Souvenir sportif: Henri Dumas at the Dardanelles

In 1920, French aviation weekly La Vie aérienne printed a history of the air war over the Dardanelles, Serbia and Salonika. The first part comprised a series of letters written from Tenedos (Bozcaada) by sergent pilote Henri Dumas of Escadrille MF 98 T.1 Full of colour and feeling, they give a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Allied airmen at Gallipoli. For that reason I have attempted to translate the letters into English. Also of interest are the photographs that accompanied the text in La Vie aérienne. They offer rare views of aviation at the Dardanelles.

Our man – Henri Honoré Marie Dumas – was born 15 November 1885 at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in south-east France. He learnt to fly with Marc Pourpe, stunt flyer and pioneer of French aviation. Dumas took his certificate (brevet number 1,069) on 22 October 1912 flying a Blériot. When war broke out, Dumas volunteered for the Aéronautique Militaire, joining 1er groupe d’aérostation at Versailles from 6 August 1914. Promoted sergent on 12 December 1914, he was despatched with Escadrille MF 98 T to the Dardanelles in March 1915.

L'Aérophile, 1 November 1915.

At Gallipoli, the French operated from Tenedos alongside No. 3 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service. They also shared with the British the forward air base at Helles, located alongside the headquarters of Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston at Hill 138.

The officers commanding the French and British squadrons, Antoine Césari and Charles Rumney Samson, were of a type – bold and brave and determined to carry the attack to the enemy at every opportunity. Mutual respect lead to close cooperation. “The only thing they lacked,” wrote Samson, “were proper bombs.”2

The letters of Henri Dumas cover the Gallipoli air war from the early days of the military campaign to the Suvla landings. He confirms the entente cordiale expressed in the memoirs of Samson and Squadron Commander Richard Bell Davies while adding much of interest to those researching operations over the peninsula.

There is an Australian connection, if only slightly! At least two officers of the Australian Imperial Force flew as military observers from the air bases at Tenedos and Helles alongside the French. Major Charles George Norman Miles, Australian Field Artillery, went up on at least six occasions with 3 Squadron RNAS. On 30 June he was spotting for the 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, observing the Olive Grove batteries, and, on 12 July, over Helles, he directed an artillery battery during an attack by two brigades. Captain Arthur Harold Keith Jopp, adjutant, 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, was attached to Samson’s squadron from 16 July to end December 1915, making 69 service flights. Jopp would have been well acquainted with the aerodrome at Tenedos and the men of Escadrille MF 98 T.

For their story, we turn now to sergent pilote Henri Dumas.


Tenedos, 1 June 1915.

“We left Alexandria at the end of April after three weeks of idle boredom and the stupid distractions common to soldiers at large in a big city. For 15 days, making 7 knots, we had been lugged by sea from Marseilles to Alexandria, then eight days lying in the roads. Finally we were able to disembark for Ramleh camp. Then, another embarkation, another eight days at sea. Anchored off Tenedos. Landing again, after fifteen more days aboard. We all have our sea legs now!

“Our camp here faces the British base which is made up of six canvas hangars. As for ours, it is made up of boxes and tents. Me, I live in one of my aeroplane’s packing crates from which I have fashioned a magnificent villa, complete with all the modern comforts!

The French and British airfield at Tenedos. The six British canvas hangars are on top right.

“We are seven pilots, plus the squadron commander, Captain Césari, one of the heroes of Frescaty, the first aerial bombing raid.3 We are equipped with Maurice Farman aeroplanes with 80 horsepower Renault engines. We fly in winds of 25 to 30 kilometres per hour, but they are very regular so we are not too much troubled.

“A large number of mechanics, an aircraft park and 125 mules4 complete the expedition. We have each a horse, but not a single motor car.

“Our camp is some hundred metres from the sea. The island is very picturesque. The only town, Tenedos, where a thousand or so Greeks live, is 12 kilometers from us. We rarely visit.

“Our most notable work so far has been in aerial photography. Good results have been obtained thanks to the clear atmosphere. The British greatly appreciate our specialty and are beginning to do this work themselves. I have just installed a camera5 on my new biplane.

