Allan Hepburn

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Wing Commander Allan Hepburn, DFC, (11 October 1896 – 21 July 1975) was an Australian World War I flying ace, who was born in Melbourne, Victoria. He scored 16 victories during his flying career.[1][2]

Military service[edit]

Bristol F2B

Hepburn enlisted in the Artists Rifles on 4 Aug 1916 and served in the trenches of France in the same year. He joined the Royal Flying Corps at Denham on 6 Sept 1916, flying the Airco DH.5 in 24 Squadron of the RFC. He was slightly wounded in action in October 1917 and continued flying. In November he was posted to 40 Squadron of the RFC, but was injured in a crash and was sent to England to recuperate. In April 1918, Hepburn returned to duty flying a Bristol F.2 Fighter, commanding the A Flight in 88 Squadron of the RAF. 88 Squadron RAF later joined 80 Wing RAF where Hepburn flew side by side with the two Australian Flying Corps scout squadrons.

Hepburn and his observers achieved 16 victories before the Armistice was signed. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for a flight in October, 1918. "On 12 October this officer made a very fine flight, calling for courage and determination of a high order. Thick clouds were within 200 feet of the ground and the visibility was so bad that practically no flying was attempted. Despite these adverse conditions this officer volunteered to cross the lines. Climbing through the clouds, which were several thousand feet in depth, he flew above them, guided by compass, with no view of the ground. Continuing his flight until he estimated that he was in the vicinity of a certain objective, he descended, and found himself 150 feet over an enemy railway station. Dropping his bombs, he destroyed a passenger train, and afterwards engaged enemy troops and transport with machine-gun fire. Having caused considerable damage, Captain Hepburn climbed through the clouds and found his way home."[2][3]

Allan Hepburn features in two stories in Rothesy Stuart Wortley's book, "Letters of a Flying Officer" (paperback from Alan Sutton, 1982). One of Hepburn's opinions reported in the book regards the use of radio, or wireless telephone, in the plane. "His chief objection to it is that one cannot stunt a machine with 150 feet of aerial trailing underneath the fuselage; and that one might very well find oneself involved in a scrap before one has the time to wind it up, with a possible result that the wire might get entangled in the propeller and so wreck the machine in mid-air."[2]

After the war, Hepburn returned to Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force, becoming Commanding Officer 1 Squadron in 1929; Wing Commander, 1934; Director of Works and Building RAAF about 1936, and Director of Works Department of Defence during the Second War. He later became the Regional Director Civil Aviation in New South Wales and representative in Canada.[4]

World War I victories[edit]

Date Aircraft Location
1 17 May 1918 Albatros D.V E of Middelkerke
2 31 May 1918 Albatros D.V (OOC) Ostend
3 2 Jun 1918 Albatros D.V (DESF) Middelkerke-Ostend
4 29 Jul 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) Bois Grenier
5 31 Jul 1918 Fokker D.VII (DESF) Zelobes
6 29 Aug 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) E of Lille
7 1 Sep 1918 Fokker D.VII (DESF) E of Becelaere
8 5 Sep 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) N of Douai
9 5 Sep 1918 Fokker D.VII (DESF) Armentières
10 6 Sep 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) N of Douai
11 24 Sep 1918 Fokker D.VII (DESF) Habourdin
12 8 Oct 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) SW of Cambrai
13 9 Oct 1918 Fokker D.VII (DES) Seclin
14 28 Oct 1918 Fokker D.VII (OOC) Leuze-Ath
15 4 Nov 1918 Pfalz D.III (DES) Faucaumont
16 4 Nov 1918 Pfalz D.III (DES) W of Mainvault-Faucaumont[5]


  1. ^ The Alan Hepburn
  2. ^ a b c South Sea Republic Aces, Captain Allan Hepburn, D.F.C
  3. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 February 1919
  4. ^ Chelsea Military Antiques Medal List
  5. ^ Above The Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915 - 1920, Christopher Shores, Norman Franks and Russell Guest, 1990