Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford 7 June 1915

Estate of R G Cole; (c) Audrey Gillies-Cole (widow); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The first Naval Aviation Victoria Cross was awarded to Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford serving with the Royal Naval Air Service and flying a Morane Saulnier Type L. Whilst flying over Belgium on a night-time mission to intercept Zeppelins, Flt Sub Lt Warneford spotted Zeppelin LZ. 37 flying over Ostend.

The French built Morane Saulnier Type L was a fragile two-seat reconnaissance a “parasol” monoplane aircraft flown by several air services, including the French AĆ©ronautique Militaire and the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC)


On June 17, 1915, Lt. R.A.J. Warneford of the RNAF was flying toward Ostend. I was his first night flight, and he was going to bomb the Zeppelin sheds at Evere. He spotted a large cigar-shaped object in the clouds. As he drew nearer he saw that it was the German Zeppelin LZ 37.

Warneford’s Morane Saulnier L only carried a few bombs and a carbine. The Zeppelin continued to fire at him as it’s crew dumped ballast. The LZ 37 rose rapidly higher into the sky. Warneford struggled to gain altitude. Warneford pursued the Zeppelin into the early morning.

Suddenly the Zeppelin nosed down and began to lose altitude. He climbed to 11,000 feet and diving towards the giant airship, he released his bombs. As the giant airship exploded, Warneford’s aircraft was turned upside down. Warneford pushed his plane until he was over the zeppelin and released his bombs. After a few moments, there was a tremendous explosion, and the Zeppelin LZ 37 fell to the earth engulfed in flames. Lt. Warneford was the first Allied flier to bring down a Zeppelin.

Upon regaining control, he discovered that the force of the blast had ruptured his fuel pipe forcing him to land behind enemy lines. In true can-do-spirit, however, he repaired the aircraft himself and took off again in thick fog for the flight back to base.


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