Friday 4 March 2016

Preparations for the Battle of the Somme May 1916 - Aerial Contact Patrol

Contact Patrol

Contact Patrol was carried out by planes and was designed to provide aerial liaison between the Front Line and the Battalion and Brigade Headquarters during battles when other means of communication became impossible.  In spite of endless practice before the big day, this initially proved less effective than hoped, due to the necessity for ground troops to use flares to signal to their planes which also meant giving away their position.   However, later on Cecil Lewis tells us, “… we got used to the dangers of low flying over the front line, and used to go right down to a few hundred feet and find the position of our men by actually seeing them in their trenches.”

“The war below us was a spectacle. We aided and abetted it, admiring the tenacity of men who fought in verminous filth to take the next trench thirty yards away.

Echoing the feelings of WW1 soldier poet Wilfred Owen, Cecil described the “horrible futility of war, the mountainous waste of life and wealth to stake a mile or two of earth.  A caricature of common sense, both sides eager, when they had licked their wounds, to fly at each other’s throats again.” (p. 93)

Source:  “Sagittarius Rising” by Cecil Lewis (1898 – 1997), published by Warner, London 2000 with a new Foreword by Cecil Lewis;  first published by Peter Davies in 1936.