Charles Napier (RAF officer)

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Charles George Douglas Napier
Born 1892
Shepherd's Bush, London, England
Died 15 May 1918 (aged 25–26)
Buried Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Captain
Unit Army Cyclist Corps
No. 20 Squadron RFC
No. 48 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Military Cross
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Médaille Militaire (France)

Captain Charles George Douglas Napier, MC, DCM (1892 – 15 May 1918) was a British World War I flying ace credited with nine aerial victories before being killed in action.


Napier was born in Shepherd's Bush, London, England in 1892.[1] Before the war he was employed in the Fire Department of the Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation Ltd.[2]

Army service[edit]

He began his military service as a private in the Army Cyclist Corps.[3] In August 1915, while serving as a corporal in the 47th Divisional Cyclist Company, Napier was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry on the 25th and 26th May 1915, at Givenchy. After the withdrawal of a bombing party, and having become separated from it, he remained in the trenches with a Serjeant and some men of another Battalion, and greatly assisted this small party by the use of his bombs in retaining possession of a captured trench.[4]

On 24 February 1916 he received the Médaille Militaire from France "in recognition of ... distinguished service during the campaign".[5]

Royal Flying Corps service[edit]

Napier was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, and commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on 23 September 1917.[6] He served with No. 20 Squadron in late 1917 before transferring to 48 Squadron in early 1918. He scored his first aerial victory while with them, on 7 February. On 4 April he was promoted to acting-captain.[7] He would run his total to nine wins,[8] rounding off his tally with a triple victory on 9 May; he and his gunner Walter Beales were also shot down during this action, though without injury.[9] Six days later, he was killed in action, shot down along with his gunner of the day. On 12 June, the Germans verified Napier's death. Ten days later, his award of the Military Cross was gazetted,[8] as follows:

On one occasion during a low-flying bombing attack he descended to a height of 100 feet and dropped four bombs amongst a body of enemy troops, causing heavy casualties and scattering the enemy in all directions. Later, whilst on offensive patrol, he observed an enemy two-seater and two scouts. He fired twenty rounds at the two-seater, with the result that it crashed, and then attacked one of the scouts, which turned over completely, and finally went down in a vertical nose dive. In all he has to his credit two enemy machines crashed and four driven down out of control. He has displayed the greatest judgment, determination and daring.[10]

List of aerial victories[1]
No. Date/time Aircraft Foe Result Location Notes
1 7 February 1918
ca. 0600 hours
Bristol F.2B Fighter LVG reconnaissance plane Destroyed Le Catelet With gunner/observer J. M. J. Moore
2 8 March 1918
ca. 0600 hours
Bristol F.2B Fighter DFW reconnaissance plane Set on fire; destroyed Saint-Quentin
3 16 March 1918
ca. 0600 hours
Bristol F.2B Fighter LVG reconnaissance plane Driven down out of control
4 Albatros D.III Driven down out of control
5 27 March 1918
@ 1120 hours
Bristol F.2B Fighter
(s/n C4886)
Reconnaissance plane Destroyed Southwest of Roye
6 Pfalz D.III Driven down out of control
7 9 May 1918
@ 1540 hours
Bristol F.2B Fighter
(s/n C4750)
Fokker Triplane Driven down out of control Wiencourt-l'Équipée-Mericourt With gunner/observer Walter Beales
8 Fokker Triplane Driven down out of control
9 Fokker Triplane Driven down out of control


  1. ^ a b "Charles George Douglas Napier". The Aerodrome. 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Staff of Aviva constituent companies decorated for their actions in the 1914-1918 war". Aviva plc. 2014. Archived from the original on 7 September 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Medal card of Napier, Charles George Douglas Corps: Army Cyclist Corps Regiment". The National Archives. 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "No. 12841". The Edinburgh Gazette. 13 August 1915. p. 1237. 
  5. ^ "No. 12909". The Edinburgh Gazette. 28 February 1916. pp. 335–337. 
  6. ^ "No. 30339". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 October 1917. p. 10682. 
  7. ^ "No. 30640". The London Gazette. 19 April 1918. p. 4743. 
  8. ^ a b Shores (1997), p.288.
  9. ^ Guttman & Dempsey (2007), p.16.
  10. ^ "No. 30761". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 June 1918. p. 7419. 
  • Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell (1990). Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-19-4. 
  • Guttman, Jon & Dempsey, Harry (2007). Bristol F2 Fighter Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-201-1.