William Molesworth (aviator)

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William Earle Molesworth
Nickname(s) Moley
Born (1894-03-14)14 March 1894
Andaman Islands, India
Died 22 October 1955(1955-10-22) (aged 61)
Reading, Berkshire, England
Buried at Henley Road Cemetery, Reading (51°28′33″N 0°57′16″W / 51.47583°N 0.95444°W / 51.47583; -0.95444Coordinates: 51°28′33″N 0°57′16″W / 51.47583°N 0.95444°W / 51.47583; -0.95444)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1941
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit
Commands held No. 158 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
World War II
Awards Military Cross & Bar
Silver Medal of Military Valor (Italy)

Lieutenant Colonel William Earle Molesworth MC* (14 March 1894 – 22 October 1955) was a British First World War flying ace credited with eighteen aerial victories.[1]

Biography[edit]

Molesworth was born on 14 March 1894, the son of Lieutenant Colonel William Molesworth CBECIE, of the Indian Medical Service,[2] and Winifred Anne Weeks.[3]

He attended Marlborough College from 1908 to 1912, then trained for an army career at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, from 1912 to 1914.[1] On 8 August 1914, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Munster Fusiliers.[4]

From October 1914 Molesworth served in the trenches on the Western Front in France.[1] He was promoted to lieutenant on 15 November 1914,[5] later backdated to 30 August 1914.[6] He was wounded in December, but returned to duty and served with the Fusiliers until March 1916.[1]

Molesworth was then seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, and was appointed a flying officer on 26 December 1916,[7] finally completing his flight training at Upavon's Central Flying School in February 1917.[1] He received promotion to captain in the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 7 April 1917.[8] He was assigned to No. 60 Squadron, flying a Nieuport 17, and scored his first victory on 22 April.[1] On 26 April was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain,[9] to lead "A" Flight.[1] His next three triumphs were also scored flying a Nieuport; then he switched to an SE.5a for his next two in early August. He was transferred to the Home Establishment in England,[1] and on 26 September 1917 he was awarded his first Military Cross.[10]

On 20 October 1917, he returned to Nieuports when assigned to No. 29 Squadron as a captain.[11] He gained his first wins with them on 8 November, setting an enemy reconnaissance two-seater and an Albatros D.V on fire. He then scored at a steady rate until his eighteenth and last victory on 18 March 1918.[1] On 26 March 1918 he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross.[12]

He served as an instructor, with the temporary rank of major, at the Central Flying School between 26 June[13] and 4 September 1918.[14] He retained his temporary majority when appointed commander of No. 158 Squadron on 3 September 1918.[15] On 12 September he was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor (Medaglia d'Argento al Valore Militare) by Italy.[16] He gave up command of his squadron[1] and on 15 October 1919 relinquished his commission on ceasing to be employed,[17] being restored to the establishment of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.[18]

The Royal Munster Fusiliers were disbanded on 31 July 1922, and Molesworth was serving as a Railway Traffic Officer,[19] when on 13 September 1922 he was appointed a captain in the Royal Sussex Regiment, with seniority from 7 April 1917.[20] On 13 February 1924 he was transferred to the Royal Tank Corps (later the Royal Tank Regiment),[21] where he was promoted to major on 28 February 1931.[22] He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 April 1940,[23] and retired from the Army on 13 September 1941.[24] He then worked at the Ministry of Supply, until his retirement in 1954.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Molesworth married Dorothy Loftus Steele, the daughter of Colonel St. George Loftus Steele, on 1 June 1918. They had a daughter Pamela, born on 14 March 1919.[3]

Molesworth died on 22 October 1955 in Reading, and is buried at Henley Road Cemetery on 25 October.[25]

Awards and citations[edit]

Military Cross
Captain William Earle Molesworth, Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on offensive patrol. He has frequently led his patrol against superior numbers of the enemy, destroying some and dispersing others. He has also brought down two balloons and has proved himself to be a dashing and fearless pilot of great skill and determination."[26]
Bar to the Military Cross
Captain William Earle Molesworth, MC, Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal Flying Corps.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has done excellent work as patrol leader, handling his formations with great skill and courage. He has destroyed four enemy machines and driven several down out of control.[27]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[1]
No. Date/
Time
Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
With No. 60 Squadron
1 22 April 1917
@1720
Nieuport
(B1569)
Albatros D.III Driven down out of control Vitry
2 24 April 1917
@1040
Nieuport
(B1569)
Balloon Destroyed Boiry-Notre-Dame
3 29 June 1917
@1800
Nieuport
(B1652)
Albatros D.III Destroyed DouaiEstrées
4 11 July 1917
@1410
Nieuport
(B1652)
Albatros D.III Driven down out of control Quéant
5 5 August 1917
@2000
S.E.5a
(A4851)
Albatros D.III Destroyed (on fire) Hendecourt Shared with Lieutenant Spencer B. Horn
6 9 August 1917
@0700
S.E.5a
(A8932)
Albatros D.V Destroyed Cagnicourt
With No. 29 Squadron
7 8 November 1917
@1515
Nieuport
(B6812)
Albatros D.V Destroyed (on fire) East of Westrozebeke
8 8 November 1917
@1600
C Destroyed (on fire) Houthulst Forest
9 26 November 1917
@1450
Nieuport
(B6820)
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control South-east of Houthulst
10 3 January 1918
@1530
Nieuport
(B6812)
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control South of Moorslede
11 22 January 1918
@1235
Nieuport
(B6812)
Albatros D.V Destroyed North-east of Staden
12 24 January 1918
@1200
Nieuport
(B6812)
C Destroyed North-east of Roulers
13 24 January 1918
@1310
C Destroyed North of Roulers
14 29 January 1918
@1255
Nieuport
(B6797)
Albatros D.V Destroyed (on fire) East of Moorslede
15 5 February 1918
@1020
Nieuport
(B6812)
C Driven down out of control Moorslede—Roulers
16 21 February 1918
@1410
Nieuport
(B6812)
C Captured YpresZonnebeke
17 26 February 1918
@1100
Nieuport
(B6812)
C Destroyed South-east of Beselare
18 18 March 1918
@1145
Nieuport
(B6812)
Pfalz D.III Destroyed South-east of Rumbeke

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "William Earle Molesworth". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Marlborough College Register 1843-1933 & Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930.
  3. ^ a b c Lundy, Darryl (2015). "William Earle Molesworth". The Peerage.com. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28864. p. 6206. 7 August 1914.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29001. p. 10560. 8 December 1914.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29143. p. 4050. 23 April 1915.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29900. p. 499. 12 January 1917.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30109. p. 5439. 1 June 1917.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30067. p. 4633. 11 May 1917.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30308. p. 9978. 25 September 1917.
  11. ^ Franks, Norman (2000). Nieuport Aces of World War I. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. pp. 23 & 30. ISBN 978-1-85532-961-4. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30597. p. 3744. 22 March 1918.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30846. p. 9581. 16 August 1918.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31157. p. 1537. 31 January 1919.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31302. p. 5045. 18 April 1919.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30895. p. 10743. 10 September 1918.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31632. p. 13546. 7 November 1919.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31670. p. 15008. 2 December 1919.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32757. p. 7371. 20 October 1922.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32746. p. 6578. 12 September 1922.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32907. p. 1271. 12 February 1924.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33693. p. 1355. 27 February 1931.
  23. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34821. p. 1895. 29 March 1940.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35290. p. 5642. 26 September 1941.
  25. ^ "William Earle Molesworth (1894-1955)". Find A Grave Memorial. 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  26. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30466. p. 631. 9 January 1918.
  27. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30862. p. 9904. 23 August 1918.