Kitson had become giddy through spinning and lost control of the aeroplane.

2Lt H. S. Kitson is buried in Grave D 454 at Lincoln (Newport) Cemetery, Lincolnshire, England.

 

 

3. Coventry (London Road) Cemetery, Warwickshire, England

Lieutenant Roy Cumestree TROUT, No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC.
Roy Trout came from Brisbane, Queensland.  He was an Agricultural Chemist, aged 21, when he joined the AFC in Brisbane on 8 August 1916, having previously been commissioned in the AMF Light Horse.  He was commissioned before departing from Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 25 October.  After arrival in the UK he was sent to No.13 Reserve Sqn RFC for flying instruction and the Wireless Observers’ School for further instruction before being posted to No.69 (Australian) Sqn at South Carlton on 8 July.  He was then temporarily detached to the RFC Aircraft Acceptance Park at Coventry for duty as a delivery pilot.

He was killed in an aircraft accident at Coventry on 27 July 1917 while flying RE8 A3772, after the aeroplane entered a spinning nose-dive after a flat turn.  He was delivering the RE8 from the Coventry Ordnance Works factory to Lympne when the crash occurred.  The Court of Enquiry found that Lt Trout met his death due to inexperience with the RE8, plus the possible breakage of the elevator control.  Witnesses testified that an elevator crank lever component was broken, and this had perhaps occurred while Lt Trout was attempting to regain control.  Brigadier General L. P. Herbert, the commander of the RFC’s Northern Training Brigade, disagreed with the first part of the Court’s findings, stating that Lt Trout had acquired some 42 hours’ flying time, including 4 hours’ experience on the RE8, at the time of the crash.

Lt R. C. Trout is buried in Grave 141 174 at Coventry (London Road) Cemetery, Warwickshire, England.

 

4.  Brookwood (Military) Cemetery, Surrey, England
"Over the Channel"

The loss of Shapira and Sloane during 3AFC's deployment to France...

 

 

TO THE FRONT
YPRES SALIENT - The "Menin Gate" Memorial to the Missing...

 

5.   Bailleul (Extension) Cemetery, France. 
"3AFC's Ypres Valhalla"

Captain Henry Haigh STORRER, No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC.
Henry Storrer was born in Geelong, Victoria, on 3 September 1888.  He was an Accountant, or a Motor Garage Manager, or a Shipping Clerk.  (According to different copies of his enlistment papers!)  He was serving as a Captain in the AMF's 8th Garrison Artillery, when he joined the AFC at Laverton as a Lieutenant on 24 October 1915.  He spent three months with the Aviation Instruction Staff, learning to fly at Point Cook.  On 25 October 1916 he embarked on HMAT A68 Ulysses at Melbourne as the acting Commanding Officer of 3AFC/No.69 (Australian) Sqn, RFC.  On arrival in the UK he was posted to various RFC Units for higher instruction in military aviation.  He was promoted to Captain, and appointed as a flight commander, in August 1917, when the squadron left the UK for the Western Front.

He was killed in an aircraft accident at Bailleul on 2 December 1917, while flying RE8 A3755 with Lt W. N. E. Scott, who was also killed.  A strong wind was blowing as the aeroplane took off from Bailleul (Town Ground) Aerodrome on an artillery observation mission and, as Capt Storrer turned to avoid a line of trees, a sudden squall turned the RE8 upside down so that it crashed onto the stone wall of Bailleul Cemetery.

Capt H. H. Storrer is buried in Grave III F 46 at Bailleul (Extension) Cemetery, France.
 

Lieutenant William Norman Eric SCOTT, No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC.
William Scott came from Elsternwick, Victoria, where he was born on 15 August 1894.  An Electrical Engineer, he served for two years in the 19th Field Battery of the AMF.  He joined the 4th Battery, Australian Field Artillery, in Melbourne on his 20th birthday.  He left from Melbourne on HMAT A9 Shropshire on 20 October 1914.  The 4th Battery landed at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.  In January 1916 he was briefly hospitalised with meningitis in Egypt, before rejoining his
battery on the Western Front in March.  In April 1917 he was selected for a transfer to the AFC, where he was commissioned as an observer in June 1917 and posted to No.69 (Australian) Sqn in France in August.  Promotion to Lieutenant came in September.

Lt W. N. E. Scott is buried in Grave III F 47 at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

 

Sandy and Hughes, the "Ghost RE8"...

