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

Air Aces of World War One

Lieutenant Michel J.C.M.Coiffard – French Ace – 1892 / 1918

Coiffard was born in Nantes, Liore Atlantique on the 16th of July 1892 to Jean Coiffard and Mary Josephine Teresa de Laurent. He was christened Michel Joseph Calixte Marie. He joined the Army on the 16th of November 1910. The following year he served against the Rifs in Morocco. He also served in Tunisia prior to World War One. He was wounded three times during his service in Africa, and was awarded three citations whilst there. He was serving in an artillery unit when World War One began in 1914.

Repeatedly wounded and cited for courage under fire, Coiffard transferred to the Infantry with the rank of sergeant on the 29th of August 1914. On the 29th of May 1915, he earned the Medal Militaire for voluntarily braving heavy artillery fire to repair field phone lines between artillery and infantry units. He was finally declared unfit for ground combat because of a serious wound. Consequently, he joined the Air Service on the 4th of January 1917.

He completed flight training on the 19th of April 1917 and joined Escadrille N.154 on the 28th of June 1917. He achieved his first victory on the 5th of September 1917. Coiffard scored two more successes in early 1918. This earned him the award of Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur on the 2nd of February 1918. The citation notes that he was wounded four times as an Infantryman.

However not until the squadron transitioned in June from Nieuports to the more sturdier SPAD series did he really hit his stride. N.154 was re-designated Spa.154 to mark the change in aircraft. Coiffard had his new craft’s wheels and cowling painted red and dubbed his new Spad XIII ‘Mado’ after his girlfriend. He also began collaborating with his squadron mates in concerted attacks on observation balloons. As a result Spa.154 would become the premier balloon-busting squadron of the war. However, the French system of awarding a victory to every pilot involved in a shoot-down blurs the actual count.

Lieutenant Coiffard succeeded to the task of Squadron Commander upon the wounding of Capitaine Lahoulle on the 15th of July. In this capacity, he was admired as a trainer of his pilots; on one occasion he sent a pilot on a months leave to recuperate from combat fatigue. As a ‘balloon specialist’ Coiffard made his mark as a warrior, destroying nine Drachen balloons in July, along with three German aircraft. At the end of July he had run his score to 17, adding eight in August and six more in September. On three occasions, he shot down three balloons on the same day. On the last of these triple victory days, the 15th of September, he and his wingman downed three observation balloons in six minutes.

On the 28th of October 1918, Spa.154 was on patrol. Coiffard spotted German Fokker D.VII’s, and gave the signal to attack, which was seen only by his wingman. He and Second Lieutenant Condimene fought it out with the German patrol. Whilst downing his 34th victim ( a Fokker D.VII ) Coiffard was critically wounded by two bullets; one hit him in the thigh, the other pierced his chest back to front passing through a lung. He flew 12 kilometres back to make a perfect landing in friendly hands despite his wounds, but died three hours later while receiving a blood transfusion in an ambulance transferring him to Berenicourt. The following day he was posthumously made an Officer de la Legion d’honneur.

Coiffard’s record included 24 balloons ( 21 shared ) and 10 aircraft ( 4 shared ), ranking him sixth in the list of French Aces. Only two other World War One Aces shot down more observation balloons. his awards were the Medal Militaire, Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur and Officier de la Legion d’honneur.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 12

The following morning, when I realised what I had done, I went directly to the Police and confessed to my wrongdoing. I was sent to trial and sentenced to ten years in prison and on reflection it was the finest thing that could have happened to me, prison changed my life for the better.’ he stated candidly.

‘If you have no objection to me asking, in what way did being incarcerated change you?’ ‘Up to my stay in prison, I had led an aimless shiftless existence with no thought to the future. The routine and discipline of prison life agreed with me, I soon realised that with a certain amount of commitment on my part, I need no longer be Pierre Dubois the aimless drifter, but with a certain amount of education, someone else, a better man.’

‘To achieve this, I spent every hour that I could in the prison library, everything that I had previously dismissed, I was eager to learn. I read everything and absorbed it all. My tutors encouraged me to begin writing, initially short stories and then longer articles but all had one thing in common, they were all about this area that I know so well.’

‘So, when you were released from prison, you were an established writer but without a book to build a reputation around, What transpired next?’ asked Valjean, although he knew the answer. ‘I had been released from prison for probably about a month. I was alone drinking in a bar, an attractive woman came in, Parisian I would guess from her clothing and mannerisms, she was definitely not local.

