Thomas Traill

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Thomas Cathcart Traill
Born(1899-08-06)6 August 1899
Died1 October 1973(1973-10-01) (aged 74)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy (1914–17)
British Army (1917–18)
Royal Air Force (1918–54)
Years of service1914–1954
Rank Air Vice Marshal
Commands held No. 19 Group RAF (1952–54)
No. 12 Group RAF (1946–49)
No. 83 Group RAF (1945–46)
RAF Middleton St. George (1941)
RAF Helwan (1938)
No. 14 Squadron RAF (1935–38)
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Officer of the Legion of Merit (United States)

Air Vice Marshal Thomas Cathcart Traill, CB, OBE, DFC (6 August 1899 – 1 October 1973) was a senior Royal Air Force officer. He began his military career as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and rose to the rank of captain during the First World War, becoming a flying ace credited with eight aerial victories. He remained in the newly formed Royal Air Force after the war; by the time he retired in 1954, he had risen to the rank of air vice marshal. [1]

Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom) military decoration of the United Kingdom

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

A midshipman is an officer of the junior-most rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Kenya.


Early life

Thomas Cathcart Traill was born on 6 August 1899 [2] in Argentina. [1] He attended school at the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth. [2]

Royal Naval College, Osborne

The Royal Naval College, Osborne, was a training college for Royal Navy officer cadets on the Osborne House estate, Isle of Wight, established in 1903 and closed in 1921.

Britannia Royal Naval College initial officer training establishment of the British Royal Navy

Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), commonly known as Dartmouth, is the naval academy of the United Kingdom and the initial officer training establishment of the British Royal Navy. It is located on a hill overlooking the port of Dartmouth, Devon, England. Royal Naval officer training has taken place in Dartmouth since 1863. The buildings of the current campus were completed in 1905. Earlier students lived in two wooden hulks moored in the River Dart. Since 1998, BRNC has been the sole centre for Royal Naval officer training.

First World War

Traill joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman on 2 August 1914, when he was just four days shy of his 15th birthday. He was assigned to HMS Lord Nelson [2] and served in the Gallipoli Campaign. [3]

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

HMS <i>Lord Nelson</i> (1906) Royal Navy pre-dreadnought battleship

HMS Lord Nelson was a Lord Nelson-class pre-dreadnought battleship launched in 1906 and completed in 1908. She was the Royal Navy's last pre-dreadnought. The ship was flagship of the Channel Fleet when World War I began in 1914. Lord Nelson was transferred to the Mediterranean Sea in early 1915 to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. She remained there, becoming flagship of the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, which was later redesignated the Aegean Squadron. After the Ottoman surrender in 1918 the ship moved to the Black Sea where she remained as flagship before returning to the United Kingdom in May 1919. Lord Nelson was placed into reserve upon her arrival and sold for scrap in June 1920.

Gallipoli Campaign military campaign during World War I

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Entente powers, Britain and France, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia, the third member of the Entente. The invaders launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force was withdrawn. It was a costly and humiliating defeat for the Allies and for the sponsors, especially Winston Churchill.

Traill transferred to the Royal Flying Corps to train as a pilot, and after completion of training was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on probation on 11 October 1917. He was assigned to No. 20 Squadron RFC that day as a Bristol F.2 Fighter pilot. [2]

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.

A commission is a formal document issued to appoint a named person to high office or as a commissioned officer in a territory's armed forces.

Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1a rank.

Traill was promoted to lieutenant on 1 April 1918, as the Royal Air Force came into existence. He was promoted to temporary captain when he was appointed as a flight commander on 28 September 1918. [2]

A lieutenant is a junior most commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations.

Traill scored eight aerial victories. In the process, he had three other aces serve as his gunner/observer at various times. While in combat on 2 July 1918, Percy Griffith Jones called out a warning from the plane's rear seat and Traill ducked. The German fighter behind them killed Jones and put a bullet through the cockpit and out the windscreen, missing Traill. Traill's next observer took an incendiary bullet in his leg. Leslie William Burbidge then became Traill's observer. [3]

Captain Leslie William Burbidge was a World War I flying ace credited with six aerial victories. He flew as an observer/gunner in Bristol F.2 Fighters in 20 Squadron.

On 23 October, while returning from the mission upon which Traill scored his eighth victory, Traill collided with another plane in his flight while flying at 7,000 feet. The accident knocked away part of the Bristol F.2 Fighter's wing. As the fighter tried to spin out of control, Burbidge leaped out onto the opposite wing at Traill's command, to counterbalance the spin while Traill struggled for control. The resultant crashlanding hurled Burbidge onto his face, but left Traill uninjured and preserved the airplane. Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this incident. [2] [3] Traill's citation read

An officer of marked skill and bravery, who has shot down three enemy machines and seriously damaged a fourth. On 23rd October his machine accidentally collided with one of ours at a height of 7,-000 feet, and a part of the left plane was carried away, the machine being thereby rendered out of control. With great presence of mind Captain Traill ordered his observer to climb out and so directed him to balance the machine which enabled him to obtain partial control. Displaying rare skill and determination, he managed to land his damaged machine safely. [4]

