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"The Photo"

 Ray Williams* saves a 98-year-old reconnaissance photo taken over the Western Front by 3rd Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, in 1918.

Ray Williams* writes:

This journey of discovery started with a visit to a local Saturday Market about 10 years ago.  Whilst looking at a pile of odds and sods, I spotted a small brown photo-frame with a very early aerial photo.  I purchased it for the princely sum of $2.00 and asked the stall holder where he had obtained it.  He indicated that it was in job lot from a estate. 

My early research was fruitless.  Over the years I have tried several times with the same result.  The picture was taken by 3SQN and the date 20th May 1918 at 4.00pm.  I decided to try again, starting with the 3SQN website, and with help from James Oglethorpe was able to find the pilot and observer who had taken the photo.  

The Pilot was Thomas Latham Baillieu DFC from Victoria and the Observer was Edward Fearnley Rowntree DFC from Tasmania.  Thomas was 18 years old on joining and Edward was 22.  They both received the DFC for the same action on 11th August 1918.

I have discovered the Squadron record book for the day the photo was taken is as follows:

Squadron Record Book

Start                4.00pm
Return             4.55pm

36 plates oblique exposed from 800 feet from Dernancourt to Sailly le Sec.

 MG Fire from the ground - Very heavy encountered from whole front.  AA and field guns also very active against Machine.

Can you imagine sitting in a canvas-covered wooden structure, travelling at a top speed of 90kts, and all on the other side attempting to bring about your downfall?  - They did this, day after day, and survived. 


This is an RE8 and is the type of aircraft Thomas and Edward used.

During the Second World War, Thomas was a Wing Commander and commanded Narromine elementary flying school.  Edward had a very successful career as an engineer with the Tasmanian Hydro Authority.


Thomas is on the left.

Citation for  DFC

Lieut. THOMAS LATHAM BAILLIEU (Australian Flying Corps).—On a recent reconnaissance this officer, owing to a low visibility, was compelled to descend to a height of from 20 to 100 ft. in order to locate our troops ; this he succeeded in doing, and, after flying for an hour and a half at this low altitude, he returned with an accurate report of the situation in that area.  Returning a few hours later, he obtained further information regarding the line in that locality, though exposed to heavy machine-gun fire.

(Sd) L Charlton,
Brigadier General,
Commanding 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force."


Edward F Rowntree DFC.

Citation for DFC

Lieut Edward Fearnley Rowntree (Australian Flying Corps)

On 11th August, 1918 he flew for an hour and a half between the SOMME and RAINECOURT at a height varying from twenty to one hundred feet, under heavy machine gun fire.  Notwithstanding this and the low visibility he managed to establish the position of the line in that area.  Returning again later, though under heavy machine gun fire, he again brought back definite information of the line.  By his determination to finish any task allotted to him, he sets a magnificent example.

(Sd) L Charlton,
Brigadier General,
Commanding 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force."


Thomas is standing third from the left.  The wreck is that of the Red Baron's aircraft.

*Ray Williams did nine years as a RAAF "Clerk E". 
Rookies [course 621] and Clerk E training at Wagga.  Posted to Base Squadron Amberley and then spent 6 months at Ubon [Thailand] in 1964.  The rest of his time was spent at Base Squadron Garbutt. 
Moved from Townsville 20 years ago to beautiful Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, and now retired.

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