John Lightfoot Trollope

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John Lightfoot Trollope
Born (1897-05-30)30 May 1897
Wallington, Surrey, England
Died 21 October 1958(1958-10-21) (aged 61)
Hove, Sussex, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1915–1920
Rank Captain
Unit Royal Engineers
No. 70 Squadron RFC
No. 43 Squadron RFC
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
Awards Military Cross & Bar

Captain John Lightfoot Trollope MC* (30 May 1897 – 21 October 1958) was a British First World War flying ace, credited with eighteen aerial victories,[1] including seven on one day, the first British pilot to do so.[2]

Early life and background[edit]

Trollope was born in Wallington, Surrey, the seventh of nine children, and the second surviving son of Howard Woollright Trollope and his wife Caroline Lydia (née Hodgson).[3] He was educated at Banstead Hall, and was attending Malvern College when the war broke out.[4]

World War I[edit]

Trollope enlisted in early 1915, before his 18th birthday, to serve as a despatch rider in the Royal Engineers Signal Service. He served in France from June, but was invalided back to England in September.[4] He was serving as a corporal in the Royal Engineers, when on 17 June 1916 he was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on the General List to serve in the Royal Flying Corps.[5] He trained as a pilot, being granted Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificate No. 3772 after soloing a Maurice Farman biplane at Shoreham on 1 August,[1] and was appointed a flying officer on 2 September.[6]

Trollope served in France from September 1916,[4] flying a Sopwith 1½ Strutter reconnaissance aircraft in No. 70 Squadron.[1] He returned to England in March 1917 to serve as an flying instructor and in a Home Defence squadron.[4] He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1917,[7] and was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain on 28 July 1917,[8] to serve in No. 43 Squadron in France.[1] Soon after his arrival No. 43 Squadron replaced its 1½ Strutters with Sopwith Camels, and was converted from a reconnaissance to a ground attack unit.[9]

Trollope gained his first aerial victory on 19 January 1918, destroying a DFW two-seater over Vitry. Two further victories followed on 16 and 17 February, and two more on 5 and 11 March to bring his total to five, making him an ace. He accounted for two Albatros D.V fighters on 17 March, and forced a DFW two-seater down to be captured at Mercatel on 23 March.[1]

Seven in a day[edit]

Around 11 a.m. on 24 March Trollope's flight observed four German fighters attacking British reconnaissance aircraft. Trollope promptly attacked, firing at one aircraft from close range, causing it to break up in mid-air. Spotting two more enemy aircraft below he dived and shot them both down before rejoining his flight to engage another group of enemy aircraft, until his ammunition was exhausted. Later the same day, around 3.20 p.m, Trollope's flight encountered three enemy aircraft over the battle line. He attacked one, but his gun jammed and he was forced to withdraw and clear it. He then attacked another at point-blank range, sending it down spinning until it broke up. He then pursued a third aircraft, setting it on fire. On the return home he saw an enemy fighter and a British aircraft dogfighting. Trollope attacked, shooting the enemy down in a spin, and the other pilot saw it crash.[10][note 1]

Capture and return[edit]

Only days later, on the morning of 28 March, he led a patrol of nine aircraft across the German lines. East of Albert he attacked and destroyed an observation balloon, but was attacked by a formation of German Albatros D.V fighters. In the ensuing dogfight, Trollope shot down two of the enemy, but five British aircraft were shot down, including Trollope, who fell victim to Leutnant Paul Billik, commander of Jasta 52. Trollope was captured, having his left hand and wrist amputated as a result of his injuries.[11] He was soon repatriated,[12] but due to complications his left arm was eventually amputated at the shoulder.[1]

Awards and citations[edit]

While in captivity Trollope was twice awarded the Military Cross. The first was gazetted on 13 May 1918, his citation reading:

Temporary Captain John Lightfoot Trollope, General List and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During a period of three months he has engaged and brought down completely out of control four hostile machines, and has sent down crashing to earth, three others. On all occasions he has displayed the greatest courage, determination and skill, and it is largely due to his fine leadership that the flight under his command has contributed so much to the marked success of the squadron."[13]

His bar to the Military Cross was gazetted on 22 June 1918:

Temporary Captain John Lightfoot Trollope, MC, General List and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion during the recent operations, while on offensive patrol, he encountered three enemy machines, two of which he completely destroyed. He then attacked a scout, and after firing 100 rounds into it, the enemy machine went down completely out of control, eventually crashing. Later in the same day, on his flight encountering four enemy two-seater planes, he sent three of them down crashing to earth. Within a month previous to this he fought two hostile formations, numbering 12 machines in all, single-handed, and did not break off the engagement until he had driven off all of them towards the East. He has accounted for 14 enemy machines, and has rendered exceptionally brilliant service by his gallantry and determination."[14]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[1]
No. Date/Time Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
1 19 January 1918
@ 1025
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Destroyed Vitry
2 16 February 1918
@ 1145
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Destroyed Vitry
3 17 February 1918
@ 0930
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Out of control Brebières
4 5 March 1918
@ 1520
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Out of control East of La Bassée
5 11 March 1918
@ 1350
Sopwith Camel
Albatros D.V Out of control Sainghin
6 17 March 1918
@ 1145-1200
Sopwith Camel
Albatros D.V Out of control Maugne
7 Albatros D.V Destroyed in flames 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Armentières
8 23 March 1918
@ 1300
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Captured Mercatel
9 24 March 1918
@ 1100-1105
Sopwith Camel
DFW two-seater Destroyed East of Mercatel
10 DFW two-seater Destroyed in flames South-east of Mercatel Shared with Second Lieutenant Robert Johnstone Owen.
11 Albatros D.V Destroyed East of Mercatel
12 24 March 1918
@ 1520-1530
Sopwith Camel
Albatros two-seater Destroyed Sailly-Saillisel
13 Albatros two-seater Destroyed
14 Albatros two-seater Destroyed
15 Two-seater Destroyed
16 28 March 1918
@ 0930
Sopwith Camel
Balloon Destroyed East of Albert
17 Albatros D.V Destroyed
18 Albatros D.V Destroyed


Trollope eventually relinquished his RAF commission on 10 February 1920, on account of ill-health caused by wounds, and was permitted to retain his rank.[15]

He married Molly Field on 30 January 1926, and had two children. He died in Hove Hospital in 1958.[3]


  1. ^ Contemporary accounts (including Trollope himself) and his Military Cross citation credit with Trollope with six aircraft, though in fact he shot down seven.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "John Lightfoot Trollope". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  2. ^ O'Connor, M. (2001). Airfields & Airmen – Ypres. Leo Cooper. p. 102. ISBN 0-85052-753-8. 
  3. ^ a b Binyon, Charlie (2012). "John Lightfoot Trollope". Family Tree Research. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Personals: Prisoner of War". Flight. X (521): 521. 9 May 1918. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "No. 29634". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 June 1916. p. 6202. 
  6. ^ "No. 29772". The London Gazette. 3 October 1916. p. 9559. 
  7. ^ "No. 30212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 July 1917. pp. 7866–7867. 
  8. ^ "No. 30247". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 August 1917. p. 8667. 
  9. ^ Barrass, M. B. (2016). "No.'s 41–45 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  10. ^ "Capt. Trollope". Flight. X (485): 407. 11 April 1918. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "Personals: Items". Flight. X (500): 839. 25 July 1918. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Back from Germany". Flight. X (513): 1191. 24 October 1918. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "No. 30681". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 May 1918. p. 5704. 
  14. ^ "No. 30761". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 June 1918. p. 7401. 
  15. ^ "No. 31784". The London Gazette. 17 February 1920. p. 1948.