September 18th 1916

2nd Lieut. Sydney Carline (RFC, 19th Squadron) was shot down and wounded at the end of August over the Somme battlefield, on a bombing expedition against a railway cutting some 20 miles behind the front line.  His brother George visited him in hospital and has extracted the following details:

“After Sydney had dropped his bombs and was returning, it appears he got separated from the rest of his squadron and was attacked by four German machines. These machines had been flying at about 15,000 ft on the look-out for any separated machine to tackle. It is one of their methods to fly high and dive at a great speed on an enemy machine, firing their machine gun as soon as they are within range until they catch it up, when they turn to one side and continue their dive to their aerodrome and safety.

My brother was apparently unconscious of any enemy machines about, until he heard the firing of the gun behind him. He says that owing to the noise of the engine it is impossible to hear anything except a gun at close range or the explosions of anti-aircraft shells.

The first German machine damaged his engine slightly and wounded him in the leg. He says there were eight holes in the petrol tank, and other shots hit the back of the seat he was sitting on.  With his damaged engine he had to put his nose down to keep up speed and consequently could not bring his gun into play. His machine was a single-seated scout, with a Vickers gun timed off the engine to fire through the propeller, and to aim the gun the whole machine had to be directed towards the object, as the gun is a fixed one.

Not being able to turn and fly upwards at the German machines and so use the gun, he had to continue his course and keep turning about trying to escape the Germans or at least make their firing harmless, and at the same time firing a Lewis gun fitted behind him. But this gun, he says, is very difficult to aim with success and fly a machine at the same time.

One after another of these machines dived on to him firing their guns, and after he had dropped about 5,000 ft., the Germans made off home, and he was able to get over the lines again at about 5,000 ft. up. Crossing again by the Somme, ‘Archie’ left him alone, anywhere else he would have made a good target at that height.

His leg was numbed by the wound, so that it did not pain him, and by using his heel on the rudder instead of his toe, he was able to manage his machine all right and get back to the aerodrome. The petrol pouring from his tank was very useful, he said, as it kept his leg cool and he was able to drive his engine off his spare tank.”

b-e-12-carline

A B.E 12 aircraft of the type flown by the 19th Squadron.

Sydney has told George that he is spending his sick leave in helping with an invention connected with flying.

Before the war Sydney was a budding artist, following in the footsteps of his father George Carline. In 1911, W. Davis of Turl Street commissioned him to complete six charming etchings of Oxford.

On the outbreak of war he became a dispatch rider before joining the RFC.

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