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Captain Leslie Holden, Australian Flying Corps 1st AIF, the other Red Baron

Leslie Holden came from East Adelaide a South Australia town When on 26 May 1915 he enlisted in the 4th Light Horse of the AIF renown He was a driver when the 4th left for Egypt and the war Then volunteered for the Australian Flying Corps for flying and adventure for more Just to get into these flimsy machines was heroic then When a mistake would mean a crash and the pilot’s end So he flew in the Middle East then to the Western Front With the AFC he was in the war at its brunt Gaining his wings he was posted to Australian no 2 squadron in September 1917 On 2 October he was in the Squadron’s first combat when a German fighter flew away clean The Airco DH5 he was flying had limitations against the Germans So his duties were ground support as his war would demand On 20 November 1917 at the battle of Cambria he bombed a German trench line From altitudes as low as 6 metres as they fired at him in their defensive design He returned to his airfield flying his wrecked plane after the deadly refrain With every part of it shot full of holes including the petrol tank of his plane And part of his undercarriage and the elevator control was shot clean away Taking all his skill as a pilot to land it on the runway Two days later he repeated the exercise with similar consequences Showing clear evidence of the danger and of his own good luck in being so offensive This brace of close calls gained him the nicknames Lucky Les and the Homing Pigeon He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery and flying precision He claimed his first aerial victory while No. 2 Squadron was still flying DH.5s Before it began converting to SE 5s in December 1917 in a modernising drive On 18 February 1918, he shared in one of the unit's first two victories in the S.E.5 As a German flying an Albatros went down in a spin and dive He claimed another three aircraft shot down over the following month That gave him a total of five victories in his ace fighter pilot crunch Some battles took place during the German Spring Offensive daring his warrior’s chance When all available Allied aircraft were thrown into battle to stem the German advance Royal Air Force policy required pilots to be rotated to home establishment So for rest and instructional duties to Blighty he was sent Promoted to captain in March 1918, Holden was posted to England as a flying instructor Introducing and training new pilots in the deadly air war It was during this time he was awarded the Air Force Cross That was promulgated on 3 June 1919, as his skill as an instructor was not lost During his instruction with the new pilots he has some near misses in the air Wanting to be sure these men could see him and take care With this in mind he painted his aeroplane red Becoming another Red Baron flying for the Allies instead. © Paul Warren Poetry

Copyright © | Year Posted 2020

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