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The Air War over Palestine 1917
The Air Battle over Palestine as told in the Kriegs-Chronik der Leipziger Neuesten Nachrichten
January 1917 - June 1917
Dienstag, 20.Februar 1917.(1)
Sinaifront: Am 5.Februar wurde ein feindliches Flugzeug zum Landen hinter unseren Stellungen gezwungen. Das feindliche Flugzeug verbrannte, der Flugzeugführer wurde gefangen genommen.
Tuesday, 20th February 1917. Sinai Front: On the 5th February a hostile airplane was forced to land behind our positions. The hostile airplane was burned, the pilot was taken prisoner.
Dienstag, 6.März 1917.
Sinaifront: ... Unsere Luftabwehrgeschütze schossen ein feindliches Flugzeug ab, dessen Führer und Beobachter gefangengenommen wurden.
Tuesday, 6.March 1917. Sinai Front: Our air defense cannons shot down a hostile airplane, whose pilot and observer were taken prisoner.
Cutlack records a DH1a of 14 Sqn RFC was shot down by ground fire during a raid on the railhead at Tel el Sheria. Lieutenant A.T. Cole of 1 Sqn AFC was also hit by ground fire and was forced to land on his way home but was not captured. A third aircraft, that of Captain R.W. Williams of 1 Sqn AFC had a shell explode near his aircraft at 2,000 ft and his engine stopped. Williams dropped two smoke balls as distress signals before realizing that the the engine switch outside of the aircraft had been blown by the explosion into the off position. At only a few hundred feet above the ground, Williams restarted his engine and made his way back to the Australian aerodrome safely.
Sonntag, 11.März 1917. Sinaifront: Ein englisches Flugzeug wurde abgeschossen, sein Beobachter, ein australischer Offizier, gefangengenommen. [Sic! - HT]
Sunday, 11th March 1917. Sinai Front: An English airplane was shot down, his observer, an Australian officer, was taken prisoner.
Possibly Lieutenant Heathcote of 1 Sqn AFC who landed in the sand dunes outside of Gaza with engine trouble while flying a BE2 on the 9th of March. Heathcote was 1 Sqn AFC's first captured airman. The 11th of March was plagued by dust storms.
Montag, 26.März 1917. Sinaifront: Ein feindlicher Flieger stürzte, von dem Feuer unserer Fliegerabwehrgeschütze getroffen, in Flammen gehüllt hinter unseren Linien unweit Felendje, 40 Kilometer südwestlich von Jerusalem, zu Boden.
Monday, 26th March 1917. Sinai Front: A hostile airplane was hit by the fire of our defensive cannons and fell in flames behind our lines near Felendje, 40 kilometres southwest of Jerusalem.
FA300 had received eight new Rumpler C.I aircraft with forward firing Spandau's and a rearward Parabellum for the observer. Three of the new aircraft were assembled at Damascus and sent to the Flieger-Abteilung on 19th of March. The First Battle of Gaza would begin on the 23rd of March.
Konstantinopel, 8.April. Amtlicher Heeresbericht vom 7.April. Sinai-Front: Unsere Flieger zwangen ein feindliches Flugzeug zur Landung, das darauf durch Bomben zerstört wurde.
Konstantinopel, 8.April. Official army report of the 7.April. Sinai front: Our fliers forced a hostile airplane to the landing, which was then bombed and destroyed.
On April 6th the aircraft of Lieutenant C. de C. Matulich and Observer Lukis were setting out on patrol with Captain Murray-Jones escorting them when they encountered over Weli Sheikh Nuran five German aircraft that had been flying towards Rafa. Murray-Jones fought the German aircraft until he was forced to land, the German aircraft then strafed and bombed his aircraft with Murray-Jones escaping unhurt. Matulich returned to the Australian aerodrome and warned the others of the German aircraft. Three Martinsydes took off to engage the German aircraft. There were several duels but none of them decisive.
Murray-Jones's rigger, Joe Bull wrote in his diary for the 8th of April, "I am working on Captain Jones' Martinsyde in which he was driven down by five Huns. She is very badly hit and in so many places that she will have to be practically rebuilt. The pilot never got a scratch!" Joe Bull entered in his diary for the 9th of April, "We find the Martinsyde even worse than we first thought. I have been splicing and fixing cross bracing wires today." and April 11th, "Still working on the Martinsyde."
