A New Year’s Day present to the Germans of a Handley Page O/100 – 1st January 1917
A Handley Page O/100, #1463 flown by Flt Lt Henry Connell Vereker accompanied by HP 1462 of Sub Lt Sands left for France on a foggy, wintery day. Two attempts had been made to fly the Handley Pages to France in December, but each had been turned back by engine problems. Vereker landed at an enemy airfield (Flieger Abteilung (A) 208 at Chalandry) and was captured along with his crew. The aircraft was painted and flown in German markings until it later crashed at Johannisthal aerodrome on 22 August 1917.
Onboard HP 1463 was also the observer Lt. Sidney Reynolds Hibbard, plus listed as Aircraftman D Kennedy, Aircraftman Wright and Aircraftman Higby.
Published with permission from ‘Bloody Paralyser – The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War’ by Rob Langham (Fonthill Media, 2016):
Before the operational career of the Handley Page bombers had even started, the Germans were to know all they needed to know about the design itself. When HPs 1462 and 1463 attempted to fly from Manston to Villacoublay on the first day of 1917, despite HP 1462 making the journey with no problems, HP 1463 landed 12 miles behind German lines, delivering a fully intact brand-new Handley Page O/100 complete with two officers and three air mechanics to a German airfield at Chalandry.One version of events is that the pilot, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Henry Connell Vereker, ran back to the aircraft in an attempt to take off, but as his head and shoulders were just inside the fuselage he was pulled down again by a German. The men were interrogated and then spent the rest of the war as prisoners.
As well as the aircraft itself, there were technical reports and other paperwork that proved interesting to the Germans, and, after being dismantled and transported to Germany, 1463 was reassembled and flown by the Imperial Air Service, complete with insignia. It was written off in a crash on 22 August that year, apparently due to the cabling for the ailerons being reassembled incorrectly.
There were claims later that the Handley Page design was used as a basis for the Gotha G.IV and G.V bombers, a myth that still exists today. Apart from a very basic likeness in design, i.e. both being large, twin-engine biplane bombers, there were no real similarities in the two designs