On 8 August 1918, the Battle of Amiens offensive opened at 4.20 am with a deafening artillery barrage by over two thousand guns. Moments later a combined assault by infantry and tanks commenced along a twenty-mile front between Morlancourt and La Neuville-Sire-Bernard (on the river Ayre to the south).
The advance went well, there was a heavy ground mist which helped conceal the advancing Allied armies. The German army was taken by surprise and offered only slight opposition. By the end of the day the front line had been pushed back between seven and eight miles in places.
For the Royal Air Force (RAF) it was one of the most important and complex of days, with an unprecedented level of liaison with ground troops, artillery, and tanks, in addition to offensive patrolling, bombing and low attack work. Allied aircraft were already in the air by the time the offensive began. Gloomy conditions hindered their effectiveness, but as conditions cleared around 9.00 am, the RAF dominated the air throughout the morning. The afternoon saw a major change of plans, it was now to attack and destroy bridges. It was hoped that this would cause chaos and hinder the German army’s retreat. Two hundred and five attacks were made on the bridges with twelve tons of bombs dropped, with limited success.
German air reinforcements, including Jagdgeschwader I (JG I) “The Flying Circus” (Der Fliegende Zirkus) were called in to assist and it soon became apparent that they need to defend the bridges in the river Somme area. Titanic struggles ensued in the air throughout the day with heavy losses incurred on both sides. The Allies lost 105 aircraft in the many air battles 8 August 1918. The German JG 1 fighter wing was reduced from fifty to eleven serviceable aircraft and was withdrawn from the fighting.
Second Lieutenant John Ross was the son of Robert and Mary Ross, 4 Clinton Street, Newburgh, Fife. John Ross was the Observer in an Airco DH.9 C2195, single engine biplane bomber of RAF 49 Squadron based at Beauvois (50 km west of Lens, 57 km north of Amiens), France. The pilot of the DH.9 was Lieutenant M D Allen who survived.
At 4.45pm, on a bombing mission near Amiens, they were hit by ground anti-aircraft fire (‘Archie’ was the RFC vernacular name). The DH.9 was shot through with nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant Ross being killed in action. Second Lieutenant Ross had previously survived several crashes and forced landings with Lieutenant Allen, 30 June 1918 and 1 July 1918.
Second Lieutenant John Ross is buried and commemorated at the Roye New British Cemetery, 42 km southwest of Amiens
Jagdgeschwader I (JG I) had been subjected to intensive operations over the Amiens battle in August 1918, by mid-September an exhausted Jagdgeschwader I (JG I) was withdrawn from the British part of the front, having lost all four Jasta commanders by the end of August; Erich Lowenhardt of Jasta 10 was killed, Jasta 6’s Leutnant de Reserves Paul Wenzel (Acting) and Oberleutnant Lothar von Richthofen of Jasta 11 both wounded and hospitalised, and Oberleutnant Ernst Udet (Jasta 4) exhausted and sent on leave. Jagdgeschwader I scored just 17 claims during September, despite the month seeing the highest losses for the Allied Air Forces of the war. From June 1917 until November 1918, JG I claimed 644 Allied aircraft destroyed, while losing 52 pilots killed in action and 67 wounded.
The RAF had in operation at the end of the war on 11 November 1918, over 20,000 aeroplanes, over 30,000 aviators and over 200,000 mechanics and other personal.
On 29 June 1918, Oberleutnant Ernst Udet was one of the early fliers to be saved by parachuting from a disabled aircraft, when he jumped after a clash with a French Bréguet aircraft. Oberleutnant Lothar von Richthofen was the younger brother of Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, the Red Baron (Der Rote Baron) who was killed just after 11:00 am on 21 April 1918. During May of 1917, Lothar von Richthofen shot down Captain Albert Ball, the top scoring English ace at that time. Albert Ball mentioned here: Lieutenant Cyril Williams
Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence CB DSO (T. E. Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia) (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman, under the same name – John (Hume) Ross in August 1922. At the RAF recruiting centre in Covent Garden, London, he was interviewed by recruiting officer Flying Officer W. E. Johns, later known as the author of the Biggles series of novels. Mentioned here in Sergeant Alexander Stewart Allan