Free Admission - We're open daily from 10.00am (parking charges apply)

British Military Aviation in 1916

Victoria Cross 1 January

the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) is awarded the Victoria Cross.

13 January
The first material, a package of detonators, is dropped by air to British forces at Kut el Amara in Mesopotamia, besieged by Turkish troops since 7 December 1915. Unfortunately, the detonators fell in the enemy lines. Between January and mid-April 1915 approximately 30 successful supply drops delivered essential supplies to the garrison, including a 70 pound millstone that was dropped using a special parachute on 27 March.

14 January
In response to the continuing threat posed by the Fokker Eindekker monoplane fighter, the Royal Flying Corps adopts a formal policy of formation flying. Although aircraft had hitherto operated as singletons or pairs, tactical flexibility was now judged to be a necessity. All Royal Flying Corps reconnaissance aircraft would now be escorted by at least 3 fighters in an attempt to counter the German threat.

Although in many ways an indifferent fighter, the Eindekker was a very clean design and this allowed the aircraft to perform near-vertical dives. Moreover, the Eindekker was the first combat aircraft armed with a machine gun synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. The superiority of the Eindekker over existing Allied aircraft allowed the German Army Air Corps to establish a measure of air superiority, and demonstrated the importance of technical superiority in air warfare.

30 January
Brigade formations came into effect, further decentralising the Royal Flying Corps. Each Army was allotted two Wings grouped as a Brigade; one squadron for routine Army corps work and the other for fighting, bombing and distant reconnaissance.

February
The Joint War Air Committee is established under Chairmanship of Lord Derby to co-ordinate the question of supplies and design of aircraft for both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

February
The first officially recorded air-to-ground telephone communication is achieved by Major C.E. Prince 'somewhere in France'. He was using a Wireless Telephone MkI during a demonstration put on for Lord Kitchener.

7 February
The de Havilland DH2 single-seat pusher scouts of No.24 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, arrives at St Omer in France, primarily to combat the 'Fokker menace' which had begun the previous summer. The DH2, supplemented by the Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b and the Nieuport Scout, was successful in re-establishing air superiority by May 1916.

16 February
Control of the campaign in Mesopotamia is transferred from the Indian Government to the British Government and the Royal Flying Corps was made responsible for air operations.

April
It is decided that fighter aircraft should be concentrated under Army wings rather than scatted amongst Corps squadrons, thus making a clear distinction between strategic offensive fighting and other Royal Flying Corps work.

1 April
The Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment at Cranwell is officially opened. The Admiralty had acquired the site in November 1915 and construction began in December of that year. Cranwell's primary role was to act as a surrogate central flying school of the Royal Naval Air Service, under Admiralty control, thereby removing the need for that service to draw upon the resources of the existing Central Flying School. The location of Cranwell enabled it to support the Royal Naval Air Service stations then being opened on the East Coast.

15-29 April
As the supply situation of the British garrison at Kut el Amara grows desperate, Royal Aircraft Factory BE2cs and Maurice Farman Shorthorns of the Royal Flying Corps, together with Royal Naval Air Service aircraft, begin a full-scale airlift of food and medical supplies. Between 15 and 29 April, a total of 19,000 pounds of supplies were dropped in 140 flights. However, despite the unsparing efforts of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service personnel involved in the airlift, the garrison at Kut was forced to surrender on 29 April 1916. A total of 12,000 men were taken prisoner by the Turkish forces. This was the first military airlift recorded.

9 May
Using a bombsight developed by Bourdillon and Tizard, a British Short 184 seaplane hits a target in with a 500 pound bomb from a height of 4,000 feet.

11 May
The Air Board is created, under the presidency of Lord Curzon. The roles of the Board included:

  • Discussion of matters of general policy in relation to the air, and in particular combined operations of the Naval and Military Air Services.
  • Making recommendations on the types of machine required. If either the Admiralty or the War Office declined to act on recommendations of the Board, the President was to refer questions to the War Committee Cabinet.
  • Organising and co-ordinating the supply of material, preventing competition between the two departments.
  • Organising a complete system for the interchange of ideas between the two Services, and such related bodies as the Naval Board of Invention and Research, the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the National Physical Laboratory.

17 May
The Air Board is formed to arbitrate between the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in matters relating to the supply of aircraft and equipment.

17 May
An experiment is conducted at Harwich, in which a Porte Baby flying boat, piloted by John Cyril Porte, takes off with a Bristol Scout attached as a 'parasite' to its wing. The Scout, with Flight Sub- Lieutenant Day at the controls, detaches successfully at 300 metres (1,000 feet).

