Air Vice Marshall Francis Hubert (Frank) McNamara, VC, CB, CBE (4 April 1894 – 2 November 1961) was serving with the Australian Flying Corps, he was honoured for his actions on 20 March 1917, when he rescued a fellow pilot who had been forced down behind enemy lines. McNamara was the first Australian aviator—and the only one in World War I—to receive the Victoria Cross. He later became a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Born and educated in Victoria, McNamara was a teacher when he joined the militia prior to World War I. In 1915, he was selected for pilot training atCentral Flying School, Point Cook, and transferred to the Australian Flying Corps the following year. He was based in the Middle Eastern Theatre with No 1 Squadron when he earned the Victoria Cross. In 1921, McNamara enlisted as a flying oficer in the newly formed RAAF, rising to the rank of air vice marshal by 1942. He held senior posts in England and Aden during World War II. Retiring from the Air Force in 1946, McNamara continued to live in Britain until his death from heart failure in 1961.
Born in Rushworth, Victoria, McNamara was the first of eight children to William Francis McNamara, a State Lands Department officer, and his wife Rosanna. He began his schooling in Rushworth, and completed his secondary education at Shepparton Agricultural High School, which he had entered via a scholarship. The family moved to Melbourne in 1910. McNamara joined the school cadets in 1911, and was commissioned a second lietenant in the 49th Battalion (Brighton Rifles), a militia unit, in July 1913. He became a teacher after graduating from Melbourne Teachers' Training College in 1914, and taught at various schools in Victoria. He also enrolled in the University of Melbourne, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.
As a militia officer, McNamara was mobilised for service in Australia when war was declared in August 1914. After serving briefly at bases in Queenscliff and Point Nepean, Victoria, McNamara passed through Officers Training School at Broadmeadows in December.
On 6 January 1916, he was assigned as adjutant to No 1 Squadron (also known until 1918 as No. 67 Squadron, RFC). In March, McNamara departed Melbourne for Egypt aboard HMAT Orsova, arriving in Suez the following month. He was seconded to No 42 Squadron, RFC in May to attend the Central Flying School at Upavon, England; his secondment to the RFC was gazetted on 5 July 1916.
Completing his course at Upavon, McNamara was posted back to Egypt in August. On 6 October, he served briefly as a flying instructor with No 22 Squadron RFC, before returning to No. 1 Squadron. McNamara flew with C Flight, commanded by Captain (later Air Marshal Sir) Richard Williams. On his first sortie, a reconnaissance mission over Sinai, McNamara was unaware that his plane had been hit by anti-aircraft fire; he returned to base with his engine's oil supply almost exhausted. Flying BE2’s and Martinsydes, he undertook further scouting and bombing missions in the ensuing months.
On 20 March 1917, McNamara, flying a Martinsyde, was one of four No. 1 Squadron pilots taking part in a raid against a Turkish railway junction near Gaza. Owing to a shortage of bombs, the aircraft were each armed with six specially modified 4.5-inch howitzer shellsMcNamara had successfully dropped three of his shells when the fourth exploded prematurely, badly wounded him in the leg with shrapnel, an effect he likened to being "hit with a sledgehammer". Having turned to head back to base, he spotted a fellow squadron member from the same mission, Captain David Rutherford, on the ground beside his crashlanded B.E.2. Allied airmen had been hacked to death by enemy troops in similar situations, and McNamara saw that a company of Turkish cavalry was fast approaching Rutherford's position. Despite the rough terrain and the gash in his leg, McNamara landed near Rutherford in an attempt to rescue him.
As there was no spare cockpit in the single-seat Martinsyde, the downed pilot jumped onto McNamara's wing and held the struts. McNamara crashed while attempting to take off because of the effects of his leg wound and Rutherford's weight overbalancing the aircraft. The two men, who had escaped further injury in the accident, set fire to the Martinsyde and dashed back to Rutherford's B.E.2. Rutherford repaired the engine while McNamara used his revolver against the attacking cavalry, who had opened fire on them. Two other No. 1 Squadron pilots overhead, Lieutenant (later Air Marshal Sir) Roy “Peter” Drummond and Lieutenant Alfred Ellis, also began strafing the enemy troops. McNamara managed to start the B.E.2's engine and take off, with Rutherford in the observer's cockpit. In severe pain and close to blacking out from loss of blood, McNamara flew the damaged aircraft 70 miles (110 km) back to base at El Arish.
