The Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army which had been formed by George V in April 1912 and its motto was Per ardua ad astra - Through Adversity to the Stars which is still the motto of the Royal Air Force.
Bloody April is the term loosely given to the British air support operations during the Battle of Arras in 1917, during which heavy casualties were suffered by the Royal Flying Corps by the German Lufstreitkrafte. The differences in technological and training between the two countries resulted in British losses being almost four times greater than their opponents and resulted, not just in loss of life, but also in a decline in morale.
|© IWM (Art.IWM PST 0553)|
Military aviation was still relatively new and untested and British pilot training was sporadic, badly organised and inconsistent and due to heavy losses pilots received little preparation before being subjected to ferocious air bombardment.
...the worst carnage was amongst the new pilots – many of whom lasted just a day or two...
To support the Battle of Arras in 1917, the RFC deployed 25 squadrons around 365 aircraft. During this time the losses were great with 245 aircraft and 211 crew killed or missing and 108 as prisoners of war. The Germans lost just 66 aircraft.
Royal Flying Squad Western Front
|© IWM (Q 12049)|
However, by the summer of 1917 the introduction of more technically advanced aircraft like the SE5, Sopwith Camels and the Bristol Fighters ensured that losses fell and the damage inflicted on the enemy increased.
Listen to Podcast 28 : War in the Air (IWM)
Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a aircraft of No. 85 Squadron at St Omer aerodrome, 21 June 1918
|© IWM (Q 12051)|
As always, I am indebted to the Imperial War Museum for the chance to read the personal accounts of WW1 Airmen and for the opportunity to share these pertinent photographs taken at the time by WW1 photographers.