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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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32 Squadron Airco DH5 B336 2nd Lt. Albert 'Albie' William Gordon

Operation: Patrol

Date: 30th July 1917 (Monday)

Unit: No. 32 Squadron. 22nd Army Wing, 5th Brigade(motto: Adeste Comites 'Rally round, comrades')

Type: Airco DH5

Serial: B336

Code: -

Base: Droglandt, France

Location: Vlamertinge, Belgium

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Albert 'Albie' William Gordon 1056 RFC Age 29. Killed

With thanks to 'Medals Reunited of New Zealand' for assisting us with this loss.


Taking off at 17:50 hrs on an offensive patrol with three others led by Captain Arthur May Coningham 7/1177 (1). One returned early.

At about 19:00hrs the remainder engaged five enemy fighters over Langemark. During the battle Cpt. Arthur Coningham was wounded but managed to return to land at Droglandt.

B336 made a forced landing but the aircraft ended up in a shell hole and seriously injured the pilot north of Vlamertinge.

He was taken to 20 General Hospital in Camiers on the 30th July 1917 with a simple fracture of the right thigh and a simple fracture of the left leg. He made satisfactory progress but on the 12th August he suddenly became very ill and died at 15:45 hrs due to an embolism.

2nd Lt. Albert William Gordon was the first New Zealand Flying School graduate to lose his life on active service.

Above left New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama, right: Albert William Gordon (courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Obituary: Auckland Weekly News, 1 November 1917:

'Sincere regret was expressed throughout Auckland when it became known that Flight Lieutenant Albert W. Gordon had, on August 12, succumbed to serious wounds received whilst engaged in an aerial combat in France on July 30. Both legs were badly fractured in the battle in question, and despite his painful wounds Flight Lieutenant Gordon, who was immediately transferred to a hospital in France, lingered for thirteen days, when death took place. Deceased who was a son of Mr. F. W. Gordon of Thames, was highly esteemed in business and sporting circles in Auckland, his genial disposition and sportsmanlike qualities endearing him to a wide circle of friends. He was engaged in the building profession prior to enlisting in the aviation branch of the service at the Kohimarama Flying School, and had designed and built many private residences around Auckland, being recognised as one of the leading builders of the northern city'.

Above: The accident whilst at New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama on 31st August 1916. The pilot suffered no injuries but the Caudron Float plane had to be rebuilt (courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

'The late Flight Lieutenant Gordon was prominently associated with racing and trotting, taking a keen interest in both of these sports. He was well known as the owner of the trotters Huia and John Dillon, both of which horses carried his colours to victory. He was a member of the Auckland Gun Club, and on frequent occasions gave demonstrations of his excellent marksmanship. He also excelled at swimming and acted as runner up to Mr Whitehead in the cross harbour swim from Northcote to Shelly Beach. Always generous to a degree, with a warm heart and ready sympathy, the late Albert Gordon was beloved by a wide circle of acquaintances, among whom his death is universally regretted, and sincere sympathy is to be extended to his relatives at the loss of so popular and noble a citizen and soldier, who has sacrificed everything in the interests of his country'.

(1) Arthur May Coningham: Born on the 11th March 1895 in Australia. Enlisted on the 05 August 1914 at 19. After contacting typhoid fever, invalided and was discharged from the NZEF. determined not to sit out the rest of the war he joined the RFC in 1916. Flight Commander with 32 Squadron, RFC in 1917. Many awards including DFC, DSO, AFC, MC, KBE and KCB. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham then aged 52, went missing on the 29th January 1948. While en route from Santa Mariato in the Azores to Bermuda on board a British South American Airways flight, the aircraft on which Coningham was travelling, BSAAC 'Star Tiger' G-AHNP, disappeared in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

Flying the aircraft was fellow New Zealand pilot, W/Cdr. Brian Watson McMillan DSO. DFC. AFC. NZ/40350, age 35. At 03:04 hrs Radio Officer Robert Tuck aboard 'Star Tiger; requested a radio bearing from Bermuda, but the signal was not strong enough to obtain an accurate reading. Tuck repeated the request 11 minutes later, and this time the Bermuda radio operator was able to obtain a bearing of 72 degrees, accurate to within 2 degrees. The Bermuda operator transmitted this information, and Tuck acknowledged receipt at 03:17hrs. This was the last communication with the aircraft.The loss of the aircraft along with that of BSAA Avro Tudor 'Star Ariel' in 1949 remains unsolved, with the resulting speculation helping to develop the Bermuda Triangle legend. All 25 passengers and 6 crew were listed as 'missing'.

Burial details:

2nd Lt. Albert William Gordon. Etaples Military Cemetery. Grave XVII.D.26. Born on the 10th February 1888 in Auckland. Educated at Tararu School. A self employed master builder prior to service. New Zealand Flying School in March 1916 at Kohimarama. Involved in an accident on the 31st August 1916. No injuries and aircraft rebuilt. Awarded his RAeC Certificate on the 01st December 1916.

Embarked on the Ulimaroa for England on their 19th January 1917 as part of the 21st Reinforcements of the NZEF via Vendôme, France on the 08th May 1917. Part of 36 Training Squadron in May 1917. Pilot badge awarded on the 20th June 1917 then joined 81 squadron on the 21st June 1917. Commissioned on the 20th June 1917. Joined 45 Training Squadron to train on the DH5 on the 03rd July 1917. Left for France and joined 32 squadron on the 22nd July 1917. Son of Frederick William and Margaret Alexandria Gordon (née Innes), of 88, Pollen Street, Thames, Auckland, New Zealand. Epitaph: 'Greater Love Hath No Man That He Lay Down His Life For His Friends'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, New Zealand Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Jenifer Lemaire, Medals Reunited of New Zealand.

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 10-05-2023

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