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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Edward Mannock

Link - Posted by David on November 1, 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 British Flyer Major Edward Mannock’s most thrilling sky fight!

Edward “Micky” Mannock was serving the British postal department, Turkey, when the war broke out. He was immediately made a prisoner by the Turks, and spent almost a year in an enemy camp before he was repatriated to England in 1915. He first served in the Royal Engineers, was commissioned as a lieutenant and transferred to the flying Corps in August, 1916. Major McCudden, the great British Ace, was his first instructor.

At the end of the war Mannock ranked as the British Ace of Aces, with 76 victories to his credit, more than Bishop, Ball, or McCudden himself. Flying a Nieuport Scout he downed his first Hun June 7th, 1917. On July 25th, 1918, he got his 76th victory in an S.E.5. The next day he was seen to fall in flames behind the enemy lines. Before he was killed he was awarded the D.S.O. and the M.C, and was swiftly promoted to to the rank of Major. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. The following account of his fight with do enemy aircraft is taken from the report of a British journalist.

 

ONE AGAINST FORTY

by Major Edward Mannock • Sky Fighters, November 1935

I HAVE seldom been taken by surprise in the air. “Jimmy” McCudden schooled me well on that score in my early flight training. But one time I did get caught good and plenty. Forty Huns plopped in on me at once. I was flying solo over Villers-Bretteneux. It was a bad day for flying. There was rain and low-hanging clouds. The Huns had a big landing field at Villers, but our bombers had played it hot and heavy, and word came through to us that the Huns had abandoned it.

Right over the field there was a big hole in the clouds, so I dropped down for a look-see to ascertain the truth of the report. The field and hangars looked deserted. There was not an E.A. in sight. I dived low, got beneath the cloud layer. Then I saw why the field looked deserted. I had had the ill luck to drop down through that hole in the clouds just as the Hun staffels were leaving. Four flights of Huns had just left the ground, and were circling just beneath the clouds. The intervening clouds had hidden them from my view. When I did see them, it was too late for me to make my escape into the protecting clouds, for the Huns slid over on top of me.

There was nothing else for me to do but fight my way out of the trap.

Lead was rattling into my turtleback before I had a chance to shift into a climbing turn and bring my guns to bear upon any of the enemy. And one burst of slugs knocked my helmet askew so that my goggle glasses were wrenched across my eyes, blurring my vision.

When I did get them in place again, a purple-nosed Hun was diving at me head-on, both his Spandaus spewing out blue white streams. I maneuvered, pressed my trigger trips, then went up on one wing and slid down in an abrupt sideslip. The Hun ship shattered above me, exploded in flames. The blazing ship just missed mine as I nosed out of the slip. By now all the Hun planes had closed in tight on me.

But the Huns made one error. They hemmed me in so tight on all sides, above and below, that they couldn’t use their guns advantageously. I got two more of my attackers. But cheered as I was when I saw the E.A.5s fall, I knew that I couldn’t hold out against them for long. If I could pull up into the clouds, I knew I could lose them. Getting there was the problem. I went into a steep power dive, letting all that wanted to get on my tail. After a thousand foot dive, I pulled back on the stick and shot straight for the clouds.

Bullets raked my S.E. all the way down and up, but none of them had my name and address. I was just plain lucky, I guess, for I managed to make the clouds without getting popped. Once in them, I straightened out for my lines with all the sauce on. Believe me, my own airdrome looked good when I sat down there. I had got three of the full forty I had tangled with, but I didn’t regret not staying for more.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 20: Captain Elliot White Springs” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 2, 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 American Ace—Captain Elliot White Springs!

Captain Elliot White Springs was one of the first to enlist in the flying school established at Princeton when the United States entered the World War. He was sent to England, where he had varied training in British aviation schools. And on to France in May 1918 in Billy Bishop’s 85 Squadron, RFC! After recoving from wounds recieved at the end of June 1918 he was reassigned to the 148th Aero Squadron—although an American Squadron, it was still under the operational control of the RFC.

Springs is credited with 16 victories and was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, Springs returned home to work in the family textile mill—Springs Cotton Mills and wrote nine books that were mainly on his flying and war experiences. Most notable among them are Warbirds: The Diary of an Unknown Aviator, Nocturne Militaire and Warbirds and Ladybirds.

His post war life is excellently covered at Mike Culpepper’s The Shrine of Dreams.

Springs returned to service in the U.S. Army Air Corp during the Second World War, after which he came home and continued to run Springs Cotton Mills until shortly before his death of pancreatic cancer in August 1959. Springs was 63.

(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.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Col. William Bishop

Link - Posted by David on January 27, 2016 @ 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 it’s Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Colonel William Bishop is one of the few great war Aces still living. And he probably owes his life to the fact that the British General Staff ordered him to Instruction duty in London while the war was still on. Bishop first served in the Second Canadian Army as an officer of cavalry, but tiring of the continuous Flanders mud, he made application for transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. He was first sent up front as an observer. When he went up later as a pilot he immediately began to compile the record which established him as the British Ace of Aces. He won every honor and medal possible. He was an excellent flyer, but attributed most of his success to his wizardry with the machine-gun. When the war ended he was officially credited with downing 72 enemy planes and balloons. The account below is from material he gathered for a book.

