Melton Mowbray was home to No 38 Sqn HQ, Royal Flying Corps, for the period of September 1916 – May 1918, and had A, B & C flights detached at Leadenham, Buckminster and Stamford (now known as Wittering) respectively. The Sqn also had landing grounds at Brentingby and Scalford. The Sqn’s motto “Ante Lucem” when translated means “Before the Dawn” hence their -night fighter role.
Following several Zeppelin attacks on the Midlands, like the one on Loughborough on 31st January 1916, No 38 Sqn was ordered to leave Castle Bromwich for Melton Mowbray to defend the industrial areas of the Midlands from Zeppelin attacks. Prior to moving, the Squadrons C.O. Captain A.T.Harris,RFC (who later became Marshall of the RAF Sir Arthur T Harris, better known as ‘Bomber Harris’ ) had to find suitable landing grounds for the three flights. He did this by picking sites that looked suitable from maps and checked them out both from the air and the ground. Shortly after the Sqn’s arrival at Melton, Major Twisleton-Wykeham Fiennes replaced Captain Harris as CO. The criteria in those days was to find a field big enough and flat enough with a reasonable grass surface to be used for a landing ground. The choice was restricted as the War Office were reluctant to remove a few trees or flatten a few hedges and ditches due to the expense of the operation. The airfields that were chosen were not always ideal as OC 24th Wing stated in his memo to HQ Training Brigade dated 10 Jan 1917. ‘Ref. yr. secret TB/809 dated 3/1/17’. “ I was up at Harlaxton yesterday and of the opinion that the aerodrome is not fit to be classed as a Night Landing Aerodrome until the tree stumps on the aerodrome have been removed. Urgent application has been made to the contractors to do this.”
The Squadrons role was Home Defence Duties around the Midlands, and was originally equipped with Bristol BE2c’s. These machines were scrapped and rapidly replaced with Bristol FE2b’s as they became obsolete in France. They were then transferred to training squadrons in England and the squadron soon had a full complement of 18 FE2b’s. The FE2b was a two seat biplane with a top speed of 94 mph and the Sqn’s holdings were all fitted with dual controls by the flights engineers. Once re-equipped, a certain amount of flying training was undertaken during day time, but it took almost a year until the Sqn became a regular night training Sqn.
The squadrons FE2b’s, of which A5578, A5584, A5707, C9806 and C9809 were a few, were put into action against every night time Zeppelin raid in the area between January 1917 and May 1918. Although they did not claim any successes, in October 1917, Captain A.H.Harrison engaged a Zeppelin until his gun jammed and in the April raid, two Officers, Lieutenants Brown and Noble Campbell were shot down in the Coventry area.
The Zeppelin raids over Britain during 1915 caused a lot of concern amongst the civilian population. The airships, which were slow, unwieldy and highly flammable flew over England for as long as eight or nine hours at a time, dropping bombs at random. Lincolnshire, which was easily identified by the Humber and the Wash, was a favourite point for the ‘Zepps’ to enter English airspace.
Zeppelin Raids in which 38 Sqn aircraft were involved.
The following Zeppelin raids are those that aircraft from 38 Sqn became involved:
1 Oct 1916 Zeppelin raid on the Midlands. One BE12 (38 Sqn).
27 Nov 1916 Zeppelin raid on the Midlands. Two BE2c’s from Cranwell, two BE12’s from 33 Sqn Kirton-in-Lindsey (one crashed on take-off),one BE12 from 33 Sqn Scampton (crashed on take-off), one BE2c and one BE12 (one crashed on take-off) from Elsham, three BE2e’s from 38 Sqn Leadenham, and one BE2e from 38 Sqn Buckminster.
24 Sept 1917 Zeppelin raid on the Midlands. One BE2e from Cranwell, two FE2b’s and one FE2d from 33 Sqn Scampton, one BE2e and three FE2d’s from 33 Sqn Elsham (one crashed and killed the observer), one FE2d from 33 Sqn Gainsborough, one BE2e from 38 Sqn Leadenham, one BE2e and one FE2b from 38 Sqn Buckminster and two FE2b’s from 51 Sqn at Tydd St Mary.
19 Oct 1917 Zeppelin raid on Northern England. One BE2e from Cranwell, two FE2b’s and one FE2d from 33 Sqn Scampton, one BE2e and two FE2d’s from 33 Sqn Elsham, two FE2d’s (one crashed and killed the pilot) from 33 Sqn Gainsborough, two FE2b’s (one force landed) from 38 Sqn Leadenham, two FE2b’s from 38 Sqn Buckminster and 2 FE2b’s from 51 Sqn Tydd St Mary.
