Officer Commanding “G” Flight – Flying Officer Gordon Frank Mason Apps


RAF 66 Squadron (source Internet)

Gordon Apps was Officer Commanding of “G” Flight. His life story is on Wikipedia if you want to read it.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Apps


Excerpt

In the meantime, Apps applied to the Royal Canadian Air Force. He joined his old commander “Billy” Barker in the new air force on 19 March 1924. After a round of assignments to Winnipeg, Victoria Beach, Barrie, and Norway House, he was posted to an aerial survey project in 1926, tasked to photograph 25,000 square miles (65,000 km2) in the Red Lake District.[1]

Clarence sent me a link to RCAF records. G.F.M. Apps signed the “G” Flight 1927 report. 


I was able to take it from there.

More about Lieutenant Gordon Frank Mason Apps…

http://rcafassociation.ca/uploads/airforce/2009/07/gong-1a-b.html

APPS, Lieutenant Gordon Frank Mason – Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 21 September 1918. Born in Kent, England, 3 May 1899; enlisted in Artists Rifles, February 1917; transferred to RFC, April 1917; served in No.66 Squadron, Italy, but no Canadian connection until migrating to Canada after the war.

Left RAF in May 1919; commissioned in RCAF, 19 March 1924 (promoted to Flight Lieutenant, 1 April 1928). To Winnipeg Air Station, 30 May 1924; to No.3 Photo Detachment 17 April 1928; to Winnipeg Air Station, 31 March 1929. On command to Calshot, England, 3 December 1930 to 18 May 1931. To Camp Borden as instructor, 31 May 1931.

Died of natural causes at Peterborough, 24 October 1931. Citation card is noted, “See file 866-A-29, two volumes, microfilm ref. 60-1A” but location of this not known as of 12 April 1997.

A bold and skilful airman who in recent operations has destroyed six enemy aeroplanes, accounting for two in one flight. He displays marked determination and devotion to duty.


Died of natural causes at Peterborough, 24 October 1931???

D.F.C. London Gazette 21 September 1918:

‘A bold and skilful airman who in recent operations has destroyed six enemy aeroplanes, accounting for two in one flight. He displays marked determination and devotion to duty.’

Gordon Frank Mason Apps, who was born in Lenham, Kent, in May 1899, was educated at Sutton Valence School and enlisted in the Artist’s Rifles in February 1917, direct from an engineering apprenticeship at the Tilling-Stevens Motor and Munition Factory.

Transferring to the Royal Flying Corps that April, he qualified as a pilot and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in August 1917, following which he was ordered to Italy to join No. 66 Squadron, a Sopwith Camel unit.

Carrying out his first offensive patrols in January 1918, he was to remain similarly employed until being wounded by A.A. fire in his right leg on 17 July 1918 – a period encompassing well in excess of 100 operational sorties, 10 confirmed victories and a considerable amount of work alongside the Canadian ace, Captain W. G. “Billy” Barker, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., and Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, V.C.

Apps gained his first confirmed victory, a Berg Scout north of Valstagna, on 11 March, while flying with Alan Jerrard and Captain P. Carpenter, the latter stating that he last saw the Berg ‘going down absolutely out of control, but was not seen to crash as it had disappeared, spinning slowly into a deep ravine, but would almost be certain to crash as apparently no machine could have landed safely in such a place.’

On 28 March, in a combat over the locality of Oderzo, Apps destroyed an Albatross D. III, the relevant report stating ‘Lieutenant Apps followed his E.A. down to about 400 feet, firing about 300 rounds into the E.A., which crashed at 3.20 p.m. However, Apps low-level tactics were not without cost, for ‘machine-gun fire from the ground was very bad’ and his ‘machine was hit in several places.’

On 4 May, while patrolling over Vidor, Apps and three other 66 pilots were attacked by 14 enemy aircraft:

‘Patrol then engaged these E.As. Lieutenant Apps got on the tail of a DV and shot him down in flames over the River Piave. The E.A. fell this side of the lines. Lieutenant Apps was then attacked head on by a D. III, this being repeated on four distinct occasions and on the last of which the E.A. went down out of control. This E.A. was observed to crash and the enemy pilot get out of his machine at Moriago by Lieutenant McLeod of No. 28 Squadron, who went down and shot the pilot.’

Once again Apps returned to base in a badly damaged aircraft: ‘machine was shot through the engine, cowling, centre section, L.H. bottom plane, elevators and one flying wire shot away.’

