Worcestershire Regiment officers and men who served in RFC/RAF

Background & History

In 1878 the Royal Engineers formed a Balloon Unit and this was the beginning of aviation in the British armed forces. In 1885 the first balloon detachment of the British Army commanded by Major James Templer used in eastern Sudan. During the Boer War (1899-1902) the military used balloons and kites to provide assistance with observation, signalling and artillery control. This was followed in 1907 when the British Army started to use airships. By 1909 German, French and British Governments were investing in military aeronautics.
In 1911 the Balloon Factory, which was under the control of the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane, was renamed the Army Aircraft Factory but this was changed to the Royal Aircraft Factory a year later. Geoffrey de Havilland joined had the factory back in 1910 and was responsible for many of the best features of the early aeroplanes.

BE-2 Biplane

The first Air Battalion was established in 1911. At first progress was slow and by 1912 the Air Battalion only had eleven qualified pilots compared to 263 in the French Army Air Service.

By Royal Warrant on the 13th May 1912, the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) superseded the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers. Initially, it was decided that the BE-2 would be the main fighter plane. At the time they had an allowed strength 133 officers. By the end of 1912 the RFC had one squadron of airships and three of aircraft. Each squadron had twelve machines.

The RFC originally came under the responsibility of Brigadier-General David Henderson, the Director of Military Training, and had separate branches for the Army and the Navy. Major Sykes commanded the Military Wing and Commander C. R. Samson commanded the Naval Wing. The Royal Navy however, with different priorities to that of the Army and wishing to retain greater control over its aircraft, formally separated its branch and renamed it the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in 1914.

Adjacent is the badge of the Royal Flying Corps.

At the beginning of the First World War in August 1914 the RFC mainly used the BE-2, Farman MF-7, Avro 504, Vickers FB5, Bristol Scout, and the F.E.2. By May 1915, the Royal Flying Corps had only 166 aircraft, compared to the French Army Air Service ( Aéronautique Militaire) which had 1150 aircraft available, as a result the French carried out the vast majority of the operations on the Western Front.

Early in the war RFC aircraft were marked with Union Flags on the wings. The aircraft were often fired upon by ground forces because the markings were mistaken for the crosses on German aircraft. To prevent this the RFC adopted the familiar roundel and tail cockade markings from the French, though with the colours in reverse order.

In August 1915 Major-General Hugh Trenchard (known as General "Boom" Trenchard), who had joined the RFC in 1912 as Adjutant of the Central Flying School, became the new Royal Flying Corps General Officer Commander in the field. Major-General Trenchard took a much more aggressive approach and insisted on non-stop offensive patrols over enemy lines. As a result British casualties were high, and by 1916, an average of two aircrew crew were lost every day. It became even worse the following year, and in the spring of 1917 the RFC were losing nearly fifty aircraft a week.

By July 1916 the RFC had a total strength of twenty-seven squadrons (421 aircraft), with four kite-balloon squadrons and fourteen balloons. These squadrons were organised into four brigades, each of which worked with one of the British armies.

By the summer of 1917 the next generation of technically advanced combat aircraft were introduction (such as the SE5, Sopwith Camel and Bristol Fighter) this ensured British losses fell and damage inflicted on the enemy increased.

Brig-Gen D. Henderson

Maj-Gen. H. Trenchard

Early in 1918 Lord Rothermere was appointed Secretary of State for Air by the Prime Minister Lloyd George. Lord Rothermere and Trenchard did not see eye to eye which resulted in Major-General Trenchard offering his resignation on the 19th March 1918. Although he was persuaded to carry on by Rothermere, he finally resigned on the 13th April 1918. After a public outcry to Trenchard's departure Lord Rothermere was forced to resign and his position just 2 weeks later, being replaced by Sir William Weir.

By the beginning of 1918 the RFC had grown rapidly and it now operated some 4,000 combat aircraft and employed 114,000 personnel.