Having effected what was described in the Australian official history of the war as "a brilliant escape in the very nick of time and under hot fire", McNamara "could only emit exhausted expletives" before he lost consciousness shortly after landing. Evacuated to hospital, he almost died following an allergic reaction to a routine tetanus injection. McNamara had to be given artificial respiration and stimulants to keep him alive, but recovered quickly. A contemporary news report declared that he was "soon sitting up, eating chicken and drinking champagne". On 26 March, McNamara was recommended for the VC by Brigadier General Geoffrey Salmond, GOC Middle East Brigade, RFC. Drummond, Ellis, and Rutherford all wrote statements on 3–4 April attesting to their comrade's actions, Rutherford declaring that "the risk of Lieut. MacNamara being killed or captured was so great that even had he not been wounded he would have been justified in not attempting my rescue – the fact of his already being wounded makes his action one of outstanding gallantry – his determination and resource and utter disregard of danger throughout the operation was worthy of the highest praise". The first and only VC awarded to an Australian airman in World War I, McNamara's decoration was promulgated in the London Gazette on 8 June 1917
Lt. Frank Hubert McNamara, Aus. Forces, R.F.C.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an aerial bomb attack upon a hostile construction train, when one of our pilots was forced to land behind the enemy's lines.
Lt. McNamara, observing this pilot's predicament and the fact that hostile cavalry were approaching, descended to his rescue. He did this under heavy rifle fire and in spite of the fact that he himself had been severely wounded in the thigh.
He landed about 200 yards from the damaged machine, the pilot of which climbed onto Lt. McNamara's machine, and an attempt was made to rise. Owing, however, to his disabled leg, Lt. McNamara was unable to keep his machine straight, and it turned over. The two officers, having extricated themselves, immediately set fire to the machine and made their way across to the damaged machine, which they succeeded in starting.
Finally Lt. McNamara, although weak from loss of blood, flew this machine back to the aerodrome, a distance of seventy miles, and thus completed his comrade's rescue.
Today we lost: 619
· A member of the Melbourne Cricket Club
· Son of a Councilor
· A man whose brother will be killed later this year
· The son of a member of the clergy
· Lieutenant Edward George Bradshaw Miller-Stirling (Black Watch) is killed at age 26 in Mesopotamia. His brother will be killed in seven months in East Africa.
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
· Lieutenant Arthur William Limbrick (West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 29. He is the son of the Reverend A D Limbrick.
· Private James Francis Foy (Australian Infantry) is killed in action. He is a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
German air operations over the winter 1916/1917 concentrated on reconnaissance to look for signs of Anglo-French offensive preparations, which were found at Messines, Arras, Roye, the Aisne and the Champagne region. By March the outline of the Anglo-French spring offensive had been observed from the air.
German air units were concentrated around Arras and the Aisne, which left few to operate over the Noyon Salient during the retirement.When the retirement began British squadrons in the area were instructed to keep German rearguards under constant observation, harass German troops by ground attacks and to make long-range reconnaissances to search the area east of the Hindenburg Line, for signs of more defensive positions and indications that a further retreat was contemplated.
A policy on rapid movement had been devised in September 1916, in which the Army Wing and Corps Wings not attached to the corps moving forward, would move with army headquarters and the Corps Wings attached to the corps that were advancing, would keep as close to their associated corps headquarters as possible. Squadrons would not need to move every day and could arrange temporary landing-grounds.
On 21 March 1917 the use of temporary facilities was ordered with portable hangars to be built near corps headquarters and aircraft flown back to their normal aerodromes at night. IV and V Brigades were involved in the advance, with their squadrons attached to divisions for contact-patrols. Two cavalry divisions were attached to the Fourth and Fifth armies for the advance, with aircraft for reconnaissances of the ground that the cavalry was to traverse and to help the cavalry maintain touch with the rear.
Suitable targets found by air observation were engaged by artillery using the "zone call" system. The cavalry divisions were issued with wireless stations to keep in touch with their attached aircraft but in the event good ground communications made them redundant. The German retirement was so swift and the amount of artillery fire was so small, that telephone wires were cut far less frequently than expected. German troop movements were well-concealed and rarely seen from the air and it was usually ground fire that alerted aircrew to their presence.
Pilots flew low over villages and strong-points, to invite German ground fire for their observers to plot, although this practice gave no indication of the strength of rearguards. A few attacks were made on German cavalry and infantry caught in the open but this had little influence on ground operations. The artillery wireless organisation broke down at times, due to delays in setting up ground stations, which led to missed opportunities for the direction of artillery fire from the air. The main influence of air operations was exerted through message-carrying and reconnaissance, particularly in observing ground conditions in front of the advance and intermittent co-operation with artillery. Distant reconnaissance, some by single-seat fighters, found no evidence of German defences beyond the Hindenburg Line but many new aerodromes and supply dumps, indicating the permanence of the new position
Everything was building up to April and a new Allied offensive.
Royal Flying Corps Losses today: No losses are recorded for today.
Claims: No confirmed claims for today.
