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No. 37 Squadron Royal Flying Corps in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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No. 37 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

15th April 1916   No 37 Squadron formed as an experimental unit at the Experimental Station Orfordness on the 15th of April 1916 but was it was absorbed by the station in May and lost its squadron status.

22nd July 1917 Daylight Raids  

Sound bombs to alert to public in a raid, showing the rockets (1), inserting the time fuse (2), loading the rocket into the mortar (3), firing the rocket (4) and cleaning out the mortar (5).

Felixstowe and Harwich were bombed on 22 July 1917. Just after 8am a bomb fell into the sea near Bawdsey Manor and about 16 enemy Gothas crossed the British coast at Hollesley Bay, Suffolk, crossing the River Debden as they turned towards Felixstowe. Two further bombs fell in the fields north-east of St. Peter & St. Paul’s Church, the next hit a smithy near Highrow Farm, demolishing the building and injuring a blacksmith at work. Extensive damage was inflicted by two bombs falling in Highrow. 350 yards west of the Town railway station a bomb smashed a conservatory of Uplees House, injuring two female occupants. Another bomb fell near the railway about 200 yards north of Goyfield House but failed to explode. Close to St. John’s Church another destroyed the cook house near the Parish Room. Wanstead Cottage in Garrison Lane was badly damaged by another bomb as were neighbouring homes on either side. Another bomb then struck the rear of the Ordnance Hotel, Garrison Lane, the barman lost his life, a sergeant and private of the 3rd Suffolk Regiment were injured along with two other soldiers who were in the property at the time. Another exploded at the corner of Garfield Road and Victoria Road without causing damage. Three more bombs fell in Langer Road, close to the Army Service Corps headquarters, the blasts shattered windows and brought down telephone wires, two soldiers were injured, one of them fatally. At the junction of Landguard and Manor roads a bomb brought down more telephone wires but the next, falling on the beach 100 yards south of Manor Terrace, killed an officer and seven men of 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, and injured an officer and 15 men of the same battalion. The men were sheltering in a trench but instead of keeping down, those killed had stood up to watch the raid. A cellar of Landguard House was damaged, close to the 3rd Bedfordshire Regiment's camp. Three bombs which exploded as they fell on Landguard Common injured a soldier of the Royal Defence Corps and demolished two huts of the camp. Four bombs fell close by on the A Rifle Range creating craters. Another bomb landed at the RNAS station demolishing an engineers shed and injuring two naval ratings, one of whom later died. Another bomb droped 50 yards west of Landguard lighthouse and destroyed a shed, whilst another three landed Landguard Point, all exploded without damage.

Around 13 bombs fell in the River Stour and Harwich harbour damaging the minesweeper HMT Touchstone and injuring two of her crew. At Parkeston a bomb landed harmlessly in allotments, another two bomb dropped in fields at Ray Farm between Parkeston and Dovercourt without causing damage. A bomb landed in a field on Tollgate Farm, Upper Dovercourt, a second fell in St. Nicholas’ Cemetery and three on New Hall Farm, all without causing damage. Three bombs landed close together in Dovercourt, two lightly damaged houses in Lee Road but fortunately failed to explode, the third damaged a slaughterhouse near Old Vicarage Farm.

Anti-Aircraft guns had opened fire as soon as the aircraft crossed the coast and at 13 minutes past the first aircraft took to the sky to pursue the raiders. By 8.17am the Gothas had turned for home and escaped unscathed. The Harwich AA guns had fired off 273 rounds but the defence aircraft were unable to climb up to operational height before the raiders had headed out over the North Sea. Flying in formation for the first time in action two flights from No.37 Squadron were presumed to be German by the spotters of the Mobile AA Brigade and the 3-inch gun at Canvey opened fire at them when they were 30 miles south-east of Harwich.

The Illustrated London News reported on the 28th: “Our readers will be interested to see from these photographs exactly how the warning by sound-signals was given to London at 8.30 a.m. on Sunday, July 22, when 237 one-pound sound-bombs were fired 300 ft. into the air from 79 London Fire Brigade stations. An official notice that such a warning would be given, in case of an expected raid on London, had been issued by the Home Office only the previous evening. “Take Cover” notices were shown at the same time by the police in the streets, and at 9.45 they displayed the “All Clear” notice. The authorities were satisfied with the results of this system of warning, though the Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, thought that the number of signals might well be reduced, and that the warning might be delayed until enemy aircraft were nearer to London. Later, it was stated that only two, instead of three, rockets would in future be sent up from each station and that signals that could be seen as well as heard were considered.”

John Doran

5th August 1918   By the beginning of 1917 the German High Command was losing faith in the extremely costly air ships campaign, which overall had wreaked only limited structural damage on Great Britain. From May 1917 most bombing raids were carried out by the Gotha bombers although, with a more limited range, these operations were largely limited to London and the South East. There were only seven airship-raids in 1917 and four in 1918. The final airship raid on Great Britain took place on the 5th August 1918. The command airship was shot down over the North Sea by the gunner of a British DH4 twin-seater aircraft flying from South Denes aerodrome, Great Yarmouth. The German Leader of Airships, Peter Strasser, and his 23 crew were all killed. The remaining four airships hurriedly and mistakenly dropped their bombs into the English Channel and turned for home.

The total number of airship attacks on Britain between 1915 and 1918 probably numbered only a total of 12 raids on London and 40 more over the rest of the country, but the Zeppelin was very effective in drawing RFC and RNAS resources away from the battle front. By December 1916 at the height of the Zeppelin threat 17,340 officers and men were in the AA service together with 12 RFC squadrons comprised of 200 officers, 2,000 other ranks and 110 aircraft for home defence duties. By 1918, facing the raids by Gotha bombers, there were 55 Home Defence Squadrons. The threat of bombing certainly reduced the numbers of effective squadrons and trained pilots at the front and thus reduced the pressure on the German front line.

The First Air Raid on Lancashire: The Zeppelin Menace By Scott Carter-Clavell

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Those known to have served with

No. 37 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

during the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Armstrong Sidney. 2nd Lt. (d.17th Feb 1918)
  • Crowley Frederick Augustus. 2nd Lt (d.26th Feb 1918)
  • Kynoch Alexander Bruce. Captain (d.8th March 1918)
  • Ridley Claude Alward. Sqd.Ldr.

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