‘She came and sat beside me at the bar, introducing herself as Marie Deschamps a name that I was familiar with through my time spent in the prison library. she asked me if I knew the area well as she was here doing research for her latest novel.’

‘I replied, that I knew the area like the back of my hand and offered my services as a guide. she accepted and I found myself working as her research assistant on her latest project. ‘Was this the reason that she mentored you on your own projects?’ ‘No that came much later, after we had become lovers.’

‘I have no inclination as to how it happened, but we just seemed to click, I had no idea that a woman like that would be attracted to someone like me, yet it happened.’

‘When you met, had she not recently divorced her husband?’ queried Valjean.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

Air Aces of World War One

Sous – Lieutenant Edmond Thieffry – Belgian Ace – 1892 / 1929

Thieffry was born in Etterbeek, a municipality of Brussels, and went on to study law in Leuven ( hence his nickname, ‘The Flying Judge’ ) After qualifying he was conscripted into the Belgian Army, joining the 10th Regiment in 1913. At the start of the First World War he saw service as a staff attache to General Leman, but was captured by the Germans. He escaped on a stolen motorcycle to the neutral territory of the Netherlands, where he was arrested by the Dutch military police. Using his legal knowledge and Dutch language skills he managed to talk himself out of internment, and travelled to Antwerp to rejoin the Belgian Army.

In 1915, Thieffry joined the Compagnie des Ouvriers Aerostiers, The Belgian Army Air Corps and with some difficulty qualified as a pilot at Etampes. On the 1st of February 1916 he joined the 3rd Squadron as an observer for artillery, where he was appreciated for his exactitude and courage. He crash-landed so many aircraft that he was promptly assigned to a single seat fighter squadron, as no one would fly with him. He was rapidly transferred to No.5 Squadron ( The Comets ) under Captain Jules Dony based at De Panne in December 1916.

His first victory was on the 15th of March 1917, flying a Nieuport 11, his second followed eight days later above Gistel, and his third on 12th of May above Holthuist. His fourth was on the 14th of June, an Albatros DIII above Westende. The 5th Squadron then relocated to Les Moeres and was equipped with Nieuport 17’s. Thieffry gained official status as an ‘ace’ when he shot down two German fighters over Diksmuide on the 3rd of July. In August he received the first SPAD VII fighter in the Belgian Air Force, bought by the Belgian Prince, he gained three more victories flying it.

On the 31st of August his aircraft was badly damaged in combat with two Albatros D.V. fighters, but he managed to escape and land behind the Belgian lines. he continued to fight and he claimed his tenth and last confirmed kill on the 10th of October 1917, he also had five ‘probable’ kills. This placed him third on the list of Belgian Aces, behind Willy Coppens and Andre de Meulemeester. Shortly afterwards he was shot down and wounded by return fire from a German two-seater aircraft of FFA 227 over Kortrijk on the 23rd of February 1918. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Germany. He attempted to escape on the 13th of April 1918 but was caught after ten days at liberty.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 11

Valjean decided that now was the time for shock tactics, The girls that you describe are just like the girl that was beaten and raped by Pierre Dubois, but of course you know that all too well…. don’t you Pierre?’

The shock tactics worked too well, de Peysac looked like he was about to have a heart attack, he tried to get up out of his chair then collapsed back into it clutching his chest. Valjean went to the drinks cabinet and poured him a large brandy, de Peysac took a sip of the brandy then downed the remainder, to Valjean’s relief a little colour returned to his face and he seemed to stabilise.

‘I do apologise, that was a little cruel, I will leave if you wish me too,’ offered Valjean. ‘Please stay!’ requested de Peysac, ‘I feel that I at least owe you an explanation.’As you wish!’ said Valjean, as he returned to his seat, and sat waiting expectantly.

‘I knew that sooner or later my sins would return to haunt me, I just wasn’t expecting it to be today. You said that you were an investigative journalist, you had obviously done your research before coming here, I would have done the same.’

‘I certainly did not intend to shock you in that way, my aim was just to catch you off guard, and for that once again I apologise,’ Stated Valjean in all sincerity.

‘Sit back, and I will relate the tale of two men, both me, both different, neither having anything in common with the other. Pierre Dubois I would like to bury and forget,’ he stated with vehemence. I identify with Marcel de Peysac, that is the real me, or are you one of these people that believes a leopard can never change its spots?’

‘I came here today with an open mind, I will listen to your story and attempt not to pre – judge you, after all you paid for the crime that you admit too!’

‘Pierre Dubois was a poorly educated adolescent, he sought to be popular and was easily led, often by people who liked to use him as the butt of their jokes. They mistreated him, but he couldn’t see it, he thought they were his friends.’

