From the bizarre to the brilliant


The contributions of the first Australian squadron to serve above the Western Front led to the highest praise, but began with a very peculiar episode.

Lieutenant Sandy piloted the ‘Ghost Plane’ that flew unmolested for 50 miles with him dead at the controls

On December 17, 1917, came a remarkable incident standing out from the many bizarre events during the battle for supremacy above the Western Front.

Lieutenant James Sandy and Sergeant Henry Hughes were flying their RE.8 reconnaissance/ bomber, A3816, as they spotted for the howitzers of the 151st Siege Battery. Directing artillery fire on targets between Deûlémont and Armentières, their wireless transmissions ceased abruptly at 1452hrs. That something had gone wrong was obvious to those on the ground listening for their callouts and corrections – but they could scarcely imagine the reality.

Sandy and Hughes had been attacked by Albatros D.V fighters and in the dogfight turned the tide on Leutnant Rudolf Clauss of Jasta 29, flying D.V 5390/1. Clauss force-landed in British lines and his machine was captured. It was one up for the Australians, but fire from their other aggressors hit hard.

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