Official Squadron Badge of 45th Squadron RAF
Official Squadrom Badge
No. 45 Squadron RAF

Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter
A Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Arras Flying Memorial, France
Arras Flying Service Memorial







45 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

2nd Lt. Robert Hartley DEAKIN (1895 - 1917)

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed by Royal Warrant on 13 April 1912, its motto Per Ardua ad Astra (Through Adversity to the Stars). The RFC comprised of a Military Wing, Naval Wing, a Reserve, the Central Flying School at Upavon (responsible for training Naval and Army pilots) and the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, Hampshire.

45 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed in March 1916 at Fort Grange, Gosport and was posted to France in October 1916, initially equipped with Sopwith 1½ two seater Strutters in the 'scout' role. The squadron operated out of Fienvillers in Picardie in Northern France from 15th October 1916 and then Boisdinghem in the Pas-de-Calais from 4th November 1916 before moving to Ste-Marie-Cappel, a small airfield about 15 miles to the east of Omer, on 4th December 1916.

In 1916, whilst serving with the 10th Jats in Pakistan, Robert Deakin, volunteered for service with the RFC and was attached to 45 Squadron (26th April 1917). Having completed a short period of flying training Robert was deployed to France (embarking Folkestone, disembarking Boulogne) arriving at Ste-Marie-Cappel on 8th July 1917.

During the early years of the First World War, the life expectancy of an aviator was very short, many had little tactical training and most had only a few hours' flying experience. The more experience pilots typically served as instructors back in England and several men were sent back home from the field for further training. Sadly 2nd Lt. Robert Deakin only survived 2 weeks before he was shot down and killed.

On 16th July 1917, 3 Sopwith 1½ Strutters from the squadron were on an interception mission when they were attacked by 6 German Albatros D.III fighters near Houtem, Belgium. At 09.10 hours, Capt. Matthew Brown 'Bunty' Frew (1895-1974)[1] with Observer 2nd. Lt. George A. Brooke[2] (aircraft serial no. A1020) shot down one of the German aircraft over Polygon Wood and Second Lt. Robert Deakin flying with Observer Capt. James W. Higgins[3] (in aircraft serial no. A8292) forced another down out of control[4].

2nd Lt. Robert Hartley Deakin 10th JATS Indian Army (an infantry division of the British Indian Army) and 45 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, of Norton Hall, Worcester, died 6 days later on 22nd July 1917, aged 22. Robert, was flying with Lt. Reginald Hayes (from Wallington, Surrey, England, who had been with the squadron since 14th April 1917) in a Sopwith 1½ Strutter serial no. A1032. They were part of a formation of eight Sopwiths when they were attacked about 15 miles over the lines beyond the Menin-Roulers Road, Flanders. Both are listed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial in France (no known graves)[5].

45 Squadron was reassigned to Italy in November 1917 and returned to France in 1918. The Squadron was disbanded after its return to England in 1919 and was later reformed at Helwan, Egypt in 1921. 45 Squadron was one of the most successful RFC fighter squadrons during the First World War, claiming 316 victories, however, 74 men lost their lives.

Archive film of the RFC at the Front:

[1]: Capt. Matthew Brown Frew MC was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 4th March 1918 and the Italian Silver Medal for Military Valour on 12th September 1918. He was 45 Squadron's most successful pilot.
[2]: Lt. G.A. Brooke transferred to 20 Squadron on 1st September 1917.
[3]: In September 1917, following the replacement of the 2 seater 11/2 Strutters by Camels, Capt. James W. Higgins gave up flying and remained with the squadron as its Recording Officer.
[4]: Source: RFC Communique no 97, 16th July 1917
[5]: Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2nd Lt. Robert H. Deakin certificate.