Each were 2 x B.E.2c fighter planes. And so, in January 1916 there was a new Royal Flying Corp Squadron based at (officially) Croydon but known locally as Beddington Aerodrome. It was sometimes also known as Wallington. The 19 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron (RAS) were based there, became 39 Squadron. There were, until that point, very few pilots left in Britain for air defences as most operated on the western front.
|B.E.2 replica at the RAF Museum, London|
|Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson (c) IWM Q 66470|
The first airship shot down was on 3 September at Cuffley in an attack that saw the German army and navy combine in the largest attack on Britain yet. Naval intelligence intercepted signals indicating an incendiary raid in the early evening. Shütte-Lanz (sometimes misidentified as Zeppelin L21) SL11 was ‘ineffectively bombing some of the northern suburbs’ when Lieutentant W. Leefe Robinson, flying a B.E.2c, intercepted it. Robinson eventually managed to shoot his Brook and Pomeroy phosphorous bullets into the side and back of the airship until it was aglow. He then had to move very fast so he was not caught in the burning debris. The entire crew of the airship died and it was a horrifying spectacle, seen as far away as Croydon in ‘what seemed to be the northern sky on fire’. Robinson was awarded a VC; it was the only VC awarded for military action in Britain.