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Flying losses; training vs combat

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Flying losses; training vs combat

Old 4th Aug 2014, 21:50
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Flying losses; training vs combat

Having just heard figures quoted for RFC/RNAS losses during WW 1 of 8,000 killed in training versus 6,000 in combat I'd be interested to hear a) is this accurate. And b) how does it compare with subsequent conflicts?
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Old 4th Aug 2014, 21:57
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ShotOne, you ask a great question, once again. I don't know if anyone will have the figures in their head, but I'm sure there is some research going on.now.

All I can tell you is what I think. The ratio might not be that different. But that really is just a snap guess after reading your post. I look forward to better informed answers.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 03:27
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I seem to recall there was a thread on this a few months back. Can't seem to find now though.

Bob C
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 03:40
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Think this was the thread. Quotes the same figures.


Bob C
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 04:11
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flying training in 1918

I found the details below in the Australian Archives Service Records for an AFC pilot. I first posted this in 2011.

If you wanted to be a pilot in 1918, this is what you had to do....(I am unsure of the name of the first acft named "Avro Leabone??"

And this man was off to the Western Front after graduation with 34 hours in the logbook.


1. Undergone instruction at a school of Aeronautics.

2. Completed twenty five hours solo and dual.

3. Attained Flying Standard “V” on an elementary machine.

4. Flown a Graduation Aeroplane satisfactorily.

5. Climbed to 10,000 feet, remained there for at least 15 minutes, after which he will land with his engine stopped, the aeroplane first touching the ground and coming to a halt within a marked circle 150 yards in diameter.

6. Passed following tests :-
(a) Formation Flying Satisfactorily maintained his position in formation flights for a total of Four (4) hours in formation (to include a minimum of three (3) separate flights).
(b) Forced Landings Four forced landings in fields not forming part of Aerodrome.
(c) Cloud Flying While taking full control of machine remained Three (3) minutes in clouds with instructor
(d) Aerial Gunnery While diving at a ground target taken two successful photographs of the target from 1,500 foot or under.
(e) Prop swinging (this was handwritten)


Can fly his machine accurately and can land consistently well at slow speeds, tail down,
Can, in addition, carry out the following manoeuvres with absolute confidence and accuracy on an elementary machine :-
1. Three sustained turns in each direction, with and without engine – bank to be 45 degs. or over.
2. Sharp figures of eight, Climbing turns to left and right,
3. Stall the machine with and without engine,
4. Sideslip in either direction and land off a sideslip,
5. Spin, half roll and loop (Avro’s and A, V’s only),
6. Confident and reliable in clouds, in rough weather or on a forced landing. Understands the theory ot landing across wind.

Certified that ( Cadet Named ) has passed
Category “A” and is fit to graduate
Date: 21.6.18 Instructor

1st WING

No 8 T’ing Squadron Royal Air Force

YEAR: 1918

PERIOD OF COURSE: 4th May 1918 - 21st June 1918


NAME AND RANK: Cadet (named)

REGIMENT: Headquarters 1st Australian Division

Sop. Scout ) Good.




Date joined squadron
For higher instruction:- 21.6.18

(i) During higher instruction. 34 10
(ii) Total solo since commencing tuition. 20 0
(iii) Total dual since commencement of tuition 14 10
Total 34 10
Qualities as an Officer

will make a good officer

Shows considerable promise. Will make a good scout pilot

Place Leighterton(*?) Gloster Commanding......Squadron
Date 25.6.18 Australian Flying Corps

No 7 Group
Royal Air Force

- Forwarded –
Date...................... Commanding 1st Wing
Australian Flying Corps
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 08:34
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A google search gives another thread here from 3 years ago which has this stat from the US:

276,00 aircraft manufactured in the US. 43,000 planes lost overseas, including 23,000 in combat. 14,000 lost in the continental U.S.

So of 57k lost only 23k combat. Casualties probably similar, out of combat loses much higher than combat from what I have read. Even higher if you take account of losses on combat sorties that were not due to combat. Those 23k would have included a high percentage with nothing to do with enemy action.

