- Issacs, Keith, AFC, ARAeS, Group Captain, RAAF (Retd)
- Naval Aviation
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney I
- June 1974 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Yet another Australian to fly the Sopwith Triplane was Flight Commander S. J. Goble who was born in Croydon, Victoria, on 21st August 1891. Like Dallas, he too rose to command in the Royal Naval Air Service. Goble had less time than his colleagues on the Triplane but he used it to good advantage while serving with No. 8 (Naval) Squadron. In 1917 Goble took over No. 5 (Naval) Squadron which he continued to command when it became No. 205 Squadron, Royal Air Force, in 1918. This squadron was equipped successively with 1½ Strutters, DH4s and DH9as. About mid-1918 Major Goble, DSO, OBE, DSC, with seven confirmed enemy aircraft to his credit, returned to Australia on sick leave. He went on to serve with the Royal Australian Air Force and his flying achievements in later years are described in Volume II of this series.
One other Australian who flew Sopwith Triplanes was R. P. Minifie. Although this fine pilot accounted for 21 enemy aircraft, very little information about his achievements has been recorded. However, it is known that he flew with No. 8 (Naval) Squadron alongside his countrymen, Goble and Little.
Albeit the Sopwith Triplane of the Royal Naval Air Service was never used by the Australian Flying Corps, or indeed the Royal Flying Corps (except for one machine), it owed part of its fame to at least six Australians – test pilot Harry Hawker, and the naval officers Busteed, Little, Dallas, Goble and Minifie.
L. Gotha G V.
Towards the end of 1916 the home defence forces of Britain had reached a stage where they were having a marked effect against the Zeppelins and other types of airships raiding the country. It became obvious to the Germans that the lighterthan- air machines were too vulnerable for use against such well-defended targets. Consequently, the German High Command ordered the development of heavy bombers to take over the task from the airships. Some of the more successful types to emerge were the series of twin-engined Gotha biplanes. In fact, the name Gotha became as much a household word in Britain, with its associations of terror and horror, as the name Zeppelin had been.
Gothaer Waggonfabrik of Berlin produced a number of landplanes and seaplanes in the early years of the war, but the first large bomber aircraft of any importance was the Gotha II of 1916. The next version, the G III, introduced a ventral gun-tunnel, which permitted the rear gunner to fire backwards and downwards under the tail, in addition to his normal field of fire from the top rear gun position. The improved G IV had an increased endurance for seven hours of flight, and the G V was the final major version to be produced.
On 13th June 1917, 14 Gothas attacked London in daylight, causing more casualties and damage than all the Zeppelin raids had done up to that time in the same area. Similar raids followed and, as a result of public outcry, scout aircraft were withdrawn from the front line in France and repositioned in areas where they were likely to intercept the Gothas. One of these units was No. 66 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, in which Lieutenant P. G. Taylor was serving at the time. Taylor devised a plan of action for his flight of Sopwith Pups, whereby he hoped to overcome the gunner defences of the Gothas by intercepting in force from the rear. By concurrently attacking as many bombers as possible, Taylor reasoned that the concentrated fire from the rear gunners would necessarily be diverted and less effective. In the event the squadron, which was based at Calais, did not sight even a single Gotha ‘because they were either back on the aerodrome before we were alerted,’ stated Taylor in Sopwith Scout 7309, ‘or had purposely come in over the neutral territory of Holland where we were not supposed to fly.’
Other scout squadrons were more successful, however, and by the spring of 1918 the Gothas were forced to make their raids at night. Surprisingly, the Gotha attrition rate included more aircraft lost in landing accidents than in operations against Allied aircraft, and balloon-cable defences. Apparently the Gotha had a tendency to nose over on landing and the G Vb, which entered production in 1918, was fitted with a forward projecting pair of nose-wheels to overcome this fault.