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First British Air-raid of WW1

Unit/ Formation: RM Airmen

Location: Düsseldorf

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1914

Date/s: 22 September 1914

Flight Lieutenant Charles Herbert Collet DSO (4 February 1888 – 19 August 1915) was a British naval airman during the First World War, regarded as one of the best naval airmen of his day.

Collet was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery on 1 September 1905, and was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1906.

On 21 October 1913 Collet was awarded Aviators' Certificate No. 666 after flying an Avro biplane at the Central Flying School at Upavon.

On 22 September 1914 Collet, flying a Sopwith Tractor Biplane, led a raid by four aircraft, which flew two hundred miles to attack the Zeppelin sheds at Düsseldorf and Cologne, in the first British air raid of the war.

Thick mist in the Rhine Valley meant that only Collet found his target, and he accurately dropped two 20-pound (9 kg) bombs from 400 feet (120 m) on the shed at Düsseldorf, although the bombs failed to explode.

Despite being hit by enemy fire, he returned safely, as did the other three aircraft; they had spent more than an hour flying over Cologne attempting to find their target, but after failing to do so they returned to base without dropping their bombs.

Collet's feat was described thusly:

Flight Lieutenant Collet approached the Zeppelin shed at Düsseldorf at an altitude of 6,000 ft (1,800 m). There was a bank of mist below, which he encountered at 1,500 ft (460 m).

He traversed the depth of this layer and emerged there from at a height of only 400 ft (120 m) above the ground. His objective was barely a quarter of a mile ahead.

Travelling at high speed he launched his bombs with what proved to be deadly precision, and disappeared into cover almost before the enemy had grasped his intentions.

Collet was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 21 October 1914

Search RM Airman on the 'Dits' or the Geo History map page

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