5/10/1918 Star French aviator Roland Garros shot down

Roland Garros was an early pioneer of military aviation. Before the invention of the interruptor motor, the Frenchman had deflector blades fitted to the propellors on his aeroplane that allowed him to fire his guns directly forward, giving him a considerable advantage in combat. However he was captured by the Germans in 1915 when he crash-landed behind German lines.

Early this year Garros managed to escape from his prisoner-of-war camp and eventually made his way back to France. He resumed his career as a fighter pilot but unfortunately today he finds himself facing German ace Hermann Habich. Garros is shot down and killed, dying one day before his 30th birthday.

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Roland Garros on a North Korean stamp (Pinterest)

23/9/1918 Bulgaria’s Balkan disaster #1918Live

Germany’s allies are receiving a battering. Allenby‘s Megiddo offensive in Palestine looks like it will destroy the Turks’ ability to mount effective resistance there. The Bulgarians too are now facing an Allied battering ram in the southern Balkans. After the initial French and Serbian attacks on the Vardar broke through Bulgarian lines, British and Greek troops attacked near Lake Doiran. These attacks were less successful, as the Bulgarians had deployed higher quality formations to this sector. This engendered some hope on the part of Bulgarian commanders that the Balkan situation remained salvageable. Bulgarian troops near Lake Doiran were ordered to break contact with the Allies there and move to launch a counter-attack against the advancing Serbs and French. But the counter-attack is stillborn. Allied control of the air means that the Bulgarian columns are subjected to relentless aerial bombardment as they attempt to move through the Kosturino Pass. Their morale and cohesion is shattered and they are unable to strike back against the Allies.

The Serb and French advance into Macedonia now appears unstoppable. Many of the local people welcome the Serbs as returning liberators, while others who had initially welcomed the Bulgarians fear the victors’ retribution. In Bulgaria itself meanwhile the combination of defeat on the battlefield and the privations of war mean that increasing numbers of people are calling for an immediate peace at any price.

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map and Bulgarian prisoners (Wikipedia: Vardar Offensive)

21/9/1918 Turkish collapse in Palestine

Allenby‘s offensive in Palestine is starting to look like a decisive victory. After the initial infantry assault smashed through the Turkish lines, Australian and Indian cavalry have exploited the victory and are pushing northwards at speed while the infantry wheels to the right to roll up the Turkish line. Many of the Turkish units in the path of the juggernaut have disintegrated. Retreating units are being relentlessly attacked by British and Australian aeroplanes.

Germany’s Liman von Sanders commands Turkish forces in Palestine. From his headquarters in Nazareth he is struggling to organise an effective resistance to the enemy. His efforts are hampered by a lack of accurate information as to the location of enemy and even his own forces, as his telephone lines have been cut.

Liman von Sanders’ confusion is underscored by the sudden arrival of enemy forces in Nazareth today. Liman von Sanders has to flee in great haste and is lucky to escape. The Allied advance is so rapid that Indian cavalrymen overrun a Turkish aerodrome at Nazareth, capturing both aeroplanes and their crews. By the end of the day the Allies have secured Nazareth as well as Nablus, with Jenin, Tulkaram and Megiddo already in their hands.

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Map & Turkish prisoners (Wikipedia: Battle of Nablus (1918))

9/8/1918 D’Annunzio’s flight over Vienna

Italian poet and man of action Gabriele D’Annunzio is serving in the Italian air force, commanding a fighter squadron. Now he combines his interest in words and aviation, leading his squadron on a roundtrip of more than 1,100 kilometres, flying from their base near Padua all the way to Vienna, Austria’s capital. Their mission is not to drop bombs but propaganda leaflets. Some of these are written by D’Annunzio himself, in colourful Italian prose that he declines to have translated into German. Other leaflets, including the one shown, are printed in both German and Italian.

That aeroplanes are able to make a trip of this distance is a sign of how far aviation has developed. That they are able to do so without interception by the Austro-Hungarians is a testament to Italian dominance of the skies. The starving people of Vienna may not be able to read the leaflets falling down on their city, but they know what they mean: the war is drawing to a close and defeat is staring them in the face.

