The Flight Commander 01


The Flight Commander

A pilot, even though he were a superb flier, did not necessarily become a successful Flight Commander, and I have known many Flight Commanders who, by no stretch of the imagination,

could be called good pilots, but whose leadership was of a high order.

Initiative, clear sight, navigating ability, the power to impart knowledge and balanced judgment are some of the main attributes which made the successful Flight Commander in the Great War.

Number 8 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, later known as “Naval 8” - a name which was given to it by the Royal Flying Corps pilots of the squadrons with which it worked - and known now in the Royal Air Force as Number 208 Squadron - was singularly fortunate in starting its career with several men who were born leaders. To these men many of us owe not only our gratitude, but everything we possess, for, had it not been for their care and foresight, their skill in adapting themselves to strange conditions and their initiative, we would not in our turn have been able to lead flights and pass on the knowledge they gave us. Such a man was Colin Roy Mackenzie, my Flight Commander when the Squadron went down to work with the Royal Flying Corps on the Somme front in 1916.

At that time we knew little about aerial fighting, for the area where we had been (Nieuport, Ostend and Dunkirk) was amply defended by anti-aircraft guns. Unlike some of our Allies, the Germans believed in manning their anti-aircraft guns with some of their finest gunners, and I for one certainly take off my hat to them for their shooting.

Our scanty knowledge of aerial fighting was soon augmented by bitter experience: the enemy were employing a great number of aeroplanes of every description on this front in 1916, and Mackenzie led us magnificently through those hectic days when we hardly knew what we were doing. I remember how he told us that when we were having a fight with another aeroplane we must bear in mind that there were two very frightened men in the picture, but the other man was the more frightened of the two. What excellent advice! For surely, if one could truly believe this, a battle was half won before the start. I could write much of these early days

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