‘One night he was in the local bar, a little the worse for drink when a young girl came in whom he knew vaguely. He made a rather clumsy pass at her, she shunned him and left the bar. Of course, his so-called friends admonished him, for letting a little slip of a girl make a fool of him.’

‘Like a fool he staggered after her and caught up with her at the edge of the forest, he attempted to kiss her, she scratched his face and kicked him in the shins. Inflamed by the alcohol he had consumed and the taunts of his friends, he lost his temper, punched her in the face then dragged her semi-conscious into the forest and had his way with her. And there is not a day go’s by when he dos not regret that incident.’

Valjean much to his surprise, believed every word, de Peysac was an author, not an actor, his rhetoric was so faultless that Valjean was convinced of his innocence.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

Air Aces of World War One

Major Roderic Stanley Dallas – Australian Ace – 1891 / 1918 Part Two

On the 3rd of December 1915, Dallas joined No.1 Naval Wing and began flying combat missions using single seat Nieuport 11 fighters and two-seater Caudrons out of Dunkirk, France. Early in his career there, a practical joker imitating the Commanding Officer telephoned Dallas who was the Duty Officer and peremptorily ordered him to take off in a propeller less Breguet. Upon learning that he had been tricked, Dallas joined in the laughter, he not only accepted the resulting nickname of ‘Breguet’ but also used it as a signature on his letters to home. Having made two unconfirmed claims in February 1916 Dallas scored his first confirmed victory on the 23rd of April. He outmanoeuvred a German Aviatik C. and shot it out of control, following his victim down to 2.000 feet , though heavy anti-aircraft fire holed his plane in several places. he went on to three more victories flying the Nieuport 11.

On the 23rd of June 1916, Dallas took delivery of the newest R.N.A.S. fighter Sopwith Triplane # N 500. This was the original prototype, having undergone Admiralty trials before being shipped to France. Though still only a test plane, it was flown in combat just 15 minutes after its arrival. Dallas named it ‘Brown Bread’ and it was the first of a series of ‘Tripes’ that he would fly and fight in over the next year. He achieved his first victory with ‘Brown Bread’ on the 1st of July 1916, the same day that he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. Three days later he was recommended for further promotion. He scored his last Nieuport-mounted kill on the 9th of July 1916, earning the Croix de Guerre and a mention in despatches for coming to the aid of a French Maurice Farman biplane. On the 7th of September 1916, Dallas was awarded The Distinguished Service Cross, ‘For the gallant manner in which he has carried out his duties,’ since first seeing action in December 1915. By the end of the year he was numbered amongst the earliest of the R.N.A.S. aces, with 8 confirmed, and 4 unconfirmed victories, and had been raised to the rank of Flight Commander.

Dallas became one of the best-known pilots of Sopwith Triplanes in the R.N.A.S. He opened 1917 by setting an altitude record of 26.000 Feet in the Triplane while testing a prototype oxygen set, he endured frostbite and oxygen intoxication in the process. By now No.1 Wings fighter squadron had been renumbered as No.1 Squadron R.N.A.S. and had totally re-equipped with production Triplanes. It also shifted airfields from Veurne in Belgium to Chipilly in France, leaving behind R.N.A.S. control by transferring to No.14 Wing, 4th Brigade of the R.F.C. Formation flying became the order of the day, as the practice of fighter pilots soloing into combat dwindled. The last three weeks of March were also filled with Dallas’s responsibilities for flight and gunnery testing. As British losses in the air began to mount during ‘Bloody April’, Dallas and his squadron moved airfields once more to La Bellevue. They were then in position to take a prominent part in the subsequent battle of Arras, where the intense aerial fighting saw Dallas add to his burgeoning score. The combat of the 23rd of April became known as one of the classic air battles of the war. Dallas and his wingman Thomas Culling took on a squadron-sized formation of 14 German aircraft, having gained an altitude edge on their foes. The naval aces exploited this edge by making quick diving attacks from opposite sides, culminating in short bursts of machine-gun fire. Using the Triplanes superior climbing abilities, they would then bob back up to position themselves for the next assault. In contrast to the usual hit and run tactics of most dogfights, the R.N.A.S. duo launched at least 20 gunnery runs over 45 minutes. The Germans were forced progressively lower, into disarray and then chased back over their own lines. While they shot down three of the enemy aircraft, Dallas and Culling also achieved a more important outcome by blocking and then breaking up a determined enemy effort against the British ground offensive. The action led to the award of a Bar to the Distinguished Service Cross for Dallas and for Culling the Distinguished Service Cross, which were gazetted on the 29th of June 1917.

