Re: mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, in triplani

Bill Shatzer (
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 22:17:43 -0800

Shane typed:
>And now, I have checked up the figures in "Above the Trenches" and I
>concede that Jacobs probably did outscore Little on triplanes. ( sob,
>sob :-( sob ....)

>Yes, it looks like Collishaw DID outscore Little on tripehounds
>(woe, woe)
>Assuming that AtT is correct, Little scored 4 flying Pups, 25 flying
>Tripes and the remainder flying Camels. Which leaves Jacobs ahead of
>him. However, lest Matt get too excited, AtT has Collishaw with 34
>triplane victories which MAY still leave him right (in what he actually
>meant to ask) and wrong (in what he asked) since I THINK this exceeds
>Jacobs by one.
Well, this is really not a WW1 _modeling_ comment but I would like
to follow up on this a little. After reading the most recent issue
of 'Over the Front', I'm beginning to wonder whether _any_ of the
RFC/RAF victory figures can be relied upon or used for comparisons
with the 'aces' of other nations, particularly the Germans, at all.

There are three rather provocative articles in this issue. The first
is a transcript of an address given by Stewart Taylor to the Aviation
Research Panel at6 the National Archives of Canada on 5/14/94.
In his talk, Mr. Taylor decries the general mixing of fact and myth
in WW1 aviation research and the fact that many crucial documents
of the era are missing or unavailable. He kinda hints at, but doesn't
actually come right out and say, that many of the alleged exploits
of the RAF/RFC 'aces' may be more the result of propaganda generated
for the 'home front' morale than actual fact. Two quotes are

"No one know if Bishop took off with a patrol and then did his own
solo mission, or was legitimately up alone and far out of sight of
other 60 sqdn Nieuports when he made so many of his claims."

"There are no 74 sqdn record books or war diary in existence prior
to 11 November, 1918. One can only wonder why these well-publicized,
but often overrated squadrons lack extant official documentation."

The second article is a research project by Phillip Markham where
he attempted to document the June 2, 1917 aerodrome attack for which
Billy Bishop won his VC. Basically, Markham was unable to uncover
absolutely _no_ contemporary documentation, either British or German,
except Bishop's own unsubstantiated report that such an attack ever
occurred. Markham kinda tiptoes up to the line of accusing Bishop
(or someone) of concocting the entire incident, pointing out several
apparent inconsistancies in Bishop's story, the total lack of
German supporting documents where such documents should exist, and
that the surviving German documents are indicative ('though not
conclusive) that _no_ attack on _any_ German aerodrome occured on the
morning of 2 June, 1917. But in the end, he tiptoes back, and only
draws the conclusions:

Only Bishop's own combat report supports the attack in British records.

German records do not record any aerodrome attacks, any aircraft loses
by their Jastas or or any Jasta aircrew being killed, wounded or injuried
on 2 June, 1917 in the area of Bishop's operations.

No aerodrome can be identified which matches Bishop's description of
the aerodrome he attacked.

Bishop's Nieuport had sufficient endurance to perform the flight he

He also finds it kinda strange that Bishop's VC was, apparently, the
_only_ VC awarded during the entire 1914-18 war soley on the
uncorroborated statement of the recipient.

The final article is a letter to the editor by Patrick Kennedy who does
absolutely no tiptoeing at all. Basically, Kennedy claims that the
RFC/RAF system was such as to condone and even encourage overclaims
of aerial victories by RFC/RAF pilots - that RFC/RAF claims were
wildly exaggerated and that the system encouraged, even demanded, over-
claims by 'self-promoting' pilots. His arguments are more lengthy than
can be conveniently summarized but his conclusion is fairly to the point:
"With the degree of overclaiming, it is nonsense to be writing about
53, 45, (or any such figure) victory aces when the real scores were
probably, even when shared, about 20% of these claims." Kennedy manages
to get in his own dig at Bishop, as well, stating, "I now understand
how Bishop 'won' his VC."

Well, I throw this out for your consideration and thought. I'd throughly
recommend this particular issue of OtF for those who have more than
casual interest in th 1914-18 air war. I've always been sceptical, myself,
of those RFC/RAF OOC victories and I was aware of the British practice
of often awarding a victory to each pilot involved in aerial combat
even if only a single enemy aircraft was downed. But these three folks
seem to be going further than that and suggesting that the system itself
encouraged pilots to actually 'make up' aerial victories and that there
were many pilots more than willing to accept the invitation for their
own personal advancement.

Cheers, Bill

Bill Shatzer - (soon to be
-or- -