Archive for July, 2018

Today on 10 July 2018 as the country officially recognises 100 years of the Royal Air Force (RAF) with 100 planes taking part in a massive and spectacular flypast over the Mall and Buckingham Palace along with a parade, the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group remembers the nine men named on the war memorial who served in the RAF or its predecessors.

The RAF was formed on 1 April 1918, and was the world’s first independent air force. Before its formation,  the aircraft used by Britain during the First World War were operated by the Royal Navy as part of the Royal Naval Air Service, (RNAS) and by the army as the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).

In the early days of conflict, flying machines were few and far between, and their importance to the war effort was not yet well understood. By the summer of 1917, the concept of air superiority was being discussed, and the suggestion of merging the RNAS with the RFC to create an independent air force was made.

The nine Board of Trade men who served in the air were as follows.

  • Stewart Bence (aged 20 when he died) and Bertram Venn (27) served at the Patent Office.
  • George Bryars (19) and Harry Vine (32) both served at the Seamen’s Registry.
  • Leslie Thorowgood (23), Percy Woodhouse (20), and Roy Angus (23) who all served in regional Labour Departments.
  • Herbert Good (19) was employed at the Establishments Department.
  • Harry Boyles (18) was employed at the Statistical Department.

Among the nine men, there was a variety of flying experience despite their young ages and they flew in a variety of machines, such as the Airco DH4 or the Bristol F2b.

The Statistical Office’s Harry Boyles was just 17 when his plane was shot down over the Western Front, and had only just turned 18 when he was killed in an accident while landing in Greece.

Herbert Good, although only 19 himself, was classed as a ‘fighter ace’ with 5 enemy aircraft defeated in battle. Herbert was shot down near Cambrai and presumed killed. He was never found, but is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial at Pas de Calais in France.

Corporal Stewart James Bence of 211 Squadron was killed in action on 14 August 1918.

2nd Lieutenant Percy Wilfred Woodhouse on the 5th Squadron (RFC) who crashed after combat on 28 March 1918 whilst flying a Royal Air Factory RE8 plane.

Lieutenant George Leonard Bryars was killed in action during aerial combat and reported missing on 16 September 1918 aged just 19. He was in a Bristol F2b C878 flown by 2nd Lieutenant Arnott who was also killed in same combat.

Flight Sergeant Henry Charles Land Vine reportedly died on 3 November 1918 of pneumonia. He was based at the RFC Wye airfield in Kent.

A large proportion of those who served with the RAF in the early years died in aircraft accidents and the men of the Board of Trade did not escape.

2nd Lieutenant Bertram Joseph Venn of 5 Training Squadron died on 11 July 1917 while flying a Shorthorn A2493 which he was force-landing in a field adjoining Castle Bromwich aerodrome near Birmingham after the engine stopped.  The machine struck a hedge, the nose hit the ground and Venn was thrown out and died. This was his fourth solo flight as a pilot.

Captain Leslie Vernon Thorowgood who died in an accident at Lake Down on 22 March 1918 whilst flying. According to:

http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1918.htm Captain Thorowgood’s flight in his DH9 – D5560 ended in disaster when its wings broke away mid-dive.

Lieutenant Roy William Fred Angus from Newport, Gwent, Wales died on 13 August 1918 also as a result of an accident.

Each of their deaths serves to illustrate the perils of flying particularly in the early years of flying.


Royal Aircraft Factory BE2 replica plane at RAF 100 tour at Horseguards Parade in London, 9 July 2018

A full list of 305 Board of Trade men can be viewed on this website.

You can find out more about the RAF 100 Flypast and you can also continue to go and see the RAF 100 Tour in a variety of UK cities until September 2018.



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