270. 1264’s Fate?
If you thought things had gone a little quiet in the UK after last week’s excitement, I can report that Paschalis Palavouzis has been very busy in Greece and has come up with a very likely explanation of the eventual fate of 1264.
The information we have so far is that Grandad’s last flight in her was on 9 June 1916, two weeks after he’d flown her to Thassos. All the time there, the engine had been running roughly.
The main reference book, “Royal Navy Aircraft Serials and Units, 1911 – 1919” by Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page, ‘1264’ was transferred “to Malta 6.16 for recovering but lost on return to Thasos when ship sunk; deleted 8.16“.
But Paschalis knew that all aviation assets in the Aegean were being overseen by HMS Ark Royal, moored in Mudros Bay on Lemnos Island, and by studying her logbook and Weekly Operations Reports, it seemed likely that 1264 was received by HMS Ark Royal some time between 23 June and 14 July, and refurbishment work was started.
By 28 July, the Weekly
Operations Report states that ‘By combining portions of Le Rhone engines which are awaiting spares and by borrowing ball races from the French Aviation Section at Salonika it is hoped to have another Scout which has been rebuilt in HMS Ark Royal ready for duty in two days…’ and that ‘a Bristol Scout has been practically rebuilt & will be ready for transport to Thasos by the next ferry.’
On 2 August, 1264 was transferred onto HMS Clacton for ferrying back to Thassos, but about 12 hours later, she was torpedoed while coming alongside HMS Grafton just off the port of Stavros.
Paschalis adds that she was sunk by Kapitänleutnant Gustav Sieß, captain of U-73, who was a very successful U-boat commander who later won the Blue Max.
Salvage operations began immediately. ‘On 3rd August H.M.S. “Clacton” proceeding from Mudros to Thasos was torpedoed by a submarine in the Gulf of Ruphani having onboard 18 Ratings, a Bristol Scout which had been completely rebuilt in Ark Royal and a large quantity of stores for Thasos.’ By 13 August the weekly report says ‘The Bristol Scout was raised and sent to Thasos on Sunday, 6th August“.
From there the information is a good deal more speculative. The following Weekly Report says that had 2 machines not erected, a Nieuport 2 seater (possibly 8919) and ‘1 Bristol Scout lost en route for Thasos’, but that’s the last reference he’s been able to find. He thinks it likely that every usable part was stripped from the airframe and the remainder was shipped back to HMS Ark Royal for disposal – apparently they were often burned on the island of Ispatho island (known as Koukonisi nowadays) in Mudros bay. Could we find a nameplate there? If we could, we could justifiably claim that 1264 was an original machine, rather than a replica. But the chances of finding it would appear to be vanishingly small…