On the morning of 30th November 1917, Lieutenant Andrew McKeever, a Canadian serving with 11 Squadron RFC, together with his observer/gunner Lieutenant Leslie Powell, climbed into their Bristol F2b Fighter and took off alone; their task to fly a solo reconnaissance patrol over Cambrai, where the decisive battle involving tanks for the first time in history was raging on the ground below - it was to prove a remarkable day.
As they flew over the enemys lines they encountered a pair of German two seater observer aircraft, protected by no fewer than seven enemy Albatross DV scouts. Armed with a forward firing .303 Vickers machine gun and a ring mounted Lewis gun in the back seat, McKeever skilfully manoeuvred his aircraft to engage one of the enemy scouts, and destroyed it. As he turned to get back to the Allied lines, five of the remaining enemy Albatross fighters dived on his tail, but Lt Powell rapidly downed two of them in quick succession with deadly fire from his Lewis gun. Continuing the duel with the remaining Germans, McKeever managed to destroy a further Albatross when suddenly his observers Lewis gun jammed. The pair seemed doomed, however McKeever, showing great courage and initiative, feigned disaster by rolling his aircraft over, plummeting it towards the ground. Fooled by the manoeuvre, the German aircraft climbed away, and McKeever levelled out just twenty feet above the ground and flew back to safety.
Remarkably, all of McKeevers thirty one victories were achieved at the controls of the Bristol F2b Fighter, making him the highest scoring ace with 11 Squadron, and of any pilot flying two seater aircraft during the First World War.
Robert Taylor's print illustrates the scenario on that decisive morning in November 1917. Lt. Powell is seen pumping a deadly burst of machine gun fire into a diving Albatross as the aerial duel wheels and turns high above Cambrai.
Henry J. L. Botterell
1896 - 2003
Born in 1896, Henry Botterell joined the Royal Naval Air Service in Canada, and in 1916 sailed to France, joining an operational squadron on the Western Front, but an engine failure on his second take-off brought his flying to an abrupt conclusion, forcing him to spend several months in a hospital and convalescing back in England, where he was demobilized.
After a chance meeting with pilots on leave in England with whom he had trained, Henry applied to rejoin the service and was accepted. Re-qualifying as a fighter pilot, in early 1918 he returned to operational combat flying in France with 208 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Flying Sopwith Camels he saw active service with 209 Squadron for the remainder of the war until the Armistice in November.
Staying in France as part of the Continuing Force he eventually returned to Canada in 1919 - bringing back with him a fence post which the wing of his Camel had collected on one of his many low-level sorties. The post now resides in the War Museum in Ottawa.
Henry Botterell in 1998 signing copies of the print Camels on Patrol at his home in Canada.