Air Aces of World War One

Captain George Edward Henry McElroy – British Ace – 1893 / 1918

McElroy was born in Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland to Samuel and Ellen McElroy. He enlisted promptly at the outbreak of World War One in August 1914 and was shipped out to France, two months later. He was serving as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers, when he was first commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 9th of May 1915. Whilst serving in the Royal Irish Regiment, he was severely affected by mustard gas and was sent home to recuperate. He was in Dublin in April 1916, during the Easter Rising and was ordered to help quell the insurrection. McElroy refused to fire on his fellow Irishmen, and was transferred to a southerly garrison away from home. On the 1st of June 1916, Mc Elroy relinquished his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment, when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich from which he graduated on the 28th of February 1917, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

McElroy was promptly seconded to the Royal Flying Corps where he was trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School at Upavon and appointed as Flying Officer on the 28th of June. On the 27th of July his commission was backdated to the 9th of February 1916, and he was promoted to Lieutenant on the 9th of August. On the 15th of August he joined No.40 Squadron RFC where he benefitted from the mentoring of fellow Irishman, Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but had no success with this aircraft. By the end of 1917, McElroy was flying an S.E.5 and scored his first victory on the 28th of December.

An extremely aggressive dog fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds. McElroy’s score soon grew rapidly. He shot down two German aircraft in January, and by the 18th of February had run his score up to 11. At this point he was appointed a Flight Commander with the temporary rank of Captain and a transfer to No.24 Squadron RFC. He continued to accrue victories in ones and twos. By the 26th of March when he was awarded the Military Cross, he was up to 18 ‘kills’

On the 1st of April 1918, The R.F.C. and the R.N.A.S. merged to become the Royal Air Force, and his Squadron became No.24 Squadron R.A.F. McElroy was injured in a flying accident on the 7th of April, he brushed a treetop while landing. By then he had run up his score to 27. Whilst he was side-lined with his injury, on the 22nd of April he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross. Following his convalescence, McElroy returned to No. 40 Squadron in June, scoring three times on the 26th, 28th and 30th. The latter two victories were over observation balloons. That ran is victory total up to 30.

In July he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon – busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month. His run of success was almost curtailed on the 20th by a vibrating engine that entailed him breaking off an attack on a German two-seater and a rough emergency landing that left him with cuts and bruises. There was a farewell luncheon that day for his friend, ‘Noisy’ Lewis; their mutual friend, ‘Mick’ Mannock took him to one side to warn him about the hazards of following a German victim down within range of ground fire. On the 26th of July, his mentor and friend ‘Mick’ Mannock was killed by ground fire, ironically on the same day McElroy received the second bar to his Military Cross. He was one of only ten airmen to receive the second bar.

McElroy’s apparent continued disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could only result in one end. On the 31st of July 1918, he reported destroying a Hannover ‘C’ for his 47th victory. He then set out again. He failed to return from this flight and was posted missing. Later it was learned that Mc Elroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old. McElroy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously on the 3rd of August. The bar to this award would arrive later on the 21st of September. The final reckoning for McElroy was 47 victories, this score included 3 observation balloons.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 14

As soon as I realised that things were happening between us, I laid my cards on the table, I wanted her to be under no illusions about my past.’

‘How did she react to your confession?’ asked Valjean, interested to know the answer.

‘She said that we all have secrets, she appreciated that I had shared mine.’

‘And was that the end of it, was it never mentioned again?’

‘Neither found any reason too, the past is best left that way!’ He stated honestly.

‘So, when she began mentoring you,’ if I may ask, ‘What advice did she give you?’

‘Basically, as I stated previously, she advised me to write about subjects that I knew and was comfortable with and to always thoroughly complete my research.’

‘Did she at any time, suggest that you write about the murders that were happening locally, did she ever attempt to push you in that direction?’

‘We discussed lots of ideas about local happenings, so I’d say it was highly likely.’

‘But you never felt she was pushing you in that direction?’

‘Not at all, but if she did, maybe I should thank her after all it made me a success.’

‘Just one final question, if you have no objections, have you at any time been acquainted with any of the missing girls?’ questioned Valjean.

‘I can answer that question in all sincerity, when the first girl went missing, I was serving the final months of my sentence. Even in prison I heard all about it, but that do’s not make me guilty.’

