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S 8 Australian Flying Corps


The first operational group dispatched was the half-flight sent to the Mesopotamia. Some excellent reconnaissance work was completed despite poor machines and appalling conditions. Three of the four pilots were killed or captured and a number of ground crew were captured at Kut-el Arama and died in captivity.

1 Sqn, Australian Flying Corps, of 28 officers and 195 other ranks, departed for Egypt in early 1916. The squadron flying Be2c's initially operated out of an airfield near Heliopolis. They assisted in reconnaissance and bombing raids against Turkish forces attacking the canal in august 1916 and accompanied the advance into Palestine and Syria. During a bombing attack on Turkish positions at Gaza in March 1917, Lt F N McNamara won the only VC awarded to an Australian airman in the war by landing his plane and rescuing another pilot who had be forced down.

Three Australian squadrons became operational on the Western Front in late 1917. 3 Sqn, AFC had been raised in Egypt by December 1916 while  2 Sqn, AFC and 4 Sqn, AFC were formed in Australia and arrived in England in January and March 1917. The leading Australian air ace in France was Capt A H Cobby who was credited with destroying 29 aircraft and 13 balloons. The operational squadrons were supported by three training squadrons in England.