Russia: Provisional Government proclaimed, meets Petrograd Soviet. Petrograd Soviet Order No 1 Demoralize Army, orders elected committees to control weaponry and one representative per coy to Soviet; saluting off duty abolished. Tsar’s train stopped at Pskov.
Strikes and 30,000-strong march at Reval (until March 15).
France:War Minister Lyautey resigns because of Socialist hostility.
China: China severs diplomatic relations with Germany (see August 14th).
Somme– MAIN GERMAN RETREAT TO THE Hindenburg Line begins (until April 5): German Second and First Armies involved. BEF Fifth Army follows cautiously including 4th (1st Indian) Cavalry Division. British advance west and south west of Bapaume and south f Aciet-le-Pwtit (Ancre).
Progress towards Les Essarts on extreme left.
The 4th (North Midland) Division 137th Infantry Brigade and the 7th Division, 91st Infantry Brigade attack Bucquoy Trench and Hill 155. The attack fails due to its encountering heavy machine gun fire and thick uncut wire. Ninety are killed including 12 officers while almost 500 men are wounded or missing. Among the dead: · Second Lieutenant Eric Goward Abbott (South Staffordshire Regiment) killed in action at age 24. He is the son of the late Councilor E T Abbott. · Lance Sergeant Leonard William Smith (South Staffordshire Regiment) at age 21. His father will write and published the following poem in honor of his son.
Boy of mine,boy of mine
Sinew, bone and flesh of mine;
Memory sees a babe snow-clad,
Then a spade and knickered lad,
Boy of mine.
Sees a ‘prentice,youth in line,
March to war,brave boy of mine,
Nobly answering country’s call,
Going freely, giving all,
Boy of mine.
Then, Ah then,life’s crimson wine
Flowed for us dear boy of mine;
Lay thee down mud khaki clad,
Rise robed white an Angel lad,
Boy of mine.
Tunstills Men Wednesday 14th March 1917:
A mild day, but with a cold wind blowing at times. Training continued in the Brigade training area, with 10DWR and 8th Yorks. practising advances.
The three new subalterns who had arrived in France a week earlier now reported for duty with the Battalion. They were 2Lts. Andrew Aaron Jackson (see 6th March), Arthur Lilley (see 6th March) and Thomas Arnold Woodcock (see 6th March).
Pte. George Moore (see 4th October), who had been wounded at Le Sars, was formally discharged from the Army, with the award of the Silver War Badge. I am, as yet, unable to make a positive identification of this man.
2Lt. Harry Widdup (see 3rd March), who had been evacuated to England in December 1916 appeared before a further Medical Board. The board found that he was suffering from myalgia following trench fever; “Complains of pain in knees and also inside of tibia – right leg being worse than left – knee jerks normal. Suffers from insomnia. Unable to march in full kit more than a mile. Suffers from headaches. Improving”. They recommended a further one months treatment in an officers’ convalescent hospital.
Monastir front lively: Austrians attack west and Italians advance east of town.
Africa, Asiatic & Egyptian Theatres:
British 35 miles north-east of Baghdad.
Fighting on west bank of Tigris.
Turks hurrying north to position at Mushaidiya (20 miles north of Baghdad).
Mesopotamia – Battle of Mushahida Station (20 miles north of Baghdad, west of Tigris): Cobbe’s 7th Division (518 casualties) with 46 guns smashes Turk rearguard (800-1,000 casualties) after night march from Baghdad (returns on March 17). British 40th Brigade occupies Kasirin (28 miles north of Baghdad, east of Tigris).
Shipping Losses: 11 (1 to mine, 1 to surface action & 9 to U-Boat action)
New Provisional Government proclaimed in Russia (see 12th, 22nd and November 8th).
- Prince Golitsin, Russian Premier, removed from office by Revolutionary party (see 12th, 15th, and January 8th).
- General Byelyaev, Russian Minister for War, removed from office by Revolutionary party (see 12th, 15th, and January 17th).
Moscow, Kharkov and Odessa declare for Provisional Government; Grand Duke Cyril with his sailors place them under M. Rozianko's orders.
China severs diplomatic relations with Germany (see August 14th).
German minister at Pekin handed his passports.
General Lyautey, French Minister of War, resigns.
Both Houses accept India's war contribution of £100,000,000 and authorise increase in cotton duties.
|| A Royal charter is granted to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
|| First American town meeting is held at Boston’s Faneuil Hall.
|| British Admiral John Byng is executed by a firing squad on board HMS Monarch for neglect of duty.
|| Inventor Eli Whitney receives a patent for his cotton gin.
|| United States currency goes on the gold standard.
|| The Senate ratifies the Hay-Herran Treaty, guaranteeing the United States the right to build a canal in Panama.
|| An anarchist named Antonio Dalba unsuccessfully attempts to kill Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III in Rome.
|| The British Navy sinks the German battleship Dresden off the Chilean coast.