The 1st April this year (2018) marked the centenary of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) creation when it was established as a separate military service. It was formed through the merger of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), that had been part of the British Army and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) that had been part of the Royal Navy. During the Great War, 11 former pupils from CCB served as pilots, 10 serving in the RFC, RNAS or RAF; this brief article outlines some of their service histories.
During the First World War, around half of all British and dominion pilots were killed as a result of accidents and this number probably included three OCs. Richard HEMPHILL and George HERRIOT were certainly killed as a result of accidents. HEMPHILL was killed in March 1917 at Heliopolis, near Cairo, when he fell out of his aircraft.
HERRIOT served with the RNAS in Kent, seeking to intercept German Zeppelins and aircraft on bombing missions over the south of England. During the first half of 1917, HERRIOT graduated from flight school as a "very good pilot and very promising officer". In May 1917, he was recommended for service in seaplanes. He was killed in a flying accident in October and is buried at Minster (Thanet) Cemetery, Kent.
It is probable that John Henry MACLAURIN was also killed in an accident in September 1918. He, unlike all other OCs who flew in the war, served with the American Expeditionary Force in the 172nd Aero Squadron. There is evidence to suggest that MACLAURIN also trained as a pilot officer in the RFC and it is unclear why he was serving with the Americans in 1918. Also, the exact circumstances of his death are the subject of ongoing research but it is most probable that his death was a result of an accident as his unit trained as an observation squadron in England and never entered combat, and he was buried in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland.
The remaining eight OCs who flew and died in the war were killed in combat. Probably the most famous person among this group was Reginald Cuthbert WHITESIDE. He was was shot down by Manfred Albrecht von Richthofen, famously known as the Red Baron. His plane, an F.E.2b, was the 14th aircraft out of the 80 the Baron shot down during the war.
The most successful pilot that came from CCB was Maurice Lea COOPER. He joined the RNAS in April 1917 and became one of the youngest Flight Commanders within the his service. On his death on 2nd October 1918, he was a fighter ace with six 'kills' to his name. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross "for acts of gallantry when flying on active operations against the enemy".