 

THE DECOY MAJOR

by Lieut. Col. William Bishop • Sky Fighters, February 1934

OUR WING received orders to take some pictures seven miles inside the enemy lines. This was a hazardous mission, and the Major in command of Wing volunteered to do it alone, but his superiors ordered that he be given protection. My patrol was assigned to furnish that protection. We were to meet the Major in his photo plane just east of Arras at the 6,000 foot level.

The rendezvous came off like clockwork. I brought my patrol to the spot at 9:28 and cruised lazily about. Two minutes later we spied a single Nieuport coming towards us. I fired a red signal flare and the Nieuport answered. It was the Major.

I climbed slightly then, leading my patrol about 1,000 feet above the Major’s Nieuport, protecting him from attack from above as we kited over the lines. The formation kept just high enough to avoid the German archies.

We got to the area to be photographed without too much trouble, flying through a sea of big white clouds which made it difficult for the archie gunners to reach us. We circled round and round the Major while he tried to snap his pictures.

But the clouds made it as difficult for him as for the archie gunners.

During one of our sweeping circles I suddenly saw four enemy scouts climbing between two immense clouds some distance off. I knew they would see us soon, so I got the brilliant idea of making the enemy scouts think that there was only one British machine by taking my patrol up into the clouds.

I knew the Huns would dive to attack on the Major the instant they spotted him, then the rest of us could swoop down and surprise them. I did not want to make it hard on the Major, but I couldn’t resist the chance of using him as a decoy.

The enemy scouts saw the Major and made for him in a concerted dive. He didn’t see them until one of them opened fire prematurely at a long range of over 200 yards.

His thoughts then—he told me afterwards—immediately flew to the patrol. He glanced back over his shoulder to see where we were—and saw nothing! He pulled up and poured a burst at a German who came down on his right. Then he banked to the left for a burst at another German. The two Huns flew off, then returned.

I dived with my patrol now. One Hun fired at the Major as I flashed by. I opened both my guns on him at a ten-yard range, then passed on to the second enemy scout, firing all the while, and passing within five feet of his wing tip. I turned quickly to get the other two, but they dived out of range and escaped.

When I looked back over my shoulder the first two were floundering down through the clouds out of control. Ten seconds of firing had accounted for both of them in a single dive. The Major finished his photo job in fifteen minutes without further interruption, and we made our way home through heavy aircraft fire.

Later, I apologized to him for using him as a decoy. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Carry on.”

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 37: Lt. Col. Barker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 3, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the July 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the most decorated Canadian Ace—Lt. Col. William Barker, V.C., D.S.O. M.C.!

William George “Billy” Barker was a fighter pilot credited with 53 aerial victories during WWI, but is mostly remembered for the epic, single-handed combat on October 27th 1918 against some 60 German aircraft that won him the Victoria Cross.

After the war he joined Canada’s other Ace named Billy—William Bishop in an ill-conceived commercial aviation venture in Toronto, but in June 1922 he accepted a commission in the Canadian Air Force and was briefly the acting director of the RCAF.

Barker was fatally injured when his new two-seater Fairchild aircraft he was demonstrating crashed at Rockcliffe air station, Ottawa. He was 35.

As a bonus—here is the feature on Lt. Col. William Barker from Clayton Knight’s newspaper feature Hall of Fame of the Air which ran Sundays from 1935 to 1940. This strip is courtesy of Stephen Sherman’s acepilots.com which has a large collection of HFA strips that his father had clipped and saved at the time.

Great stuff!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 36: Lt. Col. Harold E Hartney” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on May 6, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the June 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of Rickenbacker’s Commander—Lt. Col. Harold E. Hartney!

Harold Evans Hartney was born in Ontario, Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Militia serving with the Saskatoon 105th Fusiliers before requesting a transfer to the Royal Flying Corp after a chance meeting with William Bishop. He flew with No. 20 Squadron RFC and scored six confirmed victories before being shot down in February of 1917—he claims by Manfred von Richtofen. After he recovered he ws promoted to the rank of Major and assumed the command of the American 27th Aero Squadron.

Hartney became an American citizen in 1923 and penned a number of books, foremost of which was the autobiographical Up and At ‘Em.

He passed away from heart disease October 5th, 1947 in Washington, DC. at the age of 57. Lt. Col. Harold E. Hartney is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

“The Fokker D-7″ by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on February 16, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the ninth of the actual war-combat pictures which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started to give our readers authentic pictures of war planes in color. It also enables you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and fell the same thrills of battle they felt. Be sure to save these covers if you want your collection of this fine series to be complete.

th_BA_3202THE HERO of the exploit featured this month is Lieutenant-colonel William Avery Bishop, the ace of aces. In his many combats, numbering over two hundred, he made an official score of seventy-two enemy planes, destroyed. Seventy-five percent of these combats were undertaken alone and the majority were against great odds. In a single day, his last in France, he brought up his score from sixty-seven to seventy-two, by destroying, unaided, five enemy ships in less than two hours.