Sonnabend, 21.April 1917. Sinaifront: Nach der für uns siegreichen Schlacht bei Gaza ist der Gegner mit schweren Verlusten in seine Ausgangsstellungen zurückgegangen. Unsere Verluste in der Schlacht waren unbedeutend. Ein feindlicher Flieger wurde durch einen unserer Flieger abgeschossen. Der feindliche Apparat stürzte zwischen den türkischen und englischen Linien nieder. Ein anderer feindlicher Flieger wurde bei Tell Scharia durch Feuer von der Erde aus zur Landung gezwungen. Der feindliche Flugzeugführer wurde gefangen. Unsere Flieger zeigten sich in den Luftkämpfen stets den feindlichen überlegen. Sie haben außerdem auf die feindlichen Lager und Reserven 300 Kilogramm Bomben abgeworfen. Es wurde festgestellt, daß die feindliche Flotte absichtlich die große Moschee in Gaza unter Feuer nahm. Die Moschee wurde zerstört.
Saturday, 21.April 1917. Sinaifront: After the victorious Battle of Gaza in which we inflicted heavy losses on the opponent, the opponent retreated to his own positions. Our losses were insignificant. A hostile airplane was shot by one of our fliers. The hostile airplane fell between the Turkish and English lines. Another hostile airplane was forced to land near Tell Scharia by ground fire. The enemy pilot was captured and imprisoned. Our fliers showed superiority in every air combat against hostile fliers. Additionally our fliers attacked enemy camps and supply dumps dropping 300 kilograms of bombs. It was stated that the enemy fleet attacked and intentionally bombed the large Gaza mosque. The mosque was destroyed.
On the afternoon 19th of April a duel began with a British and a German aircraft above the lines east of Gaza. With an audience of several thousand ground troops a Martinsyde from 14 Sqn RFC swooped and zoomed with a Rumpler of FA300 flown by the crew of Kautzmann and Stigell. After a particurely sharp maneouvre the Martinsyde broke up in mid-air and plunged to the ground. The audience on the ground saw the pilot standing up and holding on to on of the Martinsyde's struts. The pilot was killed instantly by the fall.
On April 21st(20th?) of BE2's of 1 Sqn AFC escorted by two Martinsydes flew to Hareira to attack Turkish Cavalry reserves. The Martinsyde G102 of 2nd Lieutenant N.L. Steele was hit by ground fire and crashed. Steele was taken prisoner but died of wounds suffered in the crash. On the 21st of April Lieutenant A.T Cole was brought down behind Turkish in a Martinsyde after a shell exploded underneath his aircraft. Captain Williams landed beside him and Williams and Cole returned to the aerodrome together. Williams was to be awarded a D.S.O for his actions.
The bombing of culturally protected institutions such as the Mosque were used fro propaganda value by the Germans and Turkish. An often used slogan after such atrocities were, "The Brits - natural enemies of the muslims!"
Konstantinopel, 24.April. An der Sinaifront herrschte außer leichtem Artilleriefeuer Ruhe. Unsere Artillerie schoß ein feindliches Flugzeug ab.
Konstantinopel, 24.April. On the Sinaifront peace prevailed except for light artillery fire. Our artillery shot down an enemy airplane.
Konstantinopel, 28.Juni. Sinaifront. Am 25.6. nachmittags fanden zwei Luftkämpfe statt. Im ersten kämpften zwei unserer Flugzeuge gegen drei englische. Ein englisches Flugzeug stürzte hinter unseren Linien ab; der Pilot ist tot. Das zweite englische Flugzeug war gezwungen worden, in beschädigtem Zustande hinter den englischen Linien zu landen. Dem dritten feindlichen Flugzeug gelang es durch schleunige Flucht, sich zu retten. Bei dem zweiten Luftkampfe wurde ein feindliches Flugzeug zur Landung hinter den feindlichen Linien gezwungen. Aus allen Luftkämpfen sind unsere Flugzeuge wohlbehalten zurückgekehrt.
Konstantinopel, 28.June. Sinaifront. On 25.6. two aerial engagements took place in the afternoon. In the first engagement two of our airplanes fought against three English airplanes. An English airplane fell behind our lines; with the pilot dead. The second English airplane had been forced to land damaged behind the English lines. The third English airplane succeeded in escaping by a hasty retreat. With the second aerial combat an enemy airplane was forced to land behind the hostile lines. From all the aerial engagements our airplanes returned "probably-keep".
