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Aces of Aviation

Short Type 184 of Charles Edmonds

Short Type 184 of Charles Edmonds

Short Type 184 piloted by Flight Commander Charles Edmonds, onboard the HMS Ben-My-Chree, in August 1915.

Wingspan: 19.36 meters.

Length: 12.38 meters.

Height: 4.11 meters.

Engine[s]: Sunbeam of 225 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 120 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 1525 meters.

Range: About 5 hours.

Armament: One 0.303-inch Lewis machine gun; maximum bomb load of 236 kilograms.

The first pilot who sank an enemy ship by means of a torpedo attack on the sea was Flight Commander Charles Edmonds of the Royal Navy, piloting a Short Type 184 during the campaign of the Dardanelles in 1915. Edmonds, born in Lymington, Hampshire, the 20th April 1891, had a long and distinguished career, firstly serving in the Royal Naval Air Service and later in the Royal Air Force. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1910 and learned to fly in the Bristol School, in Salisbury Plain. The 16th April 1912 he obtained the Aviator's Certificate number 206 of the Royal Aero Club, shortly after returning from service as Sub-Lieutenant in the War of the Balkans. Then he attended the Central Flying School at Upavon, Wiltshire, which was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service in 1914. In the famous raid effectuated by seven British seaplanes the Christmas day of that year against the hangars of dirigibles in Cuxhaven, Charles Edmonds piloted a Short seaplane and, albeit the raid was not a sound success, some damages were inflicted to the enemy facilities, which earned the Distinguished Service Order to Edmonds.

Winston Churchill accelerated as much as possible the trials to allow airplanes to carry the 14-inch naval torpedo. On one of those trials the seaplane carrier HMS Ben-My-Chree - later reconverted into a steamship for service across the English Channel - was sent on the beginning of the summer of 1915 with three Short Type 184 seaplanes, with the purpose of sinking the enemy cruisers Goeben and Breslau. However, the pilots had to be satisfied with a smaller target. The 12th August, Edmonds took off from the Gulf of Xeros with order of attacking enemy ships. Without an observer - as his aircraft could not ascend above 180 meters it carried only one torpedo and fuel for 45 minutes - he crossed the Peninsula of Bulair and found a 5000-ton Turkish transport ship anchored at Injeh Burnu. After losing altitude to only 4.6 meters above water level he released the torpedo, which traveled about 300 yards and achieved a direct hit that sank the enemy ship. Later it was said that the ship had been already hit by the submarine E-14 four days before.

Flying again the prototype Short Type 184, the 17th August Edmonds successfully torpedoed the center ship of a convoy of three Turkish transport ships at Ak Bashi Liman. The same day, Flight Commander G. B. Dacre, who flew another Short Type 184, torpedoed a large enemy tugboat at False Bay by launching his torpedo while resting on the surface of the sea near the target, for the airplane could not take off because of the weight of the torpedo; the tugboat exploded and then Dacre was able to return to the HMS Ben-My-Chree.

For these deeds, Edmonds received an honorable mention. He remained in the Royal Navy until shortly after the armistice, being then transferred to the Royal Air Force. However, he accompanied the British Naval Mission to Greece in 1927-29, being promoted to the rank of Group Captain at his return. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was destined on the Ministry of Air under the command of Group Captain John Slessor, in Direction of Plans. In 1942 he was promoted to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal, being later appointed Commander of the British Empire and, in 1944, Air Officer (administration) of the allied expeditionary forces in the time of the amphibious landings in Normandy.