This is another page from my Great Aunt Maud’s Autograph Album and dated 9.12.19; almost ninety-six years ago to the day, ‘HHP’ glued a little bit of history to the page and wrote an explanatory note. He completed it with the official Labour Corps Records stamp; both he and Maud were employed there after the war. I wrote about the album in Another Day at The Office, where you can see more pages of autographs.
The bombings stunts HHP refers to took place during the Spring and Summer of 1917, when the Handley Page bombers were brought in to reinforce the work already being carried out by the Royal Flying Corps and the four Royal Navy fighter squadrons, dispatched at the same time, in attacking the strategic naval ports and dockyards of Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge. The Handley Page could carry fourteen 112lb bombs as compared to the short bombers eight 65 - pounders, already in use. The Handley Pages were first used for daylight patrols with considerable success, but as their pilots became more skilled they were deployed on these very important night raids. During WW1 the word 'stunts' referred to ‘any performance of outstanding skill or effectiveness, on a large or small scale. You can read about these operations in more detail in ‘The War in The Air; being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force’ *
This is what it was like to be ‘Up in the Air in a Handley-Page’**. The photograph is attributed to Tom Aitken. This later model O/400 bomber, was introduced in 1918 and could carry 2000lbs (907 kilos) of bombs and be fitted with four Lewis machine guns.
The ex 'Observer and Pilot, R.A.F', who signed Maud’s album may have had many such views; in any case he held onto the old flying maps after the war, possibly as some sort of keepsake. Perhaps he was dividing the map and sharing it piecemeal with anyone who requested his autograph. It certainly makes his contribution stand out from the crowd. He could never have foreseen that some ninety five years later it would lead to the current guardian of the album setting out to find more of the details surrounding those ‘bombing stunts’ carried out by the famous Handley-Page aeroplanes.
Take a flight to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have come up with.
** The photograph was censored, because it could potentially be of use to the enemy. Original reads ‘Official Photograph taken on the British Western Front in France. Up in the air in a Handley-Page, showing another Handley-Page making for the enemy’s lines.’ Courtesy of Flickr Commons, National Library of Scotland.