William Melville Alexander

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William Melville Alexander
Nickname(s) Mel
Born (1897-11-08)8 November 1897
Toronto, Ontario
Died 4 October 1988(1988-10-04) (aged 90)
Toronto, Ontario
Allegiance United Kingdom[note 1]
Service/branch Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1916–1919
Rank Captain
Unit No. 3 (Naval) Wing RNAS
No. 10 (Naval) Squadron RNAS
No. 210 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars First World War
 • Western Front
Awards Distinguished Service Cross

Captain William Melville Alexander DSC (8 November 1897 – 4 October 1988) was a Canadian First World War flying ace, officially credited with 22 aerial victories.[2]

World War I service[edit]

Having turned 18 in late 1915 Alexander was keen to learn to fly, but both the Curtis and Wright Brothers flying schools were at full capacity, so he travelled to San Antonio, Texas, to enter the Stinson Flying School on 6 February 1916. He received just 3½ hours instruction in a Wright Model B before passing his flying test[2] and was awarded Aero Club of America Certificate No. 447. He then returned to Ottawa where on 23 March 1916 he was appointed a flight sub-lieutenant (on probation) in the Royal Naval Air Service.[3] He received further training, travelled to England, and his period of probation came to an end on 9 November 1916.[4]

On 3 December 1916 Alexander was posted to No. 3 (Naval) Wing in France,[3] to fly the Sopwith 1½ Strutter two-seater. However, after only four months No. 3 Wing was disbanded, and on 26 April 1917 Alexander was posted to the newly formed No. 10 (Naval) Squadron, to fly the Sopwith Triplane single-seat fighter[5] as a part of Canadian ace Raymond Collishaw's "B" ('Black') Flight".[5]

His first aerial victory came on 2 June 1917, shared with Flight Lieutenant Collishaw and Flight Sub-Lieutenants Ellis Reid and Gerald Nash. He gained seven more solo victories by the end of July,[2] also being promoted flight lieutenant on 30 June.[6]

In August 1917 No. 10 (Naval) began to receive the Sopwith Camel fighter, and Alexander gained his first victory in this type on 16 August, but next two victories in August were gained in the Triplane.[2] On 27 August he was appointed an acting flight commander, with seniority from 3 August.[7]

His award of the Distinguished Service Cross was gazetted on 14 September 1917. His citation read:

Flight Lieutenant (Acting Flight Commander) William Melville Alexander, RNAS.
"On 16 August 1917, he attacked at about 3,000 feet two hostile scouts, one of which, after a short combat, fell completely out of control. On 20 August 1917, while returning from patrol, he observed three enemy scouts. These he pursued until they turned to fight. One of the scouts he shot down completely out of control, and the remaining two dived away. On 21 August 1917 while on an offensive patrol, he attacked and drove down completely out of control an enemy scout, which was attacking another member of his patrol. Flight Lieutenant Alexander has at all times shown the greatest bravery and determination."[8]

Alexander gained one more victory in a Camel on 23 September,[2] then returned to Canada on leave from mid-October to December 1917,[3] before returning to the front with his acting rank made substantive on 28 December.[9] Between 23 January and 27 May Alexander gained ten more aerial victories.[2] On 1 April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was merged with the Army's Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to form the Royal Air Force and No. 10 (Naval) Squadron RNAS was renamed No. 210 Squadron RAF. On 17 April 1918 the Commanding Officer of No. 210 Squadron recommended Alexander for a second Distinguished Service Cross, but this was not forthcoming.[3] Alexander completed four hundred and sixty-five hours of war-time flying before he was returned to the Home Establishment in May 1918. His war time tally consisted of five aircraft destroyed, and 17 'out of control' victories, one shared.[5]

On 23 August 1918, Alexander, then commanding a Camel flight based at Dover, was recommended for promotion to major (a squadron commander's rank), but again was turned down.[3] He was finally transferred to the RAF's unemployed list on 29 September 1919.[10]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[2]
No. Date/Time Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
No. 10 (Naval) Squadron RNAS
1 2 June 1917
@ 0700–0900
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
C Out of control St. Julien Shared with Flight Lieutenant Raymond Collishaw
and Flight Sub-Lieutenants Ellis Reid & Gerald Nash.
2 4 June 1917
@ 0850
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.III Out of control North-east of Ypres
3 6 June 1917
@ 1150
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.III Out of control Polygon Wood
4 6 July 1917
@ 1100
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.III Out of control Deûlémont
5 Albatros D.III Out of control
6 11 July 1917
@ 2045
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.V Out of control Polygon Wood
7 20 July 1917
@ 0805
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.V Destroyed MeninMessines
8 28 July 1917
@ 1950
Sopwith Triplane
(N5487)
Albatros D.V Out of control Dadizeele
9 16 August 1917
@ 0850
Sopwith Camel
(N6368)
Albatros D.V Out of control Wervicq
10 20 August 1917
@ 1530
Sopwith Triplane
(N6302)
Albatros D.V Out of control Roubaix
11 21 August 1917
@ 1830
Sopwith Triplane
(N6302)
Albatros D.V Out of control East of Menin
12 23 September 1917
@ 1125
Sopwith Camel
(B3910)
Albatros D.V Out of control Houthoulst
13 23 January 1918
@ 1450
Sopwith Camel
(B6289)
Albatros D.V Out of control Staden
14 6 March 1918
@ 0830
Sopwith Camel
(B7215)
Albatros D.V Out of control South-east of Dixmude
15 10 March 1918
@ 1545
Sopwith Camel
(B7215)
C Destroyed Roulers
16 24 March 1918
@ 0920
Sopwith Camel
(B7215)
Albatros D.V Out of control Menin—Roulers
17 Albatros D.V Out of control
No. 210 Squadron RAF
18 3 April 1918
@ 1130
Sopwith Camel
(B7215)
C Destroyed Roulers
19 11 April 1918
@ 1515
Sopwith Camel
(B7215)
C Out of control East of Estaires
20 11 May 1918
@ 1925
Sopwith Camel
(D3348)
Albatros D.V Destroyed Armentières
21 18 May 1918
@ 2005
Sopwith Camel
(D3348)
Pfalz D.III Destroyed Bac St. Maur
22 27 May 1918
@ 0820
Sopwith Camel
(D3348)
Pfalz D.III Out of control Bailleul

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Canadian airmen were required to complete an Attestation Paper in which they declared an oath of allegiance to King George the Fifth and agreed to serve in any arm of the service for the duration of the war between Great Britain and Germany.[1]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ "Canadian Attestation Papers". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "William Melville Alexander". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Halliday, H. A. (2015). "First World War Honours and Awards to Canadians in British Flying Services". RCAF Association. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29822. p. 10966. 14 November 1916.
  5. ^ a b c Shores, Franks & Guest (1990), p. 50.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30156. p. 6415. 29 June 1917.
  7. ^ "Royal Naval Air Service: Appointments". Flight. IX (453): 899. 30 August 1917. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30285. p. 9537. 14 September 1917.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30451. p. 88. 28 December 1917.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31628. pp. 13423–13424. 4 November 1919.
Bibliography
  • 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.