Lieutenant Herrick Peter Gladstone Leyden was the son of Patrick Peter and Margaret Florence Gladstone Leyden, of Beechwood, 9 Pitcullen Terrace, Perth. Herrick was born on 24 March 1898 at Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley. His father was a Customs and Excise and Old Age Pensions Officer in Tay Street. He attended Swansea Grammar (Bishop Gore Grammar) from September 1912 to July 1915, Sharp’s Institution in South Methven Street and Perth Academy from September 1915 to June 1916.
Herrick who was employed as a motor driver, enlisted in The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion (Royal Highlanders), on 10 January 1917 he signed his service paper, he was aged 18 years and 10 months. Herrick went to The Black Watch army camp at Nigg, Ross-shire for six weeks training and then joined the Royal Flying Corp, 7 March 1917. As a trained flying officer pilot, he went on the RFC list on 5 July 1917. He was promoted on 31 March 1918 on the understanding it was to be confirmed. It was made effective the following day, 1 April 1917 and he was officially gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant on 2 May 1918.
He was again gazetted on 26 July 1917 as Lieutenant, but his CWG (Commonwealth War Graves) entry shows him at time of death as still a 2nd Lieutenant.
His pilot training took him first to:
Officers Cadet Wing at Denham Aerodrome on 8 March 1917.
No. 2 School of Military Aeronautics at Oxford on 11 May 1917.
39 T S (Training Squadron) on 5 July 1917 at Montrose (Note: 39 T.S. is recorded as not coming into operation until 26 August 1917).
61 T S (Training Squadron) of 23 Wing on 20 September 1917 at Cramlington.
51 T S 27 Wing at Filton.
36 T S on 31 October 1917 at Beverley.
58 Squadron, 19th Wing on 8 November 1917 at Cramlington.
75 T S on 28 November 1917 at Waddington. Possibly just for further instruction and returned to 58 Squadron.
No.1 School of Flying and Gunnery at Turnberry on 13 June 1918. Three week course in the art of aerial gunnery and combat.
Herrick Leyden, age 20, was told he was to be operational in France with 104 Squadron on 28 June 1918, effective 6 July 1918. However it is possible that he was already posted to France; 58 Squadron departed Dover on 22 December 1917, were based at St Omer, Trézennes, Clairmarais, Auchel, Fauquembergues and Alquines through the first half of 1918.
This airfields would have been covering the battlefields in the Nord-Pas De Calais area during the German Spring Offensives of 1918. As the allies were pushed back, they would have moved back west from 23 April 1918 and through the summer to Fauquembergues and Alquines.
He may have been held in reserve, still under training in England, or was perhaps rested. He could have returned for further gunnery training at Turnberry, and was then re-assigned to 104 Squadron who were at Azelot near Nancy.
On 13 August 1918, he was piloting a Geoffrey de Havilland designed Airco DH. 9, single engine, two seat, biplane bomber. The aircraft designation, D7229 was seen to be hit by anti-aircraft fire, fold up and his aircraft fall on to another DH.9, crewed by pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Francis Henry Beaufort (from New York) and Observer, 2nd Lieutenant H O Bryant.
On his RAF Casualty Card, Herrick was reported missing the next day, along with his observer, Sergeant Alan Lacey Windridge age 20, and the two other airmen.
Herrick’s Casualty Card and his service records sheets contain other information. A letter was sent on 20 August 1918, to his next of kin, which was listed as his father, informing him that Herrick was missing. There is a pencil note saying that Herrick was buried in a church cemetery and another that he was reported as possibly having crashed at Arnaville. A memo from the Imperial War Graves Commission on 5 March 1921 confirms that he was initially buried close-by in the nearby Array Churchyard, Lorraine – Grave 4.
Arnaville would have been in German held hands at the time, the frontline was near Pont-à-Mousson just to the south, on the Moselle River. His squadron was based at Azelot, about 60 km from Arnaville, again to the south, just below Nancy.
Herrick’s bereaved father later received a letter from Major J C Quinell, the officer commanding RAF 104 Squadron in which he referred to Lieutenant Leyden as ‘a most excellent officer who did splendid work and would have made a name for himself in the Royal Air Force. Please accept on behalf of his fellow-officers with the squadron my deepest sympathy in your loss’.
Another note on Herrick’s Casualty Card states that ‘according to inf. from German Red X this officer was killed on 13 August, buried at Ehrenfriedersdorf’. This is most probably a mis-identification error, an Airco DH.9a had the range to reach Ehrenfriedersdorf but would not have the fuel to fly back. Ehrenfriedersdorf is approximately 650Km east of Azelot.
