Second Lieutenant David Ogilvie Duthie, 79334, Royal Air Force was reported killed age 25 years just 80 days before the end of the First World War on 23 August 1918. He was born on 12 August 1893 and was the son of William and Betsy Duthie, of 38, Causewayend, Coupar-Angus, Perthshire. David Duthie before joining up, worked as a clerk with the Caledonian Railway Company in railway offices at Coupar Angus, Alyth, and Crieff.
Second Lieutenant Duthie was a member of RAF 2 Squadron, serving as an Artillery Observer and Air Gunner. He joined the Royal Flying Corps on 14 May 1915 attending Observer School on 13 August 1917, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on probation, with effect the same day. This was confirmed on 11 September 1917. David Duthie was posted overseas on 16 September 1917 and wounded in France on 23 November 1917. When he recovered and was declared fit for service, he returned to duty as an observer on 22 March 1918, passing out of Wireless Observer School, Brooklands on 30 April 1918. At Brooklands he re-trained in Artillery Observation and Aerial Gunnery. Brooklands was requisitioned by the War Office and closed to motor racing during World War I, it continued its pre-war role as a flying training centre, although it was now under military control
The sector of northern France where David Duthie was now to be stationed was attacked as the second part of the 1918 German Spring offensive, the Lys offensive. The Battle of the Lys, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres, was fought from 7 to 29 April 1918. The German Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht (“Kaiser’s Battle“) began on 21 March 1918. The Germans realised that this was their last remaining chance of victory before soldiers of the United States could fully deploy on the battlefields. The Russian withdrawal from the war following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk freed up 50 German divisions to join the offensive.
The Kaiserschlacht was masterminded by General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937). Ludendorff was convinced that an attack in Flanders, the region stretching from Belgium to the north of France, was the best route to a German victory in the war and decided to first launch a sizeable diversionary attack further south to lure Allied troops away from the main event.
The final offensive push of the war by the Germans started on 15 July 1918, the 2nd Battle of the Marne. The Germans began their advance after an initial artillery bombardment and found that the French had set up a line of false trenches, manned by only a few defenders. The real front line of trenches lay further on and had scarcely been touched by the bombardment. The German infantry subsequently advanced too far from its supply bases and railheads which slowed their advance and allowed the Allies to reinforce their positions. On 8 August 1918, the Germans were completely surprised at Amiens when British tanks broke through their defences and intact formations surrendered. To Ludendorff it was the “black day in the history of the German Army”.
On 12 August 1918, Lieutenant Edward Oscar Drinkwater (Pilot) & 2nd Lieutenant David Ogilvie Duthie (Observer) of RAF 2 Squadron were flying in Armstrong Whitworth FK8, F4264. The mission was for a photographic reconnaissance over German held territory. Take-off was at 11.45am and they were reported engaged by anti-aircraft fire (ack-ack) at 12.56pm between Givenchy and La Bassée. They were shot down and seen to circle dive straight to earth from 500 feet to the southwest of La Bassée.
RAF 2 Squadron were based on 30 June 1915 to June 1918 at Hesdigneul-lès-Béthune, to the south of Béthune and about 15 km to the east of La Bassée. 2nd Lieutenant David Ogilvie’s RAF record reports that he was ‘buried at the ?????? of the canal’, – (Possibly percée, meaning breakthrough or opening), north of Auchy by Copenhagen, German. – (Auchy-les-Mines and Copenhagen is not marked on the trench maps of that time)
2nd Lieutenant David Ogilvie’s place of burial remains unknown, he is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial and at the former Coupar Angus, North U. F. Church. (Memorial names were transferred to brass plaques in the Abbey Church Halls.)
Lieutenant Edward Oscar Drinkwater was the husband of Ruby F. Drinkwater, of “The Firs,” Labumham Rd., Maidenhead. He was subsequently re-buried in Brown’s Road Military Cemetery, Festubert. Enquiries made with Berlin in September 1918, revealed that he was brought down in aerial conflict, his grave was also north of Auchy, at the bend of …. (the Canal D’Aire?).
