Somme 101

airscape Magazine

The battle above

Today marks 101 years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme. And, while the bloody hours of July 1st, 1916 have become a by-word for military disaster, the operation above the trenches was an absolute triumph.

Compared to the British Army’s 57,470 casualties and the German Army’s approximately 12,000, the Royal Flying Corps finished the day with just one airman killed, four wounded and nine missing.

Lanoe Hawker and pilots of No.32 Sqn. RFC pose with one of their DH2’s at Fourth Army aircraft park, Beauval (IWM Q 11874)

‘Attack everything’

RFC commander General Hugh Trenchard had instilled his squadrons with a non-negotiable obligation to support the troops on the ground – through close air support, successful reconnaissance and gun-laying, and the pursuit of air superiority.

Hawker (note the Flight Commander’s pennant on the struts) flies his DH2 low along the Beauval strip. (IWM Q…

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