“I say ‘my new biplane’ because the Turks destroyed my old machine five days ago when I was landing at Cape Helles. Two shells fell right on the machine. A few stones and clods of earth in the face, that was my lot, but the machine was mincemeat.6

A Turkish shell exploding at Cape Helles, probably on or near the aerodrome, during a bombardment carried out by the Turks on 21 June 1915.

“I am assigned to the artillery, I also make reconnaissance flights and hunt for submarines at sea with the torpedo boat destroyers. This is an exciting sport and you are not bored even for a minute though you search the sea for hours, 50 to 100 meters above the water. You are looking for the tell-tale wake that has you calling in the destroyers by wireless. When one of these pirates is sighted, the signal triggers a desperate pursuit by fifteen to twenty destroyers who look to surround the submarine. Alas! It dives and slowly disappears.

“Twice I have taken part in these hunts. On each occasion it proved fatal for a British battleship. The first time was the day the torpedo missed Swiftsure but hit Triumph, the second the morning – I saw it with my own eyes – Majestic was torpedoed and sunk amidst 20 ships. We found but lost the fiend twice that day: by a feint he entered the straits before fleeing to his home port Dedeagatch amongst the Bulgarians. The Germans also sank the English battleship Goliath from which not a man could be saved.

“It is the most frightful spectacle I have ever seen, the sea swallowing these huge ships in just a few minutes – five minutes for Majestic. It is so rapid, so quick, that one can scarcely comprehend the tragedy. A periscope emerges from the wake – is it French, English or Turk? Now a plume of water rises 500 metres against the battleship which shudders then rolls over, sinking with her keel in the air. It’s over. In a sea covered with grease and oil, small groups of screaming men struggle for something to hold onto. In a few moments there is nothing left of a battleship of 18,000 tonnes except for a part of its hull that slowly sinks.

The wrecked hull of HMS Majestic, some 600 metres off Cape Helles.

“Our submarines have already begun to avenge the loss of these three battleships. They sank three Turkish ships in the Sea of Marmara at Constantinople and they mean to continue.

“Since our arrival, the Turkish aeroplanes have been in hiding, we don’t see them anymore. They used to be over the sea every day, now they have become invisible.

“The savagery of the war here, on land and sea, is at odds with its beautiful setting – blue skies and calm, clear seas. The Turks martyr all prisoners, hang the officers and kill our envoys and nurses. They behave like real Boches. The day before yesterday they shot six of our men who went under a flag of truce to bury the dead from a night attack. They were tortured before they were killed and we found them in a pitiful state. We immediately began reprisals!

“Since my arrival the guns have not stopped. It is trench warfare on a narrow front, five kilometres by eight, pounded by 120 and 155 millimetre heavy artillery as well as naval guns. From morning to night, what a din! Our foothold is growing, and we are finding some breathing room, but at the beginning our rear, including our airfield, was under the fire of Turkish guns. Everyone lives underground and we are safer in the air than on land.

“There they don’t bother us too much, just a few anti-aircraft batteries at Krithia, Achi Baba and Nagara that shoot poorly and do little harm. Generally our altitude over the enemy is between 1,200 and 1,600 metres. 2,000 metres is an unnecessary precaution, it only makes for a very cold flight.

“We fly 35 kilometers over sea to reach Cape Helles from the base at Tenedos. The contrast between the two is not the only unusual aspect of this war. We can barely hear the guns from our quiet little corner, while in that furnace the rumbling of big guns, the crackling of rifle fire and the thousand sounds of war never cease.

“The journey back is itself a repose, so beautiful is the setting at twilight, the islands gilded by the last rays of the sun as it sinks into the sea. This is the only distraction of which we never tire, living the life of Robinson Crusoe.”

A view of W Beach (Lancashire Landing) taken from Henri Dumas' Farman.

Tenedos, 3 July.

“Every day the same. Trench warfare, grenades and poison gas. We’ve made some important gains recently and are making real progress. Our troops are very confident. The Turks are difficult adversaries. The day before yesterday we lost General Gouraud, wounded and evacuated. It is a great pity for us. He was a great general, beloved and admired by all for his leadership and foresight. A shell blasted him against a wall. He has a broken arm and shoulder and many bruises. We are all saddened!

