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  • Christina Drummond

Major Lanoe Hawker VC DSO

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Major Lanoe Hawker VC DSO, was shot down over Bapaume after a lengthy dog-fight with Baron Von Richthofen, the Red Baron.

One of six children of Lieutenant Harry C. Hawker RN, he was known from childhood to have a brilliant mind. Educated in Geneva and at Stubbington House, a preparatory school known as “the cradle of the Navy”, he was nominated by Prince Louis of Battenberg and entered Dartmouth Naval College in 1905. Unfortunately, an illness put a strain on his heart and he was forced to leave. In 1910 he entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, and was even at that point interested in learning to fly. Commissioned into the Royal Engineers in July of 1911, he was sent to Ireland. He made frequent requests to join the Central Flying School, and on the 3rd of October in 1914, qualified as a military pilot.

In April of 1915, he was involved in an attack on the airship sheds at Controde following the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and proved his skill in returning his stricken aircraft to base, promotion to Flight Commander followed, along with being awarded the DSO. Major Hawker was wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres and had to be carried to and from his aircraft, refusing to be grounded. In July of 1915 his actions over Passchendaele resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross. He spent the next year involved in constant operational flying and fighting, including many dog-fights during the Battle of the Somme.

On the day of his death, Major Hawker flew from Bertangles Aerodrome as part of 'A' Flight - after an initial fight with two German aircraft over Achiet, he lost contact with the other pilots as he began a lengthy dog-fight with Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen, whose aircraft was more heavily-armed, powerful and faster. Major Hawker attempted to break away from the fight in order to return to base as he would have been running low on fuel, but Leutnant von Richthofen fired and struck him in the back of the head, killing him instantly; his plane crashed two hundred yards east of Luisenhof Farm, just south of Bapaume. Leutnant von Richthofen, who had taken Major Hawker’s Lewis gun from the crash as a trophy, later referred to him as “the British Boelcke” (High praise indeed, for Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke was a Great War flying ace, credited with 40 victories, and considered the father of the German fighter air force, as well as the "Father of Air Fighting Tactics" and the world’s leading fighter pilot).

Major Hawker is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial for airmen who have no known graves. In St. Nicholas’ Church in Longparish there is a window commemorating him, which shows two pilots with St. Michael above them, and a copy of this window is at the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop in Hampshire.

Lanoe, from Longparish in Hampshire, was 25 years old.

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