Category Archives: News from the Front

A message from behind enemy lines

FromThe Elizabethan, February 1916

When G. C. Formilli was brought down wounded within the German lines, one of the German aviators who brought him down flew back over the British lines to drop a note from him to his C.O., enclosing a letter to his mother.

The full tale was recounted in an article in the Daily Mail, 7th September 2012:

It was on January 5, 1916, that the British single-engine biplane, crewed by pilot Lieutenant and observer Lieutenant Geoffrey Formilli, took off on a reconnaissance flight from Lille.

Unfortunately, they encountered legendary flier Oswald Boelcke — known as the father ofthe German fighter air force and the aviator who trained the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen — roaming the skies in his Fokker E IV fighter.

Boelcke sprayed the British plane, a BE2c reconnaissance aircraft, with hundreds of rounds from his machine-guns, forcing it to crash land.

Boelcke inspects the plane he shot down.

The German ace wrote about what happened when he landed and approached his two enemy airmen:

‘I went straight up to the Englishmen, shook hands with them and told them I was delighted to have brought them down alive. I had a long talk with the pilot, who spoke German well. When he heard my name he said with a grin, “We all know about you!” I then saw to it that they were both taken in a car to the hospital where I visited the observer today and brought him some English papers and photos of his wrecked machine.’

Lieutenant Formilli then wrote a letter to a Captain Babington of the Royal Flying Corps that Boelcke dropped over the British lines.


The letter said:

‘Just a line to say that Somervill & I are alright. We had a scrap with a Fokker. Willy got a graze on the side of his head & I got one through the shoulder half way through. We had most of our controls shot through & had to land & crashed very badly. I am in Hospital now & Willy is in Germany. Will you let my people know please, yours G Formilli. PS. It was Boelcke who brought us down.’

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