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Leutnant Wilhelm Frankl – German Ace – 1893 / 1917

Frankl was born, the son of a Jewish businessman in Hamburg on the 2oth of December 1893. He later moved to Frankfurt am Main and then later to Berlin. After he graduated from school, he pursued an interest in Aviation by attending Germany’s hotbed of pre-war aviation at Johannisthal. His instructor was Germany’s first female pilot, Melli Beese. On July the 20th 1913, Frankl earned pilot’s licence No.49.

The outbreak of World War One sparked off Frankl’s volunteering to fly for his country. His flying ability and his personality both commended him to his superiors. While his professional life took off, so did his personal life. He fell in love with the daughter of Austrian Naval Kapitan zur See Edmund Stroll. Frankl forsake his Judaism, converted to Christianity, and married his love in early 1917.

Frankl began his career of aerial victories early in the war, before the advent of synchronised machine guns firing safely through the planes propeller became a practical reality. On the 10th of May, 1915 whilst flying as an observer with Feldflieger Abtielung 40 (FFA 40) He used a carbine to shoot down a French Voisin, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for this feat.

It took exactly eight months to gain his second victory. On the 10th of January 1916 while flying a Fokker Eindecker with KEK Vaux, He downed another Voisin, this one was armed with a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon. By the 1st of February 1917 his victory total had risen to four. Three months later on the 4th of May he became an ace, On the 16th of May he was promoted from Vizefeldwebel into the Officers ranks as a Leutnant. He scored once again on the 21st of May. He was awarded the Knights Cross with Swords of the Order of Hohenzollern during late may, followed by the Hanseatic Cross.

By this time Frankl was one of only eight aces in the German Flying Service. Frankl’s gallantry earned him the Pour le Merite after his eighth conformed victory; the Blue Max was awarded on the 16th of July 1916. His guns rested until the 2nd of August, when he tallied a Morane-Saulnier ‘L’. A double victory followed on the 10th of August. On the 1st of September 1916, Frankl then transferred to Prussian Jagdstaffel 4 ( Jasta 4 ) as it was formed from KEK Vaux, to fly Halberstadt D.V’s. On the 1st of January 1917 he took command of the squadron.

Four victories in September and two in October made him a triple ace. Then after a six month hiatus, he scored a quadruple victory on the 6th of April 1917. The following day he scored his twentieth victory. His death came the day after, while battling Bristol F2b Fighters of No.48 Squadron RFC on Easter Sunday the 8th of April 1917. Frankl’s Albatros D.III lost its lower wing due to the stress of combat manouvres and he and his collapsed aircraft fell 800 metres to his death near Vitry- Sailly, France.

Frankl was among the number of Jewish winners of the Pour le Merite, of which there were several who were struck off the Roll of Honour under the Third Reich later to be restored after the Second World War.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 13

‘Yes, apparently he was her tutor when she was at the University, it seems that she was overawed by his knowledge and confidence, and he by her youth and beauty. It worked well for several years, during which time they married. But then she started writing and became an overnight success, her husband became jealous and resentful because he feared that he was losing her.’

‘She tolerated this situation for another couple of years, trying to slowly distance herself from him, neither of them were happy with the situation and eventually he suggested a divorce, which she agreed to.’ ‘ So, you met her on the rebound?’

‘I suppose you could say that, but at the time I had only just been released from prison and a relationship was the very last thing on my mind.’ ‘ But you slipped in to one?’

‘I admit it, I have no idea how it happened, but yes!’

‘Who made all the running, she or you?’ asked Valjean.

‘ I would like to think it was mutual attraction, but she was the one with the money, god, that makes me sound like a gigolo, but on reflection and without sounding pompous, she did seem rather eager.’

‘Was there any reason that she selected you, anything that you recall?’

‘Nothing, I was just sat at the bar and she came over and struck up a conversation with me, I couldn’t believe my look.’

‘And to your knowledge you had never seen or met her before that day?’

‘No! she was a complete stranger to me, until she introduced herself, I knew the name I had read several of her books whilst in prison.’

‘I wouldn’t have thought that historical romance would have been your thing?’

‘Normally, I would agree, but they were about this area so I was interested.’

‘And, did you rate her as a writer, was she accomplished?’

‘I thought so, although her work is fiction, the historical aspect was very thoroughly researched, I think it could be said that I admired her work.’

‘So what was your reaction when she offered to mentor you?’ queried Valjean.

‘Naturally, I was both thrilled and grateful, that a writer of her stature would be interested in mentoring someone like me.’

‘And, was she aware of your criminal past, had you been totally open with her?’

(C) Damian Grange 2021