|I was reading the newspaper this morning and noticed a
story about Billie Barker VC.
Barker was Canada's second most prolific war ace in WWI. The
article lamented the fact that Barker was not as well know as Billie
I agree with the article but it got me thinking about the number of
equally important WWI aces who were never given their due. For
example, take the story of William Alexander.
Alexander was born in Toronto, 8 November 1897. He joined the
RNAS in 1916 and was sent to Europe to fly with the RAF (Canada did not
have its own Air Force until the 1940s.).
In September 1917 Alexander was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross for the following actions:
|London Gazette, 1917:
16th August 1917, he attacked at about 3,000 feet two
hostile scouts, one of which, after a short combat, fell
completely out of control.
On 20th August 1917, while returning from patrol, he
observed three enemy scouts.
These he pursued until they turned to fight.
One of the scouts he shot down completely out of
control, and the remaining two dived away.
21st August, 1917, while on an offensive patrol, he attacked
and drove down completely out of control an enemy scout
which was attacking another member of his patrol.
Lieutenant Alexander has at all times shown the greatest
bravery and determination
The rest of the story of Alexander career is best described on the www.airforce.ca
of the most remarkable aspects of Alexander's career is that
he received no further decorations, despite a brilliant
career. This is
all the more extraordinary when one finds, in Public Record
Office Air 1/1696/204/122/13, the following letter dated 17
April 1918 from the Commanding Officer, No.210 Squadron to
the Officer Commanding, 10 Wing, Royal Air Force:
wish to bring to your notice the name of Flight Commander
William Melville Alexander, DSC, as suitable for
recommendation for Bar to Distinguished Service Cross, in
recognition of his excellent work and good leadership.
has accounted for 16 hostile machines in the last eleven
months, during four months of which he was away in Canada.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in August
1917 and since that time he has driven down nine enemy
machines out of control and carried out a considerable
amount of low flying.
list of the most outstanding of his achievements is
list mentioned (quoted in full below) recounts three
incidents that had already been mentioned with respect to
his original Distinguished Service Cross, but in all other
respects it would appear that he merited a Bar (or two).
Wervicq, attacked one of two enemy scouts. Fired 30 rounds
from 100 yards. Tracers entered fuselage round pilot's seat
and enemy aircraft nose-dived, side-slipped and fell out of
attacked by five enemy aircraft while with two machines,
near Langemarck. Enemy aircraft dived from above and forced
our machines into cloud below. On coming out, pilot saw
three of the enemy aircraft still above and climbed after
them, following the three to Roubaix where they turned to
fight. Drove one down completely out of control and the
others broke off combat and fled.
Menin, in a general engagement, attacked an enemy aircraft
scout at 15,000 feet and followed him down to 10,000,
finally getting close behind him, and firing 100 rounds when
enemy aircraft turned over, side-slipped and went down
entirely out of control. Pilot watched this machine for
Albatross Scout over Houthulst Wood for five minutes. After
manoeuvring got good position on his beam and raked his
fuselage from end to end. Enemy aircraft fell over on its
back, went down several hundred feet, turned and fell again
into the clouds.
23rd. Near Staden
attacked one of a formation of scouts and two-seaters.
Engaged Albatross Scout just above clouds at 7,000 feet and
fired 75 rounds at enemy aircraft from 60-50 yards. Enemy
aircraft went down into the clouds out of control. Pilot
followed through clouds and observed this machine still
falling completely out of control.
Near Dixmude to southeast engaged one of four enemy
aircraft scouts and fired 50 rounds from 30 yards. Tracers
entered machine and enemy aircraft went down in a vertical
dive out of control. Result observed by Flight Lieutenant
Hinchcliffe and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Rice.
one of three two-seaters over Roulers. Fired 70 rounds from
20 yards. Tracers observed entering fuselage and enemy
aircraft nose-dived and fell completely out of control.
combat with seven enemy aircraft over Roulers-Menin, killed
pilot of one machine which fell completely out of control
and must have crashed.
Attacked Albatross two-seater east of Estaires,
firing 150 rounds from 75 yards. Tracers seen to enter
fuselage. Enemy aircraft went down out of control into cloud
of smoke coming from ground. Did not reappear, so probably
crashed. Confirmed by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Joseph.
9th to 17th April he dropped 38 bombs and fired 4,000 rounds
from low altitudes on enemy troops and transport and other
NOTE: Public Record Office Air 1/74 has a report on him,
dated 23 August 1918, apparently by (but possibly for) the
Brigadier Commanding No.5 Group, Royal Air Force.
officer has been under my command since April 1917.
He is thoroughly efficient and capable officer, who
possesses an exceptional command of men.
He is at present in command of a Camel Flight at
Dover, and is strongly recommended for the rank of Temporary
F/Lt. Melville never did make it to Major. Seems that many of our brave men did not get the recognition they