Monday, 8 February 2016

Battle in Mid-Air


Tuesday 8th February 1916: Lieutenant-Observer J E P Harvey, an officer of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, attached to the Royal Flying Corps who was recently captured by the Germans, has sent the following description of a battle in mid-air and how he was treated on capture.

“I had had a fight with two German aeroplanes when a shell burst very close to us and I heard a large piece whizz past my head. Then the aeroplane started to come down head first, spinning all the time. We must have dropped about 5,000 feet in about twenty seconds. I looked round at once saw poor -, with a terrible wound in his head, dead. I then realised that the only chance of saving my life was to step over into his seat and sit on his lap, where I could reach the controls(1). I managed to get the machine out of the terrible death-plunge, switched off the engine and made a good landing on terra firma”.

“I shall never forget it as long as I live. The shock was so great that I could hardly remember a single thing of my former life for two days. Now I am getting better and my mind is practically normal again. We were 10,000 feet up when poor – was killed and luckily it was this tremendous height that gave me time to think and to act”.

“I met one of the pilots of the German machines that had attacked us. He could speak English well and we shook hands. I had brought down his machine with my with my machine gun and he had had to land quite close to where I landed. He had a bullet through his radiator and petrol tank but neither he nor his observer was touched. I met two German officers who knew several people I knew and they were most awfully kind to me. They gave me a very good dinner of champagne and oysters etc. and I was treated like an honoured guest”.

(1) The pilot sitting behind the observer suggests it was an aircraft similar to a BE2.

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