On April 1, 1918, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed with the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The second half of 1918 saw the air war on the western front reach a bloody crescendo with 4,300 casualties, a third of them RAF. New tactics of integrating fighters and bombers into a powerful strike force and through exploiting their numerical supremacy saw success, but at a great cost.
RAF 2 Squadron was the first to fly across the English Channel to France during WW1. The squadron mostly spent WW1 on reconnaissance duties in France. They were formed at Farnborough, Hampshire on 13 May 1912 and from 26 February 1913, the squadron was based at Montrose Air Station in Angus, the first operational Royal Flying Corps base in the UK. Montrose was established on the instructions of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to protect the Royal Navy.
The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a British two-seat general-purpose biplane built by Armstrong Whitworth. They were equipped with wireless telegraph equipment in order to adjust artillery guns onto enemy targets. In June 1918, FK8’s with radio transmitters were assigned to the Tank Corps in an effort to coordinate air-to-ground operations. The noise inside the tanks made it near impossible to hear the radio messages. The ‘Big Ack’ as the FK8 was commonly known, was strong and well-liked by its crews. Two Victoria Crosses were awarded to pilots of the FK8 during WW1.
Cuinchy lies to the south of Givenchy, by the south side of the Canal d’Aire, both right where the Allied trenches met the German trenches. Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985), the English poet, historical novelist, and critic, served with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Welch (correct spelling) Fusiliers and was friends with another famous poet, Siegfried Sassoon who served in the same regiment. Regarding trench conditions and Cuinchy-bred rats, Graves stated in his 1929 autobiography, Good-Bye to All, “They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly.” On 11 November 1985, Graves was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.
At the start of the war, the 8th (Jullundur) Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division relieved the French and held the Cuinchy sector on 11 December 1914. The 1st Manchester Regiment being first British regiment into the defensive trench line, relieving the French 256th Régiment d’Infanterie. From that time onwards the Cuinchy sector was always in Allied occupation. The front line in mid-1915 settled to the east of Cuinchy. A brick yard on the German side was notorious for close-in fighting and was known as the “Brickstacks”. Cuinchy was gradually reduced to rubble by German artillery. The position of this front line scarcely moved until the very last months of the war.
In August 1918, 847 aircraft of the RAF were lost and on one day alone (8 August), 100 aircraft were lost. At the commencement of the war Britain had some 113 aircraft in military service, France had 160 aircraft and Germany 246. When the RFC deployed to France in 1914 it comprised some four Squadrons (No’s 2,3,4 and 5) with 12 aircraft each, which together with aircraft in depots, gave a total strength of 63 aircraft supported by 900 men.
The 2nd Battle of the Marne saw the largest air battle of the Great War involving 2,700 (900 German & 1,800 Allied) aeroplanes.
During his visit to France from 21 October 1918, King Geoge V visited Hesdigneul aerodrome on 28 October 1915, to inspect the 1st Wing of the Royal Flying Corps. A sudden cheer from the men there frightened the horse of King George V. The horse, reared up and slipped on the muddy ground, falling, and pinning the King underneath. His pelvis was fractured in two places, leaving the King in great pain. The King’s doctors were unsure of the extent of the injuries and did not want to risk transporting him any considerable distance. Concern was also for the King’s safety so near the front line, especially if the Germans were to discover where he was. Sir John French attempted to convince the doctors to evacuate the King, and, when this failed, he sent a message to the King himself. The King, at this point under heavy sedation, responded brusquely: “Tell Sir John to go to hell.”
Sir John Denton Pinkstone French was chief of the Imperial General Staff and commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at the start of World War I, he was dismissed from his role in late 1915, subsequently commanding the Home Forces and then became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. King George V wrote to his private secretary on 25 October 1915, “The troops here are all right but…several of the most important Generals have entirely lost confidence in [Sir John] and they assured me it was universal and that he must go, otherwise we shall never win this war. This has been my opinion for some time.”
General Erich Ludendorff contributed significantly to the Nazi’s rise to power during the 1920’s and 1930’s, a promoter of the stab-in-the back conspiracy myths that treasonous Marxists, Freemason and Jews were responsible for Germany’s defeat during WW1.
Research by Ken Bruce