Friday 12 January 1917 – We Lost 346
The Third Squadron Royal Naval Air Service raids the Burbach blast furnaces near Saarbruecken. The crews suffer from intense penetrating cold with three pilots and gunlayers having their hands frozen in spite of the fact that the surgeon has greased all exposed skin before their departure. This raid is a disaster from the beginning due to the considerable number of engines that refuse to start and the litany of engine failures en route. Only sixteen of the twenty five machines that start out from Ochey reach the target.
Today’s losses include:
- A General
- The son of the 11th Earl of Haddington
- A battalion commander
- A Victoria Cross winner
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Brigadier General ‘Lord’ George Baillie Hamilton Binning (Lothian & Border Horse) dies of pneumonia at age 60. He is the son of George Binning, 11th Earl of Haddington and served in the Egyptian Campaign (1882) and Black Mountain Expedition (1891).
- Lieutenant Colonel John Holberton Whitehead (commanding 93rd Burma Infantry Indian Army) dies on service at age 48 in Mesopotamia.
- Sergeant Thomas Mottershead VC DCM (Royal Flying Corps) dies of the first degree burns received five days prior when his aircraft was attacked at an altitude of 9,000 feet, the petrol tank of his machine was pierced and the machine set on fire. Enveloped in flames, which his observer Lieutenant Gower was unable to subdue, Mottershead succeeds in bringing his airplane back to our lines, and though he makes a successful landing, the machine collapsed on touching the ground, pinning him beneath the wreckage from which he was subsequently rescued. Though suffering extreme torture from burns, Sergeant Mottershead showed conspicuous presence of mind in carefully selecting a landing place, and his endurance and fortitude undoubtedly saved the life of his observer. He will be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.