Monday, 6 October 2014

Cornwall in the First World War

During this month, each weekday I'll be posting a different image showing aspects of Cornwall's First World War.

Here's a photo from the summer of 1918. The location is Royal Naval Air Station Padstow, a small airfield just outside the town at the hamlet of Crugmeer. We don't know the identity of the RAF officer resting on his cane, but the aircraft behind is a de Havilland DH.6 biplane.

Padstow’s DH.6's were as much a burden as a fighting force. The DH.6 was a depressing aeroplane, its engine puny and reticent; many examples also suffered from structural problems. Carrying bombs was a great burden but a load of 100 lb was just about manageable, provided the pilot flew alone. Sometimes DH.6s patrolled merely as unarmed signalling aircraft, the observer using an Aldis lamp to commune with those below.

Patrols off Cornwall's north coast usually lasted around two hours, back and forth over an inshore area say 40 miles across. To help spot the enemy, flights were low-level; in any case the DH.6’s ability to climb while lugging bombs was feeble. If aircraft returned to Padstow still carrying their bombload, often they couldn’t make enough height to clear the cliffs and reach the landing-ground. That meant a turbulent flight along the nearby valley south of Gunver Head, followed by a drop onto the airfield. Numerous airmen flying from RNAS stations across Britain had previously suffered war injuries deeming them unfit for service overseas, but Padstow’s DH.6 patrols would have taxed those in sparkling health.
My book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', is published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy. It's also available through Amazon:

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