An enhanced and colorized photo of the aftermath of the crash of Capt. Thistleton’s plane in No Man’s Land.
April 1 1917, Arras–The British were planning an offensive at Arras, to slightly precede Nivelle’s main push along the Aisne. In the leadup to the offensive, the British greatly increased their use of air power in the area, not only over the front lines but also into German territory, in an attempt to establish air superiority. It was hoped that this would deny the Germans any aerial reconnaissance of British preparations, and once the offensive began, British planes could provide close air support, artillery spotting, and disrupt the flow of supplies and reinforcements to the front.
However, the Germans had a distinct advantage in the air at this time in the war; while no longer as dominant as they had been during the “Fokker scourge,” the Germans were better trained, better organized, and had better planes. Despite a large British superiority in numbers, the Germans were able to inflict disproportionate casualties. As they mounted, the month soon became known as “Bloody April,” with squadrons losing multiple pilots a week, and new pilots often being killed in their first few days.
Even in the lead-up to the offensive, British fliers were suffering inordinate casualties, to the point where some squadrons thought none of them would survive the war. In a morbid attempt to raise morale, one squadron, led by Capt. Reginald Thistleton, started a tontine, a scheme in which everyone would pay in
£50; the last survivor of the squadron would receive all of the money, plus any accrued interest.
Thistleton himself would not benefit from the scheme; his plane was shot down after no-man’s-land on April 1. Although he survived the crash, and his batman, William Woodhouse, even attempted a rescue (pictured above), he was killed by a German sniper shortly thereafter. In revenge, Woodhouse went on a solo trench raid, supposedly killing up to 50 Germans singlehanded before returning to the British lines. Woodhouse was awarded a Victoria Cross for his efforts.
While casualties were high during “Bloody April,” most members of Thistleton’s squadron did survive the war, and the tontine grew greatly in value. There were even some suspicions that the members of the squadron were being killled off so the last survivor could collect on the tontine, these proved to be unfounded. The identity of the last survivor is unknown to this author, though it is known that Lance Corporal Woodhouse was one of the last two survivors.
Can we just take another moment to appreciate how incredible Ufotable is, how I would need formal training in cinematography and/or animation to figure out what technological advances they started using between the time they animated this scene from KnK: A Study in Murder Part 2, and pout a little bit that the Fate/Apocrypha anime adaptation was given to A-1 because apparently Ufotable couldn’t handle making the Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel movie trilogy and the anime at the same time?
I’ve been tempted to write GMP analyses of EMIYA & Cu Chulainn’s UBW fights, but I know damn well I’d just end up watching the fights on a loop instead of typing because they will never get old.