Charles Humphrey Kingsman Edmonds (1891-1954) joined the Royal Navy in 1903, when he was
just 12. His early career was fairly
typical of young officer-aspirants of his day,
assignments to a succession of ships, performing various duties and
learning the ropes. But in 1912 Edmonds transferred to the Naval Wing of the newly
formed Royal Flying Corps, and on April 16th of that year was
certified as a pilot in what would become the Royal Naval Air Service.
more than two years later, of course, Edmonds
went to war, along with pretty much everyone else in Europe.
of the most senior pilots in the Royal Navy, Edmonds served afloat aboard a seaplane tender. On Christmas Day of 1914, he took part in
what arguably was history’s first air strikes by a carrier task force. Escorted by a cruiser-destroyer force, the
seaplane tenders HMS Engadine, Riviera, and Empress steamed into the North
Sea and approached the German coast north of Cuxhaven, a major Zeppelin base. A total of seven seaplanes of diverse types (Edmonds’ was a Short Type 74) were able to take off, and raided the
airship pens and other installations at the Cuxhaven base. Hampered by poor weather and anti-aircraft
fire, they inflicted relatively little damage, but did disrupt German
operational plans. Although a couple of
the aircraft were forced to ditch, all aircrew made it safely back. For their leadership during this operation, Flight
Lieutenant Edmonds and another officer were awarded the D.S.O.
In 1915, Edmonds, who was shortly promoted
to flight commander, was transferred to HMS Ben-my-Chree, a newer seaplane tender, converted from a fast
ferry, which sailed for the Mediterranean in
support of the Gallipoli operation.
On August 12, 1915, flying
over the Dardanelles in a Short Type
184 biplane patrol bomber fitted with an 810 pound 14-inch torpedo slung
between its floats, Edmonds
spotted a Turkish steamer off Bulsair.
Approaching at just 15 feet above the water, he launched his torpedo and
saw it strike the ship, scoring the first ever aerial torpedo hit in combat;
unbeknownst to Edmonds,
the ship was already suffering the effects of a hit by a submarine torpedo, and
the second hit caused her skipper to beach her. Five days
later, on the 17th, Edmonds scored the second
torpedo hit on a ship, when he put a fish into a very large (c. 5,000 ton)
freighter in the Dardanelles, which promptly
part in the first carrier airstrikes as well as the first and second successful
torpedoing of a ship by an airplane. Oddly,
although he rose to air vice marshal before retiring from the Royal Air Force
in 1945, his achievements in 1914 and 1915 were certainly the most impressive
of his career.
"The Life of One Brave Man . . . . "
3, 1800, a French army under Jean Victor Marie Moreau inflicted a stunning defeat on an
Austro-Bavarian force at Hohenlinden, in Upper Bavaria. As the allied force retreated, the 29-year
old Archduke Charles of Austria
was hastily called in to take command from his overwhelmed brother, the wholly outclassed
18 year old Archduke John.
Reaching the army on December 17th, Charles was
shocked to discover that wounded and ailing soldiers were being abandoned as
the army fell back, which was hardly helping morale.
The Archduke immediately ordered that artillery pieces were
to be left behind rather than men, saying "The life of one brave man is
better worth preserving than 50 pieces of ordnance."
Naturally, the abandoned guns quickly fell into the hands of
the French. But when General Moreau
learned of Charles' gesture, he promptly returned the captured pieces, saying
that it would be unworthy of him to take advantage of the Archduke's noble act
Now both of these gestures might seem to some to be
misguided manifestations of chivalry.
Yet both were well-thought out.
By his action, Charles helped stem the dissolution of the army through
desertion, knowing that as it was retreating on Vienna, the arsenals of which held more than
enough ordnance to re-equip his troops, he was actually preserving the army for
another day. Moreau, on the other hand,
realized that the war was coming to a close, as an armistice was already being
discussed, and thus his gesture would have little effect on the military
situation, while perhaps fostering a friendlier negotiating climate.