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leaflets fall over Vienna, near St. Stephen’s Cathedral & Italian side of leaflet (Wikipedia: Flight over Vienna)

see also: Dieselpunks – Knights of the Air: Flight over Vienna

8/8/1918 Amiens: the Black Day of the German Army #1918Live

Foch, recently promoted to marshal, has managed to convince the Allied commanders that it is time for them to go on the offensive. Now the British lead an attack near Amiens in the Somme sector. At the Somme in 1916 and at Passchendaele last year Haig hoped to achieve a breakthrough that would bring the war’s end in reach. This time his goals are more modest, with the main aim being to push the Germans out of artillery range of the transportation hub of Amiens, paving the way for further assaults elsewhere.

Great efforts have been made to keep news about the impending attack from the Germans. Allied fliers prevent German aircraft from observing the troop build-up. Allied soldiers are careful to avoid talking about the plans for the battle, telling any loose lipped comrade to keep their mouth shut. A German raid two days ago saw several hundred Australian troops captured, but none of them spill the beans on the imminent offensive.

Now, finally, the attack begins, with the infantry moving forward behind a devastating barrage, supported by tanks. In an echo of the first day of the German offensives in March, the Allies attack out of mist. The Germans are taken completely by surprise, unprepared for the hammer blow landing on them. The Canadian and Australian troops leading the British assault make astonishing gains, as do the French. As many as 15,000 Germans are taken prisoner.

As news of the disaster reaches Ludendorff he is dumbstruck. Later he will describe this as “der schwarze Tag des deutschen Heeres“: the Black Day of the German Army. What is so shocking is not the gains achieved by the Allies but the apparent collapse in the fighting spirit of the German troops. There are reports of men surrendering after only token resistance and of retreating men shouting “blackleg!” at reserves moving forward, accusing them of prolonging the war.

The initiative has now definitively passed to the Allies. Bowing to reality, Ludendorff finally abandons his plans for a final offensive against the British in Flanders. His attempts to win victory on the battlefield have failed and now it looks like Germany is staring defeat in the face.

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German prisoners (Forces Network: The Beginning Of The End Of WWI – Amiens, 1918)

8 August 1918 by Will Longstaff (Wikipedia: Battle of Amiens (1918))

26/7/1918 The last flight of Mick Mannock, Britain’s highest scoring fighter ace

Irish born Edward Mannock is the highest scoring British fighter pilot, credited with 60 enemy aircraft brought down since his flying career began in March last year. Known as Mick, he had previously served with James McCudden and was shocked by his accidental death. Mannock has flown against the Germans during many battles on the Western Front, including the Third Battle of Ypres last year and Operation Michael, the first phase of this year’s German offensives.

Mannock returned to England on leave in June, with some members of his family noting that he appeared to be under a great deal of nervous strain. On his return to France he took command of the RAF’s 85th Squadron. He introduced new tactics to his men, encouraging the pilots to fight together as a team rather than as individuals.

A week ago at a social function Mannock advised a fellow pilot to never fly low to observe a crashed enemy. Today though he breaks his own rule and pays the price. While patrolling in northern France, Mannock brings down a German aircraft, killing both members of his crew. He then inexplicably dives low to observe the wreckage before setting a course back towards his base. Unfortunately as he crosses the German lines at low altitude his aircraft is hit by intense fire from the ground and bursts into flames. The aircraft crashes behind German lines. Mannock’s body is apparently found some distance away, having been thrown clear or perhaps because he jumped to avoid immolation.

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The last photograph of Mick Mannock, taken in the summer of 1918 by a French farmer (samoyeddogs: Mick Mannock Veteran Page)

Major “Micky” Mannock (Acepilots: Edward “Mick” Mannock)

9/7/1918 The dangerous folly of low level acrobatics #1918Live

James McCudden was one of the six British fighter pilots who brought down German ace Werner Voss over Ypres last year. Since then he has continued to notch up victories, with his tally to date amounting to 57 enemy planes brought down. His efforts have earned him the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry. But for McCudden it is not enough. He is determined to surpass the 80 victories achieved by Germany’s Richthofen, the Red Baron, so he will have to kill some more.

It is not to be. Today he is on his way back to base after a period of leave in England. After flying across the Channel he stops at Auxi-le-Château for directions. Then he takes off but almost immediately he crashes, his engine stalling when he attempts a low level acrobatic manoeuvre. The fall fractures his skull and although he is rushed to a hospital he does not regain consciousness. He dies that evening, 23 years old.

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James McCudden, by William Orpen (Wikipedia)