In a combat on 20 May, fought alongside “Billy” Barker and Lieutenant W. M. MacDonald, Apps chased down a D.V. which had been shot up by Barker, thereby confirming his leader’s victory – it crashed into the side of a mountain at Sevla.

A few days later, on the 24th, and once again flying with Barker, he claimed another confirmed D. III, following a spectacular 15 minute combat just above Mount Coppolo – ‘Lieutenant Apps fired a long burst when the E.A. was doing a climbing turn and the E.A. went down out of control and crashed in the valley.’

On 21 June, during an offensive patrol with Barker over Motta, Apps took out a D.III, ‘after a fight from 14,000 to 9,000 feet, during which he fired several good bursts, and the E.A. fell out of control and crashed just south of the railway at Sala di La. This was observed by Captain Barker.

Having then destroyed another Albatross D. III in a combat over Chromenti on 28 June – it crashed near Cismon – Apps took out yet another one in a combat at 5,000 feet south of Godega on 13 July, the latter, as confirmed by Barker, ‘turning over and falling to pieces’.

Finally, on 16 July, Apps shared in the destruction of an L.V.G. south-west of Posimone with Lieutenant A. E. Baker, but on the following day he was seriously wounded in the right leg by A.A. fire and had to make an emergency landing back at base.

Evacuated for treatment in France, and thence in the U.K., he was passed as fit for home service duties in September 1918, when he joined No. 50 Squadron as a Flight Commander.

Finding employment as a civil engineer with the United Aircraft Company at Croydon after the War, Apps settled in Canada in the early 1920s, initially working for the G.P.O’s Imperial Radio Chain.

In March 1924, however, he was appointed a Flying Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and, having gained advancement to Flight Lieutenant, he was killed in a flying accident in October 1931. He was buried at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, Manitoba.

Not that EZ to figure out…

Not that EZ to figure out what really happened to G-CYET.

This photo is from Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3389794. It’s G-CYET unless the caption is wrong.

Canadian Vickers Viking Mk. IV, G-CYET, Reindeer Lake, Manitoba, 1924. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3389794)

That’s the Viking G-CYET that crashed in 1927.

This next image is taken from Charlotte M. Campbell’s photo album…

It’s a close-up view…

of a modified image…

of the original.

So what really happened on 11 July 1927? Was it lightning or structural failure?

First, I had to figure out what were those particular Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft… G-CYET and G-CYEZ.

I was still a bit confused…

So I did this montage.

Now I know which is which.

But were the newspapers correct in their breaking news on 12 July 1927?

Wilmington News-Journal Ohio 1927-07-12
Hilbre, MB Lightning Strikes Plane, July 1927

THINK LIGHTNING BOLT STRUCK PLANE, HURLING THREE TO DEATH.
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE AVIATORS WERE MAKING TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY.

Winnipeg, July 12 – (AP) – Exploding in mid-air a hydroplane of the Royal Air Force burst into flames and in four separate pieces crashed to the ground near Hilbre, Man., yesterday, bringing death to three men. The dead are: Flight Officer W. C. WEAVER, pilot. A. T. HARDLEY, photographic mechanic, and F. H. WRONG, surveyor of the Topographical Survey Branch, Ottawa. Eye witnesses say the plane entered a heavy cloud bank and was lost to view. Soon there was a loud explosion and three bodies came hurtling through the air, followed by the separate pieces of the plane, afire like huge rockets. Officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Winnipeg today expressed the opinion that the plane had been struck by lightning. The plane was believed to have been at an altitude of almost 3,500 feet when the explosion occurred. One of the victims was found buried head first in the ground. One of the airmen had a parachute strapped on but evidently had no time to use it. The aviators were making a topographical survey of the Hilbre district.


Reno Evening Gazette  – July 12, 1927, Reno, Nevada

Canadian Air Surveyors in Manitoba, 3500 Feet up,
Meet with Death Bodies Hurtle from Mist to Ground before Eyes Of Startled Observers

WINNIPEG, Manitoba 11 July 1927

Exploding in mid-air a hydro airplane of the Royal Force burst into flames and in four pieces crashed to the ground near Hilbre, Manitoba yesterday, bring death to three men.The dead are: Flight Officer W. C. Weaver, pilot in charge; A.T. Bradley, photographic mechanic, and F. H. Wrong, surveyor of the topographical survey branch, Ottawa.-

EXPLODES IN CLOUD

Witnesses say the plane entered a heavy, cloud bank and was lost to view. Shortly after there was a loud explosion and three bodies came hurtling through the air followed by the pieces of the plane, afire like rockets. The flaming, gasoline tank separated from the machine. Officers of the Royal Canadian air force in Winnipeg today expressed the opinion that the plane had been struck by lightning. The accident occurred over a farm a short distance from Hilbre, which is northwest of Winnipeg on the north shore of Lake Manitoba.