“He will be replaced by General Bailloud whose son, an aviator, was killed at the beginning of the campaign. He understands the air service and knows what he can expect of us. General Gouraud appreciated our work and the order of the day for 21 June noted the part our squadron played in the attack on Kereves Dere. With six pilots, we flew nearly 60 hours. For my part, I did nine hours and I was literally exhausted. Last week I was named in the army’s order of the day.7

“I am very well, but the weather is extremely hot and the work very tiring.

“I do a lot of bombing with the new British 75 kilogram bombs. I carry two of them. They do a good job. I drop these at night on those accomodating Turks who have the unfortunate habit of illuminating their towns and camps.

“Last week, on the stroke of midnight, six of us set off, each aeroplane carrying about 80 kilos of bombs to drop on the Turkish headquarters at Soghanli Dere. The return over the sea was fairy-tale stuff. I had climbed high, and, as I descended towards the island, I could see below me the electric lights from my comrades on the ground and the barely visible shape of the wings from those coming in below me.

“The British are interested in these group outings and soon we’ll make a grand excursion together. We will be 20 strong as we now have 14 French pilots, 11 flying Farmans and three flying the Morane-Saulnier parasol-wing scouts.

“Our life here has become even more monotonous as we no longer land like before on Cape Helles. Our machines attracted Turkish fire.8 The number of flights we do has increased somewhat.

“This morning I had to make an emergency landing on Rabbit Island, a rocky outcrop of a few hundred meters, half-way to Gallipoli. I quickly repaired the machine, scoffed down two eggs served by the only woman, I think, of this sorry stay and came back here.

“It is 35° centigrade in the shade and if it were not for the sea breeze we could not bear the climate.

But in war, we do everything and don’t even think of complaining. Things would really boil over if we were civilians!”

Henri Dumas at Tenedos. These might be the French shells of 90 and 155 calibre described by Dumas. Revue de l'armée de l'air, 1937. Photo courtesy David Méchin.

6 July.

“I am finishing my letter interrupted three days ago, work having prevented me from completing it earlier. I have some interesting things to tell you.

“We had a rather serious accident. Some of my comrades had mounted bomb racks on their machines for shells of 90 calibre.9 These were fastened in pairs horizontally by means of cables and hooks. The day before yesterday, in the evening, one of them returned with two bombs caught in the stays and the other two balancing half-unhooked. Fearing they would explode on landing, the pilot came down on the sea and got out without incident. That night the mechanics sent to bring back the machine caused the bombs to explode. One died within a few hours, two others were seriously injured. We buried the poor victim yesterday.10 He did not even have the satisfaction of dying in combat.

“For the past two or three days, the German planes have timidly shown themselves, making some small, ineffective bombing raids, which we avenged yesterday as a group.

“Escorted by our Morane-Saulnier parasols and two Sopwith biplanes, we left at 6am with 16 aircraft, four British, for the Chanak aerodrome which we bombed heavily. The success of the raid was due to one of the British airmen, flying a BE, who dropped two 75 kilogram bombs right in the middle of the biggest hangar.11 We could see it burning throughout the return journey. Before coming in, the whole squadron flew single file over headquarters, and the birds arrived at their nest without incident. The Germans must be vexed!

“On the 4th, a Turkish submarine that we had reported in our waters the day before sank the Carthage. Too late, as they had just landed 1,500 men and 40,000 shells of all calibres. I was in the air at that time, at the cool hour – noon! – but it was so quickly done that I saw only the bubbling of the water and the struggling of the men amidst debris of all kinds that marked where the ship sank. Two days before, Carthage had carried General Gouraud to Lemnos. There were few casualties and the loss of the ship is of little importance.

“Accompanying my letter is a photograph of the bombs used by the British: the one in the middle weighs 135 kilograms – a world record… the world we’re destroying… – the small one weighs 15 kilos, the medium-sized one 75 kilos. That is the one I use. The head of the British squadron is Commander Samson, who has made very fine aerial attacks in Europe, notably at night on Dusseldorf and Brussels. He has with him Lieutenant Marix, another of the heroes of Dusseldorf and other long-range bombing raids.

