Thursday 5 April 1917 – We Lost 541
The new Bristol F.2a fighter, of which so much is expected, finally comes into action on this day. For 48th Squadron’s first ever operation, six Bristols make an offensive patrol over Douai. Leading them is Captain William Leefe-Robinson VC, famous by this time for having shot down the SL11 airship. The patrol has the great misfortune to meet Manfred von Richthofen and the Albatros D.III’s of Jasta 11 and in the disastrous air battle that follows the patrol is virtually destroyed. Four of the aircraft are shot down within thirty minutes beginning at 10:15, the pilots and observers, including Leefe-Robinson, being made prisoner, one of which will die of his wounds the following day. These events the mauling of the new fighter and the loss of the Victoria Cross winner, causes great anxiety for the Royal Flying Corps while a surge of confidence passes through Germany’s fighting units.
- Lieutenant Harry Atheling Russell Boustead (Middlesex Regiment attached Royal Flying Corps) dies of wounds at age 24. In 1913 he won the 100 yard swimming race against Cambridge for Oxford. Though mortally wounded himself after his observer is killed in an engagement with an enemy aircraft he succeeds in crossing to our lines and bringing his machine down safely. He dies very shortly afterwards.
- His observer Second Lieutenant Charles Gustave Rochefort Mackintosh (General List attached Royal Flying Corps) was a winter sports representative in Switzerland for the Royal Automobile Club and Daily Mail He was accused of spying and imprisoned for 10 weeks in Switzerland before being released.
The submarine C7 (Lieutenant Arthur Walter Forbes) sinks the German submarine UC68 near Schouwen Bank. Lieutenant Forbes will be killed in March 1918 when submarine H5 is sunk in a collision.
Today’s losses include:
- The son of a member of the clergy
- Two Royal Flying Corps victims of English shellfire
- The son of a Justice of the Peace
- Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
- Brothers killed together
- A Rhodes scholar
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Captain Bernard Cave-Browne-Cave (Wiltshire Regiment) dies at home at age 49 from wounds after retiring. He is the son of the Reverend Ambrose Sneyd Cave-Browne-Cave.
- Second Lieutenant Oswald Frederick Grevatte Ball age 22 and his observer Lieutenant Herbert Howell-Evans (Royal Flying Corps) are killed when their aircraft his hit by an English shell while descending when returning from a reconnaissance.
- Second Lieutenant Edward Lyon Bostock (Royal Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 30. He is the son of Edward Ingram Bostock JP who has another son who will be killed later this month.
- Brothers Bombardier Ben Whitaker, age 27, and Driver Fred Whitaker, age 25, are killed together serving in the Royal Field Artillery. The brothers are buried in adjacent graves in Ervillers Military Cemetery.
- Private George Harrison Hayward (Royal Fusiliers) is killed at age 23. He is a Rhodes Scholar.
- Private Ernest Reeve (Sherwood Foresters) is killed. His brother will die on service next year.