Lieutenant George Robert Craig M.C.
44 Squadron

In 1998 I commenced research into my Uncle's death, which occurred in August 1917.  He was killed while flying in the Royal Flying Corps.
He was a decorated soldier but met his demise practising aerobatic fighting maneuvers in a Sopwith Camel, while serving with No. 44 Squadron, a home defense squadron based at Hainault farm aerodrome in Essex.

He was the first airman killed in a flying accident serving with No. 44 Sqn. at Hainault Farm.

I have put together this web site with the help of my son and I hope you find the information about my Uncle, his colleagues and Hainault farm interesting.  If you are able to add any information, have any questions or comments please contact me: .

Peter Craig

 

George Craig was born in 1897 at Wolsingham, County Durham. He was the eldest son of a doctor.  He had two brothers, one a physician, and the other an engineer.  

George enlisted in the army at Manchester in the Royal Fusiliers Public Schools Battalions in 1914. He was formally inducted at Epsom and was posted to the 20th Service Battalion.  In 1915 he was appointed to a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Lancashire regiment. After training he was then posted to France. There is no official record of where in France he served, although it is believed it was on the Somme front. At that point in his career he was attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers. In June 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry.  

    The award was announced in the London Gazette, July 1916 as follows:  

 "His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to confer the Military Cross on temp. 2nd Lieutenant George Robert Craig in recognition of his gallantry and devotion to duty in the field. With a small patrol of one N.C.O. and four men he dispersed a strong enemy patrol, killing the leader. On another occasion, during a raid on the enemy trenches, he found the enemy's wire uncut, and, after sending his party back, remained with two men and cut a sufficient passage."
View his Medal Entitlement Card

Interestingly, on the same page was the announcement of the award of the M.C. to 2nd Lt. Albert Ball for conspicuous skill and gallantry.

 



Royal Flying Corps

In 1916 Uncle George was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps with the temporary rank of 2nd Lieutenant. His first posting was to No. 2 School of Aeronautics at Oxford.  He then trained in No. 5 Reserve Sqn. at Thetford, No. 27 Reserve Sqn. at the Flying Training School at Gosport in Hampshire, and No. 16 Reserve Sqn. at Beaulieu, also in Hampshire.

Bramham Moor
His first active posting was to No, 33 Sqn. (Home Defense) at Bramham Moor, Yorkshire, flying Fe2b's (Farman Experimental 2b) and c's

 

The F.E.2b was a pusher configuration fighter and later a bomber [RAF photo]

 

Sutton Farm
He was then posted to No. 39 Sqn. (Home Defense) at Suttons Farm near London, flying Be 12's (Bleriot Experimental 12) and Sopwith 1 Strutters. 

 

The B.E.12A was essentially a single seat fighter variant of the original B.E.2 design - (IWM Photo) [IWM Photo]
 

Sopwith 1 Strutter

 

Hainault Farm
Squadrons were tasked to protect England and particularly London from the threatened Zeppelin and Gotha raids. No. 39 Sqn. flying Sopwith 1 Strutters, formed the core, with personnel from other units, of the new No. 44 Sqn. at nearby Hainault Farm aerodrome in Essex and equipped with the new Sopwith Camel fighter. This fighter was one of the most successful planes flown by any nation in the First World War. 1,294 enemy aircraft were destroyed by Camels from the time of their introduction in the early summer of 1917 until the Armistice on 11th November, 1918. No other single type of aircraft had anything like such a score in the war. However, it was difficult to master and no other type scared and killed so many pupil pilots or was so loved and venerated by those who mastered it.

Some of the camels were converted for night fighter use.  They were often referred to as Sopwith "Comics". The guns were mounted above the upper wing centre section each attached to a separate Foster rail-mounting.  This permitted the pilot to fire upwards at an angle of 45 or directly forward above the upper wing. The cockpit was relocated back in line with the lower wings trailing edge and the main petrol tank was repositioned in front of the cockpit under the centre wing section.  Some had a headrest added to the rear of the cockpit coaming.  By moving the cockpit back the pilot was given ease of manipulation of the twin Lewis gun mountings. It is noted that not many Camels were in fact so modified.

 

The Sopwith Camel


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