By June 1917, Dallas had achieved over 20 victories in aerial combat, this experience and his leadership ability, led to his appointment as Commanding Officer of No.1 Naval Squadron on the 23rd of June 1917. The unit had been forced to cut back its operational strength from 18 to 15 aircraft due to lack of pilot replacements and a shortage of spare parts for their aging Triplanes. It had also moved airfields, to an unprepared site at Bailleul. On the ground, Dallas proved to be an efficient organiser, designing and direc ting construction of the new airbase. It was also during this time that he wrote a treatise on air combat tactics, extracts of which have survived. Both the air base layout and the treatise displayed his talent has a sketch artist. On the 2nd of November 1917, No.1 Squadron moved airfields once more, to Middle Aerodrome which put it back under overall R.N.A.S. control. The unit received its first eight new Sopwith Camels on the 9th of November as replacements for the aging Triplanes. On the 11th of November, Dallas was once again mentioned in dispatches, this time by Field Marshal Haig. After receiving its full complement of Camels, N0.1 Squadron was transferred back to England, and took up Home Defence duties at Dover. On the 16th of February 1918, Dallas led his Squadron back to France, where it was based at Teteghem, supporting units on operations along the Belgian coast. He commanded this unit until the 31st of March.

As part of the amalgamation of the R.N.A.S. and R.F.C. to form the Royal Air Force on the 1st of April 1918, Dallas was promoted to Major and given command of No. 40 Squadron R.A.F. flying Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s. The squadron boasted several aces in its ranks, and its former R.F.C members were suspicious of Dallas’s naval background. He was nevertheless able to overcome their misgivings and established himself as the new C.O. with his personal demeanour and courage, The nickname of ‘Admiral’ that they bestowed upon him was an affectionate one. Ten days after taking over, he had adapted well enough to his new mount with its inline engine to score his first victory with his new unit. His men also saw that he would not only look out for his rookie pilots, but would not shirk the dangers of ground attack sorties. His offhand attitude to two leg wounds he received during a strafing mission on the 14th of April, after which he made a perfect landing, especially impressed his subordinates, as did his appreciation of all ranks for the hard work they put in. His studious bent continued to serve him, he kept notes on his methods of attacking enemy aircraft, which often exploited their structural weaknesses and used them to tutor pilots under his command.

Dallas was briefly hospitalised by wounds to his thigh and heel on 14th of April, but sneaked out four days later to rejoin his squadron, his departure may have been spurred by the news of the capture of his friend Richard Minifie. As soon as he was able, Dallas was flying again. By the 26th of April he had increased his official score to 37, and been awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the operations at Dunkirk. He had also been recommended for the Victoria Cross on several occasions, but it was never approved. His somewhat casual attitude towards claiming victories was noted by a member of No.40 Squadron, Cecil Usher who noted that Dallas once remarked of an opponent, ‘He went down belching a lot of black smoke and after he had gone down someways one of his planes came off, but I didn’t see him crash so I shan’t claim him’ On the 2nd of May, during a lull in the fighting at Flanders, Dallas took off in his S.E.5 to taunt his foes. He strafed the German base at La Brayelle to ‘attract attention’ before dropping a package on the Aerodrome with a note reading, ‘If you won’t come up here and fight, herewith a pair of boots for work on the ground, pilots for the use of’ he then circled in mist until troops came to handle the bundle, whereupon he dropped two bombs and once again shot up the base causing ‘general panic.’ The news of this singular exploit reportedly provoked laughter from Field Marshal Haig and founder of the R.A.F. General Sir Hugh Trenchard, men not known for their sense of humour. Whilst adding to his score and leading his squadron in combat, Dallas had began thinking beyond the war. He was pleading with his father to quit the dangerous job of mining, with hints that he would support his parents by pioneering aviation in Australia. He also harboured a long – standing ambition of flying from England back to Australia, which would be a record setting journey.

Dallas was raised to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to the command of a Wing, but he would never read the message that came from Headquarters, that arrived on June the 1st 1918 advising of his promotion and ordering to cease flying. He disappeared on a solo mission the same day. It was later learned that he was killed over Lievin during combat with three Fokker Triplanes from Jagdstaffel 14, probably by its commander Leutnant Johannes Werner. So ended the career of one of the leading lights of the newly formed Royal Air Force. Dallas’s official victory score stands at 39, but his Squadron colleagues say that this should be over 50, due to Dallas’s cavalier attitude to claiming.

(C) Damian Grange 2020