The list of aircraft flown by Herrick Leyden from his service record:
Farman S11 Shorthorn (MF S.H.)
Armstrong Whitworth (possibly a F.K.3)
Royal Aircraft Factory B.E. (possibly a B.E.2)
Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8
After the war, Second Lieutenant Leyden and the other three who died were reinterred and buried together in one grave at the Perreuse Chateau, Franco British National Cemetery, 60 km east of Paris. Leyden is commemorated on the war memorials of Perth Academy and the St John the Baptist RC Church, Melville Street, Perth, and on the Bishop Gore School War Memorial, Sketty, West Glamorgan.
Robert William Gladstone Leyden, born 21 April 1900, followed his brother into the RAF. He joined on 8 April 1918 after being declared fit as pilot. There is a note to say that he transferred from Army School to 32 TDS (Training Depot Squadron) at RAF Montrose, RAF 20 Group, effective 14 September 1918. This was less than two months from the end of the war. He was sent to Edinburgh Castle for dispersal back to civilian life on 4 January 1919.
The de Havilland Airco DH.9 was first flown in July 1917. They suffered heavy losses due to their unreliability and the poor performance of the 230 hp Armstrong Siddeley Puma 6-cylinder engine. Alternative engines were sought and eventually the US 400hp V-12 Liberty engine was adopted and a redesigned aircraft, the DH.9a was put into service.
During the Great War, 3,024 DH.9s and 2,300 DH.9as were built. They were armed with a forward firing Vickers machine gun and one or two rear firing Lewis guns on a Scarf ring. The DH.9as could carry up to 740 lb of bombs under the wings and on fuselage racks.
RAF 104 Squadron was formed on 4 September 1917 at Wyton, England. It moved to Andover and then to France in May 1918. When the war ended, the Squadron returned home, first to RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh and was disbanded on 30 June 1919, at RAF Crail, Fife. 104 Squadron was part of the Independent Force (RAF) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The Independent Air Force (IAF) was a First World War strategic bombing force which was part of the RFC/RAF that could strike against German railways, aerodromes, and industrial centres without co-ordination with the Army or Navy.
Also on 13 August 1918, USAF Pilot, Field Eugene Kindley shot down Lothar von Richthofen, the brother of the late great German war ace Manfred von Richthofen. Lothar had 40 confirmed air-to-air victories at the time, he suffered serious wounds when he crashed and never flew in combat again.
RAF Turnberry was used for the testing of Barnes Wallis’s ‘Highball’ bouncing bombs by RAF 618 squadron during the Second World War. An old French Battleship, the Courbet and later the HMS Malaya were anchored in Loch Striven (above Rothesay) and were used as practice targets for the bouncing bombs. The loch was also used for the training of X-craft midget submarines. Both these weapons were to be used against the German Battleship Tirpitz, anchored in a Norwegian Fjord. The Tirpitz was later sunk on 12 November 1944 by Avro Lancaster bombers using the also designed by Barnes Wallis ‘Tallboy”‘ bombs.
The day before Herrick Leyden was killed marked the end of the Battle of Amiens (8-12 August 1918), and the start of the Allied counteroffensive known as the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’. This led to the end of the war with the Armistice being signed in a railroad carriage at Compiègne on 11 November 1918. It had all started on 21 March 1918 with the last effort, the ‘German Spring Offensives’, a series of large-scale surprise attacks against the Allied lines along the mostly northern length of the Western Front. By the end of August 1918, the Germans had been driven back and greatly weakened by the loss of men and morale.
At 11 am on 11 November 1918 – ‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ – a ceasefire came into effect.
Image courtesy of the Perth Academy Flowers of the Forest First World War commemorative project
Image courtesy of the Perth Academy Flowers of the Forest First World War commemorative project
SQUADRON CREST NO.104 SQUADRON (CH 16902) Original wartime caption: Description – A thunderbolt Motto ‘STRIKE HARD’. The device in conjunction with the motto implies the unit’s formidable intention and power. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205455892
THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 66954) Officers of No.104 Squadron RFC at Andover before the squadron set off for France. Early 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205314273
Bishop Gore School Memorial
Map of the final Allied offensives on the Western Front (World War I), 1918. From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
Airco DH.9 British First World War two seat bomber drawing
Date: 11 November 1918
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.
Images from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.