12 Apr 1918 Zeppelin raid on the Midlands. One FE2b and one FE2d (force landed) from 33 Sqn Scampton, one FE2b from Elsham, one FE2b (crashed at Coventry) from 38 Sqn Buckminster, two FE2b’s and one FE2d from 51 Sqn Tydd St Mary.
5 Aug 1918 Zeppelin raid on the Midlands (last Zeppelin raid). One Bristol FE2b (crashed and pilot killed) from 33 Sqn Scampton, one FE2b and one FE2d from 33 Sqn Kirton in Lindsey, two Bristol F2b’s from 33 Sqn Elsham, one FE2b from 38 Sqn Leadenham, one FE2b from 38 Sqn Buckminster and two FE2b’s from 51 Sqn Tydd St Mary.
Meltons’ World War One Airmen
|BARRATT Thomas Wolverson||Melton Mowbray|
|BIDDLES Herbert Henry||Melton Mowbray|
|BOORNE George||Melton Mowbray|
|BROWN Albert Henry||Melton Mowbray|
|BROWN George Ernest||Melton Mowbray|
|BROWN William||Melton Mowbray|
|BUNYAN Eli Samuel||Melton Mowbray|
|BUXTON Harold||Long Clawson|
|CATON John||Melton Mowbray|
|CAVE Edward Henry Paul||Twyford|
|CHURCHILL George Harold||Somerby|
|CLARKE Charles John||Melton Mowbray|
|CORDERY Thomas||Melton Mowbray|
|CROSS Edward Percival||Long Clawson|
|DASHWOOD Robert Julian||Little Dalby|
|DIXON Cyril Rutland||Melton Mowbray|
|ENDALL George William||Melton Mowbray|
|FINNEY Francis John||Melton Mowbray|
|FITZSIMMONS Richard Clark||Melton Mowbray|
|GAUNT John William||Melton Mowbray|
|GLOVER Tom||Melton Mowbray|
|GODDARD Ronald William||Melton Mowbray|
|GOODSON Frank Dixon||Eastwell|
|GREEN Albert John Cecil||Melton Mowbray|
|HALLETT Archibald Leslie||Melton Mowbray|
|HARVEY Thomas William||Melton Mowbray|
|HAZELDINE Walter||Melton Mowbray|
|HEGGS Isaac William||Stathern|
|HILL Eustace||Melton Mowbray|
|KEMP John Charles||Nether Broughton|
|KNIGHT James Henry||Melton Mowbray|
|LIPPETT Frank James||Melton Mowbray|
|LOVETT Edward Claude||Melton Mowbray|
|MACMANUS Eric Basil||Somerby|
|MARRIOTT Ernest William||Melton Mowbray|
|MARRIOTT Joseph Reginald||Wartneby|
|MOGRIDGE Edward Courtney||Scalford|
|MORRISON William Faulks||Melton Mowbray|
|MORTON James William||Pickwell|
|MUNNS Albert||Melton Mowbray|
|MUSSON Bernard Oswald||Melton Mowbray|
|PACEY Sidney Oswald||Melton Mowbray|
|PETERS George William||Melton Mowbray|
|PLUMB William Ernest||Melton Mowbray|
|POTTER Cecil George||Melton Mowbray|
|POYZER Rowland||Melton Mowbray|
|QUINCE Harry||Melton Mowbray|
|REYNOLDS Henry Leslie||Melton Mowbray|
|ROBERTSON Douglas||Melton Mowbray|
|SIMS Frank James||Thorpe Satchville|
|SKERRITT William||Melton Mowbray|
|SMITH Harold||Melton Mowbray|
|SPRIGGS Harold John||Melton Mowbray|
|STUBBS George Edward||Hose|
|TIBBLES Clifford Harvey||Melton Mowbray|
|TIMMS Frederick George Cecil||Melton Mowbray|
|TODD Montague||Melton Mowbray|
|TOSELAND Reginald Lewis||Melton Mowbray|
|VEASEY Ernest||Melton Mowbray|
|VICK Ernest Ewart||Melton Mowbray|
|WATCHORN Bert Henry Hector||Melton Mowbray|
|WEAVER Sam Peter||Melton Mowbray|
|WESTON Frank||Melton Mowbray|
|WOODS John William Ernest||Melton Mowbray|