“So now you know of our life here, very monotonous, but not too bad. In spite of all that we lack, we’re ok and we begin the twelfth month of the war without too many troubles.”

The photograph described in Dumas’ letter.

Tenedos, 18 July.

“The war now is like that in France. Artillery fire, trench warfare, the occasional duel between a battleship and a Turkish battery, and that’s about all. We no longer see destroyers sunk, or attacks like that on Kum Kale where a colonial infantry regiment held for one whole night a Turkish division in check. The fighting never stops, but we’re bottled up on a narrow front. We don’t notice the incessant cannonade now, it is so familiar.

“Since our bombing of the Turks’ aerodrome at Chanak we have not seen any more Boche aeroplanes. We certainly taught them a lesson. The damage must have been considerable.

“We are still waiting for our first break having flown 1,600 hours – an average of 100 hours each, not a bad total. Our only losses came before the bombers arrived: two aeroplanes lost at sea, those of Seissel and Saint-André. The first stalled his engine and overshot the land, the second had a breakdown over the sea. Apart from these two accidents, two other biplanes were badly damaged by Turkish gunfire, the captain’s and my own, which was repaired.

“I do night bombing and these missions have sported me my best experiences as a pilot – the Marmara and Aegean seas lit by the full moon, and the coast laid out from Bulgaria as far as Syria. This is a sight at midnight that few have been lucky enough to see. Just for that pleasure do I take off again. It is not as dangerous as you might think, and mechanical problems apart, I prefer to fly over sea than land. We cannot get lost. The most remote islands like Lemnos and Samothrace are easily distinguished and on some nights even Mount Athos carves out its pointed silhouette on the horizon.

“Tenedos is a small black spot marked out easily by its two lighthouses. I worry more about missing the aerodrome at Buc than not finding our island in the middle of the night…

“A strange incident happened the other day. One of our British comrades went somewhat crazy giving us a spectacle unlike any airshow. He passed under the radio antenna, touched the ground behind the hangars, and then hopped over them, finally landing without much damage to his machine. He was immediately locked up. The passenger, on his first flight, was rather surprised!

“I had my hair cut with a lawnmower, fresh for my little glass of rum and the last of my cigarettes this morning. I still think of smoking all the time.”

Main square of the town at Tenedos.

Tenedos, 3 August.

“Here are the flying hours of the squadron for the month of July: Captain Césari, 33 hours, Second Lieutenant Saint-André 39, Second Lieutenant de Seissel 65, adjutant Brézillon 85, Sergeant Ducas 83, Sergeant Dumas 80, Sergeant Garsonnin 75, Sergeant de Saint-Pierre 75, Sergeant Dubois 70, Sergeant Lecompte 75. In two and a half months, I have used 5,300 litres of gasoline, 550 litres of oil and two tyres. My propeller has 200 hours flying time and is pitted and splintered.

“The Turks had the audacity to come here and bomb us three days ago, at 4 o’clock in the morning. I was sleeping the sleep of the just when an explosion dragged me from my bed. A seaplane was attacking us. Four bombs fell, without causing any damage, alongside the British hangars. Marix, on his Sopwith, leapt in pursuit of the impudent airman. Within a few minutes, Marix had gained enough height and the chase began, supported by a Morane-Saulnier. Meeting over Erenkoy, Marix machine-gunned the seaplane which dived to the sea and escaped with its injured observer. According to information that arrived this morning, the observer would have died soon after.12

“That same evening, we set out to make our reply, 10 machines with 90 and 155 calibre shells and British bombs. We meticulously hit all the buildings likely to house the seaplane. Dubois, one of my comrades, got a bull’s eye from 2,800 metres. I missed my target from 900 metres! We go again this evening. I spotted the shelter thanks to the clear traces made by the floats dragged across the sand.

“We have made some pretty good bombing raids lately. Our best marksman is Dubois, whose dreadful load seldom misses. The farms of Ali Bey and Suleiman Bey, with their gutted roofs and smoking walls, bear witness. If the headquarters staff who lodged there did not escape in time, they ought to have appreciated the skill and precision of my comrade. In any case, they will now be able to contemplate from their beds, if they have time to spare, the beautiful skies of the East so dear to Farrère and Loti13 but not to me.