On the advice of General Jan Smuts, it was decided on the 1st April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force (RAF) by amalgamating the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Also formed at this time was Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) Under the leadership of Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, the next nine months saw 9,000 women recruited as clerks, fitters, drivers, cooks and storekeepers. The RAF was under the control of the new Air Ministry.

At the end of the First World War casualties from the RFC/RNAS/RAF for 1914-18 totalled 9,378 killed or missing, with 7,245 wounded. Some 900,000 flying hours on operations were logged, and 6,942 tons of bombs dropped. The RFC claimed some 7,054 German aircraft and balloons either destroyed, or damaged and had to land.

Eleven RFC members received the Victoria Cross during the First World War one of which was Lieut. William Leefe Robinson of the Worcestershire Regiment (attached to 39 Squadron of the RFC) who received for shooting down the German Airship SL11 on the night of 2nd/3rd September 1916 over Cuffley, Hertfordshire.

By the start of 1919 the RAF had 4,000 combat aircraft and 114,000 personnel.

General Hugh Trenchard was appointed chief of staff to the Royal Air Force. By December, 1918, the RAF had more than 22,000 aircraft and 291,000 personnel, making it the world's largest airforce.

During the course of the First World War many officers and men of the Worcestershire Regiment were attached to the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force. Many of the Officers trained as pilots and became Flying Officers, others became Air Observers or Staff Officers. Some of the Worcestershire officers trained and obtained a civilian flying certificate at their own cost from the Royal Aero Club before joining the RFC as pilots.

Lieut. W. L. Robinson V.C.

2nd Lieut. Leonard Kingdon

Worcestershire Regiment Officer in the RFC

2nd Lieutenant Leonard Kingdon

One of the early Worcestershire Regiment pilots was 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Kingdon who was commissioned in to the Worcestershire Regiment and served with the 2nd Battalion. He trained to fly in a Maurice Farman Biplane at the Military School, Farnborough and achieved his flying certificate on the 4th august 1915. He was seconded to the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps on the 25th September 1915 as a Flying Officer and was attached to 12 Squadron.

On the 12th January 1916, Pilot Lieut. Leonard Kingdon (Worcestershire Regiment) and his observer Lieut. Kenneth Whitmarsh Gray (Wiltshire Regiment) were flying in 2287 a RE7. They should have been escorted by other planes of 12 Squadron, while they carried out a reconnaisance for HQ. But unknown to them, their fighter escort had turned back because of the bad weather conditions. Lieut. Kingdon and Gray carried on thinking that, although the escort had failed to meet them at the agreed rendezvous, they would meet up over the lines near the French/Belgium border near Tourcoing.

Whilst flying over Tourcoing they came under attack by the German Ace pilot Oswald Boelcke. Lieut. Kingdon was hit and the plane came down in a garden in the village of Mouscron, north-east of Tourcoing. As the plane landed it hit an apple tree in the garden, the pilot Lieut. Kingdon was found to be dead and the observer Lieut. Gray severely wounded. By the time Oswald Boelcke visited the scene the British crew had already been removed. It was noted that a lot of his shots had gone through the cockpit and he assumed that the pilot had been shot in the air.

Lieut. Kingdon was initially reported as 'missing' on the 14th January 1916. His death was officially announced on the 19th January 1916. Lieut. Gray who was severly wounded was taken Prisoner of War and ended up in a POW Camp at Cologne, Germany.

Later the same year on the 28th October 1916, Oswald Boelcke was himself killed, during an attack on a British plane, when his Albatros D-II collided with the undercarriage of his wing man, Edwin Boehm aircraft, causing his upper wing to collapse.

