The Great War VCs

Just shy of 20 talented, brave and – on occasion – lucky pilots received Britain’s most prestigious award for valour in the face of the enemy during World War One. This is the story of those gallant airmen.

Bravery Over the Western Front

Following on from Lieutenant William Rhodes-Moorhouse (see page 6), a further 18 airmen would be awarded the Victoria Cross before the Great War ended on November 11, 1918.

The first of these was Reginald Alexander John Warneford, who was born in Bengal, India on October 15, 1891 as the son of a British civil engineer. He was trained, variously, in England and India but at the age of 13 began an apprenticeship with the Merchant Marines before joining the British-India Steam Navigation Company.

Warneford was in Canada when war broke out in Europe and he immediately sailed for England and volunteered for the Army’s ‘2nd Sportsman’s Battalion.’ However, within a month he applied to transfer to the Navy with a view to training to be a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He started flying at Hendon aerodrome near London before moving to Upavon, Wiltshire where he qualified on February 25, 1915 and was promoted to Flight Sub-lieutenant.

Warneford’s first posting was …

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