“Last week I made one of my most interesting sorties. I had to spot the fleet onto the batteries on Achi Baba. These guns could be taken in enfilade from the sea.

“At 3 o’clock I met up with Suffren with whom I was operating and began signalling. Meanwhile, a large vessel14 brought an observation balloon that rose above a cruiser, communicating with it by telephone and signals, while a little later a seaplane using rockets spotted for a monitor whose 14 inch guns thundered in tight bursts. For two hours a deluge of shells fell on the Achi Baba positions. We could see wood and stone flying into the air, the fortifications getting the full weight of our big calibres. I was treated to a fireworks display like no other. Suffren fired salvo after salvo. When the long flames from her 305 mm guns announced another salvo, we almost always saw the explosion before we heard it. A good 15 kilometres was the range we fired from.

“I’m taking up this letter after an interruption of two days now. I made a very interesting attack with a fellow pilot the day before yesterday. On our way to try and destroy the Turkish seaplane at its new base, we came across a splendid supply column that we both thought to destroy. Distraught at seeing us dive on them, the transports scattered. A large group was caught in a bend on the road to Erenkoy and from just 800 meters I gave them two of the British bombs. A moment later I had the pleasure of seeing a good part of the transports blasted into the air. They would have been loaded with ammunition for the Intepe forts or the interior. For ten minutes the supply column disappeared beneath dust, earth and smoke. When I departed, the anti-aircraft batteries chose not to salute me. There was perfect calm, only the slap of some harmless, spent bullets.

“My compatriot had not wasted his time either, and finished the job quite nicely…

“Tonight I went for a lovely jaunt over Asia with a staff captain. It made a change from artillery spotting over Kereves Dere and raids on Maidos. The country is greener, cooler, very mountainous, with some sandy, meandering rivers. We came back through the straits at sunset. A wonderful show, always novel, that will be the only good memory of my stay here. A burning sun settling below violet clouds, every colour from mauve to blue to black over the sea from which the islands cut fantastic arabesques.

“It is an indescribable setting of which I never tire. I often prolong my nightly outings to take in this little show. Lemnos, Imbros and Samothrace, naturally, with Mount Athos in the far distance, and to the south Mytilene and Lesbos where we might perhaps have found the beautiful Greeks so much vaunted but never seen.

“On reflection I’ve written a lot but without telling you much of interest. It is because our life has become very monotonous. The daily duties vary little. We are waging war like civil servants. We go every day like an employee to his office – all has become quite routine, devoid of the unexpected. The aeroplane has replaced the commuter train, that’s all, and it brings us just as faithfully every night from the battlefield to our dismal home at Tenedos!”

The camps at W Beach (Lancashire Landing), photographed by Lt Saint-André.

Tenedos, 7 August.

“I open my letter, which was stagnating, to add a few lines. It will be a proper account this time and I can be very frank. Would you believe? Last night about 7.30pm I was brought down by a Turkish shell as I took a leisurely flight over their territory.

“I left Tenedos just before six o’clock with a staff officer who wanted to see the Asian coast and the interior of Asia Minor towards Ezine. I was at my ease, flying comfortably from this last place, when a bang snapped me from quiet contemplation. Archie burst nearby and the plane was hit. I turned around but before I had time to say a word, a terrible metallic clanking noise told me what had just happened – the crankcase was a spaghetti of connecting rods and crankshafts, etc. The machine lurched violently, recovered, and I found myself level, the propeller siezed, at a height of 1,800 metres above the Turk.

“The staff officer, not too calm, asked me what was I going to do. We have the wind against us and the coast is a good six kilometres away. I think we’ve had it. I descend towards the sea trying to lose as little height as possible. We’ll try to reach the beach and hope somone will notice our signal. But it looks grim!

