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Roy Cecil Phillipps
1 March 1892 – 21 May 1941 (aged 49)
Informal portrait of man in military uniform, casting side-long glance
Captain Roy Phillipps in France, March 1918
Place of birth New South Wales
Place of death Archerfield, Queensland
Allegiance  Commonwealth of Australia
Service/branch Australian Imperial Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1915–1918
1940–1941
Rank Squadron Leader
Unit 28th Battalion (1915–17)
No. 32 Squadron RFC (1917)
No. 2 Squadron AFC (1917–18)
Commands held No. 6 Squadron AFC (1918–19)
No. 2 EFTS (1940–41)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Military Cross & Bar
Distinguished Flying Cross
Other work Farmer

Roy Cecil Phillipps MC & Bar, DFC (1 March 1892 – 21 May 1941) was an Australian fighter ace of World War I. Born in New South Wales but raised in Western Australia, he commenced service as an infantryman with the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915, seeing action at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Wounded twice in 1916, he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) and, having falsified his age, was accepted for pilot training in May 1917. As a member of No. 2 Squadron in France, Phillips achieved fifteen aerial victories and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He finished the war a Major, commanding No. 6 (Training) Squadron in England. After leaving the AFC in 1919, he became a farmer before enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force soon after the outbreak of World War II. Ranked Squadron Leader, he was in charge of No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at Archerfield, Queensland, when he was killed in a plane crash in May 1941 at the age of forty-nine.

Contents

Early life

Phillipps was born on 1 March 1892 in New South Wales, though sources differ on the exact location, which is variously recorded as rural Moree and metropolitan North Sydney.[1][2] His mother took him to live in Perth, Western Australia, following the death of his father. Educated at Perth High School, he subsequently studied to be an accountant and was practicing as such when war broke out in August 1914.[1][3]

World War I

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28th Battalion

In April 1915, Phillips enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He joined the 28th Battalion, raised that month at Blackboy Camp, Western Australia. Successfully applying for a commission, he departed for Egypt aboard HMAT Ascanius on 9 June as a Second Lieutenant.[1][4] After training in Egypt, he arrived with his unit at Gallipoli on 10 September, and was promoted to Lieutenant the next month. The 28th Battalion was not heavily engaged on the penisula and suffered relatively few casualties before the evacuation in December.[3][4]

In March 1916, Phillipps and his battalion deployed to France for service on the Western Front. He participated in a night raid against the forts of Armentières on the night of 6/7 June, before seeing action at Pozières in July. On 5 August, he was shot through the thigh, requiring repatriation to England for hospital treatment.[1][4] He was promoted to Captain on 12 August.[3] Rejoining his unit in October, Phillips took part in the Battle of the Somme but was wounded again the following month, near Gueudecourt. He returned to England once more to recover, before being discharged from hospital in March 1917 with a partially paralysed leg.[1][3]

Australian Flying Corps

Prevented from taking any further part in the war as an infantryman, Phillipps would normally have been repatriated home to Australia, but instead managed a transfer to the Australian Flying Corps as an adjutant in No. 2 Squadron.[1][2] After getting a taste of flying as a passenger, he applied for pilot training, altering his birthdate from 1892 to 1896 to do so.[1][5] His application was accepted in May and, after qualifying for his wings, his proficiency was considered such that in August he was attached to No. 32 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps to gain operational experience in France. Within three days of arriving he had been forced to crash-land his DH.5 after being hit by anti-aircraft fire near Ypres but escaped injury and, by the time he completed his attachment in September, was leading combat patrols.[2][5]

Three-quarter view of military biplane on landing ground
Captain Phillips in his S.E.5 fighter, January 1918

Phillipps married Ellen Robinson, daughter of Western Australia's Attorney-General, at St Mary Abbots, Kensington, on 8 September 1917.[1] Rejoining No. 2 Squadron the same month as a flight commander, he was initially engaged mainly in low-level strafing and bombing missions in the DH.5 as his unit, attached to the British Third Army, took part in the Battle of Passchendaele.[6][7] During the subsequent Battle of Cambrai, on 22 November, he recorded his first aerial victory when he turned the tables on a German fighter that had attacked him from above, forcing it to land.[3][8] He was recommended for the Military Cross on 3 December,[9] the award being promulgated in the London Gazette on 4 February 1918,[10] and the full citation appearing on 5 July:[11]

Capt. Roy Cecil Phillipps, F.C.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has performed continuous gallant work at very low altitudes in almost impossible weather. Whilst flying alone in a mist he forced an enemy aeroplane to land. On two occasions, flying at an altitude of 200 feet, he made very valuable reconnaissances, and his reports on the general situation were of the greatest value. His leadership is excellent, and he has set a high example to his flight.