Leutnant Schlieff and Oberleutnant Daum of FA300 brought down a Martinsyde aircraft and a BE12a. The latter was Lieutenant Brasell of 1 Sqn AFC who was brought down in the squadrons newly arrived BE12a. Brasell had a head wound from the fight and died upon landing. A German aircraft dropped a note to 1 Sqn's aerodrome the next day of Brasell's fate. The second aerial combat was Oberleutnant G. Felmy in an Albatros DIII who engaged a BE aircraft and a DH.1. The DH.1 was badly damaged in the ensuing battle and was forced to land behind entente lines with a broken propeller and lower tailboom.
Konstantinopel, 29.Juni. Heeresbericht vom 28.Juni.Sinai-Front: Um sich für unsere, im gestrigen Heeresbericht gemeldeten Erfolge im ehrlichen Luftkampfe zu rächen, bewarfen englische Flieger die den Mohammedanern und Christen heilige Stadt Jerusalem mit 50 Bomben, die erfeulicherweise keinen Schaden anrichteten.
Konstantinopel, 29.June. Army report of the 28.June.Sinai Front: Due to our successes yesterday in honest aerial combat which was announced in the army report, English fliers attacked the Muslim and Christian holy city of Jerusalem with 50 bombs, which did not cause significant damage.
Eight British and Australian aircraft were sent on the 26th to bomb the Turkish Fourth Army Headquarters on the Mount of Olives, Juresalem. This may be the raid mentioned in the report.
Freitag, 29.Juni 1917. Sinaifront: Von den feindlichen Flugzeugen, die am 26. dieses Monats Jerusalem angegriffen hatten, wurden drei von der Erde aus abgeschossen. Zwei dieser Flugzeuge wurden von unseren Patrouillen in Brand gesteckt. Die Maschinengewehre der beiden Flugzeuge wurden erbeutet. Am 25. und 26. haben die Engländer somit 6 Flugzeuge, davon zwei im Luftkampf und vier durch Artilleriefeuer, verloren. Die Leistung unserer Fliegerabteilung an der Sinaifront muß anerkennend hervorgehoben werden. Besonders zeichneten sich aus Oberleutnant Felmy, der an der Sinaifront zum vierten Male, sowie Oberleutnant Daum und Leutnant Schleiff, die zum dritten Male im Luftkampf siegreich blieben.
Friday, 29.Juni 1917. Sinai Front: Enemy aircraft attacked Jerusalem this month on the 26th and three were shot down. Two of these airplanes were burned on the ground by our infantry patrols. The machine guns of the two airplanes were captured. On 25. and 26. the Englishmen lost 6 airplanes, two by aerial combat and four by ground artillery fire. We have to underline recognising the performance of our aviation unit on the
Sinai front. Oberleutnant Felmy, who has four victories on the Sinai front, as welll as Oberleutnant Daum and Leutnant Schleiff, who were victorious for the third time in aerial combat.
In the attack on the Turkish Fourth Army Headquarters of the eight aircraft which bombed the Headquarters, only three returned under their own power to their aerodromes. Near Beersheeba one BE, flown by Lieutenant Brown had it's engine seize and he was forced to land. Lieutenant Cole and Austin landed next to him, burnt his machine and Austin flew off with Brown in his BE. Five miles south east of Beersheeba Austin's engine siezed and the BE was forced to land. Cole tried to pick them both up in his Martinsyde, but the poor and extra eight combined with a stalled engine and the Martinsyde hit the ground hard from 10 feet and cracked it's undercarriage. The three buried their guns and camera's and walked through a dangerous section of no-mans land before being found by the Australian Lighthorse.
Butler and Potts both in BE's exhausted their fuel and oil and were forced to land near Khalasa. They left their machine unburnt in the hope of being able to rescue them but on a rescue crews return to the aircraft, they discovered the aircraft had been hacked ot bits by the Turkish. Only the engines were recoverable.
Englische Flieger bombardieren den Oelberg. Nach in Berlin eingegangenen Nachrichten haben am 26.Juni acht englische Flieger etwa siebzig Bomben auf den Oelberg bei Jerusalem abgeworfen. Zum Glück wurde niemand verletzt, auch der Sachschaden ist gering.
English fliers bombard the Olive Mountain. After messages entered in Berlin at the 26.Juni eight English fliers dropped about seventy bombs on the Olive Mountain at Jerusalem. Fortunately nobody hurt, also the damage to property is small.
1. Excerpts of reports of the Turkish Headquarter from the Source: "Kriegs-Chronik der Leipziger Neuesten Nachrichten", Band III (1916/1917) [ " War Chronicle of the Latest News of Leipzig ", tape III (1916/1917) ] courtesy of Hannes Täger.