World War One Aircraft »

On The Wings Of The Morning - WW1 Poetry

During the First World War many participants of the conflict wrote poetry about their experiences—the likes of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brookes and many others are well known—often due to the evocative images that these poets created. While the previously unexperienced horrors and conditions of the Western Front were a major source of inspiration for these poets, other poets were also being influenced by hitherto unknown experiences, especially that of powered flight, which was less than 12 years old at the beginning of the war. Miles Jeffery Game Day was one such poet.

David Bremner has rebuilt this full size and highly accurate replica Bristol Scout aircraft, based around a number of original parts from the original aircraft that his grandfather flew in the Eastern Mediterranean area during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

Miles Jeffrey Game Day DSC

Born in St Ives, Huntingdonshire in England in 1896, as the youngest of four siblings (two elder brothers and a sister), Day was only 18 years of age when he was first confirmed as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in August 1915. Jeffrey (as he was commonly known) had earlier given up a confirmed place at Cambridge University in order to join the navy, and it's reported that this action was against the wishes of his parents.

He began flight training at the Royal Naval Flying School in Eastchurch, and after flying a Caudron biplane he received his Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificate No. 1949 on the 2nd of October that year.

Day was initially stationed aboard the seaplane carrier HMS Vindex as a Bristol Scout pilot, and by December 1916 he had been promoted to Flight Lieutenant, having built a reputation as a skilled and daring pilot. This reputation was probably in part due to the fact that he's recorded as being the first pilot to takeoff in an aeroplane (a Bristol Scout) from another aircraft (a Porte Baby seaplane)—the Scout was mounted on the top wing of the Porte aircraft, and only became independently airborne after the conjoined aircraft were in flight. This feat was achieved in February 1916, with the aim of using the 'parasitic' Scout to intercept German Zeppelins over the North Sea as they approached England. While the test proved successful, the plan was never implemented operationally.

After a period of service aboard the light cruiser HMS Cassandra (as sole airman and navigator), Day then transferred to the experimental air station at RNAS Kingsnorth. It seems likely that the famous sequence of air-to-air photographs of his Bristol Scout performing numerous aerobatic maneuvers were taken during this period.

Miles Jeffrey Game Day DSC 1896 - 1918 Image From St Ives 100 years Ago  

In December 1917 Day transferred once again, this time to No 13 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service which was based in Dunkirk. Over the course of just over six weeks in January and February 1918 he shot down five German aircraft while flying a Sopwith Camel, including a Fokker Triplane and several two-seaters. On the 27th of February 1918 he attached six two-seaters over the North Sea and his aircraft was shot down in flames. He successfully ditched and was seen on the surface of the sea, but a subsequent search and rescue operation failed to find any evidence of Day or his aircraft. He was only 21 years of age.

VIDEO: This is David Bremner's recital of Jeffrey Day's poem "On The Wings Of The Morning" -- an inspiring tribute from one Scout pilot to another. This poem is one of only three of Day's that were published during his lifetime—Day's remaining works were gathered together by a friend and published posthumously after the war.

The Bristol Scout

Originally designed in late 1913 as a racing aircraft, the Scout was lightweight and fast, making it an ideal machine for reconnaissance 'scout' work, and as such it was employed by both the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service in the early parts of World War One. It was one of the first single seat British aircraft to be operated as a 'fighter', but it never sported synchronised forward firing machine guns—by the time that technological had been developed in late 1916 the type had effectively become obsolete.

The famous British ace Lanoe Hawker flew this Bristol Scout C (No 1611) on July 25, 1915 during the action for which he won his Victoria Cross.  

However, many Scouts did have Lewis machine guns mounted on the fuselage next to the cockpit, allowing the pilot to fire them outside of the propeller arc—though some pilots were daring enough to simply fire through the propellor arc, thereby risking damage to their own aircraft as well as that of the enemy.

It was a Bristol Scout that was the first land aircraft to be flown from a ship when Flt Lt H Towler flew an example from the flying deck of HMS Vindex in November 1915.

VIDEO: Deborah Quilter's grandfather, Flt Lt John A Carr, DSC, was a New Zealand pilot who flew with the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. Carr flew a Bristol Scout biplane for some time, along with a number of other aircraft types during his service. In this video Deborah talks a little about her grandfather, and about her journey to see the 100-year old aircraft type that he flew in during WW1. The NZ Warbirds Bristol Scout aircraft, only the second airworthy Scout currently in existence, is shown here during a display at Ardmore Aerodrome, Auckland, New Zealand.

Only 374 Scouts were built, and by the late summer of 1916 the type was being phased out of operational service, in most cases being replaced by the Airco DH.2 pusher aircraft which had forward firing machine guns. The Royal Flying Corps and later Royal Air Force continue to use the term 'scout' to refer to single-seat fighter aircraft into the early 1920s.

The last known Bristol Scout in military service was the former RNAS Scout D No. 8978 which was being operated by the Royal Australian Air Force as late as October 1926, at Point Cook (near Melbourne) in Australia.

Share This Story :

More Stories and Video Clips:

  • British Anti-Aircraft Gun Was Highly Prized By The German Army

  • If You Enjoy The Start Of 'Top Gun', Then You'll Love These Jets.

  • Return To The Site Of The First Railway In New Zealand 125 Years On

There's More Exclusive Content On Historical Machines TV

HMTV is our advert-free streaming video channel which features an awesome array of video and long form documentary material which is not available elsewhere. Sign up for a free trial and enjoy the significant and varied range of material we have on offer...

Please consider subscribing to HMTV, or buy us a drink to support our historical (story and film) preservation endeavours.

Comment Form is loading comments...