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A Superb Royal Navy Air Service D.S.C. group to an “ACE” with his wife’s VAD pair


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A Superb Royal Navy Air Service D.S.C. group to an “ACE” with his wife VAD pair

Squadron Leader H.G. Travers D.S.C., R.N.A.S. & R.A.F. 

A Sopwith Pup pilot credited with 5 aerial victories over the Western Front in 1917, earning him the coveted title of ‘ace’.

The thrilling Sopwith Pup Royal Naval Air Service flying ace’s D.S.C. group, consisting of:

Distinguished Service Cross in box of issue with silver hallmarked reverse; 1914 Star to 764 Pte. H.G. Travers, WWI War & Victory Medals to Major H.G. Travers, R.A.F. in box of issue.

Wife’s medals: WWI Pair of War & Victory Medals to H.E.M. Fraser, V.A.D. 

Accompanied by an archive of original material including pocket watch and chain with Gothic inscription ‘H.G.T.’ and winner of the Mile and 2nd Half & 3rd Quarter Mile, Wellington ’09, hallmarked silver Christening napkin ring engraved ‘H.G.T. April 1st 1893’ and ‘From Grannie’ cased miniature medals, M.I.D. Certificate in envelope, Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators Certificate, newspaper cuttings, passport for Mrs H.E.M. Travers (Fraser) and copy of the book ‘Cross Country’ published by Travers’ daughter, charting the career of her father and details of his 5 victories.

Distinguished Service Cross London Gazette 22 June 1917: 

“Flt. Sub-Lieut. (now act. Flt. Cdr.) Herbert Gardner Travers, R.N.A.S.; In recognition of his services with the Army in France. This Officer has himself brought down three hostile aeroplanes completely out of control, and has taken part in two other combats in which enemy machines were forced to land in our lines. He has always shown the greatest determination in leading his flight on offensive patrols, and has on many occasions driven down superior numbers of hostile machines.”

Herbert Gardner Travers was born on 1 Apr 1891 and worked at the family firm trading merchants in London; Joseph Travers & Sons Ltd. Travers’ first flight was at the Beatty School in an aeroplane hand-built by Beatty to a design supplied by the Wright Brothers – it was a taster for his future career as part of a well-known aviation family and his WWI prowess as an ace. After attending Wellington O.T.C., Herbert Travers enlisted with the Honorable Artillery Company on 3 Mar 1913, disembarking with the 1st Battalion, Machine Gun Section, H.A.C. for France from the S.S. Westmeath on 9 Sep 1914. 

On 14 Dec, Travers’ unit was to cover the attack of the 2nd Royal Scots and 1st Gordons at Petit Bois. Travers was firing his machine gun when it ‘jammed and exploded, sending metal into his right hand, wrist and arm.’ It was recorded as a ‘severe Gun Shot Wound to the hand’ and he was admitted to No.7 Stat Hospital, Boulogne on 16 Dec 1914, then evacuated to Dunkirk, reaching the 3rd General Base Hospital, Oxford on 21 Dec. Spells at the War Hospital, Croydon and Guys Hospital followed until surgery allowed him be granted a temporary commission on 7 Dec 1915; almost exactly a year after his wounding. 

Posted to Royal Naval Air Station, Trinity Place, Eastbourne, Travers began training in a Maurice Farman biplane, qualifying and receiving his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate no. 2556 on 23 Jan 1916. 

Flying reconnaissance missions initially, on 18 July 1916, Travers was forced down into the sea resulting in his ‘machine destroyed’. 

In pursuit of hostile aircraft on offensive patrols during the early part of 1917, Travers recorded 5 victories with a Sopwith Pup in just two months:

  1. 11 Mar 1917 1150 3N Sopwith Pup (N6175) Albatros C (Out of Control) Bapaume
  2. 17 Mar 1917 1050 3N Sopwith Pup (N6175) Albatros D.III (Out of Control) Pronville
  3. 08 Apr 1917 1510 3N Sopwith Pup (N6169) Albatros D.III (Out of Control) NE of Pronville
  4. 21 Apr 1917 1730 3N Sopwith Pup (N6169) Albatros D.III (Out of Control) Cagnicourt
  5. 24 Apr 1917 1650 3N Sopwith Pup (N6169) DFW C (Captured) 1 Morchies

The following extracts are taken Travers memoirs published in ‘Cross Country’ by Hothersall & Travers, 1990:

11 March: “Offensive Patrol. Vaux Hermies-Pronville-Baupaume. Shot down 2-seater Albatros near Hermies. Forced down 1-seater Albatros near Pronville. Fired 120 rounds into another 2 seater Albatros. Scraped with A90 nr Bapaume.”

17 March: “Offensive Patrol. Shot down Albatros Scout, Pronville. Shot observer in Type L 2-seater Bapaume & 2 other small fights.”

8 April: “Escort to Bombers B.E.’s nr. Pronville. Attacked by 3 H.A., shot down Albatros.”

21 April: “O.P. Many H.A.. Shot Albatros Sct. & one other scrap nr. Coqueville.”

24 April: “O.P. Attacked 2-seater D.F.W. Casey, myself & Malone brought him down in our lines near Doignies.”

Promoted to the rank of Acting Flight Commander on 7 May 1917, Travers undertook North Sea ‘spider-web’ anti-submarine patrols. Promoted further to Acting Squadron Commander when officer in command of 11 Squadron, Travers became Major of a renumbered 211 Sqn., R.A.F. on 1 Apr 1918. A final entry of note is

26 May 1918: “To locate missing machine. Le Mesurier. Landed on old Furnes’ drome and phoned A.A. Battery.” A few hours later, Le Mesurier was safe and sound and Travers record: “Returned to Squadron.”

Transferred to the unemployed list on 24 August 1919. After the war, Travers became a test pilot and flew seaplanes for Blackburn Aeroplane & Manufacturing Company, at Athens, Greece, from 1926 to 1928. He then became a pilot instructor for several British flying clubs, including the London Aeroplane Club until 1933. In 1934 he was a pilot for the National Air Display and an airline pilot with Spartan Airlines, Imperial Airways, and British Airways from 1935 to 1938. During World War II, Travers returned to service with the Royal Air Force as a Flight Lieutenant, Administration and Special Duties. He was Mentioned in Despatches on 1 Jan 1941, helping a stricken aircraft to navigate over Abingdon. Travers is quoted as saying: “I saved the country forty thousand pounds one dark night and the country always likes it when anyone saves them money…”

After WWII, Travers remained on the emergency list of the RAFVR, finally relinquishing his commission on 10 Feb 1954, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader. Herbert Travers’ two brothers, James Lindsay Travers (1883-1924) and Charles Tindal Travers (1898-1969), were also pilots. An engineer, James Travers graduated in 1906 and worked in the nascent British aviation industry designing, building, and test flying aeroplanes until he was killed in a crash in 1924.  Travers married Hermia Fraser on 6 August 1919 at Ryton, Shropshire. Hermia had served as an ambulance driver for the Voluntary Aid Detachment during WWI, when she met Travers.

All almost EF, appear never to have been worn.