Here is the story of the action which is illustrated on the cover. It will give an insight into the daring of this fighter. The combat took place on August 11, 1917. Colonel Bishop went out that day to work independently, as was his custom. Finding the air clear of patrols, he flew to an enemy airdrome only to find it deserted. He then flew on, going at least twelve miles beyond the lines into German territory, until he discovered another airdrome. Here there was great activity. Seven planes, some with their engines running, were lined up in front of the hangars, preparing to ascend. This was just what he had hoped to find.

With throttle wide open, Bishop dove to within fifty feet of the ground, sending a stream of lead into the group of men and planes. He noticed one casualty as the pilots and mechanics scattered in all directions. The Boches manned the ground guns and raked the sky, while the pilots worked frantically to take off. They knew whom they were up against. There was no mistaking “Blue Nose,” which was the name of Bishop’s machine. Furthermore, who but Bishop would come so far into their territory, and have the audacity to attack an airdrome all by himself?

Here, right in their midst, was the man most feared and most “wanted” by the Germans. It meant promotion and an Iron Cross for the pilot who downed him. However he was not easily downed.

At last one Jerry left the ground. Bishop was on his tail like a hawk and before the Jerry could gain maneuvering altitude, Bishop gave him fifteen rounds of hot fire, crashing him to the ground. During this brief action another plane took off but Bishop was too quick for him. He swung around and in a flash was on his tail. Thirty rounds sent this Boche crashing into a tree. In the meantime two more enemy ships had taken off and had gained enough altitude for a serious scrap. These Bishop engaged at once. He attacked the first ship, his guns ripping out one of those short bursts at close range, which were his specialty. The enemy ship went spinning to earth, crashing three hundred yards from the airdrome. He then emptied a full drum into the second hostile machine, doing more moral than material damage, for this plane took to its heels.

Then Captain Bishop flew back to his airdrome, pursued for over a mile by four enemy scouts, who were too discouraged to do any harm. When Bishop left the Front he had won the M.C., the D.F.C., the D.S.O. and bar, the Legion of Honor, the Croix de Guerre, and Briton’s highest award, the V.C. For the action here illustrated he was awarded the D.S.O.

You will recognize the enemy machine as a Fokker D-7, “The Wolf of the Air.” In the hands of a good pilot it was a terror to the Allied forces. It was designed by Anthony Fokker who was not a German, but a subject of Holland. He is now a citizen of the United States.

This remarkable ship might have been on the Allied side, if it had not been for the short-sightedness of official England; for Fokker offered his services to England and was rejected. He then went to Germany where his value was recognized and where he was immediately employed. England, realizing her mistake, offered Fokker two million pounds to leave Germany. Since Fokker was virtually a prisoner there—but that is another story.

At any rate Fokker built the Germans a ship which filled the Allied pilots with wonder and consternation when it first appeared over the lines. This ship was the D-7. It could out-speed, out-dive, and out-fight any thing then at the Front. Later the Allies produced ships that possessed certain advantages over the Fokker—notably, the Spad that could turn on a dime, the Camel and the S.E.5. However the Fokker remained the most deadly ship that the Germans had to offer, until the end of the war.

The characteristics of the Fokker include an extreme depth of wing, lack of dihedral, and the absence of external bracing. It was truly a wireless ship. It had a span of 29′ 3½” and an overall length of 22′ 11½”, while its speed was about 116 miles per hour.

The Fokker D-7
“The Fokker D-7″ by Frederick M. Blakeslee (February 1932)

You will see a Fokker triplane on the cover next month. It is Baron von Richthofen’s machine, so don’t miss it!

“They Had What It Takes – Part 36: Billy Bishop” by Alden McWilliams

Link - Posted by David on June 16, 2012 @ 2:05 pm in

This week we bring you the thirty-sixth installment of Alden McWilliams’ illustrated tribute to the pioneer fliers of the early days of aviation which he called “They Had What it Takes”. We’re up to the January 1940 issue of Flying Aces where McWilliams featured Canada’s Greatest WWI Ace—Billy Bishop!

William Avery “Billy” Bishop, V.C. has been credited with 72 victories making him the fourth greatest Ace of the First World War. He was made an honorary Air Marshall of the Royal Canadian Air Force and placed in charge of recruitment in 1938 and developed a training program for pilots across Canada during the Second World War. Stress would eventually see him resign his post in the RCAF in 1944, but remained active in aviation, even offering to return to his recruitment role with the RCAF with the outbreak of the Korean War (he was politely refused by the RCAF due to poor health).

Billy passed in his sleep in 1956 while wintering in Palm Beach, Florida and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Owen Sound, Ontario where he was born 62 years earlier.