List of aerial victories

Sources [3] [5]
129 May 1918
@ 1840 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
serial number C856
Fokker Triplane Driven down out of controlWest of Armentières, FranceObserver: Percy Griffith Jones
230 June 1918
@ 0730 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n C938
Albatros D.V Driven down out of controlNorth of Comines (in Belgium)Observer: Percy Griffith Jones
32 July 1918
@ 0840 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n B1344
Fokker D.VII DestroyedSoutheast of GheluveltObserver: Percy Griffith Jones  (KIA)
429 July 1918
@ 1955 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n E2452
Fokker D.VIIDriven down out of controlGheluweObserver: Richard Gordon-Bennett
524 September 1918
@ 1600 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n E2252
Fokker D.VIIDriven down out of controlWest of Busigny, FranceObserver: Richard Gordon-Bennett
625 September 1918
@ 1820 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n E2252
Fokker D.VIIDestroyedNortheast of Saint-Quentin, FranceObserver: Richard Gordon-Bennett
729 September 1918
@ 1025 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n E2370
Fokker D.VIIDestroyedNorth of Saint-Quentin, FranceObserver: Leslie William Burbidge
823 October 1918
@ 1520 hours
Bristol F.2 Fighter
s/n E2403
Fokker D.VIIDestroyedWest of Aulnoye-Aymeries, FranceObserver: Leslie William Burbidge

Interwar period

Traill remained in military service, becoming the assistant air attaché in Washington D. C. in 1919. During this period he was sent off to join a barn-storming flying circus in the Mid West to raise funds for the Victory Liberty Loan. This was run by the United States Army Air Service under the command of Major George Stratemeyer. They travelled by train from Texas to the Canada–US border, putting on twenty-eight flying displays. These displays took place at race courses, sports grounds or fields. Large crowds attended as the local city authorities frequently closed all schools and colleges, and encouraged businesses to close in order to raise the maximum amount for the war loan. [6] He returned home to Britain the following year, being assigned to experimental work beginning 18 May 1920. He entered the University of Cambridge on 1 October 1922, receiving a Master of Arts in 1924. After that, he had various further domestic military assignments, as well as foreign service in Iraq, before he began attendance at the RAF Staff College on 23 January 1933. [2]

Traill was promoted to squadron leader on 1 December 1934. [7] He was appointed to the command of No. 14 Squadron RAF on 16 August 1935, moving on to command RAF Helwan, Egypt on 10 May 1938. He was subsequently promoted to wing commander on 1 July 1938. On 26 September 1938, he was assigned to staff duty with the headquarters of No. 2 (Bomber) Group. [2]

Second World War

On 14 May 1940, Traill was appointed assistant senior air staff officer at Headquarters Bomber Command. [2] On 11 July 1940, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. [8] A promotion to Group Captain followed on 1 December 1940. The following year would see him command RAF Middleton St. George before moving on to the post of senior air staff officer (SASO) at Headquarters, No. 242 Group. [2] As part of 242 Group's deployment into Northwest African Air Forces, Traill was promoted to acting air commodore on 21 February 1943 and appointed SASO at the latter organization's headquarters on 8 March 1943. For his services there, he would be Mentioned in Despatches on 2 June 1943. [2]

Traill was appointed director of air tactics on 28 February 1944, and selected as the RAF's liaison officer to the United States Army Air Forces' Eighth Air Force that same year. [2] He was made of Officer of the American Legion of Merit on 11 April 1944, [9] and was again Mentioned in Despatches on 8 June 1944. [2]

Post-war career

On 1 September 1945, Traill became an acting air vice-marshal [10] and was granted command of No. 83 Group RAF. He moved to command of No. 12 Group RAF on 5 May 1946. He was appointed an Officer of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath on 1 January 1948. [11] One year later, he was confirmed as an air vice-marshal. [12]

After a period as director-general of personnel that began on 25 April 1949, he was again appointed to command on 18 February 1952, this time as air officer commanding No. 19 (Reconnaissance) Group. [2] By virtue of this appointment he also became air commander, North-East Atlantic Sub-Area, Allied Command Atlantic, NATO, in 1953.

Later life

Traill retired on 21 September 1954, [13] having served for 40 years. He died on 1 October 1973, [2] and was buried in Saint Margaret Churchyard, Heveningham, Suffolk, England. [14]

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  1. 1 2 "Thomas Traill". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Barrass, M. B. (9 October 2007). "Air Vice Marshal T. C. Traill". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Above the Trenches p. 366.
  4. "No. 31770". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 February 1919. p. 2048.
  5. Above the War Fronts pp. 7–8, 21, 28–29.
  6. Godon, Vincent; Godon, Nancy; Kramlich, Kelly (2011). "Flying Circus from 1919". The 16 June 1887, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Tornado. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. "No. 34110". The London Gazette. 4 December 1934. p. 7765.
  8. "No. 34893". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 July 1940. p. 4253.
  9. "No. 36463". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 April 1944. p. 1675.
  10. "No. 37268". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1945. p. 4623.
  11. "No. 38161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1947. p. 4.
  12. "No. 38490". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1948. p. 6721.
  13. "No. 40293". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 October 1954. p. 5638.
  14. "Thomas Cathcart Traill". Find A Grave. Retrieved 30 March 2012.