   

Second Lieutenant Clarence DONAHAY, 3rd Sqn AFC.
Clarence Donahay came from Melbourne.  He was born on 14 February 1892 and working as an Optician when he joined the Australian Army Medical Corps in Melbourne on 15 March 1915.  He departed from Sydney with the 1st Australian General Hospital on HMAT A55 Kyarra on 13 April and, having been detailed to look after repatriated casualties, he returned in September on HMAT A17 Port Lincoln.  He transferred to No.2 Sqn AFC at Laverton on 24 October 1916 and left Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses the next day.  He served in the AFC in England until he was commissioned in October 1917 after completing flying training.  He was then posted to 3rd Sqn on the Western Front.

He was killed in action on 26 January 1918 when flying RE8 B2259, with Lt J. R. Blair as observer, who was also killed.  The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed at Dranoutre when returning after checking visibility for to artillery observation.

2Lt C. Donahay is buried in Grave III F 51 at Bailleul (Extension) Cemetery, France.

Lieutenant John Riggall BLAIR, 3rd Sqn AFC.
John Blair came from Rockhampton, Queensland.  He was born on 21 January 1894 and was a Pastoralist when he enlisted in the 25th Infantry Battalion at Brisbane on 23 July 1915.  He left from Brisbane on HMAT A48 Seang Bee on 21 October.  After service at Gallipoli he transferred to the 9th Battalion in March 1916.  He received a bayonet wound in his right knee during the Battle of the Somme in July and was sent to Newcastle in England for hospital treatment.  After recovery, he transferred to the AFC in April, and trained as an observer before being commissioned in June.  He joined No.69 (Australian) Sqn on the Western Front in September and was injured in an accident in RE8 A3756 in October.  He had a short spell of leave in the UK before rejoining the squadron on 13 January.

Lt J. R. Blair is buried in Grave III F 50 at Bailleul (Extension) Cemetery, France.

 

    The loss of Streeter and Tarrant to "Friendly Fire"...

 

 

6. Outtersteene Cemetery, France.
"The German Spring Offensive" March 1918

Air Mechanic Class I Edward Bertram DEWHIRST, (723) 3rd Sqn AFC.
Edward Dewhirst came from Port Augusta, South Australia and was a Draughtsman aged 27 when he joined No.2 Sqn AFC in Adelaide on 27 June 1916.  He departed from Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 25 October.  On arrival in the UK he was sent on a course for aeroplane fitters in Edinburgh before moving to France with No.69 (Australian) Sqn in August 1917.
He was killed in action by long range artillery fire at Abeele aerodrome on 23 March 1918 when the Officers’ Quarters were struck by a German shell.
AMI E B Dewhirst is buried in Grave II B 31 at Outtersteene Cemetery, France.

 

7. Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery, France.

Sell, Second Lieutenant Leslie Simeon John SELL, 3rd Sqn AFC.
Leslie Sell was born in Ballarat and was a Photographer living in Albert Park, Victoria, when, aged 25, he joined the AFC in Melbourne on 23 October 1916.  He had previously served in the AMF Infantry, but left in 1912 when he changed his address.  On 17 January 1917 he embarked on HMAT A5 Omrah in Melbourne.  After arrival in England he served with No.71 (Australian) Sqn at Castle Bromwich until September, when he commenced pilot training, from which he graduated in December, when he was commissioned.  On 14 March 1918 he was posted to 3rd Sqn in France.
He was killed in an aircraft accident on 25 March 1918 while flying RE8 A4439 with 2LT Victor Edwin Millington, who suffered a fractured skull, and was evacuated to England.
Lt L S J Sell is buried in Grave III E 2 at Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery, France.

8. Vignacourt British Cemetery, France
"3AFC's Somme Valhalla"

The tragic loss of Best and Lewis in a dangerous aeroplane...

Captain Henry Douglas Eyre RALFE, 3rd Sqn AFC.
Henry Ralfe came from Sydney, NSW, where he was born on 29 May 1890.  He was a Regular Army Officer in the Siege Artillery Brigade who had undergone flying training at Point Cook before he joined the AIF on 23 May 1915; he embarked on HMAT A67 Orsova in on 17 July.  He served with the Headquarters of the 36th Artillery Brigade in France before transferring to the AFC in August 1916.  After further training, he was engaged in training others in the UK before he was posted to No.69 (Australian) Sqn in France in September 1917.  Unfortunately, after a month in France, he had to return to the UK for medical treatment, after which he commanded No.32 (Australian) Training Sqn at Yatesbury from October until 22 February 1918, and he did not rejoin his squadron at the Front again until March 1918.

He was killed in action over the Morlancourt Ridge on 6 May 1918, while flying RE8 A4404 with Lt W. A. J. Buckland, who was also killed.  The RE8 was attacked by several Fokker Dr.Is at 0715 and went down in flames.  Ltn Viktor von Pressentin von Rautter of Jasta 4 claimed a victory; it was the 5th of his eventual 15 victories before his death in action in combat with French Bréguet bombers on 31 May.

