Tuesday 1 January 1918 We Lost 324

by greatwarliveslost

Ralph Erskine (far right with wife)

In the air British aircraft are very active. Much ranging work is carried out with the artillery, and many photographs are taken of the German front lines and back areas.  Over two hundred bombs are dropped on various targets, including a large ammunition depot near Courtrai and Ingelmunster aerodrome. In air fighting, two enemy machines are brought down and two others driven down out of control.  Another hostile machine is shot down inside British lines by anti-aircraft guns.  Two British aircraft are lost, one pilot being killed the other taken prisoner.

Flight Commander Robert John Orton Compston DSC (Royal Naval Air Service) will be awarded a second bar to the Distinguished Service Cross for ability and determination when leading offensive patrols, in which he displays entire disregard of personal danger. Today he observes a new type of twin-tailed two seat enemy machine, which he attacks, firing many rounds at point blank range. The enemy machine dives, but is again attacked and goes down vertically with his engine full on. The wings come off, and the machine is observed to crash. Later in the day Flight Commander Compston observes two formations of ten and five Albatross scouts respectively.  He attacks one of the enemy machines and sends it down in a flat spin and falling over sideways completely out of control.  One of these victories is a shared victory with Captain Edward Captain Edward Corringham Mannock, his last victory with 40th Squadron.

On the Italian front British batteries bring about the explosion of two enemy ammunition depots at Fontigo (on the left bank of the Piave, north of Montello) and to the south of Conegliano.  British patrols attack the enemy advanced posts inflicting losses and capturing prisoners. The Middlesex Regiment carries out the largest raid by the British. It is a difficult and well planned operation, which has as its objective the surrounding and capture of several buildings held by the enemy to a depth of 2,000 yards inland. Two hundred fifty men cross the Piave by wading and some prisoners are captured, but, unfortunately, a party of fifty of the enemy is encountered in an advanced post and gives the alarm, and the progress inland is curtailed.  The re-crossing of the river is successfully carried out with few casualties.

Ten RE-8s from 42nd Squadron make a bombing raid on the German 14th Army Headquarters at Vittorio escorted by Sopwith Camels of 28th and 66th Squadrons.  One Sopwith is lost while claims are made for three enemy aircraft.

  • The lost Sopwith is piloted by Captain Ralph Erskine (General List attached Royal Flying Corps) who dies of his wounds at age 25. He is the amateur featherweight boxing champion of the world and his brother was killed in July 1915 on the Western Front.

Corporal G G Robertson and Gunner H E Butcher (Royal Marines) will be awarded the Humane Society Medal for saving two men thrown into Hoxa Bay, Orkney, when their boat capsizes.

Today’s losses include:

  • The amateur featherweight boxing champion of the world
  • A Chaplain
  • A man whose brother will lose his life in the Great War
  • The son of a member of the clergy

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Chaplain Harry Lawrence Dibben is accidentally killed at age 30 at home. He is the only son of the Reverend John Arthur Dibben.