2 Sqn RFC Pilot
Squadron RFC, Hesdigneul, near Bethune, Pas de Calais
Montgomerie's diary 1917-18
Squadron at the time was equipped with the Armstrong Whitworth FK8
"Big Ack" crewed by a pilot and an observer/gunner. The
Squadron operated in a reconnaissance and artillery support role with
occasional bombing duties. Lt.
Montgomerie's diary recounts the typical pattern of the Squadron's
work with many entries detailing map references and artillery units
for which he was directing fire.
Boulogne in evening and came to Bethune next morning.
Dec 13th Thurs
Sqdn in the evening, having waited in Bethune all day. Went to
C Flt mess.
Dec 14th Fri
posted to A Flight. Just had a look around the aerodrome.
Dec 16th Sun
around again and found my way about. Did three practise landings at
Auchel in the morning with Captain Bethell.
Armstrong Whitworth FK8 "Big Ack"
Dec 18th Tues
patrol for 2 hours with Capt. Salt in morning first look at
the line. Weather was very misty. Practice photos in the afternoon
Dec 19th Wed
dud and didn't do anything except start map and do a few classes.
Dec 20th Thurs
Carried on on
Dec 21st and
Dec 23rd Sun
parcel of sweets from Mother.
Dec 24th Mon
Art patrol in
the morn with Salt. Mist at 400 feet.
Dec 25th Tues
all day. Had Xmas dinner and all the mess went
west. C flight repulsed with 6 casualties.
Dec 26th Wed
but ground work.
Dec 27th Thurs
Ground work again.
Dec 28th Fri
with 20 SB with Salt as observer. Just got V out and ran out of petrol.
Dec 29th Sat
Batt with Dunkerly in afternoon also 125 South African Batt.
Dec 30th Sun
1st/5th East Lancs for 4 days liason in La Bassée area. Lived
at Kingsclere at Battn HQ. Went round line with Lt. Dick.
Battn area was on both sides of canal. Slept in the orderly room.
Dec 31st Mon
southern sector with Lt. Dick in the morning. Visited Brickstauks
[No11] where Sgt. O Leary won the VC. Saw the Bosche 800x off down
the canal Dick had a shot at him but it was too misty to sight
well. Went round tunnels. Returned past Kingsclere and went to north
of canal. Visited another Coy there and then went back to lunch. Sat
in in the afternoon.
Jan 1st Tues
southern area in the morn and saw nothing in particular. Stayed in
for the afternoon. Gothas passed over to bomb Bethune in even. Bosche [Germans]
shelled with gas shells Orchard keep roughly 600
rounds during night [about 400 yards from where I slept].
Jan 2nd Wed
Had a look at
gas shelling and picked up three souvenirs. Shells had a very musty
odour and several officers and men were slightly gassed. Orchard Keep
cook house was hit, and the small cemetery just opposite. Did nothing
in the afternoon. Saw Death or Glory sap.
Jan 3rd Thurs
Came out in
the afternoon and Bosche [Germans]
shelled Orchard Keep when we crossed the bridge. Watched it for a
short time from Harley Street. Returned to Sqn and found parcels with
news that Barron was safe till 30 th April. [Refers
to farm manager in New Zealand].
Jan 4th Fri
Tried to shoot
in the morning with Heney with 237 SBs so CI. Went up again and
tried saloos [sic] but only got a few corrections. Visibility was not
good. Had no lunch in consequence and had tea at Berthas. Archie
holed my leading edge in one place.
Jan 5th Sat
Art patrol in
morning with Heney. Archie got us in about eight places from
direction of Bois de Birge. Poor visibility. Most of the time I did
from now to end of month was on AW B285
Jan 6th Sun
successful shoot with SB (Heney was my observer). Archie
was very active, and we dropped our bombs on La Bassée which
he resented. Got ticked off by Major for doing shoot low
down, in future work to be done above 7000 feet.
Jan 7th Mon
dud and we had no excitements.
Jan 8th Tues
dud and we had nothing in particular.
Jan 9th Wed
dud and nothing to report. I was orderly officer.
Jan 10th Thurs
Art patrol in
morning with Heney. Cloudy and windy. Was Archied over Gorre at 1,800
feet and this is quite abnormal. Pressure failed in rear tank.
Jan 11th Fri
Did nothing in
particular. Weather was dud.
Jan 12th Sat
all day, and watched flare dropped by Major and General Shephard in
evening. Just a month since I came to France.
