This Day in History – July 26th, 1918

EdwardMannock1In 1918, Major Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock was considered Britain’s top flying ace! During World War One he served in three combat tours and amassed many victories. His first tour saw 15 victories as he proved to his senior officers that he was not the coward they suspected him of being.

Mannock got the nickname “Mick” due to his Irish birth, despite his parents being English and Scottish. He was a bit of a misfit and a rebel, which is why many senior officers regarding him at first as not good material for flight, but on the contrary his maverick like ways proved deadly to his German opponents. His first tour in 40 Squadron saw 15 victories, his first being a very dangerous dirigible “balloon busting” mission. Mannock’s keen gun skills and precise piloting did much to gain him respect and fame.

Between April 12 and June 17, 1918 Mannock served as Flight Commander in the newly formed 74 Squadron. During this time he accumulated 36 more victories against the Germans. His colleagues noted that Mannock actually had a voracious hated of German pilots and gained satisfaction from their deaths, especially those who burned to death in their crashing planes. It was, however, a mixed feeling; on several occasions Mannock had visited the sites of the planes that he had downed, and was horrified by the twisted remains of pilots in the wreckages. While delighting in the death of his foes, Mannock also grew obsessively fearful of dying in a mid-air fire and took to carrying a pistol with in the cockpit; if his plane ever caught fire, he fully intended to end his life with a bullet instead.

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Despite his phobia, Mannock craved the skies and ariel combat. In June 1918, when forced back to England due to a case of influenza he wept and longed to be back in the battle. The following month he got his wish and returned to France for his third and final tour. This time he was Officer Commanding of 85 Squadron and won nine more victories, but on July 26th, 1918 he took off for a mission to which he did not return.

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Mannock was one of the first aviation tactics theorists, and warned other pilots about hazardous tactics such as flying too low, but apparently he did just that on his final flight. Within range of ground fire, Mannocks plane caught fire and he went down, killed in action. Mannock won the Military Cross twice, was one of the rare three-time winners of the Distinguished Service Order, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Mannock’s body was never properly identified, so despite all his glory as one of the greatest fighter pilots of the “Great War,” Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock’s remains lie without a grave somewhere in a French field that poets may claim will be “forever England.”

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