Lieut. Leonard Kingdon was born in London on the 13th April 1890, son of William Frederick Kingdon (a bookseller) and Catherine Ann (nee Gibbons). His father William had remarried in 1884 after his first wife Maria (nee Maynard) had died on 1880. As a child Leonard was brought up in Stoke Newington, London. The family later moved to Beckenham, Kent and as a teenager Leonard was educated at the Pierremond College, Broadstairs, Kent. He later studied at London University and in 1913 joined the Northumberland Fusiliers on probation as a 2nd Lieutenant but later received a full Commission in the Worcestershire Regiment. Leonard was only 25 years old when he died, he is burried at Tournai Communal Cemetery, Belgium (grave V. A. 13.).

Oswald Boelcke

Lieut. F. C. E. Clarke

Lieut. F. C. E. Clarke

Leutnant Julius Buckler

Leutnant Julius Buckler

Lieutenant Francis Charles Erlin Clarke

Commissioned as an officer in to the 5th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and trained as a pilot, joining No. 5 Squadron. He died of his wounds on the 11th October 1917 following aerial combat on the same day, he was the sixteenth victim of the German ace, Julius Buckler.

Francis Charles Erlin Clarke was born in 1896, and educated at Marlborough College and Sandhurst. He received a commission in the Worcestershire Regiment on 16th December 1914, before being sent to France in June 1915, where he remained until July 1916, when he was invalided home. He then applied for the Royal Flying Corps, and was attached them in October 1916, and after various periods of training was sent back to France as a member of 5 Squadron.

Lieutenant Clarke died of wounds received in aerial combat over Arras on the 11th October 1917. He was the pilot of an RE8 which came into contact with several enemy machines, subsequently being shot down in the ensuing combat. His observer died of wounds the following day on the 12th October 1917, both airmen being buried in Duisans British Cemetery, France. His plane was claimed by the German air ace, Julius Buckler, his 16th, out of a total of 36 aerial victories. By November 1918, Buckler had established himself as the ninth (joint) highest scoring surviving German fighter ace of the Great War.

The following is extracted from a letter published in a Worcestershire newspaper on the 27th October 1917, written by the Commanding Officer of No. 5 Squadron on the day Clarke was killed:

"‘It is with the deepest regret I have to inform you of the death of your son, Lieutenant F. C. E. Clarke, at about 8:40 a.m. this morning. He was flying on a patrol of the front line, when he was attacked by four or five enemy scout machines. From all accounts of eye witnesses he put up a splendid fight, but being terribly outnumbered with fighting machines he was unable to escape.

It was a morning when the clouds were thick and numerous, and apparently he was just below the level of the lowest, when the enemy came down from the clouds or round them and got to close quarters before your son saw them; his observer was P. Mighell, who is now very seriously wounded and unable to move. Apparently they fought to the last, and I have nothing but praise and admiration for the way your son evidently kept his head to the last. When the first people got near he was found to be unconscious, and died very soon afterwards. He had been wounded in the neck and body, and the concussion on landing must have rendered him unconscious.

His observer had wounds in the thigh, and is now suffering from shock and probably spine fracture. I don’t think that, but for your sons bravery and grit in sticking it to the last, his observer would have been killed outright. As it was, a bad landing was made, and the machine crashed to the ground. It must have been humanly guided or there would have been practically nothing left. I and the squadron are awfully sorry to lose him, although he was here such a short time, I knew him to be a good fellow directly he came in, and I liked him very much indeed."

Major Alan Sidney Whitehorn Dore, D.S.O.

Alan Dore was born in 1882, Highgate, Middlesex. He was educated at Mill Hill School , Hendon. He was commissioned in to the 1st Volunteer Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in 24th March 1906. He was promoted to Lieutenant and the 21st January 1907.

On the 1st July 1908 he was promoted to rank of Captain and joined the 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.

In 1915, with the rank of Major, he served with the 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment as second-in-command, and landed with them at Boulogne , France during the night of 31st march 1915. However, after only a few months he was wounded on the 6th May 1915 and returned to England to recover.

On the 24th March 1916 he was seconded for duty as an Observer with the Royal Flying Corps. Appointed Flying Officer on the 3rd November 1916.

