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17 August 1917 Part 1

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NickForder View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17 Aug 2009 at 08:38

“I shall not easily forget the 17th of August, 1917. I killed two Huns in a double-seated machine in the morning, another in the evening and then I was captured myself. I may have spent more eventful days in my life, but I can’t recall any just now….

 

When our two hours’ duty was up, therefore, I dropped out of the formation as we crossed the lines and turned back again.

 

I was at a height of fifteen thousand feet, considerably higher than the balloons. Shutting my motor off, I dropped down through the clouds, thinking to find the balloons at about five or six miles behind the German lines.

 

Just as I came out of the cloud-banks I saw below me, about a thousand feet, a two-seater hostile machine doing artillery observation and directing the German guns. This was at a point about four miles behind the German lines.

 

Evidently the German artillery saw me and put out ground signals to attract the Hun machine’s attention, for I saw the observer quit his work and grab his gun, while the pilot stuck the nose of his machine straight down.

 

But they were too late to escape me. I was diving toward them at a speed of probably two hundred miles an hour, shooting all the time as fast as possible. Their only chance lay in the possibility that the force of my dive might break my wings. I knew my danger in that direction, but as soon as I came out of my dive the Huns would have their chance to get me, and I knew I had to get them first and take a chance on my wings holding out.

 

Fortunately, some of my first bullets found their mark and I was able to come out of my dive at about four thousand feet. They never came out of theirs !

 

But right then came the hottest situation in the air I had experienced up to that time. The depth of my dive had brought me within reach of the machine-guns from the ground and they also put up a ‘barrage’ around me of shrapnel from anti-aircraft guns, and I had an opportunity to ‘ride the barrage’, as they call it in the RFC. To make the situation more interesting, they began shooting ‘flaming onions’ at me….

 

None of their shots hurt me until I was about a mile from our lines, and then they hit my motor. Fortunately I still had altitude enough to drift to our side of the lines, for my motor was completely out of commission…

 

As it was, we had only five machines for this patrol, anyway, because as we crossed the lines one of them had to drop out on account of motor trouble. Our patrol was up at 8PM, and up to within ten minutes of that hour it had been entirely uneventful.

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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Aug 2009 at 14:22
Lt Pat O'Brien was flying 80 hp Le Rhone 9C (engine number 100243) Sopwith Pup B1732 '3' of 66 Squadron (a Standard Motors built aircraft, one of a batch B1701-B1850, to order 87/A/461). on an OP on 17 August 1917. He was last seen at 12,000 feet between Houlthurst Wood and Staden.
 
Some sources suggest that he was shot down by Ltn d R Xaer Dannhuber, Jasta 26, who claimed a 'Sopwith' at 20:50 hours over Staden. Other sources suggest that this was actually Bristol F2B Fighter A7201, 22 Squadron.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John-G Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2009 at 06:32
HuckJ
 
Vist my web page http://www.66squadron.co.uk/biogs/obrien.htm for a full account of O'Briens Life.
 
Huckj
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 15:52
Hi John
Having looked at your website, I'm still intrigued by O'Brien's claim, "I killed two Huns in a double-seated machine in the morning, another in the evening".
 
Quite an achievement for such a relatively inexperienced pilot.
 
I can find no corresponding German losses, so am I am inclined to think that this is a bit of artistic licence ?
 
Do the 66 Squadron records support these claims ?
 Nick
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote John-G Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 18:20

Hi Nick,

 

I have learnt to take much of what has been written in his book and also most of what was published in newspapers in the USA with more than a pinch of salt. 

 

On 17 August Pat flew two patrols the first departed at 2.30 led by Smith in B1762 who suffered engine failure and returned collected B1775 and then tried to rejoin the patrol. Morley (A6242) returned to base at 9.15, Hunter (B1760), Harper (B1838), Huxley (B21262) and pat in B1732, he returned to base at 9.5 am.

What was left of the Patrol chased a two-seater over Langrmarck, but the leader (66 patrol) was unable to climb up, and handed over patrol to deputy leader, who continued the pursuit, but was unable to reach E.A., which at patrol as it fired below and behind.  Later Lt O'Brien dived on a 2 seater E.A. over Warneton, but was observed attacking and before he could get close enough to fire , E.A. dived E and Lt O'Brien was unable to over take.

 

On the second patrol he took part in that day he flew with Bell-Irving (B1733), Raney (B1846), Lascelles (B2176) and Wilkins (B1838), Pat was in B1733.

 

 Bell Irving and Lascelles both attacked 2 seater E.A. both claimed a D.D.O.C.   Bell-Irving returned with engine trouble.  As far as the report is concerned Pat did not engage anyone and was also shot down, mind there is no mention of Pat engaging in a fight.

 

 

Huckj

 

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