Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Major Edward Corringham "Mick" Mannock V.C., D.S.O. & Two Bars, M.C. & Bar, the Royal Air Force, was killed when his aircraft was shot down and crashed behind enemy lines.
One of four children of a Royal Scots Greys soldier who had fought in the Boer Wars, he left school at the age of thirteen in order to earn money after his father abandoned his family. Despite being virtually blind in his right eye, he found work with the National Telephone Company and then joined a territorial unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
At the outbreak of the Great War he was working for the telephone company in Turkey as a field supervisor and was interred by the Turkish government, in dreadful conditions. An American consular official secured his release and he returned to England in April of 1915, deemed to be unfit for military duty. Determined, he rejoined the Royal Army Medical Corps, then transferred to the Royal Engineers, and in April of 1916 he applied for pilot training with the Royal Flying Corps. After training, during which he had managed to conceal his eye defect, he became a single-seat scout pilot.
In April of 1917, Major Mannock arrived in France to join 40 Squadron. In July he was awarded the Military Cross and continued to claim victories, achieving more than seventy in total during his lifetime. He spent some time with the Wireless Experimental Establishment at Biggin Hill and also 74 (Training) Squadron at London Colney Aerodrome before returning to France in March of 1918. In May he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and shortly afterwards the Bar, and the following month he was given command of 85 Squadron, succeeding Major “Billy” Bishop.
On the day of his death it is believed that he chose to dive to the crash site of an enemy aircraft; an unwritten rule for pilots. Crossing over the trenches, his aircraft was hit by ground-fire and crashed behind the German lines. German Intelligence reported that he had been found and buried, but this was never confirmed. He is commemorated on the Royal Flying Corps Memorial to the Missing at the Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery in Arras, and on a memorial plaque in Canterbury Cathedral. In July of 1919 he was given the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross, the citation ending with the words: “He was an outstanding example of fearless courage, remarkable skill, devotion to duty, and self-sacrifice, which has never been surpassed.”
Mick, from Brighton, was 31 years old.