Bloody April
RFC Battle of Arras aerial observation


The RFC called April 1916 Bloody April, as their casualties hit a maximum at the Battle of Arras and other activities in that month.

This was because they were flying against an air force who were better trained and who had better planes. And, to combat this inferiority, our strategy was to outnumber the Germans, knowing that most of our airmen would be killed.

During April, 275 out of 465 planes at the front were lost to enemy action, and there were 421 casualties, half of which were fatal. A trivial number of casualties compared to the Army, but on the other hand a significant proportion of the RFC’s pool of pilots.

The average life of a pilot was just 18 hours flying, or 11 days, from when they first arrived at the front.

In the Battle of Arras alone, 105 aircrew and 75 planes were lost in combat, and another 56 planes were crashed by inexperienced pilots when not in combat. This amounted to a third of the strength of the RFC.

Yet fighting strength was maintained by bringing up new planes and freshly trained pilots, shortening the length of training if necessary.


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