Adrian Tonks

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Adrian James Boswell Tonks
Born (1898-05-10)10 May 1898
Solihull, Warwickshire, England
Died 14 July 1919(1919-07-14) (aged 21)
Alexandria, Egypt
Buried Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt (31°12′12″N 29°55′21″E / 31.20333°N 29.92250°E / 31.20333; 29.92250Coordinates: 31°12′12″N 29°55′21″E / 31.20333°N 29.92250°E / 31.20333; 29.92250)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1916–1919
Rank Captain
Unit No. 4 (Naval) Squadron RNAS/No. 204 Squadron RAF
No. 80 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross & bar

Captain Adrian James Boswell Tonks DFC* (10 May 1898 – 14 July 1919) was a British First World War flying ace. He was officially credited with twelve aerial victories, and was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[1]

Early life and background[edit]

Tonks was born in Solihull, Warwickshire, the son of Arthur George Tonks, a mechanical engineer, and his wife Alice.[2]

World War I[edit]

Tonks entered the Royal Naval Air Service as a probationary flight sub-lieutenant with seniority from 13 August 1916.[3] He received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 4206 after soloing a Maurice Farman biplane at the Royal Naval Air Service Training Establishment Cranwell on 28 December 1916.[1][2]

In August 1917 Tonks was posted to No. 4 (Naval) Squadron to fly the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter, gaining his first aerial victories during his first combat mission[2] on 22 August, when he sent down two German Albatros D.V fighters out of control south-east of Ostend. On 9 November, it was a DFW reconnaissance two-seater that he put down out of control north of Pervijze, Belgium. On 23 November 1917, he scored another "out of control" victory east of Keiem, over another Albatros D.V.[1]

Tonks was promoted to flight lieutenant on 1 January 1918.[4] On 1 April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service was merged with the Army's Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force, and No. 4 (Naval) became No. 204 Squadron RAF, and Tonks became a lieutenant with the honorary rank of captain in the new service.

He resumed scoring on 30 June 1918, driving down a Fokker D.VII out of control over Zeebrugge.[1] On 8 July he was appointed a temporary captain.[5] On both 10 and 13 August, he drove down another Fokker D.VII, the latter being flown by Leutnant Dieter Collin, the Staffelführer of Jasta 56.[2] On 15 August, he sent down three Fokker D.VIIs out of control east of Ypres. On 28 September 1918, he destroyed a Fokker D.VII over Werken, and sent another down out of control. He then turned to bombing missions.[1] until October 1918 when he was rested from combat.[2]

Tonks won two Distinguished Flying Crosses in quick succession. The first one, awarded on 2 November 1918, was granted for his valour in aerial combat. His citation read:

Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) Adrian James Boswell Tonks (Sea Patrol).
"A brave and determined airman who has destroyed four enemy aeroplanes and driven down six out of control. In a recent engagement with twelve enemy scouts he destroyed one and drove off others who were attacking some pilots in his flight. In these combats he expended all his ammunition, but seeing three enemy machines attacking one of ours, he, with great gallantry, dived amongst them with a view to distracting their attention. In this he succeeded. A courageous and meritorious action."[6]

He received a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross in lieu of a second award on 3 December 1918. His citation read:

Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Adrian James Boswell Tonks, DFC. (Sea Patrol, Flanders)
"Since 28 September this officer has led eleven low bombing raids, displaying conspicuous courage and skill, and inflicting serious damage on enemy from low altitudes. During bombing raids Capt. Tonks has destroyed two enemy machines, proving himself a bold and daring fighter."[7]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[1]
No. Date/Time Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
No. 4 (Naval) Squadron RNAS
1 22 August 1917
@ 0945
Sopwith Camel
Albatros D.V Out of control South-east of Ostend
2 Albatros D.V Out of control
3 9 November 1917
@ 1330
Sopwith Camel
DFW C Out of control North of Pervijze
4 23 November 1917
@ 1400
Sopwith Camel
Albatros D.V Out of control East of Keiem
No. 204 Squadron RAF
5 30 June 1918
@ 1430
Sopwith Camel
Fokker D.VII Out of control Zeebrugge
6 10 August 1918
@ 1840
Sopwith Camel
Fokker D.VII Out of control Gistel
7 13 August 1918
@ 1915
Sopwith Camel
Fokker D.VII Out of control South-east of Bailleul Shared with Lieutenant Harold W. M. Cumming.
Leutnant Dieter Collin, Staffelführer of Jasta 56(KIA)
8 15 August 1918
@ 0830
Sopwith Camel
Fokker D.VII Out of control East of Ypres
9 Fokker D.VII Out of control
10 Fokker D.VII Out of control
11 28 September 1918
@ 1230
Sopwith Camel
Fokker D.VII Destroyed Werken
12 Fokker D.VII Out of control

Post-war career[edit]

On 3 January 1919, Tonks was confirmed in his rank of captain.[8] He was posted to No. 80 Squadron RAF in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, based at RAF Aboukir, Alexandria, but on 13 July 1919 he crashed his Sopwith Pup at Cairo, and died from his injuries the following day.[9] He is buried in plot B.158 in the Hadra War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Adrian James Boswell Tonks". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hughes, David William; Clark, Neil Raymond (2007). "Walmer Airfield Memorial April 1917 – October 1918" (PDF). Kent War Memorials Transcription Project. pp. 20–21. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "The British Air Services". Flight. VIII (399): 690. 17 August 1916. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  4. ^ "No. 30451". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1917. pp. 88–89. 
  5. ^ Note: This usually indicated an appointment as a flight commander. "No. 30793". The London Gazette. 12 July 1918. p. 8204. 
  6. ^ "No. 30989". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 November 1918. p. 12974. 
  7. ^ "No. 31046". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 November 1918. p. 14317. 
  8. ^ "No. 31104". The London Gazette. 3 January 1919. p. 206. 
  9. ^ Cawsey, Richard (2016). "Fatal accidents to British aircraft overseas 12 November 1918 – 1929". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  10. ^ "Casualty Details: Tonks, Adrian James Boswell". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "Capt. Adrian James Boswell Tonks (1898–1919)". Find a Grave. 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2016.