No 80 Squadron 


No 80 Squadron RAF

April - May 1918

The RAF came into being on 1 April 1918 though for 80 Squadron the change would have passed almost unnoticed. In the first few days of April the German advance on the Somme was brought to a halt and the front stabilised. Flying that morning Capt. Preeston leading a patrol engaged a number of EA at long range over Davenscourt. In the afternoon during a patrol led by Capt. Whistler, Lt. Pell claimed an Albatros two-seater destroyed over Braches and Lt. Meredith (US) was brought down wounded and taken prisoner. On 6 April Lt. Smithers was taken prisoner.

80 Sqn was transferred into 51st Wing as part of redeployments to meet a developing German attack on the Lys front. The other components of 51st Wing were 43 Sqn and 2 Sqn AFC. The German attack on the Lys commenced on 9 April but poor weather limited action by the RAF.

Camel F1 displayed at the RAF Museum Hendon

photo ©

History note

The German offensive on the Lys commenced on 9 April 1918 (following the late March offensive on the Somme) and advanced rapidly between La Bassée and Armentieres, five miles in two days extending to ten miles by 14 April before being held.

As the operational situation deteriorated Sir Douglas Haig issued his famous order of the 12 April in which he said: "Every position must be held to the last man; there must be no retirement; With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end."

Initially IX Brigade RAF Squadrons (to which 51st Wing now belonged) were assigned missions in the area of the Somme but were switched on 11 April to meet the German push toward Merville on the Lys. IX Brigade pilots averaged 6-7 hours flying each in the 24 hours from 4pm on the 11 April. Lt.s Murray and Pell were killed in action around Merville on 12 April and Lt. Code was missing but later returned. The German advance was eventually held and the final attacks at the end of April were repulsed. Poor weather at the end of April limited air activity.

Following the intensive action on the Lys, 80 Sqn was able to adopt the role for which it had trained, with Capt. Preeston's C Flt conducting missions against artillery escorted by B Flt and with A Flt providing indirect escort.

photo ©

The next major action for 80 Sqn was on 10 May over the Somme when Capt. Bridgeman leading a late afternoon offensive patrol of B Flight engaged with 20 to 30 EA. Bridgeman claimed two Fokker Dr1's shot down. However in a series of combats with Jasta 6 and 11, Lt.s Rowdon,  Shields and Whately were killed in action and Lt. Jones  was wounded and taken prisoner. Lt.s Coulson and Barker were forced down and crashed in their own lines but claimed an EA each.  Bridgeman was subsequently awarded a MC, the citation for which made specific mention of this action.


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