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23 Squadron is a ‘mixed’ squadron consisting of flights of Sopwith Pup, Spad VII and Nieuport 11 scouts, supported by Sopwith Strutter, FK8, and DH4 two-seaters.


The C.O. is Major Barnaby West, M.C., an ex-infantry officer who has embraced the offensive spirit of the R.F.C. and epitomizes, the squadron’s motto ‘Always on the attack’. His only regret is his duties now prevent him from combat flying except maybe the occasional Twilight Patrol. Major West has a  SOPWITH TRIPLANE  at his disposal as part of the trials for this new machine.



The top flight in the squadron equipped with the nippy Sopwith Pup scouts (in some respects almost the equal of the latest German machines) and led by Captain Lawrence Grafton, already classified as an ‘ace’ and a veteran of some seventy-two missions. Grafton is ably supported by two experienced pilots, Lieutenant Gerry ‘tiny’ Street, and Lieutenant Clive Coleman-Nichol who are credited with ninety missions between them. Street is a bold, brave flyer while Coleman-Nichol is an expert shot. Of the junior officers Second Lieutenant Ben ‘Lucky’ McNair has flown over fifty missions (1 ‘kill’ plus one- and-a-half balloons) but Second Lieutenant ‘Wee Willie’ Davy is relatively inexperienced and Second Lieutenant Thomas Blake has yet to fly a combat mission. The flight’s two Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter two-seaters have experienced pilots in Sergeants Horace Donaldson and Bob Crudwell, but two fairly raw observers in Lieutenant Maurice Dunn and Second Lieutenant Julian-Heighton-Browne, although the later already has two ‘kills’ to his credit. The Strutters themselves are nice machines to fly, and pretty tough, but are handicapped by a small-capacity bomb load, a mere 120 pounds. 


Sopwith Pup

Nation: Britain
Manufacturer: Sopwith Aviation Co. Ltd.
Type: Fighter
Entered Combat: 1916
Engine: Le Rhone 9C 9-cyl. air-cooled rotary, 80 hp
Gnome 9-cyl. air-cooled rotary, 80 hp
Wingspan: 26' 6" (8.08 m)
Length: 19' 3.75" (5.89 m)
Height: 9' 5" (2.87 m)
Weight (Empty):
Weight (Gross): 1,313 lbs. (595.6 kg)
Speed: 111.5 mph (179 km/h)
99 mph at 10,000 ft. (159.3 km/h at 3,048 m)
Climb: 5,000 ft.
(1,524 m) in 7 min. 5 sec. (Le Rhone)
10,000 ft (3,048 m) in 15 min. 24 sec. (Le Rhone)
6,500 ft.
(1,981 m) in 7 min. 6 sec. (Gnome)
10,000 ft. (3,048 m) in 12 min. 24 sec. (Gnome)
Ceiling: 17,500 ft. (5,334 m)
Endurance: 3 hrs.

Armament: 1 machine gun
Crew: 1




The French Spad VII is a big all-round improvement on the Nieuport 11, in ceiling, rate of climb, and general ‘handiness’ but it does have one major drawback, its very limited duration a mere 135 minutes. Captain Martin Edney, already showing signs of battle-weariness, will have this to contend with as Flight Commander of ‘B’ Flight, certainly on those missions where he is required to to provide escorts for long reconnaissance and bombing missions deep into Hunland. Backing Edney are the brave Lieutenant Hopgood (82 missions, 2 ‘kills’ 5 balloons, thus an ‘ace), Lieutenant Chris Bell, and Second Lieutenants Ben Jackson, Roger Critchley-Webb and Stephen ‘Softly’ Saville, all seasoned flyers although Jackson may already be feeling the strain of combat, and it’s all just about to get worse! The two-seaters allocated to this flight are Airco DH4s, with Sergeants Elliot Sadler and Jack Iies , both with some missions successfully completed, as pilots, and Lieutenant Joseph Cragglemere (33 missions) and newcomer Second Lieutenant Brendan Hyram as the back-seat boys. The DH4s can carry up to 240 pounds worth of bombs and have an endurance nearly two hours longer that the Spad scouts that are expected to escort them!




Led by Captain Peter Leyton-Jones, one of the two ‘aces’ in the flight (Mistral is the other) this flight still flies the the out-dated Nieuport 11 and will have their hands more than full when they meet up with the latest German machines, the Albatross D3s. Leyton-Jones has flown more missions than anyone in the Squadron (109), including the Commanding Officer Major West, and Lieutenant Jean-Pierre Mistral, and Lieutenants Lancelot Tebworth and Timothy Butterfield have between them over 150 missions to their credit so the flight doesn’t lack for experience. Second Lieutenants Oliver Preston and the wild-flying Georgr Bishop are both being flung into the fray with few flying  hours in their logs. The flight’s two-seaters are FK8s, with an endurance of only three hours and a bomb load capacity of 160 pounds. Sergeants Peter ‘Scarum’ potter and George Allmorgan are the pilots, their comparatively inexperienced observers Air/Mechanic Jedro Collis and Lieutenant Strachan Jones-Joli. The coming weeks will be a severe test for ‘C’ Flight.


With the infamous JASTA 11, commanded by ‘Red Baron’ Manfred von Richtofen operating on this section of the front, and with many German scouts fitted with twin guns to the Allied machines’ single gun, and with the need to carry the fight aggressively to the the enemy, which means in the main fighting the wrong side of the lines, the month of April 1917 may well justify its historical tag. ‘BLOODY APRIL’.


Some of the first Albatross D-IIIs were supplied to the German organization, Jasta 11, commanded by Baron Manfred von Richthofen.