II (AC) Squadron History WWI
History - World War I
No II Squadron Royal Flying Corps, was formed on 13 May 1912 at Farnborough just one month after the Royal Flying Corps itself was created. The Squadron, along with No 3 Squadron, had the distinction of being the first fixed-wing flying squadrons to be created in the world (No 1 Squadron flew balloons), thus the precedence was set for II (AC) Squadron to establish a number of firsts throughout its history.
Using a mixture of BE, Maurice Farman, Breguet and Cody machines, the Squadron's first commanding officer, Major C J Burke, spent the first 2 years training the Squadron in its role of reconnaissance, a role which the Squadron has maintained to the present day. After a good performance in Irish maneuvers that took place in 1913, the Squadron was one of 4 ordered to fly to France at the outbreak of War in 1914. Lieutenant H D Harvey-Kelly scored 2 firsts for the Squadron when he became the first man to land a RFC machine in France and then later, in the same month, he obtained the RFC's first aerial victory in forcing down an enemy aircraft.
Initially the Squadron was tasked with reconnaissance duties including missions during the battle of Neuve Chapelle where cameras were used for the first time to record enemy trenches. It was not long, however, before the importance of bombing was realised. One of these bombing missions was carried out on 26 April 1915 by Second Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse. Hitting his objective, a railway junction at Courtrai, with a 100lb bomb, Rhodes-Moorhouse came under heavy fire and was badly wounded. Despite his serious injuries he managed to pilot his plane back to base and insisted on giving a full report before going to hospital. Unfortunately he died from his wounds the following day but for his gallantry and courage was awarded a posthumous VC, the first to be gained by the RFC.
The Squadron continued primarily in the reconnaissance role in close co-ordination with the Army and soon gained a high reputation. In 1918 the Squadron was to record its second VC, this time through a Second Lieutenant A A McLeod. Whilst on a mission, McLeod's Armstrong Whitworth FK8 was attacked by 8 enemy aircraft, but, by skillful maneuvering, he enabled his observer, Lieutenant A W Hammond, to shoot down 3 of the enemy. During the fight the aircraft's petrol was set alight and forced McLeod and Hammond - although slightly wounded - to stand on the lower wing, side slipping the aircraft to keep the flames away in order to fly the machine and enable Hammond to shoot another enemy aircraft down. The FK8 aircraft inevitably crashed into no-man's land badly injuring the observer. However, McLeod unselfishly dragged the observer back to friendly lines where McLeod was wounded further by a bomb. McLeod recovered from his wounds and was awarded the VC for his heroic deeds.
On the 1st of April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Air Force and in mid 1918 saw the squadron move to Belgium.