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66 Squadron, RFC & RAF, 1916 to 1919


Apps, Gordon Frank Mason DFC

Introduction

On 24 October 1931 Gordon Frank Mason Apps died with Sgt. John Hand whilst attempting to land at Peterborough Airport when flying Fairchild 71 s/n 114. The funeral of Gordon F M Apps was held in Winnipeg at the Chapel of Thompson Mortuary and was taken by the Reverend W Findlay. His body was then taken for internment at St. Johns. The R.C.A.F. provided a military escort from Camp Borden. A later Board of Inquiry later found that the accident was caused by pilot error.

Early Life

Gordon Frank Mason Apps was the second of four sons born to Henry a Sanitary Inspector and Kate Helena Apps on 3 May 1899 at Lenham Kent. Gordon attended Lenham School and then Sutton Valence Grammar School. After schooling he became an apprentice with the company of Tilling-Stevens, at their motor and munitions factory for about 18 months. When World War One broke out in August 1914 Gordon's elder brother Jack enlisted in the Artist Rifles, and Gordon followed his brother to the Artist Rifles in 1917; later Jack was transferred to the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers only to be killed at Bourlon Wood on 20 November 1917. Gordon was seconded to the RFC at the end of August 1917.

His training followed a familiar pattern; first to 2 Officer Cadet Wing where he spent six days, then to 2 School of Instruction Oxford for initial ground instruction into machines and engines, theory of flight etc. From Oxford he was posted to 9 Training Squadron at Norwich, flying Maurice Farman Short and Longhorns, after solo he was posted to the Gunnery School at Turnberry and the Fighting School at Ayr, and then to 67 Training Squadron at Shawbury in October 1917. In the middle of November he was again posted to 10 Training Squadron also based at Shawbury. His training completed Gordon was sent to 7 Brigade on 22 November 1917, which had just arrived in Italy itself. Apps joined 66 Squadron on 29 December 1917, so between his posting to 7 Brigade and joining 66 he may have had some leave, before travelling to Italy.

Italy

"Mable" Apps as he was known was to become an ace in his own right. His first victory was on 11 March 1918 when he claimed a Berg D type D.D.O.C. near Valstagna, The patrol was being led by the newly appointed A flight commander from 45 Squadron Peter Carpenter. The patrol's other member was the soon to be shot down Alan Jerrard, they came across a patrol of six Berg Scouts at 14000 ft. Carpenter shot down one of the Bergs, Jerrard attacked another and sent it down, only to see it flatten out, Gordon attacked another and this was seen to go down by Peter Carpenter "absolutely out of control" as it disappeared into a deep ravine. This was followed up on the 28 March by an Albatros D111, which crashed near Oderzo. The patrol came across eight Albatross D111's; a general fight ensued with Gordon firing some 300 rounds into his victim from a height 10,000 ft down to 400 ft. Gerald Birks followed his adversary down to 800 ft but could not finish him off. Henry Homan also engaged an enemy aircraft firing 200 rounds but with no result.

Apps' Game Book RecordOn the 4 May Gordon claimed two aircraft on the same patrol. The patrol, which was led by Bill Hilborn, met one patrol of eight Scouts and another of six, they comprised Albatros DV's and D111's. The first of Gordon's claims a DV was shot down in flames near the River Piave crashing on the allied side of the lines. The second victory came when Gordon was attacked head on by an Albatros D111. After several attempts he was seen to go down out of control and crash, the pilot survived the crash and was seen to get out of the
wreckage by Lt McLeod of 28 Squadron, who then went down and machine gunned the pilot. Gerald Birks also claimed two D111's, whilst Vivian Parker also claimed a D111.

On 24 May a patrol led by Captain William Barker the C flight Commander accompanied by Birks and Apps was responsible for destroying four aircraft Apps was credited with an Albatross DV and Barker with two. "Mable" was also credited with another DV which according to the combat report was to be credited to him. The aircraft was seen to crash by Gerald Birks but this victory does not appear in the Squadron game book list. Gordon was to claim further victories on the 21st and 28th June and 13th July. Gordon was wounded by shrapnel from AA defences on 17th July and on the 2nd August he was sent to 62 General Hospital in France for treatment. He was declared fit for duty on the 5th September and returned to Italy where on the 16th September he claimed his last victory. His DFC was gazetted on the 21st September 1918: citation below.