“At 1,200 metres, I fall into a favorable current. In seconds, I sense our luck is changing. We’re gaining speed. I glide and soon we reach the sea. There are still about 8 kilometres before we make land. I slow our descent by impersonating the most unlikely dead leaf. The machine drags itself like greased paper through the wind. I pass the lighthouse. Well, that’s it, we’re saved. I ditch in the water in sight of Tenedos and wait patiently for help. We were seen. Within a quarter of an hour, a fishing vessel picks us up before we get too wet. We’ve come back some distance! Almost 15 kilometres in a glide, half of them below 1,200 metres and under intense fire from the Turks, furious at seeing their prey escape. I was glad, I can assure you, to shake out my wet boots on the deck while I watched, with little regret, my poor old bird, who had survived 200 hours in the air, sink below the surface.

“As you can see my campaign in the East almost ended prematurely yesterday. I would have seen Turkey for the last time!

“This little incident did not earn me much rest. This morning I’ve already got a new love, a 1915 model, and at 4 o’clock I took her to the Gulf of Saros where the battle had been raging since nightfall. We are advancing, they say, and we dare to dream this time it is true. Let’s hope so…”

It was on this hopeful note that the lively, colourful, interesting correspondence of my friend Henri Dumas was to end. This hero, who always had a light-hearted word in the most critical situations, an artistic joker who sometimes referred to his possible end in the passages that I marked in italics, was killed on 25 August 1915. He was going to write to me. He had already put the photographs in their envelope. Alas! This letter was sent to me by one of his comrades, with this note:

River Clyde at V Beach, Helles.

Tenedos, 26 August.

Sir, “Dumas has just died. Caught in a squall at 200 metres altitude between Tenedos and Cape Helles, 500 metres from the Rabbit Islands, the aeroplane fell into the sea where it floated for an hour and a half before it sank.

“He had Second Lieutenant Saint-André as his passenger. We were able to retrieve Dumas, his hands on the control lever, having struggled to the end. His body was slightly inclined to the right. His legs were caught in the floor of the cabin and the back of his seat bears the imprint of two blows which were undoubtedly caused by Saint-André, who was lost to the depths of the Aegean and could not be found. Dumas received a blow to the heart and cuts to the face. His limbs were broken and fractured in several places and his death must have been swift.

“I found in his cabin a letter intended for you, which you will find enclosed. You are the last person to whom he wrote. Besides, you are one of his friends and he spoke of you often.

“Sir, I grieve for the loss of our friend, and I send you my regards.”

G. BLOIS.

Thus ended the career of Dumas who, having chosen aviation in peacetime, became a remarkable pilot at war.

These moving reminiscences will have given the reader an idea of ​​the life of our pilots during the unfortunate campaign at the Dardanelles.


Henri Dumas. La Guerre aérienne illustrée, 8 March 1917.

Henri Dumas died on 25 August 1915. He is interred at the French military cemetery of Seddul-Bahr in grave number 4.

His name is inscribed (alongside his brother) on the commemorative plaque in the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.


Escadrille MF 98 T operated from Tenedos until the close of the military campaign. In early 1916, a detachment was sent to Mytilene for operations against Smyrna (İzmir), after which the squadron left the Dardanelles for Salonika and Serbia.


1 ‘LA GUERRE EN ORIENT’, La Vie Aérienne, 8 and 15 April 1920, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

2 Charles Rumney Samson, Fights and Flights (Nashville, Tenn. : Battery Press, 1990), p. 242.

3 On 14 August 1914, Lieutenant Antoine Césari and Corporal Roger Max Prudhommeaux flew the first aerial bombing raid by the French air force. They attacked the Zeppelin sheds at Frescaty near Metz.

4 The squadron war diary records the name of each mule! See Carnets de comptabilité en campagne de l’aéronautique militaire, Escadrille n°524, at Mémoire des hommes (http://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr).

5 The French text has cinéma aérien but a film camera seems unlikely. The squadron had however met with pioneering filmmaker Louis Lumière in Lyons for instruction in aerial photography prior to embarking for the Dardanelles.