No. 2 Squadron converted to S.E.5s in January 1918.[6] As the German Spring Offensive got under way, Phillips shot down three German fighters in as many days: a Fokker Triplane on 22 March, an Albatros the next morning, and a two-seater on 24 March; the official history of Australia in the war recorded that the last-mentioned enemy lost its wings to Phillips' machine-gun fire, and "fell like a stone". With the Allies holding clear superiority over the German fighters, the main danger to the Australians was from ground fire as most combat took place at low level, and "their machines came back full of bullet-holes".[12] On 27 March, Phillips achieved two more victories, a Triplane that he sent down in flames near Albert and another German fighter over Méaulte.[13] He was recommended for a bar to his Military Cross on 31 March,[14] which was gazetted on 22 June:[15]

Capt. Roy Cecil Phillipps, M.C., Aust. F.C. attd. R.F.C.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When engaged with hostile aircraft during the recent operations, he has destroyed three enemy machines, and has in addition brought down two hostile planes out of control. He has also brought back accurate and valuable information regarding hostile movements under the most adverse conditions, particularly on one occasion, when he flew through a heavy barrage at a low altitude behind the enemy's lines. He has shown conspicuous skill and determination when escorting low-flying bombing patrols.

Portrait of twenty-four men in military uniforms and flying suits, with a dog sitting in foreground and a cat on one man's lap
Phillips (front, third from right), Captain Les Holden (front, second from left), and fellow officers of No. 2 Squadron with their four-legged mascots, March 1918

Phillipps destroyed a Pfalz near Bapaume on 16 May, before achieving his greatest success on 12 June when he shot down four German fighters in a single patrol over Ribécourt:[16] two Fokker Triplanes, one of which he attacked head-on, an LVG, and a Fokker D.VII flown by Fritz Loerzer, commander of Jasta 26 and a twelve-victory ace, who was captured.[2][6] These actions earned Phillips the Distinguished Flying Cross on 16 June,[17] promulgated on 3 August:[18]

Capt. Roy Cecil Phillipps, M.C. (Australian Flying Corps).

Whilst on offensive patrol this officer destroyed personally four enemy aeroplanes; he has also shown the greatest gallantry during the recent operations in attacking troops and transports on the roads, and dropping bombs from very low altitudes.

On 25 July, Phillipps was leading the escort for a raid on the Lille forts east of Armentières when he spotted a patrol of seven Fokkers. Jettisoning his bombs to lighten his load, he attacked one of the German fighters and shot away its wing, causing the others to retreat.[19] During the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive, on 12 August, he joined fellow No. 2 Squadron ace Adrian Cole and No. 4 Squadron aces Harry Cobby and Elwyn King to lead their combined forces in support of the British Fourth Army, Phillipps accounting for a Fokker which broke up in mid-air.[20] Having scored two other victories that month to bring his final tally for the war to fifteen, he was promoted to Major in October and posted back to England to command No. 6 (Training) Squadron at Minchinhampton.[3][21]

Interbellum and World War II

Two men seated in military biplane, with hanger in background, and third figure in military uniform with peaked cap standing to one side
Major Phillips (left) and General William Birdwood seated in Avro 504K, Minchinhampton, March 1919

Phillipps relinquished command of No. 6 Squadron upon its disbandment in March 1919 and returned to Australia on 6 May,[21][22] after which his appointment in the Australian Flying Corps was terminated. He became a farmer in Queensland and New South Wales, and was managing a station in Moree when World War II broke out in September 1939.[1][2] In February 1940, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Flying Officer, taking command of No. 2 Elementary Flying School at Archerfield, Queensland in May. Promoted to Squadron Leader, Roy Phillips died on 12 May 1941, following an accident in a private plane.[1][3] He was survived by his wife, and cremated at Mt. Thompson Crematorium, Brisbane.[23] He is commemorated on the Queensland Cremation Memorial, Brisbane, and on panel 116 of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.[24][25]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j A03716 at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Newton, Australian Air Aces, p. 53
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Garrisson, Australian Fighter Aces, pp.99–100
  4. ^ a b c 28th Battalion at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 30 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 177–178, 181–182
  6. ^ a b c Franks, SE5/5a Aces of World War 1, pp. 42–43
  7. ^ 2 Squadron AFC at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 28 January 2010.
  8. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 183–184, 190
  9. ^ Recommended: Military Cross at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  10. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30507, p. 1606, 4 February 1918. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  11. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30780, p. 7937, 5 July 1918. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  12. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 228–230, 235
  13. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 240
  14. ^ Recommended: Bar to Military Cross at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  15. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30761, p. 7402, 22 June 1918. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  16. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, pp. 255–259
  17. ^ Recommended: Distinguished Flying Cross at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  18. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30827, p. 9202, 3 August 1918. Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  19. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 299
  20. ^ Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps, p. 313
  21. ^ a b 6 (Training) Squadron AFC at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 28 January 2010.
  22. ^ Major Roy Cecil Phillips at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 28 January 2010.
  23. ^ Roll of Honour Circular at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 28 January 2010.
  24. ^ Casualty Details: Phillipps, Roy Cecil at Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 3 February 2010.
  25. ^ Roll of Honour: Roy Cecil Phillipps at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 3 February 2010.

References


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