FALL OF 3500 FEET

The plane was believed to have been at an altitude almost 3500 feet when the explosion occurred. One of the victims was found buried head first in the ground. Nearby another body was found and a short distance away a third was discovered in the grass.” One of the airmen has a parachute strapped on but evidently had no time to use it. Parts of the machine were half buried in the ground and debris was scattered over wide area. The pontoons were found one hundred yards from the main portion of the plane.

WERE SURVEYORS

The aviators had taken off from Winnipegosis during the morning, a topographical survey of the Hilbre district. It came from the Lac-du-Bonnet station of the Royal Canadian Air forces, where forestry and survey planes are stationed during the summer months. It was a single engined Vickers Viking of the pusher type with the propeller at the rear of the wings. Preparations for an investigation are under way and Flight Lieut. L. T. Stevenson of headquarters staff here left tonight for the scene of the tragedy.


Were Flight Officer W. C. Weaver, pilot in charge, A.T. Bradley, photographic mechanic, and F. H. Wrong, surveyor of the topographical survey branch, Ottawa in Charlotte M. Campbell’s album? If of course it’s them seen here in 1924…

Canadian Vickers Viking Mk. IV, G-CYET, Reindeer Lake, Manitoba, 1924. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3389794)

By looking at that next picture, we see two pilots. They both have pilot’s wings. If the caption is right, and I have no doubt it’s right, one of the pilot should be Flight Officer W. C. Weaver.

Having a name to work with I went on Google.


https://www.thenetletter.net/the-netletter/2016/1337/reader-feedback-1337
Norman Hogwood, from New Zealand, sent us this information.

I’m reading a book called “One Summer – America 1927” by Bill Bryson.

In it, Lindbergh has flown to Paris, Byrd has crash-landed on the beach in Normandy so the papers are full of aviation stories.

He says they’re silent on the 12th of July, 1927 except for one small item about an event in Canada the day before when a survey plane took off from an airfield near Lake Manitoba. It carried a pilot, a photographer, and a surveyor. The weather was fine. Witnesses reckoned it climbed to about 2000 ft in a normal manner but when it emerged from a cloud bank they saw the occupants fall out, one at a time, and plunge to their deaths. According to Bryson the events surrounding that incident are largely unknown. A very strange happening and I wonder if you or any of your friends have the answer to the riddle.

We, at the NetLetter, contacted, Betty Draper, one of our readers, who sent us this information –

I found this for you I think it is the one you are looking for. I didn’t find it in the Winnipeg paper, that’s odd as it happened in Manitoba, they always have the news from the 1800s. I found it in the New York Times, and this was the information-

Three Fall Our of Plane 1,000 Feet in Air;
Canadian surveyors Die in Strange Accident.

Winnipeg, Canada, July 11, 1927 (AP) –
Three members of a Manitoba aerial photographic survey party were killed near Fairford, Manitoba, this afternoon when in some unexplained manner they fell from their machine a distance of about 1,000 feet. The dead were Flight Officer W.C.Weaver of Melfort, Saskatchewan, pilot in charge; A.T. Hardley, photographic mechanic, of Locre, Manitoba; F.H. Wrong, Surveyor of Topographical Survey Branch, Ottawa.

Eyewitnesses say the plane entered a cloudbank. Lost to view for several minutes, it later was observed following an erratic course through the clouds. The watchers were suddenly startled to see three men come hurtling through the air and the machine follow in a shallow nose dive to earth.

The body of Flight Officer Weaver was recovered near the shore of Lake Manitoba, at Hilbere. The bodies of the others were also recovered.

Norman had also copied his request to Geoff Hayes, and this was his reply – My good friend Andy Triolaire, (ex Director of Safety, Canadian Airlines) has attached a (possible) report of this mysterious event.

This was the pertinent paragraph –
Two of the eight Vickers Viking Mk. IVs were the only aircraft made at Vickers in Britain rather than the Canadian Vickers company. G-CYET, pictured, suffered a Category A accident on 11 July 1927. The accident involved the failure of the hull in the air and a structural test on G-CYEU at Winnipeg practically duplicated this failure leading to a local modification on the remainder of the fleet to strengthen the hull.


 To be continued…