WW1 – Western Front

100 Squadron embarked at Southampton on the GE Steamship ‘Archangel’ en route for Le Havre on 21st March 1917. From Le Havre the Squadron moved to Rouen where it arrived on 24th March. The Squadron moved again to an aerodrome at St Andre arriving on 27th March.

On 28th March, twelve Fe 2b aircraft arrived fitted with bomb racks to carry 25 and 112 pound bombs. On 1st April, the Squadron moved yet again, this time to Izel Le Hameau airfield. Four more aircraft arrived; these were BE 2e’s also fitted with bomb racks. While the officers were accommodated in Nissen Huts on the airfield, the NCO’s and men were billeted in the village nearby.

During the night of 5th and 6th April, 100 Squadron carried out its first offensive operation against Douai airfield, the home of von Rickhoven’s Flying Circus. The Squadron suffered its first casualties when Lieutenant Rickard and Air Mechanic Barnes failed to return from this action, but they were later reported as POWs.

100 Squadron shared Izel Le Hameau with 11 Squadron until 16th May, when it moved again to Trezennes airfield near to Aire. 43 Squadron was already resident at Trezennes but moved shortly afterwards giving 100 sole occupancy.
It was at Trezennes that 100 first made contact with enemy aircraft that were always active on fine nights. The enemy seemed to be well aware of the presence of 100, and shelled the airfield on the morning of 22nd July. The shelling damaged hangars and aircraft, and also killed Air Mechanics Evans and Sowerby.

Trezennes was situated close to St Omer, and this town provided a ‘resting place’ for Squadron personnel. A well-stocked canteen was established along with a recreation room with a stage for concert parties. The Squadron established an ‘Operations Room’ (familiar to all present day aircrews), which contained maps, charts, photographs of targets, details of raids carried out and congratulatory telegrams from Headquarters. The preparation and despatch of aircraft on a night raid was a busy time. A detailed account of this activity is contained in ‘The Annals of 100 Squadron’ and conjures up a vivid picture.

On the 3rd October, orders were received for yet another move, this time to Ochey some 14 miles south west of Nancy. Bad weather delayed the arrival of the aircraft, but eventually Major Christie became the first pilot to land. The first raid from Ochey was against rail targets between Falkenberg and Saarbrucken involving 12 Fe 2b’s. Two aircraft were lost and the crews taken prisoner.

Ochey quickly became a target for enemy aircraft, and both Squadron aircraft and the hangars suffered damage from these attacks. Operations from Ochey included attacks on the German railways system and industry in addition to attacks on German airfields that threatened Ochey, all of which continued throughout the winter of 1917.

On 11th December 1917, the first CO of 100 Squadron, Major M G Christie handed command to Major W J Tempest, DSO, MC. On 28th March 1918, the Squadron was temporarily moved to Villesneux airfield to carry out attacks on rail targets that were vital to the German spring offensive. These attacks continued throughout April and May of 1918, after which the Squadron returned to Ochey and continued attacks on rail targets in Metz, Thionville and Saarbrucken.

On 1st April 1918, the Royal Air Force came into being under the command of Major General Hugh Trenchard, and it is worthy of note that 100 Squadron was in the thick of the fight at the birth of the RAF when it carried out an attack on the Metz – Sablon railway triangle. From the end of June 1918, 100 Squadron, now commanded by Major C G Burge OBE, was operating ‘flat out’ attacking German airfields and railway targets, destroying German aircraft, rolling stock and anti-aircraft guns.

On 10th August 1918, 100 Squadron departed from Ochey for Xaffevilliers where it bade farewell to its faithful old Fe 2b aircraft. Although the Fe 2b had served its purpose well, it had a limited bomb load capacity. In order to strike further into Germany with increased bomb loads, the Squadron was re-equipped with the Handley Page 0-400 aircraft, which was the main heavy bomber of WWI. The 0-400 had a top speed of 97 mph and could carry a bomb load of 2000 pounds over a range of 7000 miles. Training with the 0-400 began, and continued throughout August 1918, but on the 25th August there was a tragic accident during a take-off run with one of the new 0-400’s.

During September and October, the Squadron carried our repeated attacks into Germany targeting railways and airfields. Bomb loads and types escalated from 14 x 112 pounders to 550 and then 1600-pound bombs. On 21st October 1918, one of the 1600-pound bombs was dropped on Kaiserslautern causing significant damage. The following night, further 1600-pound bombs were dropped on Saarbrucken and on Metz and the Burbach works.

As hostilities drew to a close, 100 Squadron attacked Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Frankfurt am Main. On the night of 10th November, 100 Squadron were again in action attacking targets inside the German homeland. Wg Cdr Brookes commented that “It was a fitting end of operations for the Squadron that was the first to bomb Germany, that the last RAF aircraft to return from a raid on the night the ceasefire came into force, also belonged to 100 Squadron.”

During the time that 100 Squadron was stationed on the Western Front, the Squadron: carried out 213 raids; dropped 185 tons of bombs; fired 450,000 rounds of ammunition and shot down 5 enemy aircraft. We should also not forget that 100 Squadron: lost 29 officers and men killed in action with 3 more dying from illness or injuries; suffered 11 men wounded, and 29 more taken prisoner; and received 34 awards including 8 Distinguished Service Orders, 8 Military Cross’s and 3 Meritorious Service Medals.

Sir Hugh Trenchard, writing to Major Burge, said that:
“100 Squadron…started with a splendid name and within a few weeks I was counting on it as one of my best weapons for hitting the enemy. The pilots and observers were always cheery and ready to carry out any work asked of them and, in the worst of weather, they showed the utmost determination to get to the targets they had been ordered to bomb,…The rank and file were noted amongst squadrons for being exceptionally good at keeping their engines and machines in serviceable order; this was not easy and the men, very often worked all day and all night.” Trenchard went on: “I can only say that 100 was ‘one of the great squadrons’ of the war. I was very proud to have had the honour to command such an efficient squadron.”

Immediately after the armistice on 16th November 1918, 100 Squadron aircraft and ground crews moved on to Ligescourt North West of Abbeville. On 22nd November, the remainder of personnel, motor transport, equipment, ammunition and other stores also arrived at Abbeville. 100 Squadron settled down to await the order to return to ‘good old Blighty’.