103 Squadron RAF
No 103 Squadron RAF - 30 October 1918
... a day of intense activity
The 30th October was to be a day of intense activity along the whole front. No 103 Sqn was operating from Ronchin airfield near Lille.
For 103 Sqn the day's flying started with a reconnaissance patrol, two DH9 aircraft, crewed by Sgt. Haines & 2nd Lt. McDonald and 2nd Lt.s Tennant & Drummond, leaving the ground at 0610. Visibility was poor and they reported moderate AA while flying at 10,000 ft over Leuze and Tournai observing a number of train movements. They returned at 0730.
At 0735 two aircraft took off for No 1 ASD crewed by Lt. McCowan & 2nd Lt. Webster and 2nd Lt. Marchant & Lt. Knight, the latter seemingly returning DH9 H4225 which had been collected the previous day. (Both aircraft and crews returned the following day).
At 0750 Captain Dodds & 2nd Lt. Corey led off a seven aircraft patrol to bomb Ath (a major railway junction due East of Lille, behind the German lines). The patrol was made up of Lt.s Chrispin & Bannerman, Lt. Hallawell & Sgt. Watkinson, Lt. Hett & 2nd Lt. Nicholls, Sgt.s Shepherd & Westcott, Sgt.s McNeill & Stevens and Sgt. Silvester & 2nd Lt. Lansdale.
Lt.s Hett & Nicholls' aircraft left the formation due to engine trouble and released 2 112lb bombs from 13,000 ft over Barry at 0915. The remainder of the formation approached their target at 14,000 ft. Visibility was fair and AA moderate. All aircraft appear to have reached the target and released their bombs dropping 2 230lb and 8 112lb at 0950. On the return home they were attacked by nine Fokker DVIIs and a black 2-Seater. At 0955 Capt. Dodds observed Sgt.s McNeill & Stevens, who had fallen behind and below the formaton at 13,000 ft, being attacked over Mainvault by three EA one of which he observed to be driven down out of control. Sgt.s Shepherd & Westcott going to their aid also claimed one destroyed and saw it fall into a wood SE of Moustier. Sgt. Silvester & 2nd Lt. Lansdale were last seen at 2,000 ft over Tournai flying West "unattacked and were later confirmed as POWs - they had been shot down by ack-ack with Sgt. Silvester wounded. On the Patrol's return to Ronchin Sgt.s McNeill & Stevens were also missing, but later returned.
Ath Station and bomb damaged railway nearby
In the afternoon the squadron were to be part of the RAF's biggest operation of the day. 80 Wing put up 62 aircraft for a raid on Rebaix airfield north of Ath. No.s 2 AFC, 54 and 103 Sqns were to carry out a bombing attack protected by No.s 4 AFC and 88 Sqns.
At 1345 the CO Major Nethersole & 2nd Lt. Corey led off a formation of eight DH9s. The other crews were: Lt. Hallawell & Sgt. Watkinson, Capt. Stubbs & Lt. Bannerman, Sgt. Driver & Sgt. Sgt. Huckle, Sgt. Haines & 2nd Lt. MacDonald, Lt. Hett & 2nd Lt. Nicholls, 2nd Lt. Jackson & Sgt. Westcott, 2nd Lt.s Tennant & Drummond.
At 1415 2nd Lt.s Tennant & Drummond returned after half an hour having experienced engine trouble.
At 1425 Lt.s Chrispin & Slater took off on reconnaissance but returned at 1445 having experienced engine trouble.
At 1430 a very low level attack was made on Rebaix by No 54 Sqn and 2 AFC, with the 103 Sqn formation above at 2000 ft. Major Nethersole & 2nd Lt. Corey leading the DH9 formation dropped a 230lb bomb between hangars demolishing one of them and destroying two machines. Other buildings were also destroyed and the airfield generally shot up. Altogether No 103 Sqn dropped 4 230lb and 6 112lb bombs, the other squadrons dropped 116 25lb bombs. Other targets around the airfield were strafed. On the return journey the squadron had to fight all the way to the lines against some 30 Fokkers, claiming three destroyed and two OOC. Capt Stubbs & Lt. Bannerman claimed a Fokker destroyed (at 1430) and Lt. Hett & 2nd Lt. Nicholls claimed two Fokkers destroyed (at 1440), though Nicholls died of wounds from this action. Other claims were made that day by Sgt. Haines & 2nd Lt. MacDonald (at 1435 1 EA DES) and Lt. Hallawell & Sgt. Watkinson (at 1440 1 EA DES).
All aircraft returned at 1505.
Photos Newby Collection @ airwar1.org.uk