First Ever Ammo Resupply by RAF Aircraft

Saturday, 24 August, 1918
Avro Biplane (80 horsepower Gnome engine) on aerodrome at Bailleul, spring 1915.

At the beginning of the Advance in Flanders on 24 August 1918, both the 1st Battalion and the 9th Battalion the Royal Irish Fusiliers had advanced swiftly at 0700 hours to attack across a one-mile front, under a barrage of smoke and shrapnel, to the line of the Haagedoorne-Dranoutre Road short of the town of Bailleul. The town, with its military airfield, had been captured on 15 April 1918, during the German Spring Offensive in the Battle of the Lys.

It was a carefully planned attack by 108 Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and the element of surprise was such that the enemy was overwhelmed, losing sixty prisoners and eleven machine guns. That afternoon, German aircraft dropped flares to indicate British positions to German artillery observers firing in support of a German counterattack. British Royal Air Force aircraft responded by directing British artillery fire onto the German's as they formed for the counterattack. Later that evening, a weak German counterattack was again defeated, this time by rifle and machine-gun fire. The forward line was now only 1,000 yards from Bailleul and the enemy's defences of the town had been penetrated. That night, the enemy skilfully withdrew from Bailleul.

During the action by 108 Brigade an event of historical significance took place. A Royal Air Force aircraft successfully dropped two boxes of Small Arms Ammunition to the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers. This was the first occasion that a British infantry battalion in action had ammunition re-supplied by air.