Rank & Name: Lt. Richard Sheraton

Date of Death: N/A


Lieutenant Richard Sheraton (observer), on 59 Squadron, wrote an account of his RFC service and the following extract describes his time whilst flying with 'Jimmy' Craig.

"It was just about that time (July 1917) that we Observers were detailed to fly regularly with particular Pilots, and I flew with Lieutenant J A Craig. We did not get on very well at first, I recollect, and he took an opportunity of reporting me to Captain Roberts for failing to open fire on a German plane at the time he felt that I should have done. At the subsequent interview with Captain Roberts I explained to him that I was following the instructions, which I learned whilst training at Brooklands. How different the theory at home was, in comparison with that adapted in practise, I was to find out, as I gathered experience with the Squadron.

After this little contretemps, Craig and I settled down together very well indeed, and we worked most harmoniously together with, I think, some measure of success. Anyway, I have since heard that Craig was recommended (though without avail) to receive the Military Cross on two or three occasions, whilst he was serving with 59 Squadron. Eventually he was awarded, in 1918, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was one of the first to be granted this decoration.

In the early morning of Sunday, 19th August 1917, our Infantry attacked the German lines at The Knoll and Guillemot Farm (near Hargicourt), and for a number of days previously the squadron was much engaged in registering the guns on the German batteries. Our Artillery fire at that time was excellent. Many guns were ranged by the Squadron during that period, and it was quite the usual thing to be in the air for two sessions of 3 to 4 hours each.

About 7 o'clock on the evening of Saturday, 18`h August, word came through that the wire in front of Gillemont Farm was insufficiently cut, and Craig and I were ordered to go up and register No. 40 Siege Battery to deal with the situation, before the attack early next morning. As we taxied across the aerodrome the pin on the left wheel sheared through, and the wheel came off just as we were leaving the ground. I happened to be facing the tail plane, noticed this and advised Craig, with whom I was flying as usual. It was vitally important that the shoot should be proceeded with, since dusk was approaching and there would be no further opportunity left.

The Squadron were concerned as to our well being, and went to endless trouble to advise us of our predicament. Major Egerton, the C.O., informed the Central Wireless Station to get in touch with us, and even went to the trouble of placing on the aerodrome large white strips, formed to shape the letters "A.5, wheel off". It was about 8 o'clock, and darkening when we reached the aerodrome, and, as I had no message bag on board, I fired Verey lights to those on the ground, as a signal that we had seen their message. Craig circled the aerodrome once or twice, and then gave me the signal that he was about to go down and land, advising me to hold on as tightly as I could. The whole of the personnel of the Squadron appeared to be on the aerodrome to see what happened, since the R.E.8 was notoriously nose-heavy and prone to catching fire. Craig had a very difficult task, since darkness was approaching, making the landing more hazardous. I felt our sole remaining wheel touch "terra firma", and everything went quite smoothly until the axle dropped and cut into the soil. Immediately this happened, the whole world appeared to turn upside down, and the plane went over onto its back. As a matter of fact, both Craig and I were unhurt, and we scrambled out, to be welcomed with the congratulations of the other fellows in the squadron, led by the ambulance.On 19th August, the British Forces captured The Knoll and Gillemont Farm, but the Huns counterattacked in the evening. We lost two of our fellows that day; one of our R.E.8's being brought down by antiaircraft fire, piloted by Lieutenant Tipping with his Observer, Lieutenant Gordon. This was a grievous loss to the Squadron. Also, Tipping was our violinist, and used to perform remarkably well.

On 21" August, the Squadron suffered a further misfortune. Captain Pemberton, Officer Commanding "C" Flight, and his Observer, Lieutenant Manners-Smith, being shot down by a German plane whilst taking photographs in the morning, north of Vendhuille. I heard subsequently (although I was never able to verify it) that Pemberton was killed and that Manners-Smith, although wounded, brought down the plane safely.

On 26`" August, Craig and I, having received instructions the night previously, took off at 5.15 am, and were engaged on contact patrol (with, I believe, the 34`" Division), attacking Cologne Farm, again near Hargicourt. When we arrived over the line, the Farm was being heavily shelled, and as we approached the line we were flying through our own artillery barrage, which was the thickest I had ever seen. The Huns were firing machine guns at us from the flanks, I recollect, as we went down, calling "A.A." continuously on the klaxon. I was able to mark the positions of the advanced Infantry Units, who had marked them by lighting red flares, just as the day was dawning. These positions were entered on maps in triplicate, and copies were dropped by me at the Headquarters of the 34`"Division and the 3`d Corps. Our fellows captured Cologne Farm alright. The 35`" Division, however, on the left of the attacking front advised us that they believed the Germans were massing for a counter-attack. We went over, but could see nothing, and I dropped a message to that effect at the Headquarters of the Division.

On 27`" August, Craig and I again took off at 5.30 am and went on contact patrol with the 34`" Division, as yesterday. We flew very low over the trenches at a few hundred feet only, and were pleased to note that our men had kept their gains. Maps pointing out the position were dropped by us at the Headquarters of the Division, Corps, and 59 Squadron. On 30`" August, our Brigade sent a letter in acknowledgement of the work which Craig and I did on 18`" August, when we continued on our flight to range the guns on the enemy wire, after losing a wheel when taking off.

On 15`" September, I went home on leave, and when I returned on 1S` October, I found that Captain Roberts had returned home; also, that during my absence one of our Pilots, Lieutenant Baker, in taking off, had taxied into a plough at the edge of the aerodrome, the plane catching fire. A French ploughman rescued him, and suffering from burns, he was sent to hospital.

On 11`" October, Craig and I fell foul of the Commanding Officer for flying in bad weather and sending a message, not in code, to the effect that conditions were good for all classes of the Squadron's work. A severe "ticking off" by the C.O.

On 19`" October, Craig and I went on Army patrol at 6 am, to Gavrelle (north of Arras), and we dropped bombs on Cherisy. At this time the Squadron was engaged on Army work.

On 22"d October 1917, I left the Squadron. (Later Craig wrote and told me that the machine in which we had done so much flying together was taken up by a new pilot, who crashed, killing himself, and writing off the machine completely)."

On promotion to Captain, James Craig was transferred to No. 15 Squadron as its `B' Flight Commander. He always carried with him, whilst flying, a `golliwog' mascot, except on his last flight in 1941 when he crashed and was killed on a mountain in the Lake District after accruing a total of 1,655 hours, most of it with the RFC during World War I.. source


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