Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Kings of the Air: Somme airfields

Following the list of Verdun airfields, here are the airfields in the French sector of the Somme battlefield in 1916 (on a Google map here):

Cachy: a Sixth Army airfield, housing the fighter squadrons of the future GC12, the Cigognes - N3 (16 April-28 January 1917), N26 (6 June-28 January 1917), N37 (July-25 January 1917), N62 (5 May-15 October), N65 (7 July-19 January 1917) and N103 (21 June-1 January 1917). Cachy was passed to the RFC in 1918. The field itself is to the north-west of the village, and extends to both sides of the A29/E44; the diagonal crop mark marks approximate location of the south-western boundary

Chipilly: this was primarily an RFC field, but it was also used by C43 (26 July-15 November) and N112 (25 September-December). The field is on the high ground north of the village, by the D1. The hangars were aligned along the north-south road.

La Croix-Comtesse: a small airfield created in 1916, housing F2 and F211 between 26 October and 15 November. There is nothing left of the 1916 field - it was abandoned after the war; but the site is now Albert airport, which was created as a strip in 1925-26 for the nearby new Potez aircraft works (later known as Albert-Meaulté or Albert-Bray).

Démuin: a I Colonial Army Corps field, housing C46 (26 July-November), C51 (2 May-24 August), F52 (5 June-27 July), C202, F203 and C207. The exact site is uncertain, but it was also known as Bois de Morgemont, which suggests it could be somewhere in the vicinity of Toronto Cemetery, on the high ground above the village, to the north.

Le Hamel: part of XX Corps, housing F24, F35 (15 June-10 August), F204 and F208. the exact site is uncertain.

Marcelcave: part of XXXV Corps, housing C10 (16 June-1 July), F60 (14-15 June), F201 (July-12 February 1917), F205 (June-February 1917) and F215. The field was to the west of the village, in the angle between the Rue de l'Hirondelle (D136) and the Rue Foiraine (D42).

Moreuil: the home of F54 (2 May-24 January 1917) (Sixth Army); C28 (12-15 July) (Fourth Army); F201 and 215 (June) (Second Army); F206 (5 September-22 November) and F218 (15 July-10 November) (Tenth Army). It waso briefly used by RFC squadrons in 1917 and in March 1918. The field is actually just outside Villiers-aux-Erables, to the west of the hamlet, on the Rue de Moreuil (D28).

Morlancourt: also known as Bois des Tailles and Treux. Stationed here were C10 (1 July-9 November), F24 (10 June-15 November), F33 (September-October), F35 (10-27 August), F72 (26 July-18 September), F204 (11 September-November). It was also used by the RFC in 1916-17.

Rouvrel: another Sixth Army field, housing C31, F32 (3-16 July) and C105. The field lies to the east of the village, on either side of the D134.
Villers Bretonneux: a third Sixth Army field, housing C11 (24 June-6 January 1917), C43 (23 June-26 July), C46 (28 June-26 July), F52 (27 July-30 December), F72, (16-19 July), C202 (26 July-6 January 1917), F215 (July-November). The field was also used by the RFC/RAF in 1917-18. It was originally located south of the village, west of the D23 (Rue de Démuin) and north of the modern-day A29/E44. In 1917, it was relocated to the east of the village, on the south side of the D1029 and to the east of the Chaussée du Val de Somme

Supporting the front-line squadrons were two Aviation Parks, 2 and 102, based at Saint-Fuscien. The former looked after the squadrons at Cachy, Rouvrel and Villers-Bretonneux; the latter, the squadrons at Démuin, Hamel, Marcelcave and Moreuil. Saint-Fuscien airfield is north of the actual village, and is positioned to the north-east of the junction of the A29/E44 and the D7. After the war, it became a private airfield under the name Amiens-Montjoie. There was a little military activity here during the Second World War, but the field subsequently fell into disuse, and has been returned to agriculture.

In addition to the heavier-than-air squadrons, Sixth Army also included the following balloon companies: 24, 39, 50, 51, 55, 59, 62, 68, 69, 75, 76, 80, 86 and 88. Of these 39 and 55 were attached directly to Army HQ; attached to XX Corps were 50 (heavy artillery), 39 and 68; to I Colonial Corps were 24, 59, 69 and 76; amongst those attached to XXXV Corps was 80 Company. Some of the companies serving with Tenth Army also spotted for Sixth Army units: 49, 63, 84 and 91.

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