Capt H. D. E. Ralfe is buried in Grave II A 4 at Vignacourt British Cemetery, France.

Lieutenant William Alexander John BUCKLAND, 3rd Sqn AFC.
William Buckland came from Moe, Victoria.  He was nearly 22 and working as an Engineer when he enlisted in the 12th Field Company, Engineers, in Melbourne on 12 January 1916, before departing from Melbourne on HMAT A54 Runic on 20 June.  After service on the Western Front, he transferred to the AFC and, after graduation as an observer; he was commissioned in June 1917 and posted to No.69 (Australian) Sqn RFC.

Lt W. A. J. Buckland is buried in Grave II A 5 at Vignacourt Cemetery, France.

 

9.  Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France

Loss of Bice and Chapman on "The Black Day of the German Army"...

 

10. Brie British Cemetery, France.
"The Hindenburg Line"

Second Lieutenant Rowland Frank Charles MACHIN, 3rd Sqn AFC.
Rowland Machin was born in Melbourne on 2 July 1896 and was working as a Fitter in Queenstown, Tasmania, when he enlisted the 12th Infantry Battalion at Claremont on 29 May 1916.

He left Melbourne on HMAT A59 Botanist on 24 August.  He joined his unit in France in February 1917 and was wounded in May after being buried by an exploding artillery shell.  In December he transferred to the AFC for training as an observer, after which he was commissioned in February 1918.  After further training, he was posted to 3rd Sqn in France in July.

On 15 August he was flying with Lt D. F. Dimsey in RE8 C2490 on a Counter-Attack Patrol when the aeroplane was damaged by enemy fire and forced to return to base.  The same airmen were in F5899 on 3 September when it was damaged by ground fire during a Contact Patrol.

He was killed in action over the Hindenburg Line on 18 September 1918 (during an attack by the 4th and 1st Australian Divisions) while flying RE8 C2490 with Lt Dimsey, who was wounded.  The RE8 was flying at about 300 feet while on a Contact Patrol, and had just located the attacking infantry at about 10.00 when the RE8 was hit by machine gun fire from the ground.  Lt Dimsey returned to the squadron’s aerodrome, but 2Lt Machin died just after arrival.

2Lt R. F. C. Machin is buried in Grave I A 7 at Brie British Cemetery, France.

 

11.  Arras "Memorial to the Missing", France.

Loss of Peel and Jeffers - 3AFC's only casualties without known graves...

 

12. Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gouy, France.
"Last Operational Casualties"

The loss of Gould-Taylor and Thomson...

 

 

13. Premont British Cemetery, France.
"Influenza Pandemic"

Corporal Edward Joseph MAHER, (1477) 3rd Sqn AFC.
Edward Maher came from Melbourne, Victoria.  He was an Engineer, aged 32, when he joined the 7th Pioneer Battalion on 14 July 1916; he transferred to the AFC in January 1917 and departed Melbourne on HMAT A9 Shropshire on 11 May.  After specialist training in England, he joined No.69 (Australian) Sqn in France in August.  He served with the squadron until he was infected with influenza and sent to hospital at the end of October 1918.

He died from pneumonia at the 50th Casualty Clearing Station on 1 November 1918.

Cpl E. J. Maher is buried in Grave I E 14 at Premont British Cemetery, France.

 

 

14. Harefield (St Mary) Cemetery, Middlesex, England.
"Rest in Peace"

Corporal Gustav William FEILD, (787) 3rd Sqn AFC.
Gustav Feild came from Murtoa, Victoria, and was a Plumber aged 32 when he enlisted in the AIF in September 1916.  He transferred to No.2 Sqn AFC at Laverton on 23 October 1916 before departing Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses two days later.  After a short period of hospital in England, he was posted to No.69 (Australian) Sqn in France in August 1917, where he was promoted to Corporal in February 1918. 

Gus was one of the personalities featured in the 3AFC Trench Magazine "Side-Slipper".  He served in the unit’s quartermaster stores until he went to the UK on leave in October, and fell victim to the influenza pandemic.

He died from pneumonia at Harefield Hospital on 9 November 1918.  Cpl G. W. Feild is buried in Grave Aust 98 at Harefield (St Mary) Cemetery, Middlesex, England.  This churchyard contains 120 First World War graves, mostly those of Australians who died in No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park.  Uniquely, their graves are marked by scroll shaped headstones, chosen by the staff and patients at the hospital. 

 

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