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Old 5th Aug 2014, 09:50
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The Avro Trainer is most likely to have been an Avro 504. These were fitted with a variety of engines, so the 'Leabone' may in fact be 'Le Rhône', to differentiate it from the Gnome or Clerget powered 504.

From the Coates Collection Avro 504K B7103:

Avro 504Ks were fitted with one of about ten different engines and hence, just by looking at it, one cannot tell what powered D7103. It was probably a 110 hp Le Rhone rotary. An incredible 8,340 of all versions of the Avro 504 were built, of which the most numerous was the 504K. They were still being used by the RAF as trainers as late as 1933.
Leighterton is in Gloucestershire. More info here: http://www.airfieldinformationexchan...68-Leighterton

An aerial view can be found here, as can pictures of a couple of bent 504s at Leighterton:
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 11:43
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I read that the RAF suffered 10,000 casualties during WW2 due to non-combat losses.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 14:18
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Might be worth looking at actual losses from incidents versus fatal training accidents.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 15:20
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Seem to recall that one of the major causes of death in WWII was road accidents caused by the blackout.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 20:13
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I read that the OCUs tended to get the 'bent' airframes rejected by the front line squadrons, and were last in line for spares. Hence a large number of training sorties were flown in unservicable aircraft. The odds were stacked against the poor sods!
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 20:27
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The trend continued way beyond WWII. In my time I averaged attendance at an aircrew funeral once a year. Only 10% of these deaths were attributable to combat/airworthiness. The other 90% was loosely termed 'aircrew error'.
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Old 5th Aug 2014, 21:16
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No 8(Training) Squadron Australian Flying Corps (AFC) flew from RFC Halton Park in 1917 before relocating in 1918 - which is now RAF Halton. RAF Halton is the last airfield in the RAF which was in use throughout World War One; the only older one in MoD service being Upavon.

8 (Training) Squadron AFC
By 1917 the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) consisted of four operational squadrons which outstripped the ability of the Army’s Central Flying School at Point Cook to supply sufficient trained airmen. It was decided, therefore, to establish training squadrons within the AFC. Four such squadrons were subsequently established in the United Kingdom during 1917.

8 Squadron, AFC was formed at Wendover on 24 October 1917. It was originally identified as 33 (Australian Training) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, but was renamed, along with all of the Australian squadrons, in January 1918. The squadron relocated to Cirencester on 9 January 1918, and thence to Leighterton, where it remained until disbanded in April 1919.
There is an ~150yd chalk circle with "HALTON" written in it is still there, is this what was used for the 10,000ft forced landing exercise? I always believed it was for airfield conspicuity?

Anyway, RAF Halton still conducts similar activity these days by training Air Cadets to solo standard (when they start flying again!), teaching 12 Service Personnel to glide a week (up to solo standard) as a force development activity, and hosting the largest RAF Flying Club and Microlight Club. Probably as close to the flying activity from 100 years ago than anywhere else with such a history. The Trenchard Museum is well worth a visit as well (check it out here http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafhalton/abou...hardmuseum.cfm).


You can see the circle in the bottom of this photo from the 1930s - it still exists today as seen further below:

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Old 5th Aug 2014, 22:08
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D'oh! Just measured the Halton circle on GoogleEarth and it is 82yds in diameter. Also, an article in Flight in January 1919 reporting on the ‘Civil Aerial Transport Committee’ stated:

Marking - It is difficult from the air to distinguish landing grounds from the surrounding country, and they, therefore, require marking in a distinctive manner. A chalk circle 100 ft. in diameter and with a band 3 ft wide, has proved very effective, and can be seen from practically any attainable height on a clear day. It is necessary to keep the sign a good white colour so that it stands out well, and this is done by lime-washing the chalk from time to time. The name of the ground should also be marked in chalk letters 15 ft. long by 3 ft. wide. Emergency grounds should have a distinctive sign to distinguish them from regular landing grounds.
So my info on the circle looks 'duff' unless anyone knows different?

