Tuesday 7 May 1918 We Lost 449

by greatwarliveslost

James Somers VC

A unique incident occurs which will go down in aviation history as the “two against twenty” fight.  Two Bristol F.2b pilots of No. 22 Squadron, Alfred C Atkey, with gunner C G Gass, and John E Gurdon, with gunner A John H Thornton, while conducting an observation patrol in the late afternoon just northeast of Arras are engaged by a group of German scouts at about 18:45.  In the initial dive, both Atkey and Gurdon claim an enemy machine downed, while Gurdon’s gunner got one during the climb out of the attack. During the running battle, two other German formations join in, numbering about twenty aircraft.  Eight enemy aircraft are either destroyed in the air or shot down in flames, with Atkey and his gunner claiming five, while Gurdon claims three. They eventually break off the action when the rear gunners exhausted their ammunition.

A portion of our troops enter Kirkuk without opposition. The Turks, who retire toward the Lesser Zab River, leave six hundred men in hospital in the town and abandon three damaged aircraft.

Today’s losses include:

  • A Victoria Cross winner
  • A Reading FC player
  • A man whose uncle was previously killed serving in the Merchant Navy

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Sergeant James Somers VC (Army Service Corps) dies in Ireland of lung problems as a result of an accident while demonstrating the use of gas earlier this year. As a member of the Inniskilling Fusiliers he was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions on Gallipoli on the night of 1st July 1915.  He is 24 years old.
  • Corporal Heber P Slatter (Royal Garrison Artillery) dies of wounds received four days earlier. He is a member of the Reading Football Club.
  • Able Seaman James Henry Watterson (SS Princess Dagmar) is killed at age 38 when his ship is sunk by a submarine. His uncle will be killed later this month also serving in the merchant marine.