Thomas Sinclair Harrison

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Thomas Sinclair Harrison
Born(1898-01-08)8 January 1898
King William Town, South Africa
Died Unknown
Allegiance British Empire
Service/branch South African Army
British Army
Royal Air Force
Rank Major
Unit No. 29 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
  Western Front
World War II
  East African Campaign
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Croix de guerre (Belgium)

Major Thomas Sinclair Harrison DFC* (born 8 January 1898 in South Africa) was a World War I fighter ace credited with 22 aerial victories. He was a balloon buster, as he destroyed two enemy observation balloons. [1] This made him the fourth highest scoring South African. [2]

Major is a military rank of commissioned officer status, with corresponding ranks existing in many military forces throughout the world.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (White), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.


Military service

Harrison originally served with an artillery regiment in German East Africa. He then joined the Royal Flying Corps in April 1917. From cadet he was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant (on probation) on 12 August 1917, [3] and was confirmed in his rank and appointed a flying officer on 12 March 1918. [4]

German East Africa former German colony in the African Great Lakes region

German East Africa (GEA) was a German colony in the African Great Lakes region, which included present-day Burundi, Rwanda, and the mainland part of Tanzania. GEA's area was 994,996 square kilometres (384,170 sq mi), which was nearly three times the area of present-day Germany, and double the area of metropolitan Germany then.

Royal Flying Corps former air warfare service of the British Army

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. During the early part of the war, the RFC supported the British Army by artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance. This work gradually led RFC pilots into aerial battles with German pilots and later in the war included the strafing of enemy infantry and emplacements, the bombing of German military airfields and later the strategic bombing of German industrial and transport facilities.

In May he was assigned to No. 29 Squadron RAF. His timing was impeccable; the squadron was newly equipped with brand new RAF SE.5as. [1] [5] Beginning his victories the following month, he became the squadron's leading ace out of 26. While his 22 triumphs did not make up an overpowering part of the squadron's 385 victories, [5] he was a steady scorer. [1]

No. 29 Squadron RAF Royal Air Force flying squadron

No. 29 Squadron of the Royal Air Force was first raised as a unit of the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, and is one of the world's oldest fighter squadrons. The second British squadron to receive the Eurofighter Typhoon, it is currently the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for the Typhoon.

A surviving SE5a, such as Harrison flew, in flight. Shuttleworth SE5a01.jpg
A surviving SE5a, such as Harrison flew, in flight.

His first victory was on 27 June 1918, when he flamed a Halberstadt C, using RAF SE.5a serial 8859 to deadly effect. He destroyed a Hannover C on 1 July. On 4 July, he was flying a signals intelligence sortie of "wireless interception duty," in SE.5a serial 3915. [1] He destroyed the LVG carrying the airborne radio, and burned one of its pair of escort Pfalz D.IIIs. He was awarded his Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission. [6]

Halberstadt Place in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Halberstadt is a town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the capital of Harz district. Located north of the Harz mountain range, it is known for its old town centre that was severely damaged in World War II and rebuilt in the following decades.

Luftverkehrsgesellschaft m.b.H. was a German aircraft manufacturer based in Berlin-Johannisthal, which began constructing aircraft in 1912, building Farman-type aircraft. The company constructed many reconnaissance and light bomber biplanes during World War I.

Pfalz D.III

The Pfalz D.III was a fighter aircraft used by the Luftstreitkräfte during the First World War. The D.III was the first major original design from Pfalz Flugzeugwerke. Though generally considered inferior to contemporary Albatros and Fokker fighters, the D.III was widely used by the Jagdstaffeln from late 1917 to mid-1918. It continued to serve as a training aircraft until the end of the war.

On 8 July, he became an ace. By the middle of August, he was a double ace, scoring his tenth win on 13 August 1918. Two of these victories were over balloons. He ended August at an even dozen. [1]

By now, he had a favourite plane, serial number E5947. He would run off a series of seven victories in it, with the last being his 13th win on 6 September 1918. [1] A squadron-mate then ruined it with a fast hard landing. [6]

In four different aircraft, Harrison scored six times in October, [1] before being appointed a flight commander with the acting-rank of captain on the 29th, [7] and three more times in November, his last on the 10th, the day before the armistice. [1]

His 22 victories tallied 13 enemy aircraft destroyed single-handed, four of which burned; two destroyed in conjunction with another pilot; four planes driven down out of control; two balloons destroyed single-handed. [1]

Harrison was awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre in July 1919. [8]

World War II service

Harrison returned to military service during World War II as an intelligence officer in the South African Air Force, [9] serving in Air Headquarters East Africa during the East African Campaign in 1941. [10]

Honours and awards

Distinguished Flying Cross
Lieutenant Thomas Sinclair Harrison.
When on wireless interception duty this officer engaged three enemy machines, shooting down one in flames. He was then attacked by three scouts and a two-seater; the latter he shot down. During the last few weeks he has further accounted for three hostile aeroplanes and a balloon, displaying vigour and gallantry in attack. [11]
Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross
Lieutenant Thomas Sinclair Harrison, DFC.
Bold in attack, skilful in manoeuvre, this officer never hesitates to engage the enemy, however superior in numbers. On 2 October he, with three other machines, took part in an engagement with eight Fokkers; four of these were destroyed, Lieut. Harrison accounting for one. On another occasion he, in company with four others, engaged a large formation of Fokkers; three of these were destroyed, one by this officer. In all he has destroyed twenty enemy machines. [12]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Thomas Sinclair Harrison". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  2. Safarik, Jan J. (2008). "South Africa: World War I". Air Aces. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  3. "No. 30279". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1917. p. 9424.
  4. "No. 30625". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 April 1918. p. 4416.
  5. 1 2 "29 Squadron, Royal Air Force". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
  6. 1 2 Franks (2007), pp. 69–70.
  7. "No. 30992". The London Gazette. 5 November 1918. p. 13003.
  8. "No. 31457". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 July 1919. p. 8987.
  9. Boucher, William Ira (2012). "British Aces of WW1 - Thomas Harrison". An Illustrated History of World War One. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  10. "Photograph of the officers of the combined headquarters of the RAF and SAAF in the East African Command in January 1941". Flight . XL (1718): 391. 27 November 1941. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  11. "No. 30913". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 September 1918. p. 11251.
  12. "No. 31046". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 November 1918. p. 14316.