A Message from the Heavens

28th October 1914 “A British Biplane at Hollebeke”.

As the menace of the German movements in the fields before the British cavalry and Baluchi units became all the more ominous, a singular event occurred. A Farman HF20 aircraft piloted by Lt. R. M. Vaughan landed in the field at the edge of the Hollebeke White Chateau park, alongside the road leading to the broken bridge. Lt. Vaughan’s observer had made a sketch of the German positions and this was presented to the 2nd Cavalry Division’s report centre in the chateau lodge.

An aircraft was quite a novelty in 1914, and the departure was memorialised by a war artist and published in several contemporary war periodicals. Note the French liaison officers depicted, one of whom was the impressionist painter Paul Maze

Unfortunately for the British commanders, 29th October was overcast and not suitable for flying. On the ground the German positions had changed radically overnight with tens of thousands of assault troops moving into the villages in the near distance. They would capture the White Chateau on 31st October.

IWM Q_60716. Photographer: Paul Maze, artist and French liaison officer.

The field on the Ypres side of the White Chateau where the aeroplane landed. In this photo dated 30th October 1914, the baggage train of the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis can be seen along the then St Elooiseweg. Just 48 hours later, the Bavarians would be firing at the Baluchis from the shrubs lining the edge of this road.

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