James McCudden part 04

 McCuddenMotoReve  J B McCudden VC by William Orpen  McCudden fitted the fourblade propeller of his SE 5a 8491 G

Note: McCuddenMotoReve // J B McCudden VC by William Orpen // McCudden fitted the fourblade propeller of his SE 5a 8491 G



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McCudden remained in England until July 1918 when he was given command of No. 60 Squadron RAF. He flew to Farnborough in a Vickers F.B.16 to collect his new Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a before returning to France to lead his new Squadron. On 3 July he flew back in this fighter and over his home in Kingston upon Thames, taking the aircraft to 17,000 feet and circling London for an hour. When he landed he made his last entry into his log book. His total flying time had reached 872 hours and 40 minutes.

On the morning of 9 July 1918 he travelled to the home of his fiancé, Miss Alex-Tweedie in Whitehall Court. Tweedie recalled their conversation revolved around his new posting and his book. He had delivered the manuscript to Mr Grey two days earlier and was expecting its publication. While there, McCudden promised to surpass von Richthofen who had been killed in action on 21 April 1918. In view of what happened to von Richthofen, and John McCudden, he promised that "I won't bustle, or do anything foolish like my brother." He then went next door and had breakfast with his sister Mary. Upon leaving, he fumbled around in his pocket and handed her a bulky envelope containing his Victoria Cross and other decorations. He took his leave of her and drove to Hounslow where he climbed into his S.E.5a (C1126). He took off shortly after 13:00. McCudden certainly stopped en route, as about six o'clock that afternoon he called the AOC No. 13 Wing, Patrick Playfair, to announce his imminent arrival at Boffles, where No. 60 Squadron was stationed.

McCudden set out across the English Channel. Unsure of the dispositions on the ground after the German advance he checked the airfield he suspected to be Boffles but found it empty. Flying in heavy mist he decided to head to Auxi-le-Château, France, to get directions from the RAF personnel stationed there. He approached Corporal W.H. Burdett and L. E Vallins of 52 Squadron. Burdett had served with McCudden in 3 Squadron back in 1915. Burdett did not recognise him in his flying gear. They marked his map and McCudden returned to his machine. Around 90 seconds after takeoff from Auxi-le-Château, the S.E.5a plunged into the ground. 8 Squadron's Corporal W.H. Howard was on the scene within minutes and fought through the fire to free McCudden who was lying next to one of the wings—he had not worn his safety belt. Burdett followed and recognised the pilot as soon as his headgear had been removed. He was taken to No. 21 Casualty clearing station and diagnosed with a fractured skull. He did not regain consciousness and died at 20:00.

Corporal Burdett later stated, "When McCudden took off he put the machine into a nearly vertical climb, seemed to do a half-roll and then nosed dived into a wood.....it was usual for scout pilots to perform some little stunt.....I think that is what he was doing." Witness Lieutenant L.M Fenton had a different view,"the aircraft took off into wind and at about 100 feet did a vertical turn and flew back across the aerodrome by the side of the wood. The engine appeared to be running badly. The pilot rolled the machine, which failed to straighten out, at approximately 200 feet. It crashed nose down into the wood." Lieutenant E.M Greenwood stated he thought the crash was the result of a failed aerobatic manoeuvre: "I was watching an S.E.5 flying over the aerodrome at about 200 feet, when it did one complete roll to the right, then dived steeply to the ground behind the trees." Lieutenant K.V King believed a similar thing: [It flew]"......very low over the aerodrome, going east towards the wood on the south-east side of the aerodrome. He had apparently been rolling. I saw him nose down and engine off entering the trees and immediately afterwards heard a crash." Lieutenant T.H Barry, though supports the notion that something was amiss with the engine:"I saw an S.E.5 flying from west to east across the aerodrome at 200–300 feet. The engine was firing irregularly. Just after crossing the end of the aerodrome the pilot did a sharp stalling turn. The nose dropped and it dived behind the trees. During this dive the noise of the engine ceased."

Usually reports were issued on any incident with every aircraft. On the date McCudden died, 29 such returns exist for S.E.5s but the report pertaining to his accident is not among them leaving the official cause of the crash unexplained. It is possible the engine failed due to a wrongly installed carburettor. However, there is some doubt as to whether a mechanical defect was the culprit. The witnesses reported the pilot was attempting low-level stunts, manifesting in several turns and rolls. Many years later other witnesses disputed the aircraft performed a roll, but all agreed the trouble began when the machine entered an attitude resembling a near-vertical turn.

McCudden's remains were subsequently buried at the nearby Wavans war cemetery in the Pas de Calais. McCudden's death occurred only two months after the death of German ace Manfred von Richthofen, whom some commented had been honoured with a longer and more elaborate funeral by the British. McCudden's wartime score was 57 victories included 19 captured, 27 and 1 shared destroyed, 8 and 2 shared "down out of control"—an official classification which still counted the claim as a victory.

