RFC People

Harold Blackburn

Title: Harold Blackburn
Description: Courtesy of Picture Sheffield (s15306) by-nc

Harold Blackburn
Pioneer Yorkshire Pilot makes Turkish Fort Surrender

Harold was a bicycle engineer and lived in Carcroft, Doncaster. In 1911 he passed his flying training and worked for aircraft manufacturer Robert Blackburn (no relation) flying his aeroplanes around Yorkshire at air displays in 1913 – 14.

When the war started Harold joined the RFC and was sent to France. He flew reconnaissance missions for a year and survived unhurt.  In 1915 he went to Palestine with 14 Squadron to fight the Turkish as a Flight Commander. There he invented a bomb sight that enabled another pilot to bomb the water supply in a Turkish fort. The Turks promptly surrendered, saving many lives.

He was awarded the Military Cross and Air Force Medal and remained in the RAF until 1929

Kessen in front of Arvo aircraft

Title: Kessen in front of Arvo aircraft
Description: Courtesy of South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum by-nc

Adam Kessen
From the mud of the trenches, Adam reaches for the sky

Adam enlisted with the Kings Liverpool Regiment on the outbreak of the First World War, fighting in battles and experiencing the horrors of trench warfare.

He applied for the Royal Flying Corps because it ‘offered a weekend in London’ for assessment. He was accepted and began training at RAF Doncaster during June 1917.

He trained on the Avro 504 with the new Smith-Barry RAF Training Course. This course meant better trained pilots could be sent to squadrons to fight in France, and was used by air forces all over the world. The war ended before his training was completed.

After the war he returned to civilian life. He married Muriel English, and settled in West Kirby, Wirral, working as a cabinet maker. The couple had two sons and a daughter.

Caudron Aircraft which was later replaced with the safer Farmans

Title: Caudron Aircraft which was later replaced with the safer Farmans
Description: South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum by-nc

Henry Hawkins
Australian leaves medical studies and volunteers for Britain’s new Air Force

Henry arrived at Doncaster in August 1916 as an instructor and got the dangerous Caudron aircraft replaced with safer Farmans.

In December 1916 Henry joined 22 Squadron, and realised his wish to fly fighters in France by flying FE2bs. He protected reconnaissance planes, bombed railway stations and photographed German trenches.

German fighters attacked him several times and his gunner Corporal Johnson shot one down. In a fight with 10 German planes they got away, but some of his friends were shot down. Eventually he was shot down and captured by the Germans, and at one stage was very nearly shot for treason!

Henry met his future wife Margery Nicholson while visiting friends at Tickhill and returned to Australia to become a doctor.

Leslie Peach Aizlewood

Title: Leslie Peach Aizlewood
Description: Courtesy of Rotherham Archives by-nc

Leslie Peach Aizlewood
Sheffield University Student earns Military Cross

Rotherham man Leslie was studying at Sheffield University when war broke out. He joined the Yorks and Lancs Regiment in October 1914 and went to fight in France, where he fell ill with appendicitis.

After recovering, he transferred to the RFC and in July 1916 joined 32 Fighter Squadron flying DeHavilland 2s. He shot down four German aircraft. During the Battle of the Somme he attacked five German aircraft, colliding with the one he destroyed and was awarded the Military Cross.

He was wounded in another air combat and returned to Britain. After recovering, he became a Flying Instructor and then Commanding Officer of the School of Air Gunnery at Marske, North Yorkshire.

He was killed in an air accident in 1918 and was awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously. His father had a memorial placed in Rotherham Minster to his memory.