22 May
British fighter pilot, Captain Albert Ball, records his first 2 aerial victories.

24 May
The first Sopwith 1½ Strutter 2-seat fighters arrive in France with No.70 Squadron. The 1½ Strutter was the first British aeroplane to enter front-line service equipped with interrupter gear, allowing a machine gun to fire through the propeller arc, and it also had a Lewis gun mounted in the rear cockpit.

31 May
Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) seaplanes are used to observe the German High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland.

18 June
The German air ace Oberleutnant Max Immelmann, 'the Eagle of Lille', is shot down and killed during an engagement with a patrol of Royal Aircraft Factory FE2bs from No.25 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Second Lieutenant G.R. McCubbin and Corporal J.H. Waller of No.25 Squadron were credited with the destruction of Immelmann's Fokker Eindekker and McCubbin was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Waller the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Immelmann was an innovative tactician. The 'Immelmann Turn', a roll off the top of a half loop, was named after him, although it is doubtful whether he invented it.

11 May
The Air Board is created, under the presidency of Lord Curzon. The roles of the Board included:

  • Discussion of matters of general policy in relation to the air, and in particular combined operations of the Naval and Military Air Services.
  • Making recommendations on the types of machine required. If either the Admiralty or the War Office declined to act on recommendations of the Board, the President was to refer questions to the War Committee Cabinet.
  • Organising and co-ordinating the supply of material, preventing competition between the two departments.
  • Organising a complete system for the interchange of ideas between the two Services, and such related bodies as the Naval Board of Invention and Research, the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the National Physical Laboratory.

17 May
The Air Board is formed to arbitrate between the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in matters relating to the supply of aircraft and equipment.

17 May
An experiment is conducted at Harwich, in which a Porte Baby flying boat, piloted by John Cyril Porte, takes off with a Bristol Scout attached as a 'parasite' to its wing. The Scout, with Flight Sub- Lieutenant Day at the controls, detaches successfully at 300 metres (1,000 feet).

22 May
British fighter pilot, Captain Albert Ball, records his first 2 aerial victories.

24 May
The first Sopwith 1½ Strutter 2-seat fighters arrive in France with No.70 Squadron. The 1½ Strutter was the first British aeroplane to enter front-line service equipped with interrupter gear, allowing a machine gun to fire through the propeller arc, and it also had a Lewis gun mounted in the rear cockpit.

31 May
Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) seaplanes are used to observe the German High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland.

18 June
The German air ace Oberleutnant Max Immelmann, 'the Eagle of Lille', is shot down and killed during an engagement with a patrol of Royal Aircraft Factory FE2bs from No.25 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Second Lieutenant G.R. McCubbin and Corporal J.H. Waller of No.25 Squadron were credited with the destruction of Immelmann's Fokker Eindekker and McCubbin was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Waller the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Immelmann was an innovative tactician. The 'Immelmann Turn', a roll off the top of a half loop, was named after him, although it is doubtful whether he invented it.

July
No.3 Wing of the Royal Naval Air Service, equipped with Sopwith 1½ Strutters, becomes the first British formation tasked with strategic bombing.

1 July
The first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Allies had succeeded in concentrating 421 aircraft against a German strength of only 104 machines. This enabled them to gain and maintain air superiority for much of the battle.

The Battle also saw the organised development of contact patrols. However, many observers encountered difficulty due to the infantry's reluctance to use flares to highlight their position to both friend and foe alike. The attacking British and French armies suffered heavy casualties, with British losses on the first day totalling more than 50,000 men.

Victoria Cross

1 July
Major L.W.B. Rees of No.32 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, is awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry displayed while on patrol over the Double Crassieurs zone. He disrupted a major German bombing attack on Allied positions in a de Havilland DH2, 6015.

7 July
The first Royal Flying Corps Squadron, No.17 Squadron, arrives at Mikra Bay following its transfer from the Middle East to Macedonia. The squadron was tasked with supporting British, French and Serbian operations against the Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces. As a consequence, No.17 Squadron's equipment included both Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c aircraft for reconnaissance and a small number of de Havilland DH2s and Bristol Scout fighters.

7 July
British fighter pilot, Captain Albert Ball is awarded the Military Cross.

15 July
The Middle East Brigade is formed in Egypt under the command of Brigadier General W.G.H. Salmond, concentrating all Royal Flying Corps units in Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Palestine and East Africa under one headquarters.

