Australian Flying Corps Bear
Listen to Lieutenant Hendy’s Story
Most people don’t know it but Australia was the only Dominion of the British Empire to have its own flying corps before the war. Back on the 1st of March 1914 our first test flight took off from the Central Flying School at Point Cook in Victoria. It was reported in all the papers and they even took pictures. Luckily the pressmen had left before our pilot crashed our plane on the second flight. Not a grand start.
Even though we had the flying school, when the war started on the 4th of August we weren’t really ready to go. Our first full squadron – which we called Number 1 Squadron – didn’t get to Egypt until early 1916 and even then they needed more training, so some of them headed off to England. That’s where most Australian pilots, like me, ended up doing our eight months of training during the war.
As a pilot in the Australian Flying Corps I’m an officer in the Australian Imperial Force and we each get assigned to a Squadron, which is made up of we pilots and ground crew – all the people who look after everything on the ground and repair our planes.
Earlier in the war our aeroplanes were pretty slow and flimsy but over the years our machines have gotten much faster and stronger. Unfortunately, so have the German aeroplanes.
By 1917 we had more planes and pilots. No. 1 Squadron was back in the Middle East and we put our No. 2, 3, and 4 Squadrons into action over the Western Front. We kept No. 5, 6, 7 and 8 Squadrons in England to be the Australian Training Wing to prepare replacement pilots and ground crew. Our planes just keep getter faster and faster – some can go a whopping 112 miles per hour.
Pilots have lots of different roles and types of planes. We fly reconnaissance missions to see where the enemy is at; we drop bombs or shoot at the enemy on the ground; and we try to shoot down the enemy planes. Unfortunately the Germans pilots are doing the same things. At the battle of Hamel in July 1918 we were the first to drop ammunition and supplies to our soldiers in battle. The Germans didn’t think of that did they!
Around 460 officers and 2,234 other ranks – that’s anyone who’s not an officer – served with the AFC during the Great War. After the war some went on to help form the Royal Australian Air Force in the 1920s, while others took the chance to use aeroplanes in business, like the two lads from No. 1 Squadron who started the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service.