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  • Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant Edward Eustace Erlebach, 45 Squadron, the Royal Flying Corps

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Second Lieutenant Edward Eustace Erlebach, 45 Squadron, the Royal Flying Corps, was killed in action during a mission over Germany.

The youngest of three sons, he and his brothers attended Woodford House School in Birchington, of which their father was the headmaster. Second Lieutenant Erlebach’s two brothers were also killed in action during the war: Rifleman Henry Erlebach, 16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) on the 24th of October, 1915, and Second Lieutenant Arthur Erlebach, Royal Flying Corps, on the 15th of July, 1917. In 1924 their father gave the Sports & Recreation Ground adjacent to Quex Park in Birchington to the parish in memory of his three sons.

On the day of his death, Second Lieutenant Erlebach was on a photo reconnaissance mission in a Sopwith Strutter with 2nd Class Air Mechanic Frederick J. Ridgeway. They were attacked by four enemy aircraft, and were seen to descend rapidly in a vertical nosedive with wings folded before they crashed. Leutnant Konrad von Bulow-Bothkamp, a 22-year-old fighter ace from an aristocratic family, claimed the victory – he was killed less than a year later, also being one of three brothers to die in the war. Second Lieutenant Erlebach is buried in the Linselles Communal Cemetery in France; on his gravestone are the words, “On joyful wing cleaving the sky per ardua ad astra.”

Edward, from Birchington in Kent, was 19 years old.

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