All recipients will be aware that there is a Memorial to No 24 Sqn’s first Commanding Officer – Major Lanoe G Hawker VC DSO – erected in front of the Mairie in the village of Ligny Thilloy (LT). LT lies 26 km due South of the town of Arras in the Pas de Calais region of France.
The site of the Memorial is geographically close to the site of the Luisenhof Farm (destroyed in WW1). Major Hawker was shot down by the Baron Manfred von Richthofen after an aerial combat lasting some 30 minutes and his DH2 aircraft crashed adjacent to the Farm on 23 Nov 1916.
With the approval and enormous support of The Mayor of LT, Monsieur Dominique Deleplace, and of his Assistant Brigitte Le Grand, the Memorial to Maj Hawker was erected and inaugurated on 11- 11 – 11 (11 Nov 2011). The Ceremony was attended by a strong XXIV Sqn team led by OC XXIV (now the Station Commander of RAF Brize Norton) as well as by a large turnout of Assocn members and partners.
The occasion was also noteworthy for the participation of an Honour Guard provided by the Luftwaffe’s Richthofen Geschwader, with the Geschwader Standard paraded in honour of Maj Hawker. The French Air Force was represented by the Base Commander and the Commander of a Mirage Fighter Sqn from Cambrai Air Base.
This year sees the 100th anniversary of the death in action on 23 Nov 16 of Maj Hawker. This event will be marked by a Centennial Remembrance Ceremony at the Hawker Memorial in LT on Remembrance Day – Friday 11 Nov 16. This will be led and coordinated by XXIV Sqn Assocn in close cooperation with XXIV Sqn.
Before I ask you to consider attending the Memorial Ceremony in honour of Major Hawker, I thought it might be appropriate to place Lanoe Hawker’s sacrifice in context with those thousands of others who also lost their lives in the terrible “Great War”.
I am sure you will all have seen on the News this last week that 1 July marked the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme. I imagine we all know how totally horrific the figures for the loss of life were in that campaign over the next 6 months.
Just for the record, I show below the appalling statistics, with figures derived from Wikipedia.
July–December 1916.Month Casualties
French c. 434,000
Anglo-French c. 947,289
German c. 719,000
The historical archivists, Prior and Wilson, recorded that the British lost 432,000 soldiers from 1 July – mid-November (c. 3,600 men per day).
The specific focus for the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme was the Ceremony held at the Thiepval Memorial last Friday – 1 July 2016 .
Exactly 100 years earlier, thirteen divisions of the British Army launched an offensive on a line extending from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt on the River Somme. South of the river, the attack was made by the French Army. The attack had been preceded by a preliminary artillery bombardment of German positions which lasted seven whole days from 24 June. Despite the shock and awe of that action it did not destroy the German defensive capability – with disastrous consequences.
By the end of 1 July 1916 , the FIRST DAY, the British losses were unprecedented in the history of the British Army. There were approximately 58,000 casualties on that day alone – including 19,000 men and boys killed.
By comparison with Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria in this Century…….. THERE IS NO COMPARISON !!
If you feel the need to understand a little bit more about this horrific and incredible campaign, before you perhaps join No 24 Sqn and the XXIV Sqn Association visit to Ligny-Thilloy (L-T) on 11 Nov 16, may I commend to you Wikipedia’s “Battle of the Somme”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme, from which source I derived the statistics above.
MAJOR LANOE HAWKER VC DSO – AT WAR IN 1916
Why have I included the above information in my letter to you about our visit to L-T this year ? It seems to me that whilst many of us have visited Major Hawker’s Memorial in L-T before, we may not have placed his last year of life and his operational role in the context of the Battle of the Somme – or considered the pressures under which he would undoubtedly have been operating No 24 Sqn.
The war at Ground Level was unquestionably awful – as depicted in the writings and films of the day. The men of the Royal Flying Corps were in effect only one step away from their comrades in the Army. They would have understood the importance of their operational roles – including acting as reconnaissance spotters for the British Artillery with the parallel task of preventing the German Air Arm from providing a similar service to the German Artillery.
Conditions at Bertangle, the Squadron’s operating base, would have been far from comfortable and the men would undoubtedly have been aware of the even worse conditions being endured by their Army colleagues and the terrible rate of attrition they were suffering. It would seem unlikely that these parameters could have been kept totally secret.
Lanoe Hawker would have had no previous experience to prepare him for the circumstances with which he was confronted. He would have had to call upon all his personal strength of character to overcome his concerns and those of his men, and to inspire them to maintain their morale and to carry out their tasks to maximum effect. By all accounts, he would seem to have been able to do so. His death must have left a significant hole in the operational capability of No 24 Sqn for a period of time.
That as background then.
The XXIV Sqn Association has been actively involved since 13 March in planning the events scheduled to take place at L-T on 11 Nov 16. This is of course not straightforward as they will involve 3 nations – France, Germany and the UK ! It is now timely to let everyone who may have an interest in attending know what the proceedings are likely to be on 11 Nov 16. (An expanded, Draft programme is attached).