He learnt to fly on BE’s with 13 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps and then joined 43rd Squadron as a Flying Officer. He later took command of 43rd Squadron on the 6th March 1917 with the rank of Flight Commander, after Major Sholto Douglas was injured after hitting and killing a horse on take-off.

During his last few day in command of 43rd Squadron, September 1917, he shot down a German plane. In 1917 he was mentioned in despatches twice (London Gazette dates 04/01/1917 and 11/12/1917).

Major A. S. W. Dore, D.S.O.

In 1918, he married Ciceley E. M. Maund (Hampstead, London ), daughter of Edward and Ealeanor Maund. Ciceley was born in Marhouseland , South Africa in 1896. Her father had been a tutor at Trinity College School , Oxford in the 1880’s.

Major Dore was Awarded the D.S.O. (London Gazette dated 1st January 1918) and appointed Temporary Lieut.-Colonel on the 11th March 1918.

On the 7th November 1918 he was restored to the establishment (Worcestershire Regiment) and on the 4th February 1919 he was transferred to the Army unemployed list.

On the 19th March 1930 Lieut-Colonel Alan Sidney Whitehorn Dore, D.S.O. raised and was the original commander of No. 604 ( County of Middlesex ) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force. He was given the rank of Squadron Leader (Honorary Wing Commander). He commanded this squadron until the 8th April 1935. This squadron later flew night-fighter Blenheims in the Battle of Britain.

On the 1st June 1936 he was appointed to the General List in the rank of Wing Commander.

In 1949 he was awarded a C.B. (Order of Bath, third class) in the Kings Birthday honours (London Gazette 9th June 1949) and listed with the rank of Group-Captain . At the time he was Chairman of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association of the County of Middlesex.

Lieut-Colonel Alan Sidney Whitehorn Dore, D.S.O. had tree children; Lola Miele Dore born 9th November 1919, Alan C. B. Dore born 1923 and John Bingham Whitehorn Dore born 22nd October 1924. Interestingly, Lola Miele Dore and John Bingham Whitehorn both qualified as pilots, in 1938 and 1948 respectively.

Group-Captain Alan Sidney Whitehorn Dore, C.B., D.S.O., T.D., D.L.

Lieut. W. H. S. Chance
(Known as "Hugh")

Lieut. William Hugh Stobart Chance

William Hugh Stobart Chance was born on the 31st December 1896. Son of George Ferguson Chance and Mary Kathleen Stobart. He was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire.

When war broke out in August 1914 he was in camp with the Eton College O.T.C. near Aldershot. During the summer of 1914 he spent time working at the family glass and lighthouse manufacturing firm, Chance Brothers, in the laboratory and drawing office. Early in 1915 he decided to joined the 2/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment as a subaltern and was commissioned in March 1915, becoming a platoon commander of 'D' Company. The 2/8th Battalion was given the job to guard the coast at Essex against a possible German invasion. In December 1915 the battalion were at Salisbury Plain.

Early in 1916 the Royal Flying Corps needed pilots and Lieut. William Hugh Stobart Chance and his fellow officer Lieut. Harold Drmuod Stainton Pilkington decided they would apply to be seconded. In April 1916 they received orders to proceed to the preliminary training centre at Wantage Hall, a Hall of Residence of Reading University taken over by the R.F.C. Initial flying training was carried out in Maurice-Farman biplanes.