It's still the only RAF airfield left with a chalk circle that I'm aware of though...

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Old 6th Aug 2014, 01:09
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Training Casualties.


I believe (rough figures) that of the 55,000 Bomber Command crews killed in WW2, some 8,000 were in training.

This was considered acceptable (and indeed as inevitable) at the time.
Old 6th Aug 2014, 04:05
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In the book “The First of the Few” by Denis Winter, he writes:
"Put statistically, official figures at the end of the war listed 14,166 dead pilots, of whom 8,000 had died while training in the UK. In other words more pilots died training at home than were killed by the enemy, a remarkable state of affairs, which even reached the ears of Parliament. On 20 June 1918 the Secretary of State was asked for an explanation. His answer naturally put the blame on the pilots themselves, since 'discipline after all was not the pre-eminent quality of youth.'"
In the book 'Billy Bishop: Canadian Hero,' the author notes Bishop was judged ready to solo after just three hours flying time, and received his wings after less than 20 hours. He then writes:
"Such limited preparation seems preposterous today, and perhaps it explains why fatal crashes were an everyday occurrence at British flight schools. Indeed, while 6,000 aviators were killed in combat with the German Air Force between 1914 and 1918, a shocking 8,000 more were destined to die in England while they learned how to fly."
Describing his training in a letter home, Bishop made it clear there were plenty of crashes. He wrote:
"Yesterday I had 3 forced landings, 2 of which I managed to get into the aerodrome, but the last one I crashed on the side of a hill."
He adds: "Last night we had a boy killed here and another this morning. I saw them both, perfectly ghastly sights."
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 08:44
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Waddington opened in November 1916 as a training base for RFC aircrew. Flying accidents were a common occurrence as depicted in the many images of wrecked aircraft in Waddington's photo archive (some waiting for a future caption contest). The aircraft of the time - (initially Shorthorns and Grahame White XVs at Waddington) - were poorly maintained, with underpowered and unreliable engines. Later training was carried out in totally unsuitable obsolete operational aircraft such as the RE8 which was a handful to even the most experienced pilots. It was not until early 1918 that the (by now) RAF training system was overhauled with properly trained instructors in proper training aircraft such as the DH6. At one stage in 1917, the losses were so many that a German Spy was suspected of sabotage and the number of guards was tripled, to no effect. Indeed, the loss rate at Waddington was no different to the RNAS training bases at Cranwell and Digby.

Over 30 aircrew were buried in the churchyard at Waddington (with many more sent for burial in their home towns). Unfortunately all but one of these graves were destroyed in a German air raid in May 1941. The surviving grave is the resting place of 2nd Lt CR Marks who was killed in May 1917 when his aircraft disintegrated in flight.

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Old 6th Aug 2014, 10:42
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I saw them both, perfectly ghastly sights.
On a ground tour, I was local controller the morning following a 'V' crash on the airfield. The 'bits' were still lying around - I won't go into detail of the reported injuries.
I felt that there was no need for the tower controller to inspect the scene at that stage and collect data for future nightmares so I didn't.

My immediate colleagues and I were very lucky to join the RAF in the mid sixties when training attrition was reducing dramatically.
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Old 6th Aug 2014, 13:28
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the only older one in MoD service being Upavon.
The military have been flying from Netheravon since 1912.
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Old 7th Aug 2014, 10:05
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WW1: Apologies if mentioned before. It was RFC/RAF policy until September 16th 1918 to ban parachutes. One wonders how many lives were lost thanks to that ridiculous order!

WW2: Survival rates from Lancasters were 15% and Halifax 25%, USAAF 50%. Freeman Dyson discovered that the escape hatch on Lancs was literally one inch too small to allow an airman to escape (with ease) with full gear and chute. He campaigned unsuccessfully to have it enlarged. He also computed that a Lanc minus two turrets and two crew members would have been 50mph faster. Again he was ignored.
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