24 April 2011

My Grandfather Edgar Thomson Shand RFC

For ANZAC Day 2011 here is a previously unpublished photograph of my grandfather, Edgar Thomson Shand, wearing his Royal Flying Corps (RFC) uniform.

Edgar Shand (28 February 1891-15 January 1938 aged 47) went to Egypt in 1916 as a Second Lieutenant (9/2027) to join D Squadron of the Otago Mounted Rifles where he transferred to the RFC (PI 7225) in 1916 (see Supplement to the London Gazette, 17 October 1916, page 10067) and trained as a Observer.

He joined 17 Squadron of the RFC and served briefly on the Macedonian Front where he was wounded in action:

"On August 19th [1916] an Army Reconnaissance was carried out over the Carniste-Valandovo area [near Salonika], the BE2c machine being escorted by a two-seater Nieuport (110 Clerget) attached from the French Aviation. This reconnaissance machine was attacked by an Aviatik which was immediately engaged by the Nieuport. In the course of the combat the French pilot, Lieutenant Ducas and the English Observer, Lieutenant Shand were both wounded. They, however, succeeded in driving off the enemy machine and returned safely to their Aerodrome."

On 20 July 1917 the Evening Post carried an account NEW of a talk he gave on his RFC experiences (HT to Dr Don MacKay).

On 2 August 1917 the Poverty Bay Herald carried his account NEW of the action near Salonika in an article entitled "Fight at 11,000 feet."

A photograph of him on the SS Galeka evacuating him from Salonika in September 1916 is available here NEW.

He was reported in a list of the sick and wounded to have disembarked from a hospital ship at Malta on 12 September 1916, reported on 4 October 1916 to be embarked for England and then reported to have arrived back in Auckland, New Zealand on 29 April 1917. His transfer to the RFC was approved on 1 August 1916 but not reported in the New Zealand Gazette until 1917.

He went on to serve in the Army (and was keep on in the Royal Air Force (RAF)) in New Zealand, first as Adjutant, Otago University Officers Training Corps and then on the staff of Colonel A. V. Bettington (see page 7 - Footnote 4: J.M.S. Ross: Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45; Royal New Zealand Air Force: Wellington: 1955).

In Henry (later Sir Henry) Wigram's diary for 28 Aug 1919 there appears this brief mention of Shand (HT to Errol Martyn):

"Went out with A [HW's wife Agnes] to aerodrome [i.e. Sockburn, now Wigram], the machines [2 Bristol Fighters and 2 DH4s] ex Matatua were arriving and being assembled under direction of Capt [John Hallan] Don and Mr Shand, there were about 120 cases some of them 30 feet long by 9 ft high which only just squeezed through the [Lyttelton] tunnel."

My grandfather relinquished his commission on 2 February 1920 (see the London Gazette, 13 February 1920, page 1832).

Having visited Japan twice, his comments on the political and military situation there were reported in the Evening Post of 17 September 1934. He was obviously still taking an interest in military aviation.

My father, James Macilree, served as a pilot in the RNZAF in the Second World War and I have maintained the family connection with aviation.

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