- 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)
The Gothas made their last raid in force on England on the night 19th-20th May 1918. The efforts of the bombers were then directed towards targets in France, and on the night of 27th May the Gothas carried out a bombing raid on St. Omer. One of the Royal Air Force units in the area was No. 203 Squadron (previously No. 3 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service), in which Captain R. A. Little was flying Sopwith Camels. The limited flying instruments carried in aircraft made night flying a challenge in itself, but Little was not one to be deterred when the hunt was on. In no time he was on the tail of one of the Gothas and was closing in for the attack when fate made one of its unpredictable moves. Quite suddenly Little was blinded by the sweeping beam of a ground searchlight. Taking advantage of the situation the rear gunner of the bomber fired into the Camel and wounded Little in the thigh and stomach. Although he managed to get his aircraft down, Little was suffering severely and crashed on landing. He died soon afterwards, and was buried in the tiny cemetery at St. Wavans, wherein lies another great scout pilot, Major J. T. B. McCudden, VC. Little’s enthusiasm to fight back at the enemy had never flagged, and reports of his combats read more like fiction than fact. The following Royal Air Force communique for 21st April 1918 (the day Richthofen fell) is a typical example:
‘Capt. R. A. Little, 203 Sqn, attacked the rear machine of a formation of 12 E.A. and watched it fall to 1,000 feet near Vieux Berquin completely out of control. Capt. Little was then attacked by six E.A. and was driven down through the formation below; he put his machine into a spin and his controls were shot away causing his machine to dive to within 100 feet of the ground when it flattened with a jerk, breaking the fuselage just under the pilot’s seat. Capt. Little undid the belt and was thrown clear when the machine struck the ground. The E.A. continued to fire at him, but he opened fire with his revolver at one E.A. which came down to about 30 feet; the E.A. were eventually driven off by our infantry with rifle and machine-gun fire.
Little was officially credited with 47 enemy aircraft shot down and was awarded the DSO and Bar, DSC and Bar, and the Croix de Guerre. This distinguished Australian was a dedicated, and extremely efficient fighter pilot who achieved greatness at an early age. He was only 22 when he died.