First of all, we expect that the format of the Remembrance Day ceremonies will be similar to those conducted each year since 2011. The principle difference is that we have received tacit confirmation from the Kommodore of the German Air Force’s Richthofen Geschwader that he will provide an Honour Guard and the Geschwader Standard – as in 2011.
Second, it is hoped that it may be possible to arrange a Flypast by a Royal Air Force transport aircraft and a Luftwaffe Eurofighter at a particular point in the Memorial Ceremony. At this stage this is unconfirmed and it will be entirely dependent upon the weather factor and the availability of Royal Air Force and German Air Force airframes.
Third and significantly, Dominique Deleplace, the Mayor of L-T has decided that – in contrast with previous years, he will arrange for a Luncheon and Vin d’honneur to take place in the Salle des Fêtes (ie the Village Hall). This is instead of all participants transferring to the neighbouring town of Bapaume for Lunch, as we have in the past.
(As an aside, we are aware that a Memorial to the First World War German Ace, Oswald Boelcke, is scheduled to be unveiled in Bapaume on Friday 28 Oct 16 (the 100th Anniversary of his death following a mid air collision). Oswald Boelcke taught the Red Baron to fly and he was highly respected by the RFC. The Luftwaffe’s Boelcke Geschwader has apparently received approval to fly a Eurofighter over Bapaume (less than 5 kms from Ligny-Thilloy) on the occasion of the inauguration of his Memorial.).
The Mayor’s Luncheon in the Salle des Fêtes will cater for a reasonably large number of attendees. As a consequence, “covers” available for the UK contingent will be limited to 50 persons. The price per head will be 20 Euros and that sum will be collected in advance (in £ Sterling) by transfers to a Bank Account which will be notified in due course.
a. No XXIV Sqn Personnel Up to 8
Wg Cdr Rawlins, Sqn Ldr Hogg, Sgt Llewellyn-Smith (Hawker Liaison),
b. OC RAF BZN (Gp Capt and Mrs Jones, if poss.) Up to 2
c. XXIV Sqn Association Personnel and Partners. Up to 24
d. No 6 Sqn Association (and Partners ?) Up to 4
e. Luftwaffe Richthofen Geschwader (and Partners ?) Up to 8
ACCOMMODATION AND RESTAURANT ON 10 NOV 16
I anticipate that everyone attending will have been to Arras and Ligny-Thilloy before and will need no advice as to how to organise their travel across the Channel. Past experience has shown that the most suitable venue for accommodation on the night before the events of Remembrance Day in L-T is the romantic city of Arras. There are numerous hotels and a popular one is the Hotel Mercure, which is located adjacent to the main railway station and which enquiries have shown still has plenty of rooms available on 10 and 11 Nov. It is located at No 59 Boulevard Carnot.
(You will find this contains a sitemap)
The next day’s timings will all be based on arriving at the village of Ligny-Thilloy not later than at least 20 minutes before the Remembrance Ceremony commences at the Village’s War Memorial at 11:00 a.m.
It is requested that any XXIV Sqn Members who wish to attend please notify their interest to the e-mail address ChasLWhitaker@hotmail.co.uk. Selection will necessarily be on a “first come, first served ” basis with reserves nominated.
Given the need to ensure Ferry/Eurotunnel passages and Hotel accommodation remain available, could persons notify their interest in attending the events in L-T on or before Monday 25 July. The list of attendees will be finalised and notified on or before Sunday 31 July.
I trust that the above is helpful and I look forward to receiving a flurry of notifications of interest !
AT LIGNY-THILLOY ON 11 Nov 2016
A. Timing of Hawker Ceremony
c. Flowers and wreaths to be laid on the 2 Memorials.
2. Final timings have yet to be defined by the Mayor (especially important if there is a Fly-past). However, we could provisionally anticipate that the Hawker Remembrance Ceremony will begin at 11:30 and end at 11:50 – with the FlyPast at 11:45.
B. Format of Ceremony
1. For planning purposes, we are assuming:
d. Weather permitting. a slow Flypast by one RAF Transport Aircraft and one Luftwaffe Eurofighter.
3. A walk to the Village’s Cemetery (10 mins) to attend the Village’s Remembrance Day protocol in memory of those who perished in the Austro./ Franco War (15 mins). This to be followed by a walk back to the Village’s Salle des Fêtes (10 mins)
C. Vin d’Honneur and Luncheon
1. The Mayor, Monsieur Dominique Deleplace is planning to host a Vin d’Honneur and a Luncheon in L-T’s Salle des Fetes commencing at c. 1245. At this juncture it is not yet confirmed whether this will be a standing buffet or a seated event. This is likely to be dictated by the final rollcall of participants. It is anticipated that the speeches and hospitality will end by 1430 thus enabling those aiming to return to England that day the opportunity to reach ferries or the Channel Tunnel in reasonable time.