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14 April 1916. Imbros.


I shall have to transcribe Dickinson’s entries for the next few days, as they are too long to publish every last word, and even cut down they will be quite lengthy, since so much happened to him.

6 April.

Dickinson describes this as the most adventurous day of his life, and it’s no exaggeration. Three Henri Farmans, escorted by three others set off in the afternoon to bomb the seaplane shed at Kusa Burnu (a bay near Chanak / Cannakale). They flew across the peninsula and over the Asian mainland, then turned and dropped their bombs heading back towards the peninsula. Dickinson, with Davey as his observer, were hit by gunfire from a Turkish Eindekker and, the engine having quit, they were forced to ditch in the sea between the peninsula and Imbros. They were in the water for around half an hour before the aircraft sank, and another hour and a half before they were finally picked up as night fell by a destroyer.

11 April.

Dickinson had a couple of days off to recover from his dunking, and was briefed about a possible sortie to drop leaflets on Constantinople. He also reports the CO crashing his new streamlined BE2C, serial number 8331, photographs of which were taken by Bunnie. The CO only received a scratch on the cheek, apparently.

1916-04-11 BE2c CO's Crash Liddle


1916-04-11 BE2c CO's Crash (2) Liddle1916-04-11 BE2c CO's Crash (3) Liddle12 April.

Bunnie in 1264. Escorting gun bus on spotting trip. Started off, engine missing badly, could not make any improvement with petrol adjustment and then discovered the petrol tap leaking very badly so I came down (six minutes). I went off again and rev counter broke, but I went on brand new engine, running beautifully. I used 3 gals in 34 min. Four stays have been fitted to back bearer plate and they were a great success. The bottom two were pulled tighter than the top two and that seems to have corrected the nose heaviness a good deal. She flies hands off for quite a time now. First landing excellent, second quite fair.

Bunnie seems to have had nearly two weeks on the ground after his run in with the Eindekker. There’s no explanation of this; maybe he was off sick. But from here on in it’s clear he’s becoming more and more interested in the technical aspects of aviation instead of the operational side.

The first thing that strikes me as odd is that they seem to have repaired the leaking oil tap and changed the engine on 1264 so quickly. Did the Gunbus (the Nieuport 12) wait for him? His logbook doesn’t give times of departure, but the total time is 40 minutes, which is the sum of his times given above. And in 34 minutes they wouldn’t have got much spotting done, so perhaps the Gunbus carried on without him and he simply joined it more or less in time to escort it back across the water.

Two other things intrigue me. 3 gallons in 34 minutes is equivalent to 24lt/hr, which is about what we would expect. The other is these stays, which apparently improved the handling. I cannot imagine what these were, and wish I could contact Grandad to ask him! The picture below shows the structure in the area of the rear engine mounting plate, and there doesn’t seem to be any way of fitting any sort of additional structure.

2016-04-14 Bristol Scout Engine frames

Dickinson, meanwhile, spent the day preparing his HF 3914.

14 April.

Dickinson took off at 2000 for another very, very exciting flight. The four machines left for their leaflet-dropping mission over Constantinople in perfectly clear conditions, which quickly became cloudy. (Today night flight is only ever done with blind flying instruments, but in those days they had virtually nothing; they may have had a torch to read what instruments they could, but if they lost sight of the ground, they had no visual references to fly the aircraft). By the time he got to Gallipoli it was cloudy, but he could see the moon, which gave him sufficient visual reference to keep the wings level, but after an hours’ flying he flew through some rain showers, which were very scary. Constantinople was well lit and easily visible, and he dropped his leaflets over the part of the town on the far side of the Golden Horn, going inland to drop some incendiary bombs on a munitions factory, but the visibility was so bad he had no idea where the bombs actually fell. By now he had been in the air for two and a half hours, and was heading back down the Straits in conditions that would have been nerve-wracking in the daytime. In a modern aircraft without blind instruments and in daylight, it’s very, very scary even for a few seconds. The turbulence in what had now developed into a full thunderstorm tossed the aircraft all over the place, and although he’d taken food and a Thermos of coffee with him, he couldn’t take his hands off the controls for a single instant. He was thrown up into his straps many times and the aircraft veered uncontrollably off course. For much of that time he would have been utterly lost, and in heavy rain or cloud he would have had no visual references at all.

He describes it as , ‘… two and a half hours of unadulterated terror’. that seems to me to be an understatement.

Eventually, after six and a half hours’ flying, he realised he wasn’t going to make it back to Imbros and put the HF down in the water next to a trawler who saw him coming down and picked him up. He got back to Imbros about 1100 the following morning.

He’d ditched twice in a week…

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