6 The incident may be the one recounted by British intelligence officer Compton Mackenzie in Gallipoli Memories (pp. 153-154). “I got up and strolled about the aerodrome in pajamas… I found no sign of damage from the nocturnal bombardment except some fragments of boot, which I afterward learned were the remains of a new pair that Carter was looking forward to putting on this morning for the first time. We had breakfast in the mess tent without being disturbed by shells ; but just when we had lighted our pipes and were setting out for a certain place a real thumper came over from Asia and knocked a French biplane out, a useful first shot. It is bad enough to interfere with the night’s repose or the morning bath, but man has a first duty more intimate than sleep, oblations to make as well as ablutions, which to postpone or disturb touches sacrilege. We rushed to earth and telephoned the air people to take their supernal toys back to Tenedos so that we could make these oblations at leisure and with dignity. This, alas, we were not able to do, for nobody came to remove the aeroplanes till two hours had passed, and meanwhile the big Asiatic gun had been joined by a small one from Achi Baba.”

7 Possibly the following citation, although it dates after his letter. Dumas, sergent pilote a l’Esandrille 98 T : excellent pilote qui a fait preuve depuis le 15 mai d’une activité inlassable, exécutant plus de 50 reconnaissances dans des conditions atmosphériques souvent très défavorables. A exécuté de nombreux bombardements des camps ennemis en butte au tir des canons spéciaux. A recu plusieurs balles ou éclats d’obus dans son avion. (Ordre du 23 juillet 1915) Dumas, flight sergeant of Escadrille 98 T. An excellent and tireless pilot, who, since 15 May, has flown more than 50 reconnaisances, often in unfavourable flying conditions. Has conducted numerous bombardments of enemy camps under fire of [anti-aircraft?] guns. His aeroplane has been hit by groundfire and shrapnel on several occasions. “Tableau d’Honneur de l’AÉRONAUTIQUE MILITAIRE, Extraits Du Journal Officiel de La République Française.” l’Aérophile, November 1, 1915, p. 256.

8 As most of the aviation ground was under Ottoman observation, the aeroplanes drew heavy shelling upon themselves – and corps headquarters! – when using the airfield. In addition, the dusty strip proved detrimental to the engines. As a consequence, the airmen were ordered to cease operations from this aerodrome on 29 June 1915.

9 Early French bombs were artillery shells converted in the field to aeroplane ordnance. Those of 90 mm were 8 kg, while 155 mm shells were between 40 and 45 kg. They were charged with melinite or perchlorate. The French text names the type of bomb rack – lance-bombes d’Abrantès-Wœlfflé, Colin pour obus de 90 – but I have not found a reference to a manufacturer with this name. It is probably an invention of Michel Le Ray d’Abrantès, commanding officer of Escadrille MF 5 from 1913 to 1915, in association with sous lieutenant Louis Hubert Woelffle, owner of a building company and stationed in the main French military air park.

10 Private Paul Jean Marie Fontanon, 17 years of age, died of wounds 3 July 1915. Buried Tenedos, reinterred French national cemetery Seddul-Bahr, grave number 2220. Mentioned in despatches, 23 July 1915: “He volunteered for an extremely dangerous mission in which he was killed.”

11 The British pilot was Richard Bell Davies: “… by a terrific fluke I landed a 100-lb bomb right on a hangar. The French squadron was just behind me and saw the bomb burst, so my reputation as a bomb aimer soared with them.” Richard Bell Davies, Sailor in the Air : The Memoirs of Vice-Admiral Richard Bell Davies (London : Davies, 1967) p. 122.

12 “An enemy seaplane which, on 31st July, bombed Tenedos aerodrome, was chased, engaged by a British and a French aeroplane, and driven down on to the water at a point within the Straits where no hangar or base existed. It is claimed by the Turks that no injury to machine or passengers was occasioned, but that the occupants came down to avoid further combat.” ‘Report of the Committee Appointed to Investigate the Attacks Delivered on and the Enemy Defences of the Dardanelles Straits’ (London : Admiralty, 1921) p. 245.

13 French writers of the exotic east, Claude Farrère and Pierre Loti.

14 Probably the kite balloon ship Hector.


This article first published in the journal of the Australian Society of WW1 Aero Historians.

With thanks to Michael Ault, R. W. Filla, David Méchin and Steve Suddaby.