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3 Jan 1916

11/01/2016

Bunnie, having flown on Christmas day, had four days off over the new Year period, and perhaps he was able take in the situation on the ground and understand more of what was going on.

The Gallipoli campaign had originated about a year before, as a result of a more or less off the cuff remark by Winston Churchill, who suggested that it should be possible to send Royal Naval ships up the Dardanelles waterway to Constantinople and knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war at  single stroke. It was classic Churchill; bold, daring, and very high risk, and if it had been prepared in total secrecy and carried out quickly, it might have had some chance of success.

But it wasn’t, and the Turks had plenty of time to mine the channel and keep the British out. The Allies then decided on a land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula on the north west bank of the Dardanelles, and since this was also signalled well in advance, and the Turks (aided by the Germans) had plenty of time to dig themselves in, and acquitted themselves very honourably in what became some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

It all ground down to a stalemate, and by 15 November, Lord Kitchener took the decision to withdraw. The final evacuation of the Australian and New Zealand forces was completed on the very day Bunnie had his first flight at Imbros, with a small handful leaving finally on 20 Dec. To evacuate 40,000 men without the Turks realising was an astonishing achievement, and so Bunnie’s operations were undertaken with only 35,000 British troops left on the ground in the Helles area, though they themselves were under orders to evacuate.

On 3 Jan, Bunnie, with Midshipman Burnaby again, flew Voisin 8502. His logbook entry reads ‘Spotting for H.M.S.’s Theseus and Grafton. Observer Burnaby. Strong Northerly wind blowing, and banks of cloud 1500 to 6000. One or two very bad bumps in places, quite calm at 8000. Had to give up owing to clouds getting too bad to see target. Very badly blown about when near the ground so pancaked the last 10 ft down. Got caught in a gust which gave me a bit of leeway so landed rather heavily on the back wheel. Was going very slowly, so pulled up almost at once without using brakes. Not at all displeased with landing under the circumstances. Archie shot a fair amount at first but was always low. He gave up when the clouds got bad. No Huns about.’

HMS Theseus and Grafton were sister ship, identical to HMS Endymion shown here. All this class had had enormous bilge tanks fitted underwater to act as protection from torpedoes.

HMS Theseus and Grafton were sister ships, identical to HMS Endymion shown here. All this class had had enormous bilge tanks fitted underwater to act as protection from torpedoes.

All aircraft at that time had relatively large wings because of the poor power output from their engines. The Voisin, being an early design, particularly so, and was therefore much more affected by turbulence than a modern machine. Control authority was relatively weak, and so this would have been a pretty scary flight for Bunnie, and even more so for Burnaby, who could only hang on like grim death and trust to Bunnie’s piloting skills.

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