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66 Squadron, RFC & RAF, 1916 to 1919

Arthur James Howell


Arthur James Howell was born in Cardiff, Wales on 5 November 1894 the eldest son of Arthur John and Annie Theresa Howell. Nothing is known about his childhood, although the family continued to reside in Cardiff. The Howell family business in Cardiff was called The Cardiff Imperial Paper Company based in Millicent Street.

Arthur James Howell in Glamorgan YeomanryToo young to join the forces on the outbreak of the war, Arthur enlisted in the 2/1 Glamorgan Yeomanry in April or May of 1916. The Yeomanry drew its ranks from the locality, consisting of local gentry, farmer’s sons and tradesmen. Evidently it was not to Arthur’s liking and he decided to apply for a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, this was duly granted and on or around the 24 November 1917 when he was posted to No 1 School of Instruction at Reading for his initial training. The work here consisted of instruction on, amongst other things airframes, engines, machine guns, and the theory of flight. There were a few tired aircraft for the students to study at Reading. They had a mix of Avroe 504, Long and Shorthorn aircraft. Examinations were sat in all subjects with the successful students being posted to the Initial Flying Schools.

Central Flying School

The CFS was located on Sailsbury Plain at Upavon, one of the Royal Flying Corp’s oldest aerodromes. It was here that he would learn how to fly under the instruction of a seasoned pilot. Early flying instruction was undertaken by either C or D Squadrons who were equipped with a variety of duel seat training machines. Aircraft types such as the Farman Brothers Longhorn and Shorthorn aircraft which at the time were the standard Ab Intio trainers and later the more advanced Avroe 504. Cadets usually went solo after about 10 –12 hours instruction. This may have taken several weeks depending on the weather conditions, each flight would have been entered in his Army Book 425 – Pilots Flying Log Book, noting weather conditions time in the air, manoeuvres, instructor and aircraft type and serial, each week the hours flown were totalled and the book was presented to the Training Flight Commander and each month or at the end of the course it would usually have been signed by the Commanding Officer. Once the solo had been accomplished Arthur was sent to B Sqn CFS, for advanced training; both dual and solo on a variety of types from the Avroe 504 to the Sopwith Camel and SE5A, after about another 40 – 45 hours instruction, it was with “B” sqn that he would take his flying examination for his CFS “A” certificate and duly appointed a Flying Officer (Note:- Other ranks who learnt to fly were awarded a “B” certificate).

AAJ HowellMany hours of instruction and practice were given. The Camel was known as a tricky aircraft to fly because of it’s rotary engine which produced lots of torque, and an unstable airframe combination. Unsuspecting pilots had to handle the aeroplane with great care, many an inexperienced trainee Camel pilot would find out the hard way if he did not give the aeroplane the most respect.

66 Squadron

On the 24 July 1918 Arthur embarked for France, where he would have entrained for Italy where he arrived on 28 July and after arriving at the 7 Aircraft Park pilots pool he was sent to 66 Squadron the same day. Arthur was unlucky with his health and on the 13 September he was admitted to 24 Casualty Clearing Station at Villa Tino. On the 17 September he was sent to 11 General Hospital Villa Tino, which was possibly operated by the Americans. He was discharged to duty on 11 October from 57 General Hospital (Western General) in Marseilles, France. This was a considerable amount of time away from the squadron during a busy time. The Austrians eventually collapsed and the armistice was signed on the 4 November. Nevertheless Arthur took part in 14 combat patrols flying some 27 hours and also had some 15 hours of training flights, cloud flying, practice fighting, compass and other flights.

2Lt Arthur HowellHis first training flight after joining the squadron was on 29 July when he had a 30 minute solo flight in the evening. The following day he joined Lt William M MacDonald in Camel B7358 and Arthur in B5623 undertook a No 16 Long patrol. They patrolled at 14/15000 ft encountering no enemy aircraft. They flew over Roveretto, Asiago, Brenta, Fonzaso, Feltre and Mount Grappa, this was really a familiarization flight over the rugged Italian terrain. His first patrol in which he engaged the enemy was on the 5 August when flying a No 3 Special Patrol with Harry Goode and Harry McDairmid. The patrol flew at 12/14000 ft over Foza, Quero, Motta, St. Dona di Piave, Oderzo, Ponte di Piave. At about 0845 patrol leader Harry attacked one enemy kite balloon flying at 7000 ft but no results were observed, then at 0920 they spotted another balloon at 6000 ft. Harry Goode shot it down and Arthur witnessed the action. His first encounter with enemy aeroplanes came on the 8 August when flying with patrol leader Capt. John Mackereth and Lt. Geoffrey T C May saw four Fokker DV’s over Folgaria, but they failed to engage. On 15 August Arthur was flying with Macdonald and McDairmid, but owing to engine trouble after 45 minutes he was forced to return to St Pietro in Gu. Meanwhile the patrol continued when they observed one L.V.G. and four Fokker D111 escorts at 9000 ft near Fozaso MacDonald claimed a D111 and McDairmid the L.V.G. On the 21 August again with MacDonald and McDairmid they were archied by Italian A.A. fire over Fossalunga. One of the Camels descended to 3000ft to show the Italians they were friendly but the fire was still concentrated on the other two aeroplanes. Then MacDonald had to leave the patrol due to an engine problem. They were not the only patrol to be archied by the Italians. That day Lt.’s C.M. Maud, C.L. Cox and S.J. Osbourne had received the same treatment on an earlier flight over Montebelluna.

Arthur flew combat patrols with the following pilots. Lt. William M MacDonald, Lt. Harry K Goode, LT. Harry D McDairmid, Capt John Mackereth, Lt. Geoffrey T C May, Lt Robert G Reid, Lt Darrell J Teeporten, Lt. Norman S Taylor, Lt Alfred E Baker, and Lt Francis Symondson.

Return to Civilian Life

On 4 February 1919 he was returned to Home Establishment and was put on the Unemployed List on 13 February 1919. Some time whilst on leave in Devon he met Vera Snow. They were married in Barnstaple on 20 September 1920 and had two sons. Charles Griffiths born in the family home at Crickhowell Wales in 1923 and younger brother Arthur William whilst living in the family home at 19 Maple Grove, Bath, England in 1926. In civilian life he was the Managing Director of the Usk Paper mill, Crickhowell. On Arthur Williams’s birth certificate Arthur James profession is given as Paper Stock Merchant. Arthur James Howell died on 20 November 1932 of pneumonia in Hunters Square Edinburgh.

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