Bravest of the Brave


Cool in a crisis and courageous in the face of mortal danger, pilot Tom Mottershead battled to save his observer’s life in an aeronautical ‘mission impossible’ 102 years ago. Now, as his home town salutes his heroic sacrifice, Steve Snelling charts the remarkable record of the only non-commissioned airman to earn the Victoria Cross during the First World War.


The mission was simple enough, in theory. In the context of air operations over the Western Front it might even have been considered routine. A pair of Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2ds – more commonly known as ‘Fees’ or ‘pushers’ – were to leave the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) base at Clairmarais around noon to patrol over one of the most fiercely contested sectors in the Ypres Salient.

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