On this day in history 7 June 1915, Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Warneford, a pilot serving with No.1 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, attacked the German naval Zeppelin LZ 37 and consigned it to flames.
The Zeppelin’s explosion overturned Warneford’s aircraft and damaged his engine. He made a forced landing behind enemy lines, whereupon he quickly repaired his engine, then took off and returned to base.
For his actions on 7 June 1915, S/Lt Warneford was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation reads:
For most conspicuous bravery on the 7th June 1915, when he attacked and, single-handed, completely destroyed a Zeppelin in mid-air.
This brilliant achievement was accomplished after chasing the Zeppelin from the coast of Flanders to Ghent, where he succeeded in dropping his bombs on to it from a height of only one or two hundred feet. One of these bombs caused a terrific explosion which set the Zeppelin on fire from end to end, but at the same time overturned his Aeroplane and stopped the engine.
In spite of this he succeeded in landing safely in hostile country, and after 15 minutes started his engine and returned to his base without damage.
Warneford was also awarded the Légion d’honneur.
Sadly, on 17 June 1915, while conducting a test flight, Warneford’s aircraft suffered a catastrophic failure of its airframe and he was killed in the crash. He is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London.
Gold medal commemorating John Travers Cornwell, Boy 1st Class, Royal Navy, for his service aboard HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland. In collection of National Maritime Museum.
Sergeant Norman Finch, Royal Marine Artillery, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action during the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April, 1918. The citation in The London Gazette for 23 July 1918 reads:
Sergeant Norman Augustus Finch, R.M.A., No. R.M.A./12150.
For most conspicuous gallantry. Sergeant Finch was second in command of the pompoms and Lewis guns in the foretop of Vindictive, under Lieutenant Charles N. B. Rigby, R.M.A. At one period the Vindictive was being hit every few seconds, chiefly in the upper works, from which splinters caused many casualties. It was difficult to locate the guns which were doing the most damage, but Lieutenant Rigby, Sergeant Finch and the Marines in the foretop, kept up a continuous fire with pompoms and Lewis guns, changing rapidly from one target to another, and thus keeping the enemy’s fire down to some considerable extent. Unfortunately two heavy shells made direct hits on the foretop, which was completely exposed to enemy concentration of fire. All in the top were killed or disabled except Sergeant Finch, who was, however, severely wounded; nevertheless he showed consummate bravery, remaining in his battered and exposed position. He once more got a Lewis gun into action, and kept up a continuous fire, harassing the enemy on the mole, until the foretop received another direct hit, the remainder of the armament being then completely put out of action. Before the top was destroyed Sergeant Finch had done invaluable work, and by his bravery undoubtedly saved many lives. This very gallant sergeant of the Royal Marine Artillery was selected by the 4th Battalion of Royal Marines, who were mostly Royal Marine Light Infantry, to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant dated 29th January, 1856.
Finch retired from the Royal Marines as a Quartermaster Sergeant in 1929. During the Second World War, he rejoined at age 49 and served as a Storekeeper Officer (Lieutenant) until 1945.His Victoria Cross is on display at the Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Barracks, Southsea.
Sergeant Norman Finch, VC with the Lewis gun he fired from Vindictive’s foretop.
Whoever uploaded this to YouTube claims 1952, but it’s definitely a 1953 flick.
The fil-um moves CS Forester’s story from the First World War to the Second World War and we have Hollywood’s Jeffrey Hunter as a Canadian.
But it’s a cracking piece of cinema from Roy Boulting. Incredible battle sequence from 25-minutes onward. Bernard Lee, Victor Maddern and Sam Kydd play their character roles with the humour and sangfroid expected from a black-and-white British war film. Well worth watching before YouTube delete it.