Relics and Memorial

On the morning of 9 July, McCudden had handed his sister an envelope over breakfast, which was subsequently found to contain all of his medals. Today all of McCudden's medals including his Victoria Cross are displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham, Kent, alongside those of two of his brothers and his father. The original brass engraved grave plaque used, along with a wooden propeller, are also displayed. The shattered windscreen from McCudden's crashed S.E.5a is preserved in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. The museum's collections also include McCudden's uniform 'maternity jacket' and a half-length portrait of McCudden by William Orpen. In March 2009, McCudden and his contemporary Edward Mannock, were the subjects of the BBC Timewatch episode, WWI Aces Falling.

List of victories

A complete list of the 58 claims by McCudden and the 57 credited to him.

Victory No. Date Time Enemy Type Location Result Notes
1 6 September 1916 13:15 Two-seater Houthem-Gheluwe Crashed Unknown. But confirmed and witnessed by British ground forces.
2 26 January 1917 10:05 Two-seater Ficheux Crashed
3 2 February 1917 14:50 Two-seater Adinfer Wood Crashed Shared with Major A.W Gratten-Bellew.
4 6 February 1917 14:00 Albatros DIII Adinfer Wood Crashed
5 15 February 1917 12:00 Rolland CII Monchy Crashed
6 21 July 1917 20:00 Albatros DV Polygon Wood
7 26 July 1917 20:15 Albatros DV Gheluwe
8 18 August 1917 07:00 Albatros DV E Houthem
9 19 August 1917 17:00 Albatros DV Gheluvelt
10 20 August 1917 18:50 Albatros DIII SE Polygon Wood Flamed Vizefeldwebel Karl-Josef Ohler (Jasta 24), in Albatros DIII No.756/17, killed.
11 20 August 1917 19:00 Albatros DV Polygon Wood
u/c 14 September 1917 18:00 Albatros DV Roulers Believed to have been Oberleutnant Ernst Wiegand (3 victories), Jasta 10, wounded.
12 19 September 1917 12:15 Rumpler C Radinghem Crashed
13 23 September 1917 13:00 DFW CV Gheluwe Crashed Unteroffizier Rudolf Francke and Leutnant Gustav Rudolph, (FA6), both killed.
14 26 September 1917 15:15 LVG CV SE Langemarck Flames Unteroffizier Hans Gossler and Bruno Wiedermann, Schutzstaffel 27. Both men killed. Wiedermann fell over German lines, the aircraft and Gossler over British lines.
15 28 September 1917 08:00 Albatros DV S Houthulst Forest Crashed Leutnant Gunther Pastor, Jasta 29, killed when he fell out at 9,000 feet.
16 1 October 1917 17:50 Albatros DV Westroosbeke
17 17 October 1917 10:25 LVG CV S Vlammertinghe Flieger Heinrich Horstmann and Oberleutnant Ernst Hadrich, (FA8) in LVG No. 8431/16, both killed.
18 21 October 1917 13:00 Rumpler CV Marzingarbe Unteroffizier Richard Hiltweis and Leutnant Hans Laitko, FA5 (No. 8431/16), both killed.
19 18 November 1917 09:40 DFW CV Bellicourt Possibly from FA210(A) or FA259(A)
20 23 November 1917 12:00 Albatros DV E Noyelles Crashed Possibly Vizefeldwebel Karl Bey, Jasta 5 killed. Bey had claimed one confirmed victory, one unconfirmed.
21 29 November 1917 07:30 DFW CV S Bellicourt Crashed Leutnant Kurt Dittrich and Leutnant Manfred Hoettger, FA202(A), both killed.
22 29 November 1917 13:15 DFW CV Rouvroy Crashed Leutnant Georg Dietrich and Leutnant Dietrich Schenk, FA268(A), both killed.
23 30 November 1917 11:15 LVG CV SE Havrincourt Crashed Vizefeldwebel Wilhelm Flohrig and Gefreiter Eckerle captured (FA19). Flohrig died of wounds 1 December.
24 5 December 1917 12:40 Rumpler CVII Hermies Crashed Leutnant Fritz Pauly and Leutnant Ernst Sauter, FA45b, both killed.
25 6 December 1917 10:25 Rumpler C NW Saint Quentin Crashed Unteroffizier Karl Pohlisch and Leutnant Martin Becker, FA255(A), both killed.
26 6 December 1917 15:00 Albatros DV Fontaine Crashed
