RFC Training School At Aboukir

During WWI, the RFC recognised the need for a flying training station in Egypt, and so a base was set up at Aboukir. These photographs, very kindly supplied by my old colleague Robin, were taken by his grandfather, Fred Twinn.

Robin takes up the story...

RFC Training School - Aboukir, Egypt

During WWI, the British Royal Flying Corps saw an urgent requirement, primarily for pilots, and set up an extensive training system in Egypt.

Initially, its trainees were from Britain, but as Britain's home training facilities began keeping pace with demand, the Egyptian schools took in more local cadets, as well as some from South Africa.

Although the output was mainly pilots, No3 SoMA ( School of Military Aviation ), which had

Aboukir School Group

opened in November, 1916 at

Aboukir , Egypt , initiated a school of gunnery. Later, as Britain again started shipping more cadets to Aboukir, the school started turning out observers.

A fascinating piece of contemporary detail - the pilot lying on the ground on the right is wearing shorts and sports pumps - a good way to feel cool and to be able to have a sensitive feel of the rudder bar while flying.


Aboukir Hangar Crash

A Training Mishap

An aircraft (looks like a D.H.9) ends up nose deep in the roof of a hangar. This is unlikely to have been a crash from height - the aircraft is too intact for that. It is more likely that a trainee pilot made a heavy landing, and by a mixture of throttle mismanagement and a lack of control managed to bounce his way towards the hangar.


A Fatal Accident

A worse accident. This aircraft (possibly a B.E.2) crashed into a hut and killed a man who was sleeping inside.

Once again, it looks like a trainee losing control of the aircraft on the ground. A biplane (especially one with a non-pivoting tail skid) has to be handled very firmly, and being too hesitant or tentative can very quickly lead to trouble.

Aboukir Crash into Huts
Aboukir Noseover

A Noseover on Landing

Another accident - but this time one where the pilot undoubtedly walked away intact. This aircraft is almost certainly a B.E.2c two-seat fighter which crashed in May 1917. (B.E. stood for Bleriot Experimental, which was a general term for a tractor, or front-engine machine.)

Noseovers are usually associated with hitting a pothole, braking too hard; or allowing the propeller to bite into the ground. There were no brakes on this machine so it looks like the latter.

Fred Twinn is on the right, hand on the trailing edge of the wing.


WWI aviation historian Mick Davis has very kindly supplied the history of B.E.2c number 4155:

17 Sqn Heliopolis by 17.4.1916 (tested new).
14 Sqn. 1 Sqn AFC/67 (Australian) Sqn Heliopolis / Mustagig / Kilo 143 / Rafah dd ex 17 Sqn 10.7.1916.
X AP Kantara ex 67 Sqn 8.5.1917.
20th Wing Aboukir by 8.5.1917.
58 TS Suez by 15.5.1917.

If you have an interest in WWI aviation then you can do no better than to explore the website of the Society of First World War Aero Historians at Cross and Cockade International. To do this, click on Links.

A Bent AVRO 504K

Another very heavy landing, this time an AVRO 504K. The AVRO 504K entered service in 1913 and was outclassed as a fighter soon after WWI started. Relegated to training duties; at which it excelled, it was in use until the 1930s. Before it ended its service career, the rotary engine was replaced with a radial, and it was re-designated the AVRO 504N.

Both variants of the AVRO 504K were easy to fly and spin

Aboukir AVRO 504k
recovery was particularly  

simple. It was replaced by the DH Tiger Moth. Fred Twinn is in the left foreground, facing the camera.

Aboukir Group Photo

The Usual Suspects

A group from the school takes some time out.


A Visit to Giza

A group of airmen on a visit to Giza. Fred Twinn, hatless, is in front of the camera lens for a change.

Aboukir Sphinx
Aboukir Jerusalem

Aircraft near Jerusalem

The caption to this was "Off to bomb Turks", which would probably date this picture to December 1917 or after; following General Allenby's capture of Jerusalem .

The aircraft look like Bristol Scouts. Most Scouts were powered by the 80 HP Le Rhone engine, which gave a top speed of 100 mph.

A Seaplane Carrier is snapped at sea

A seaplane carrier is snapped on the high seas. In the foreground, there appears to be a floatplane with its wings folded, but no engine. Behind it, there appears to be the fuselage of another machine. A bit more research will be required to identify these types.

Aboukir Seaplane Carrier
Aboukir Release

Back to Blighty

Fred Twinn's release from the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

So small a piece of paper for such a long journey...

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