Major Raymond Collishaw – Canadian Ace 1893/1976 – Part 2
By the end of May 1917, the Royal Flying Corps was badly in need of reinforcements, mainly due to the after effects of Bloody April when the Germans ruled the skies. As a result of this Collishaw was posted back to No.10 Naval Squadron as Flight Commander of ‘B’ flight which was composed of all Canadian pilots.
Although British High Command discouraged personal markings on Aircraft, ‘B’ Flight painted the front third of their Sopwith Triplanes black and became known as the Black Flight, Featuring names like Black Sheep, Black Death, Black Prince and Collishaw’s own named Black Maria.
During their first two months at the front they claimed 87 enemy aircraft destroyed or bought down, which oddly enough bought Collishaw and his unit very little in the way of publicity. Collishaw later claimed that the Royal Flying Corps hated to give credit to their Naval counterparts, although they were feared and respected by their opponents.
June 6th 1917, was their finest day, they were on an offensive patrol with ten triplanes. Collishaw was leading the patrol when they came across an Albatros 2 seater, escorted by 15 Albatros and Halberstadt fighters. In the melee that ensued, Collishaw downed 3 Albatroses, Nash downed an Aviatic 2 seater and an Albatros, Reid downed an Halberstadt and Sharman and Alexander each downed an Albatros, In total the RNAS shot down 10 enemy aircraft, 8 of these fell victim to Collishaw’s black flight.
The Flight’s first loss came when they had reached an aggregate of 50 victories. On June 26th Black flight found themselves in combat with Richtofen’s Jasta 11, Nash found that he was fighting two German pilots single – handed. One of the pilots was Ltn, Karl Allmenroder a 30 victory ace and the other Richtofen himself.
Yet, faced by two of the deadliest German pilots, Nash fought a tremendous battle, he twisted and turned, trying to find an opening, but at last Allmenroder got in a telling burst and Nash’s controls were damaged. he fell out of the fight and managed to land safely – but behind enemy lines, he set fire to his aircraft, before he himself was captured.
The four survivors of Black flight were grieved by the loss of Nash, for they had grown in to a band of brothers. They swore vengeance on the Albatroses of Richtofen’s Jasta 11. At the time they believed Nash to be dead. On the morning of June 27th they encountered Jasta11 over Courtrai. This time Collishaw found himself engaged with the green Albatros of Allmenroder. It was one of the classic dogfights of the war, ending in Allmenroder’s death, Collishaw was credited with the kill, but doubts have been raised.
To Be Continued
(C) Damian Grange 2018