In his memoirs Hugh Chance recalls:
"Over the next fortnight I put in something over an hour's flying, partly on Longhorns and partly on Shorthorns, and was allowed to hold the controls while we practised landings, flying either in the evenings or early mornings. Pilots' training was being rushed at this period of the war and after nine brief flights and two hours and thirty-one minutes of instruction I was considered fit enough to take off on my first solo. So at 7.42 a.m. on 17th June I climbed into my seat, started the engine, taxied out onto the runway, pushed forward the throttle, and I was "off". The flight only lasted nine minutes and on landing I was told to go off again. The plane climbed well and having reached a height of 1200 feet I found myself over Castle Bromwich Church and turned to glide in to the aerodrome. As I crossed the water meadows I realised that I was too low, so opened the throttle to give the engine a boost. But horror of horrors, nothing happened, and looking back I realised that the engine had stopped and I had "lost my prop". There were only a few seconds to decide what to do - ahead lay the railway and a river and I was too low to turn. So the only hope was to flatten out as much as possible without losing flying speed and with a beating heart and with the wheels clipping some young trees on the edge of the aerodrome, down we came with a bounce and a bump, and my skin was saved. After three more solos I attempted the test for the Royal Aero Club Certificate which involved making two figures of eight and landing near a designated spot. All went well and after a total of three hours and fifty-nine minutes flying I had qualified for my "Ticket" which entitled me to rank as a certificated Pilot and bore the number 3099."

Three weeks after his posting to Castle Bromwich he was ordered to 47 Squadron at Beverley in Yorkshire, commanded by Major J. G. Small. He was later posted back to Castle Bromwich and joined No. 28 Reserve Squadron. Early in August 1916 he was posted to No. 49 Squadron at Dover, equipped with Martynside Scouts, commanded by Major Barratt (later Chief of the Air Staff and an Air Chief Marshal).

Hugh was posted to France in August 1916 and joined No. 27 Squadron, part of H.Q. Wing, at Fienvillers. On arrival I reported he the Commanding Officer, Major Sidney Smith - known familiarly as "Crasher Smith".

His first flight in France on 13th August 1916 followed on the 20th August by his first sortie, as an escort to a bomb raid, in to enemy territory at Le Transloy. Two days later he was involved in a bombing raid on Beaulencourt, this was followed by a raid on Aulnoy - a railway junction some way behind the lines.

On the 17th September 1916, the squadron was ordered to make a raid at Valenciennes, which was a long way behind the lines. Hugh Chance took off at 7 a.m. and was soon flying in formation towards the target, it was a fine sunny autumn day. When he was about twenty miles inside German-held territory, there was heavily shelling and the air was full of black crumps. Almost immediately Hugh Chance's engine stopped and his plane began to lose height. After several attempts to get it going again, it was no good, the engine refused to start.

Hugh Chance, dropped his bombs on a wood and made a forced landing in a field. After landing he set fire to the plane and jumped clear. Soon the plane was surrounded by German soldiers and an officer rode up on his horse. After a short time a staff car appeared and Hugh was taken to German H.Q. which was located in the Chateau de Bourlon. After an hour or so, he was interrogated by a German Intelligence officer, in French.

After being held at the Cambrai Citadel for 2 weeks, Hugh was transported by train, with other captured RFC Officers to Germany, finally ending up at Gütersloh in Hanover where they spent a few days in quarantine. After a few days they were moved on to Osnabruck, where a new camp was being organised in a disused cavalry barracks on the outskirts of the town.

Hugh Chance was held at Osnabruck for six months and then transferred to Clausthal in the Harz Mountains. After eighteen months in the Hotel zu Pfauenterchen (Peacock Lake) and its adjoining hutments the POW's were shipped to Aachen, where most fell sick with a flu epidemic. After six weeks of uncertainty transported across Germany to Stralsund on the Baltic where Hugh remained until after the Armistice, when he was shipped back home via Denmark.

In 1920, William Hugh Stobart Chance, graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University, with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and in 1924 with a Master of Arts (M.A.). He became a director of Chance Brothers between 1924 to 1964. He held the office of High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1942. He was invested as a Knight in 1945. He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Worcestershire in 1952. He was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1958. He gained the rank of Honorary Colonel in the service of the The Parachute Regiment (Territorial Army).

Sir William Hugh Stobart Chance died in 1981.