March – April 1918 – Canadians In the Air During Operation Michael
A Centenary Action

An R.E.8 biplane of No. 59 Squadron in flight on 15 May 1918.
© IWM (Q 12172)

With Allied ground forces reeling from Operation Michael, many of the air squadrons were ordered to provide urgently needed ground support. Now that the enemy was moving out in the open, low-level strafing and bombing became the order of the day, as the Allies desperately tried to slow the enemy’s advance (Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War, p. 492-493).

“52 Squadron’s Lieutenant T.E. Logan of New Glasgow, NS, flew his RE8 over Contescourt… finding the village plugged with German transport. He dropped eight bombs from 350 feet ‘with excellent effect’ and returned westwards along the Contescourt-St Simon road, flying at a hundred feet and finding it, too, ‘blocked with transport and infantry’ moving forward. His observer had pumped some 250 rounds into them before Logan was wounded three times by ground fire, but despite his wounds he succeeded in landing behind the British front.” (Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War, p. 496).

“As each machine [Sopwith Camels] returned after one of these low-level strikes the ratings swarmed about, refueling it, attaching the four 25-pound bombs that it carried and re-arming the machine-guns. Then it took off again, heading towards the enemy’s front to seek out more ground targets.” (Collishaw, Dodds, The Black Flight, p. 158)

The pilot and gunner of “Destiny II”, an R.E.8 biplane of No. 52 Squadron, RFC, prepare to take off.
© IWM (Q 3912)

Even finding a safe place to land could be an issue. As the German offensive rolled on, Allied aerodromes quickly found themselves uncomfortably close to the front. On 21 March 1918, the very first day of Operation Michael, No. 5 (Naval) Squadron had to evacuate its aerodrome at Mons-en-Chousée, taking off in their machines as enemy shells struck the airfield itself (Collishaw, Dodds, The Black Flight, p. 159-160). Some squadrons, grounded by weather, were even forced to burn their machines in massive bonfires, before retreating from the airfields overland (Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War, p. 511).

*Editor’s Note – Sadly, Lieutenant Thomas Edgar Logan of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia would not survive the war. During his recovery from the wounds suffered during the ground attack quoted above, Lt. Logan was tagged as an invalid and received recommendation for three months’ leave in Canada. While it is unknown what happened during the months in-between, on 22 November 1918, he was killed in an aeroplane accident while in Canada. Buried in New Glasgow (Riverside) Cemetery, Nova Scotia, Thomas Edgar Logan was only 24 years old.

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