A pilots' war




 No 3 Reserve Squadron RFC, Shoreham, 1917

Major Smith was appointed to command No 3 RS in March 1917. The Squadron, based at Shoreham on the south coast of England, was responsible for basic flying training.

MFSH S11's in front of the 3 RS sheds at Shoreham (6-7 aircraft in view)

Aerial view of RFC Shoreham with MFSH's on the flight line.

The squadron operated the lumbering Maurice Farman Shorthorn (MFSH) machines, then (with the MF Longhorn) the main training workhorses of the RFC. The December 1916 establishment was 12 MFSH. The training was generally conducted below 1,000 ft in benign conditions (with windspeed less than 5 mph) in early morning or evening. The Shorthorn was an awkward trainer, in addition to availability being limited by weather conditions, there was only limited dual control for instruction. Michael Skeet describes trainee pilots learning: "by resting hands and feet lightly on the controls while the instructor flew the plane, a cadet attempted to absorb what the instructor was doing while observing the results of these actions on the machine. There was almost no communication between instructor and pupil in the air. One instructor, Lt. Russell, sometimes handed notes to a pupil in the front seat". Training flights were of short duration, often 5-15 minutes, within sight of the airfield, with emphasis on landings and take-offs. Instructors would be flying typically 45 hours a month.





Left the Maurice Farman S11 Shorthorn (Serial A368 with 80hp Renault engine) was the standard training machine of the time. Seen here being refuelled.

Serving as a Flight Commander in the Squadron at the time was Captain Lionel Hicks who joined in July 1916 having spent two months with 22 Sqn flying FE2's in France. Other officers included Lt. Bramwell-Davis, the adjutant, who later went with Major Smith to 62 Sqn as Recording Officer, and instructors Lt.s Russell, Creasy and Stewart. Major Smith left the Squadron on appointment to command No 62 Sqn in October 1917.

Lt. Creasy, Capt. Hicks, Lt. Bramwell-Davis, misses n/k, Lt. Russell, Lt. Stewart

NCOs of 3 Reserve Squadron with CO Maj. Smith centre and Lt. Bramwell-Davis seated second from left


Lt. Frank Hay Creasy (R Wilts, Inns of Court OTC)

Lt. Bramwell-Davis (RR Arty)

Background Sources:

"RFC Pilot Training" by Michael Skeet, article on www.theaerodrome.com forum

"The Airman's War 1914-18" by Peter Liddle


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