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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on March 8, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Canada’s Lieutenant Alan McLeod’s most thrilling sky fight!

Alan McLeod was one of the three Canadian airmen winning the coveted award of the Victoria Cross, the highest honor bestowed on its fighting heroes by the British Empire, He was the youngest flyer ever to receive the honor, having it pinned on his chest in appropriate ceremonies at Buckingham Palace a few months before his nineteenth birthday.

Whereas most of the other British airmen who received this coveted honor accomplished their deeds of heroic valor in fast, single-seater fighting machines, young McLeod used a heavy, unwieldy, Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater which was poorly equipped for air combat. But Alan McLeod used it just as though it were a pursuit ship, never running from a possible chance lo shoot it out with enemy planes in the air, no matter how heavy the odds were against him. The fight he tells about below is one of the great epics of the air. McLeod was wounded six times, but recovered, only to succumb to influenza five days before the armistice was signed.



by Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, June 1934

WHEN zooming up after dropping my last bomb, I saw a Hun Fokker, coming at me from the rear. I swung my machine up on one wing, gave my observer, Hammond, in the back seat, a chance at it. His first burst of Lewis fire was effective. It went fluttering down like a falling leaf, swaying from side to side.

I climbed for altitude then. At 5,000 feet the sun broke through the clouds. A flight of eight scarlet-painted Fokker tripes burst through with the sun. One dived, then zoomed up under my tail. I banked steeply. Hammond got his guns on it just as the Hun let go with a burst that crackled through the lower wing just beyond my head. It went spiralling down, a black smoke trail pluming behind it.

The seven other Fokker tripes dived in with a vengeance then, attacking from all sides, and simultaneously! The air was full of German tracer. My wings were sieved. Flying wires snapped, coiled up like watch springs. I felt something like a hot knife slide across my stomach. A red shape flashed down in front of me. I pressed my gun triggers, sent in a withering burst of lead that seemed to splatter like a pinwheel as it hit. More struts on my plane cracked, shattered, sheared in two from Spandau bursts. A sharp pain stabbed me in the groin. But the red Fokker went to pieces in the air, tumbled down beneath me.

I glanced back. Tracer streams from two Fokkers were pouring at Hammond. One of his arms was hanging limply. Blood saturated his mitten. He was aiming his Lewis’ with the other hand. I went around in a sweeping, climbing turn, to get him above the attackers. Our plane groaned, crackled some more. More holes appeared like lightning in the upper wing, the lower. Another sharp pain stabbed through my lower right leg. A burst of German tracer found my petrol tank, it puffed into flames. I got in a final shot at a red Hun who swept across my path. He went down, out of control.

The heat from the burning tank lashed back in my face. Flames, choking smoke swirled in the cockpit. I loosened my belt, stepped out on the lower left wing. Holding on with my left hand, moving the stick with my right, I threw the machine into a steep side-slip, blowing the flames and smoke away from us.

Two Fokkers slid down with us, firing as they came.

Hammond, weak and reeling in the back pit, got one of them just before we hit the ground, then climbed up on the top wing. The machine crashed, thudded, bounced, throwing me off. Hammond was swept back into his pit. Flames and smoke enveloped him, the whole machine.

I raced back, pulled him out, carried him away from the fire. Bullets thudded around us, machine-gun and rifle bullets from the Huns in their trenches, not two hundred yards away,

I kept going away from them until a deep blackness descended. That is all I remember.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 18: Lieut. Alan McLeod” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 1, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have one of only three Canadian Aces to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI—Lieutenant Alan McLeod!

Alan Arnett McLeod was born near Winnipeg in Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada to Scottish emigrant parents on April 20th, 1899. Although he was only fifteen when England declared war, he tried to enlist every year until he was finally accepted by the R.F.C. in April 1917. He won his wings quickly—soloing after only three hours flying time. Graduating after completing 50 hours flying experience, McLeod shipped overseas in August 1917.

Alan McLeod was a very tall man with a boyish appearance which soon earned him the nickname, ‘Babe’. He was allocated to B-Flight piloting an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 two-seater biplane and soon demonstrated he was a skilled pilot who was not afraid to take risks. Indeed, within a month of being in the Squadron he downed a Fokker Dr.1 and subsequently an Observation Balloon which earned him the honour of being mentioned in dispatches.

But it was his most thrilling sky fight on March 27th 1918 when he and observer Lt. Arthur Hammond had just downed an enemy triplane when they were set upon by eight more planes. They were able to down three more before a bullet pieced their gas tank and flames erupted. Although he and Hammond were badly injured, McLeod managed to keep the flames off of them by steeply side slipping the plane to a crash landing in No-Man’s-Land where he managed to carry Hammond to comparative safety before collapsing.

Lt.x Alan McLeod was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, but sadly passed away several months later when he contracted Spanish Influenza while recuperating.

(Editor’s Note: Although Flying Aces has gone to a bedsheet sized publication with this issue, the feature is still being done in the two page format of the pulp-sized issues. As such, we have reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)