Gordon returned to Home establishment shortly after his last victory. According to his Canadian Air Force record he then served with 57 Squadron at Bekesbourne in Kent on the defence of London flying Sopwith Camels and later Sopwith Snipe's, but 57 Squadron did not operate the Camel and was based in France until it returned to home establishment after the war's end. His AIR 76 record says he went to Sopwith Camel equipped 50 Squadron, based at Bekesbourne on 10 October 1918, although I can find no record of it being equipped with the Snipe. 50 Squadron was engaged with the defence of London, and it seems reasonable that Apps may have joined the squadron, but more research is needed on this point. He attended a wireless course at 2 Wireless School, Penshurst, during November and December 1918, the school did have a least one Sopwith Snipe and Apps may have accumulated the 10 hours he had on the type here. Returning to his squadron with his new skills. Gordon Apps saw out the remainder of his RAF career with 50 Squadron and was discharged from the service on 19 March 1919.

Civilian Life

Gordon's first position on his return to civilian life was with the Imperial Radio Chain. This was a project to build a chain of radio stations to span the Empire. He worked on this for 2.5 years, he was in charge of a gang of approximately 100 men constructing the stations and plant rooms, erecting the masts, installing the engines, dynamos and wiring.

He then worked for the H.E.P.C Ontario for about six months but this was only short term employment. He was keeping in touch with his old Flight Commander William G Barker VC, who had returned to Canada becoming involved with the newly created Canadian Air Force.

Royal Canadian Air Force

Apps applied for a post in the R C.A.F, he notes on his application form that Col Barker was his flight commander whilst with 66 Squadron for 10 months (Barker joined 66 in April 1918 and joined 139 Squadron on the 15 July.) He was accepted and joined on 19 March 1924 when he was posted to Camp Borden; he was taken on permanently on 1 April 1924 still at Camp Borden. He served at a succession of R.C.A.F stations including Winnipeg, Victoria Beach, and Barrie. In April 1925 he was appointed to Norway House as Air Pilotage Officer.

In 1926 Apps joined the aerial photographic mapping Operations that had been initiated some years earlier. Gordon along with another pilot L. R. Charron and two surveyor-navigators R. D. Davidson and E. S. Fry, two photographic-mechanics A.J. Milne and R. Marshall, a photographic officer and one cook were a Self contained unit who worked away in the field. A fuel dump was located at Sioux Lookout, Ontario. From here and other bases such as Victoria Beach and Lake St. Joseph. Operations were conducted by the Viking Flight using two Viking Flying Boats. The were tasked to fly at 5,000 ft. and had about 25,000 Square miles in the Red Lake District to survey. The aircraft were designed by the Vickers Company at Weybridge, England and constructed by Canadian Vickers Ltd. at Montreal. The fleet of six aircraft were delivered by November 1923 and given the registrations G-CYEU-Z. (For further details of the Canadian Surveying operation see Photographing Canada from Flying Canoes, by S.Bernard Shaw. ISBN 1-894263-42-1) During this duty he appears to have spent a considerable amount of time visiting other stations.

On 10 December 1927 Gordon married Norma Clairs Kennedy at Winnipeg Air Station Manitoba, the base chaplain William Robertson conducted the ceremony. In December 1930 Apps was seconded to RAF Calshot for an Air Pilotage course. The course was due to start on 20 January 1931. Gordon and Norma took some leave on arrival in England from 15 December 1930 until 19 January, possibly spending time with his family over Christmas in Sutton Valence. (Whilst visiting England his father died, and this may account for the leave he took at the end of the course in April 1931.) He had returned to Canada by May 1930 and was eventually to be posted to Camp Borden and joined 1 School of Aeronautics on 28 May 1931.

On 24 October 1931 Gordon Frank Mason Apps died with Sgt. John Hand whilst attempting to land at Peterborough Airport when flying Fairchild 71 s/n 114. The funeral of Gordon F M Apps was held in Winnipeg at the Chapel of Thompson Mortuary and was taken by the Reverend W Findlay. His body was then taken for internment at St.Johns. The R.C.A.F. provided a military escort from Camp Borden. A later Board of Inquiry later found that the accident was caused by pilot error.

Awards and Citations

"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."

Photographs

Is this Gordon Apps? Is this Gordon Apps?

 

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