Lanoe Hawker served first with 6 Sqn as they left Britain for France in October 1914 and quickly built his reputation as a fearless pilot. He was awarded the DSO for a low-level attack on the zeppelin sheds at Gontrode in Belgium and was the first person to be awarded a VC for air to air combat following a flight on 25 July 1915 in which he brought down three enemy aircraft. After almost a year of uninterrupted combat patrols with 6 Sqn in the Ypres area, Hawker had claimed 7 aerial victories, becoming the first British flying ace. He was promoted to major and returned to Britain to take command of 24 Sqn.
On 23 November 1916, Major Lanoe Hawker, flying a DH2 aircraft of 24 Sqn RFC was leading a patrol of three fighter aircraft escorting a reconnaissance flight in the vicinity of Bapaume towards the end of the battle of the Somme. As they intercepted a flight of two German aircraft who turned east and ran for the safety of their own lines, a larger group of hostile aircraft attacked from above. Hawker ended up in a circling fight with a German Albatross flown by the infamous Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. The two pilots were evenly matched but Hawker’s aircraft lacked the speed and manoeuvrability of von Richthofen’s and the prevailing westerly wind mean that the fight was slowly drifting further into German territory. After 30 minutes of closely fought combat during which von Richthofen fired 900 rounds, Hawker finally had to make a break for his own lines. Richthofen fired a last carefully aimed bu
rst and a bullet from this burst struck Hawker in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Hawker’s aircraft came down near the village of Ligny-Thilloy, behind German lines, where he was buried.
Standard parties from 6 Squadron and 24 Squadron together with representatives from The Richthofen Wing of the German Air Force took part in a memorial service for Major Hawker at Ligny-Thilloy on Armistice Day, 11th November 2016