Jan 13th Sun
rotten and only brought Majors machine from Auchel with AM Fry
as passenger. Very good day but we have no CB [counter-battery]
shoots. Just a month since I came to Sqdn, and received the diary
from Al in the mail [Montgomeries
Several accidents to machines, though not serious.
Jan 14th Mon
Snowed in the
morning. Cleared in the afternoon about three but did not go up. Sent
passage refund back to Hursley. [indecipherable]
to Gran. McLeod straffed and brought [down] the Provin sausage. It
did not burn and it was a stout stunt on those machines [AWs].
was mentioned in despatches for bringing down an observation balloon
(at Provin) nr. Bauvin 7 miles behind the lines. Incident mentioned
Communiqué 122 -
observer Lt. Thompson]
Jan 15th Tues
early show but weather was dud. Very windy
and drizzle all day. Nothing exciting happened.
Jan 16th Wed
Blowing a gale
till 12. Cleared about 3 and McLeod went over La Bassée and M
Gst[sic]. Archie killing 2 from 50 feet [sic], and observer downed
several more . Elevator controls shot on one side and he returned at
200 feet over trenches. [McLeod
and his observer, attacked an Archie site that had been firing
annoyingly at them, strafing the crew].
Started new map of northern area.
RFC Communiqué 123
High wind and rain all day made flying practically
impossible. 2nd Lt. A A McLeod & Lt. A W Hammond, 2 Squadron,
attempted an artillery patrol and fired 225 rounds at an
anti-aircraft gun and a group of men near La Bassée, and
dropped two bombs on La Bassée.
Jan 18th Thurs
on BW 16 with 234 and 237 SBs. Heney ranged 234 and I did the rest.
No Archie at all, but two hail showers and a good deal of mist.
Fenn-Smith and Cornforth shot down at 10.25 near Hulluck but in our
lines. Both killed, probably a shot from the ground or may have been
two Huns fire broke out, and bombs went off. Smith had one of
our machines and nearly took mine as his own flight was short of machines.
Jan 19th Fri
shoot with 234 on BW 45 during early show. McLachlan observer.
High cloud but good visibility. Dropped bombs on Auchy. Went to Smith
and Cornforths funeral at Choques in afternoon.
Jan 20th Sat
shoot with 234 and 162 SBs on BW 29 with McLachlan. Passed through
two showers of rain. Brig Gen Shephard killed 19/1/18 in a Nieuport
at Auchel. He span into the ground from 1,000 feet reason is
not known, he was a splendid pilot, probably some control broke,
though very unlikely.
Brig. Gen. Gordon Strachy Shephard DSO, MC, Chevalier L d'H,
Commanding I Brigade RFC, KWF 19 Jan 1918 on a Nieuport 24 serial
B3610. Buried at Lapugnoy
Military Cemetery. Aged 32.
Jan 21st Sun
General Shephards funeral. Many brass hats present
and a large collection of motor vehicles. Buried near Auchel and
Canadian Scottish provided bag pipes and firing party. Went up at
3.15 to shoot on BW 8 with 327 but it got dark too soon and they
stopped twice [sic].
Jan 22nd Mon
Did not go up
today, Homersham of C flight had his goggles broken by a
piece of Archie and was only scratched. CO orders McLeod not to cross
the line, he has not done any work previously only played about over
Jan 23rd Tues
Tried to fire
on Bruay aerial range, but clouds were at 600 feet. Had a show of AW,
RE8, SE5, Camel for benefit of officers 125 Brigade. Yankee B Gen and
Major Gen were present as well as 125 Bgde staff. Camel and SE5 did a
few dives but low mist prevented stunting.
Jan 24th Wed
Early show but
mist was at 2000 feet till near end, and we saw nothing. Supposed to
move into Nissan huts but have not they have six inches of mud
Jan 25th Thurs
Early show as
I was late starting yesterday. Thick ground mist which was very
pretty with sun light on it, especially about 5,000 feet. Mist lasted
over two hours, as I did no work. Fired on Bruay aerial range this
afternoon. Bosche [Germans]
bombed Bethune this evening and passed over here also.
Jan 26th Fri
noon. Went up at 1 pm to shoot with 237B, on TC 78, but mist returned
and stopped shoot before I got V [sic] out. Could hardly see to get
back to aerodrome. Shifted from my billet to go in with Jenkinson,
instead of going into Nissan hut.
Jan 27th Sat
the RFC in France]
flew over to visit Sqdn. Went up to try a shoot but mist was too
thick. Dropped bomb on Auchy and fired gun in that vicinity through
mist. Wyborn put up his 1914 ribbon and mess celebrated the occasion.
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