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90th Anniversary of RAF's First VC

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90th Anniversary of RAF's First VC

Old 9th Aug 2008, 09:52
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90th Anniversary of RAF's First VC

Following hard upon 8 Sqn's celebrations of the date 8/8/08 (started with an E-3D take-off and Sqn photo at 8 seconds past 8 minutes after 8) comes the 90th anniversary of the action that led to the first award of the Victoria Cross to a member of the RAF since its formation in April 1918. Capt FMF (Freddie) West of No 8 Sqn was awarded the VC following his actions in supporting the Amiens Offensive on 12 Aug 1918. His citation reads...

CAPTAIN F.M.F. WEST, VC, MC.
No 8 Squadron, Royal Air Force

"Air Ministry, 8th November, 1918.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant, (acting Captain.) Ferdinand Maurice Felix West, M.C., - Royal Air Force (formerly of the Special Reserve, Royal Munster Fusiliers), in recognition of his outstanding bravery in aerial combat.

Captain West, while engaging hostile troops at a low altitude far over the enemy lines, was attacked by seven aircraft. Early in the engagement one of his legs was partially severed by an explosive bullet, and fell powerless into the controls, rendering the machine for the time unmanageable. Lifting his disabled leg, he regained control of the machine, and, although wounded in the other leg, he, with surpassing bravery and devotion to duty, manoeuvred his machine so skilfully that his observer was enabled to get several good bursts into the enemy machines, which drove them away. Captain West then, with rare courage, and determination, desperately wounded as he was, brought his machine over our lines and landed safely. Exhausted by his exertions, he fainted, but on regaining consciousness insisted on writing his report.

Capt West had been spotting anti-tank guns for the tank corps when he saw a large German troop concentration that could have threatened the advance of Allied forces. He insisted that this should be reported before he was given morphine and taken to hospital.

.....I just thought that the RAF's first VC needed a bit of publicity on its 90th! Freddie West was one of the RAF's characters, and his life story makes an interesting read (Biography is "Winged Diplomat" by Airey Neive of Colditz fame). Following the amputation of his leg, Freddie continued a long flying career in the RAF eventually becoming an Air Cdre working in the British Embassy in Switzerland during WW" where he organised POW/aircrew escape lines. Douglas Bader used the precedence of Freddie's artificial leg to regain his flying cat during WW2. Following his death, Capt West's VC was held by No 8 Sqn for many years, but it was subsequently returned at the request of his family.
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