First Ever Bombing Mission in the World
Anyone interested in WW1 aviation would know of the extraordinary adventures and inventiveness of Wing Commander Louis Strange DSO, OBE, MC, DFC and Bar, a man who served in the RFC/RAF in both world wars with great distinction. However, few would be aware that in his early air force years, Louis invented more than a fixed pole mounting for a Lewis machine gun. Below is a photograph of the BE2c (Serial 1748) that the newly promoted Captain Strange flew for two months after he was posted to 6 Squadron at Abeele as a flight commander in February 1915. It was to this BE2c he added a rudimentary bomb rack of his own design and flew solo (a dangerous but necessary requirement to compensate for the weight of the four 20 lb bombs attached beneath the aircraft) to Courtrai station on the evening of the 10th March 1915. His mission was to bomb a troop train full of soldiers on their way to reinforce the German defences at the village of Neuve-Chapelle. To do this, Louis had first to negotiate a path through the German anti-aircraft guns defending the station before descending to a height of 150 feet in order to silence the sentries with a well-aimed hand grenade. He then dropped his bombs on the train and station buildings, causing 75 casualties and putting Courtrai station out of action for three days. This dangerous but successful mission earned Louis Strange a Military Cross and was later acknowledged as being the first pre-planned bombing mission ever carried out by the Royal Flying Corps – another ‘first’ for 6 Squadron.