27 15 December 1917 11:05 Rumpler C E of Bois de Vaucelles Crashed
28 22 December 1917 12:05 DFW CV NW St Quentin Unteroffizier Biesenbach and Unteroffizier Anton Bode, Schutzstaffel 5, both killed
29 23 December 1917 11:25 LVG C Anguilcourt Crashed
30 23 December 1917 12:20 Rumpler CVII Gontescourt Leutnant Otto Horing and Leutnant Emil Tibussek, FA 23 (s.no 3028/17), both killed
31 23 December 1917 14:40 Rumpler C NW Gouzeaucourt Crew from Bogohl 7, both captured.
32 23 December 1917 15:30 LVG CV Nr Metz-en-Couture Vizefeldwebel Kurt Boje and Vizefeldwebel Friedrich Neimann, Schutzstaffel 12, both killed.
33 28 December 1917 12:15 Rumpler C Velu Wood Unteroffizier Munz and Lt. Ruecker, FA7, both captured.
34 28 December 1917 12:30 Rumpler C Flers Flames Unteroffizier Oskar Guntert and Leutnant Hans Mittag, FA40(A), both killed.
35 28 December 1917 12:55 LVG C Havrincourt Wood Leutnant Albert Weinrich and Leutnant Walter Bergmann, FA210(A), both killed.
36 29 December 1917 08:55 LVG C Havrincourt Vizefeldwebel Kurt Gershal (died of wounds) and Unteroffizier Lehnert, captured, Schutzstaffel 10.
37 29 December 1917 14:00 LVG C NE Epehy Leutnant Walter Dern and Leutnant Georg Muller, FA33, both killed.
38 9 January 1918 11:30 LVG C Graincourt Crashed
39 13 January 1918 09:40 LVG C E Le Haucourt Crashed ? Notler, killed and Leutnant Max Pappemheimer uninjured, FA2649(A).
40 13 January 1918 09:50 DFW CV N Vendhuile Crashed Vizefeldwebel Hans Rautenberg and Leutnant Gerhard Besser, Bogohl 7, both killed.
41 13 January 1918 10:05 LVG C E Lempire Flamed Possibly one crew was Leutnant M. Rittermann (Bogohl 7) killed.
42 20 January 1918 10:30 LVG C NW Cambrai Crashed Unteroffizier Gustav Mosch and Leutnant Friedrich Bracksiek, FA202(A), both killed.
43 24 January 1918 13:55 DFW C Vitry crew included Leutnant Georg Pallocks FA240, died of wounds.
44 25 January 1918 14:45 Rumpler C Itancourt Crashed Leutnant Schramm, survived, Leutnant Hermann Bucher, died of wounds, FA225(A).
45 30 January 1918 11:15 Albatros Anneux Vizefeldwebel Adam Barth, Jasta 10, in Albatros DV 4565/17, killed.
46 30 January 1918 11:15 Pfalz DIII Anneux
47 2 February 1918 10:40 LVG C E Vulu Crashed Vizefeldwebel Erich Szafranek and Leutnant Werner von Kuczkowski, Bogohl 7, both killed in LVG No. 9775/17.
48 16 February 1918 10:35 Rumpler C SW Caudry Crashed Unteroffizier Max Hanicke and Leutnant Fritz Dusterdieck, FA269(A), both killed.
49 16 February 1918 10:45 DFW C NE Le Catelet Crashed Unteroffizier Albert Frohlich and Leutnant Ernst Karlowa, FA202(A), both killed.
50 16 February 1918 11:10 Rumpler C Hargicourt Crashed
51 16 February 1918 12:30 Rumpler CIV Lagnicourt-Marcel Gefreiter Heinrich Lechleiter and Lorenz Zeuch, Schutzstaffel 29b, both killed.
52 17 February 1918 10:25 Rumpler CV Guémappe Possibly Leutnant Otto Jablonski and Karl Eicher, FA263(A), both killed.
53 18 February 1918 09:40 Albatros DV Vitry-en-Artois Crashed Unteroffizier Justus Kaiser, Jasta 35b in Albatros DV No. 4448/17, killed.
54 18 February 1918 09:45 Albatros DV Quiéry-la-Motte Crashed Unteroffizier Joachim von Stein zu Lausnitz, Jasta 35b, wounded in the left shoulder, neck and mouth: landed and hospitalised.
55 21 February 1918 13:47 DFW CV S Maricourt Crashed Vizefeldwebel Erich Klingenberg and Leutnant Karl Heger, FA235(A), both killed.
56 26 February 1918 11:20 Rumpler C Oppy, Pas-de-Calais Crashed Vizefeldwebel Otto Kresse and Leutnant Rudolf Binting of FA7, both killed.
57 26 February 1918 11:30 Hannover CL Chérisy Crashed Unteroffizier Max Schwaier and Leutnant Walter Jager, FA293(A), both killed.
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