Reginald Penkvil Oliver Weekes

Courtesy of Devon Rural Archives

Born in Brixham on 16 Sep 1897, the only son of Dr Reginald Newton Weekes and Ida Monsell Weekes, he subsequently lived at 30 Church Street, Modbury. His father served in the RAMC during the war as a surgeon at the 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham.

Educated at Exeter Cathedral School, he joined  the Inns of Court OTC in August 1915 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and served as a 2nd Lieutenant on 10 Squadron. The squadron had formed at Farnborough, Hampshire on 1st January 1915 and went to France in July 1915. Equipped with BE2c’s for what are now known as army co-operation duties of aerial reconnaisance, artillery support and light bombing.

In December 1916 some improved BE2e/f/gs came on strength finally replacing the BE2cs which had been the mainstay of the unit. They had a higher top speed, around 90 mph, and capability for longer range work which would prove useful when 10 Squadron undertook strategic bombing during the battle of Arras in April. However the armament of these aircraft was still normally pitiful, for example the BE2e had a single Lewis gun for the front seat observer. Crews relied heavily on their escorts and disciplined formation flying for much of their protection.

In March 1917 the air war duly began to intensify on the First Army front where 10 Squadron operated. Other units would be drawn in, but those already there redoubled reconnaissance and photographic work as they strained to understand what the enemy was doing. As the battle of Arras opened on April 9th, 10 Squadron concentrated on artillery observation, reconnaissance and photography. In addition, one of its flights of six aircraft was attached to RFC Headquarters for strategic bombing, including special night raids. Night bombing was still in its infancy and posed many challenges to crews without the benefit of specialist training such as the RFC was beginning to undertake in England. The squadron flew on through May and June on further corps operations, although its work entered a quieter stage. News came that the BEs were to be replaced with Armstrong Whitworth FK8s and the first of these came on strength in June 1917. The Squadron served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war

Reginald was listed as ‘killed in aerial action returning from a bombing expedition on 7th May 1917 at Bethune when his aircraft crashed in flames on landing.   Aged 19, he is buried at Choques Cemetery and there is a memorial to him in St. George’s Church, Modbury.  He was engaged to Ida Irish whose brother-in-law, Reverend Archibald  Calder DSO MA was vicar of St George’s, Modbury form 1927 to 1943 and etsablished the Remembrance Chapel in the church.  Ida’s sister Edith was engaged to Lt Jack Lakeman who was killed 20 April 1917.

Until mid-1917, the Germans stole a march in fighter technology, leaving the British and French to react by developing their own improved aircraft. Two periods of particularly high casualties among British aircrews were known as the ‘‘Fokker Scourge’’ (Autumn 1915-Summer 1916) and ‘‘Bloody April’’ (1917).

Despite flying greatly inferior aircraft, the pilots and observers of reconnaissance squadrons continued their vital work. General Trenchard realised Haig’s army would be at a great disadvantage without intelligence information gathered from aerial reconnaissance. He drove his men on despite heavy losses while at the same time demanding the production of more effective aircraft.

Born:16 Sep 1897
Where Born:Brixham
Address:30 Church Street
Marital Status:Single, engaged to Ida Irish
Next of Kin:Only son of Dr Reginal Newton Weekes (ex RAMC) and Ida Mousell Weekes
Enlisted:Aug 1915 Inns of Court OTC
Service Number:
Rank2nd Lieutenant
Unit10 Sqn, Royal Flying Corps
Died On:7th May 1917
Where Buried:Choques Cemetery
Memorial:St George's Church, Modbury