20 Jan 1916. Imbros.
Today, Bunnie did his first combat mission in a Bristol Scout, after precisely 65 minutes on type. The total number of hours in his logbook to date is 46 3/4hr. Today, very, very few students would be sufficiently proficient to pass their basic pilot’s licence after so few hours, but here he was, facing the enemy in the highest performance machine available at the time.
He was escorting Maurice Farman 1383 over the peninsula in Scout 1262. The sortie took an hour and a half (the Scout’s fuel capacity is 70lt – enough for about 2 hours) and they went up to 9300ft. And bear in mind that every flight involved a 13 mile water crossing there and back. That’s like taking off from Dover and fighting over France.
His logbook entry reads;
Escorting M.F. 1383 over Krithia and Fusilier Bluff. Saw no Huns. Great quantity of oil thrown out, so I feared my oil pipe had burst. I saw the other Bristol, also escorting the M.F. so I returned a few minutes early. Flew in too slowly and pancaked on landing. It was an off day for me, and although I flew with confidence and was quite comfortable the whole time I was flying damn badly. A most unsatisfactory performance. Came down 9000 ft in 7 or 8 min. Too damn fast.
I sympathise with his concern over the oil consumption, though we now know that this is quite normal.
There’s a slight mystery here. According to the ultimate reference book ‘Royal Navy Aircraft Serials and Units’ by Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page, 1262 was overturned on landing by F D H Bremner on 18 Jan 1916. As you can see from the previous entry, Bunnie only flew 1261 on 18 Jan, and although he says he ‘pancaked’, that simply means a rather rough landing. Turning a machine over is altogether a different and more serious thing, and not something he could have forgotten, or indeed lied about, since his logbook was countersigned by his CO. Neither aircraft appears in his logbook thereafter, though the book indicates 1261 was crashed again in August, while 1262 was tipped on her nose by Flt Sub Lt Biscoe in March 1916. So I’m not quite sure what the origin of this entry might have been.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve spent a bit of time poring over the photos of the five Scouts that were delivered to Imbros in Sep 1915, and there are some interesting differences. 1261, which Bunnie flew on 18 Jan, had no roundels on the wings. It’s not particularly clear from this photo, but 1262 had a cutout in the trailing edge of the top wing centre section.
This would have made getting in and out several orders of magnitude easier, and I wish 1264 had had the same, but it appears 1261 was unique.
1259 and 1261 had the oil tank behind the pilot, but the others had the tank in front.
1259 and 1263 probably had Union Flags painted on the fuselage sides.
1262 may have had originally, since – as you can see – the roundels are painted over a white square.
It’s possible 1259 had no blue dot in the middle of her wing roundels. Some (like 1262 here) appear to have had the lower cowling cut away, while others didn’t.
I really should get out more.
From → Granddad's Flying Career