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Hugh Granville-White

Chris “Hoppy” GW writes:

I mentioned that my father (Hugh G White) had been on 4 Sqn for a month in 1922. I have copied below my notes on this period based on his photo albums and log books, together with a copy of a letter he wrote in 1966 in answer to a researcher. You are welcome to add any of this to the 4 Sqn website if you think it would fit in.

He had flown FE2B and FE2D in WW1 for a year during 1916-17 on 20 Sqn as an 18-year old, becoming acting Flt Cdr as he turned 19. He was later a Flt Cdr on 29 Sqn, initially flying the outdated Nieuport Scout until replaced by the excellent SE5a – but then a mid-air collision in 1918 with a German Pfalz during combat. The German aircraft crashed and the pilot killed and Hugh crash-landed between our lines of trenches. For a few months in 1919 aged 20 he was OC 64 Sqn in France (SE5a and an acquired Fokker DVII biplane) and then OC 29 Sqn in Germany France (SE5a and an acquired Rumpler biplane), before the big draw-down when many squadrons were disbanded and he reverted to his new RAF rank of Fg Off. He spent much of the 1920s as a Bristol Fighter flight commander at Old Sarum and 5 years in India with 28 Sqn. He retired as an Air Vice-Marshal in 1954 and died in 1983 aged 85.

In 1979 when he was aged 81 I persuaded him to write up his time during WW1 and I have just about finished writing up the follow-on years 1920-1983 from his log books and detailed photo records. This covers his brief time with 4 Sqn.

Hugh Granville-White

In the years after the First World War Hugh’s RAF career had two main threads running through it. His flying career was mainly involved with Army Co-operation flying the Bristol Fighter and later the Westland Wallace, while the direction of his overall career moved progressively into the engineering sphere.

But it was the Bristol Fighter which played an increasing part in his life for much of the 1920s. On 1st October 1921 he was on the first course at the School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on the edge of the Salisbury Plain. Although Hugh had already flown the Bristol Fighter on occasions in previous years, this marked the beginning of seven continuous years flying this aircraft type.

The prime task of the Army Co-operation course was to train and continue developing efficient air-to-ground procedures and communication, under operational conditions, between army units on the ground and the crews of the aircraft supporting them. The tasks included spotting fall of shot for the artillery, bombing and gunnery, and various forms of communication between land and air. Communication was achieved by a mix of aircrew recording and de-coding messages displayed on the ground using Popham Panels; message-dropping in weighted bags and message pick-up using a hook beneath the aircraft to pick up a bag on a line slung between two poles fixed in the ground (or sometimes rifles stuck in the ground by their bayonets); and developing the new wireless-telephony (W/T).

The flying activities during this 5-month course involved RAF aircraft operating with Army units on the ground and Army officers being given flying experience to gain a good understanding of the issues from an air perspective.

Hugh GW

No 4 Sqn Farnborough Apr-May 1922. Hugh (third from left) and F/O Pratt (left of picture) with their pipes.

Following the course at Old Sarum Hugh was posted as a flight commander on No 4 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at Farnborough from 15 Mar to 17Apr during which month he flew 32 times, as he recorded some 50 years later in a letter to a researcher looking into the history of No 4 (AC) Squadron. After this short period on 4 Sqn he was on the flying staff of the School of Army Cooperation at Old Sarum until he was posted to 28 Sqn in India as a flight commander 1924-8, based successively at Peshawar, Quetta and Ambala.

Hugh GW

Hugh in front cockpit with F/O Pratt in rear cockpit airborne in a Bristol Fighter while looking for a landing ground near Elstead (Near Farnham) 25 April 1922.

Hugh GW

Looking aft from Bristol Fighter, Old Sarum June 1922

Of his time on 4 Sqn he wrote: “After attending the 1st Army Co-op course at the School of Army Co-op at Old Sarum (5 months course), I joined No 4 Squadron as a Flight Commander and was detailed with my flight to co-operate with the local Brigade Commander and his men and be bosom pals. But all I got were blank refusals to co-operate in any way at all coupled with complaints about breaking his men’s bayonets trying to pick up messages with our hooks from ropes strung between rifles stuck in the ground by their tooth picks [bayonets].

“Also, refusal to allow any other or more enlightened demonstrations of means of communication between Air and Ground and vice-versa. And anyway, he said his Brigade was engaged on its Annual Musketry. Plus preparations for inspection by H.M. King George V (after he had done us on 20.5.22) and during which I not only took an Air Photo of his arrival for giving to him shortly after, but also shook hands with him and talked to him in front of my aircraft, and then led a mock bomb raid for H.M.’s benefit with flour bags thrown out by our observers who were told to simulate the real thing.

“I see I took quite a lot of Army types into the air (including a Brazilian Major General Fernardnez) while with 4 Squadron. Also flew to Netheravon on 2 separate occasions to act as a Member at a couple of Courts Martial. All of which is not very exciting, but perhaps somewhat different from life in the RAF today.”

Hugh GW

Looking back over Hugh’s shoulder.

[Ed: Thanks, Hoppy, for this addition to our history section!]

Hoppy again:

There were several former colleagues there (105th, 11 Nov 2017) from my time on 4 Sqn Harriers Wildenrath & Gutersloh which made it a really good reunion for catching up (Tony McK, Syd M, Steve C, Bruce M, Ross B, Glenn E, Mike W and Jim A). Also Pete G from my time with 4 Sqn Hunter FR10s in 1966.

Tony McK and I were flight commanders on 4 (he was Flt Cdr Attack and I was Flt Cdr Recce). Then in 1982 I took over from Tony as OR40(RAF) in MoD for the Harrier & Jaguar replacement work. Similarly a decade earlier I had taken over from Pete Gover in HQ 2ATAF in the 2-man international recce ops team at Rheindahlen.