George Hackwill

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George Henry Hackwill
Born (1892-12-22)22 December 1892
Langtree, North Devon, England
Died 4 July 1954(1954-07-04) (aged 61)
Southern Rhodesia
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1919
Rank Captain
Unit Somerset Light Infantry
No. 22 Squadron RFC
No. 44 (HD) Squadron RFC
No. 54 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Military Cross
Other work Member of the Southern Rhodesian Legislative Assembly

Captain George Henry Hackwill MC (22 December 1892 – 4 July 1954) was an English World War I flying ace credited with nine aerial victories.[1] His most notable victory was his role in shooting down a German Gotha G.V, over Essex on the night of 28 January 1918. This was the first victory ever achieved in combat between aircraft at night.[2]

Early life[edit]

George Henry Hackwill was born in Langtree, North Devon, England.[1] At the outbreak of the war he was an employee of the National Provincial Bank.[3]

World War I[edit]

After service in the Somerset Light Infantry at the start of the war, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in mid-1915,[4] and received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 2292 after flying a Maurice Farman biplane at Military Flying School at Shoreham, Sussex, on 17 December 1915.[1]

On 21 April 1916, he was appointed a flying officer as a temporary second lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry and transferred to the General List of the Royal Flying Corps, indicating he had completed training.[5]

Hackwill was initially assigned to No. 22 Squadron, flying the F.E.2b two-seater. He gained his first victory on 21 July.[1] Promoted to lieutenant on 31 August,[6] he gained another victory on 20 October. He then served as an instructor for a while in 1917, before he was assigned to No. 44 (Home Defence) Squadron, flying the Sopwith Camel.[1] On 1 October 1917 he was appointed a flight commander with the acting rank of captain.[4][7]

His next aerial victory was a spectacular one; on 28 January 1918, Hackwill was flying a Sopwith "Comic" Camel, modified for night fighting,[8] when he and Charles C. Banks shot down a Gotha G.V heavy bomber for the first victory over German night intruders attacking Britain.[9] The Gotha came down near Wickford, Essex. The bodies of the three crewmen were recovered from the burnt out wreckage of the aircraft, but only Leutnant Friedrick von Thomsen could be identified. All three were given a military funeral on 2 February.[10]

On 9 February 1918, Hackwill and Banks were awarded the Military Cross for this feat, the Cross being presented by King George V. Their citation, published in February 1918, read:

For conspicuous gallantry displayed when they engaged and shot down a Gotha raiding London. During the engagement, which lasted a considerable time, they were continually under fire from the enemy machine.[11]

In March 1918[1] Hackwill returned to France to serve in No. 54 Squadron, and between 25 April and 15 September 1918 he scored six more victories.[12] Not reflected in his victory list is the LVG he bombed and destroyed on 30 October 1918 while it sat on a German airfield he was raiding.[1]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[1][4]
No. Date/time Aircraft Foe Result Location Notes
1 21 July 1916
@ 2000 hours
Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2b
Serial number 5214
Roland C reconnaissance plane Destroyed West of Beaulencourt Observer/gunner: 2nd Lt W. B. Parsons
2 20 October 1916
@ 0930 hours
Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2b
s/n 4849
Albatros D.I Driven down out of control Grévillers Observer/gunner: Air Mechanic 1st Class Edwards
3 25 January 1918
@ 2210 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n B2402
Gotha G.V Shot down and destroyed Wickford, Essex Shared with Lt. Charles C. Banks
4 25 April 1918
@ 0730 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n D6517
LVG reconnaissance plane Driven down out of control Southeast of Bailleul
5 4 July 1918
@ 1430 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n D6479
Hannover reconnaissance plane Driven down out of control Harbonnières
6 5 July 1918
@ 1045 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n D6479
Pfalz D.III Driven down out of control Chuignolles
7 25 July 1918
@ 1915 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n D9573
Fokker D.VII Destroyed South of Bazoches
8 7 September 1918
@ 1910 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n F2144
Halberstadt reconnaissance plane Destroyed Northeast of Marquion Shared with Malcolm Burger & four other pilots
9 15 September 1918
@ 1840 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n F2144
Fokker D.VII Driven down out of control Ferin

Post-war career[edit]

On 15 April 1919, Hackwill was moved to the unemployed list of the Royal Air Force.[13]

Hackwill moved to Southern Rhodesia, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly as Member for Lomagundi district, representing the United Party, in a by-election on 27 August 1940. He was re-elected in the 1946 and 1948 general elections.

Hackwill died on 4 July 1954.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "George Henry Hackwill". The Aerodrome. 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Bruce, J. M. (22 April 1955). "Sopwith Camel (Part 1), Historic Military Aircraft No. 10". Flight. p. 531. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Airisms from the Four Winds". Flight. 7 February 1918. p. 152. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Shores, et al, p. 180.
  5. ^ "No. 29575". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 May 1916. p. 4646. 
  6. ^ "No. 30325". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 October 1917. p. 10348. 
  7. ^ "No. 30351". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 October 1917. p. 10988. 
  8. ^ Craig, Peter (2011). "44 Squadron: Colleagues". Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Franks, p. 57.
  10. ^ "Aircraft Raids". Flight. 7 February 1918. p. 148. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "No. 30517". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 February 1918. p. 1877. 
  12. ^ Franks, p. 61.
  13. ^ "No. 31327". The London Gazette. 6 May 1919. p. 5656. 
  • Franks, Norman (2003). Sopwith Camel Aces of World War 1: Volume 52 of Aircraft of the Aces. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-534-1. 
  • Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell F. (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 978-0-948817-19-9. 

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