2 August
In Belgium aircraft of No.4 and No.5 Wings, Royal Naval Air Service, experiment with new bombing technique. Guided by signal flares from a Sopwith 1½ Strutter, 11 bombers in line astern attack a target near Ghent.

3 August
The interim report of the Committee of Inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Bailhache into the administration of the Air Services (the Bailhache Committee) is released. The Committee recommended that there should be one Department charged with the equipment of both flying services.

5 August 
The Victoria CrossFighter pilot Major L.W.B. Rees of the Royal Flying Corps, wins the Victoria Cross. While flying an Airco DH2 he spotted a formation of eight enemy aircraft and decided to attack. Despite the odds, and injuries, Major Rees managed to force two aircraft down out of control before his ammunition ran out.

27 August 
Italy declares war on Germany and Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary.

28 August 
Germany declares war on Romania.

30 August 
Turkey declares war on Romania.

September 
The Royal Flying Corps School of Aerial Gunnery is formed from the Machine-Gun School.

1 September
Bulgaria declares war on Romania.

2-3 September 
A German airship about to be launchedThe first German airship is destroyed over Britain. On this night, 16 airships of the German Army and Navy were despatched to attack London, the largest airship raid of the First World War. One airship was forced to return early. Of the remaining 15, German Army Schutte-Lanz SL11 (Hauptmann W Schramm) was shot down in flames by Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson in a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c of No.39 (Home Defence Squadron). The airship fell at Cuffley in Hertfordshire. Hauptmann Schramm and his crew of 15 were killed.

The raid was a failure. The raiders were scattered by adverse winds, heavy rain and high-altitude icing, and only one airship came within seven miles of Charing Cross. Approximately 16-17 tons of bombs were dropped between the Humber and Gravesend. 4 Britons were killed and a further 12 injured.

 

15 September 
During the Battle of Fleurs-Courcelette, No.7 and No.34 Squadrons, Royal Flying Corps, support the British Army's first tank attack.

23-24 September 
The Zeppelin at WigboroughTwelve Zeppelins of the German Navy were despatched to attack London and the Midlands. Of these, two 'super Zeppelins', the L32 and the L33, were shot down by the defences. L33 was seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire over London and subsequently received further damage from a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c of No.39 Squadron.
The airship eventually grounded near Little Wigborough in Essex. L32 was shot down by a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, flown by Second Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey of No.39 Squadron, near Billericay in Essex.

12 October 
Raymond Collishaw is credited with first aerial victory. He goes on to become the Royal Naval Air Service's leading ace, with a total of 60 kills.

13 November 
One flight of No.14 Squadron, together with a Company of the Bedfordshire Regiment to act as aerodrome guard, are sent to the Red Sea port of Rabigh to assist Arab forces under the control of the Sherif of Mecca and Colonel T.E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia').

16 November
General Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, requests that 20 additional air squadrons be deployed in France by the spring of 1917.

23 November 
Major Lanoe G. Hawker VC is killed in a dogfight with Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the 'Red Baron'). Following a prolonged period of manoeuvring, during which neither pilot was able to gain the advantage, fuel shortage forced Major Hawker to attempt to break off and run for the British lines. He then lost his life when his de Havilland DH2 pusher scout was shot down. Major Hawker was von Richthofen's eleventh victim.

12 December 
The Army Council approves the expansion of the Royal Flying Corps to 106 frontline squadrons.

22 December
It is decided to widen the role of the Air Board, under the presidency of Lord Cowdray, giving it limited executive powers. A section of the New Ministries and Secretaries Act, 1916, which brought the Board into being, laid down that "for the purpose of this Act the President of the Air Board shall be deemed to be a Minister appointed under this Act"

Share your RAF Stories

Collecting stories throughout the world

Find out more
Shobha Earl

Shobha Earl

RAF Stories
Share your RAF Stories
3 Pilots 1 War

Discover the amazing story of three First World War Pilots

Find out more
 Bernard Rice

Bernard Rice

First World War Pilot
3 Pilots 1 War
Historic Hendon Graphic Novel

Bringing the amazing stories of the RAF Museum's historic London site to life

Find out more
Ray Holmes

Ray Holmes

Unassuming Hero
Historic Hendon Graphic Novel
First World War Casualty Cards

You can now read online 300,000+ casualty cards belonging to RFC and RAF personnel

Find out more
Major James Thomas Byford McCudden

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden

First World War Ace
First World War Casualty Cards