LEST WE FORGET
Captain Robert Alexander LITTLE DSO and Bar DSC and Bar MID
From Australia serving in the Royal Air Force
Service No: Not Assigned
Born: Hawthorn VIC, 19 July 1895
Unit: No. 3 Squadron RNAS redesignated No. 203 Squadron RAF on 1 April 1918
Died: Air Operations, near St. Omer, France, 27 May 1918, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Wavans British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
CWGC Additional Information: Croix de Guerre with star (France). Son of James Little, of Collins Street, Melbourne; husband of Vera Little, of “Centreway”, 263 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia
Remembered: Commemorative Roll, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Captain Robert Alexander of the Royal Naval Air Service and then the RAF is the top-scoring Australian airman for all time with a score of forty-seven aircraft.
Note: The AWM and CWGC records show Little’s rank as “Flight Commander”. When the RNAS and RFC were combined to form the RAF on 1 April 1918, he would have held the new rank of Flight Lieutenant. However, Garrisson refers to him with the rank of Captain (Army (equivalent to Flight Lieutenant)) as does the RAF record and this rank has been used for the purposes of this document.
On the night of the 27 May, Gothas were reported to be bombing St Omer, a nearby town. Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Collishaw RAF (from Canada) was on leave, and Captain Little was in temporary command of the squadron. There was a full moon and as soon as the report came through, Little ordered his Camel (1) prepared for action. At 2100 hours he took off alone without lights but arrangements had been made in advance for a flare path to be lit on his return, as soon as his engine was heard.
Captain Little managed to intercept the Gotha and was closing in when his aircraft was illuminated in a searchlight beam. He was hit by a single bullet, either from one of the gunners in the bomber, or from the ground, which passed through both thighs, causing him to crash-land in a field, where he bled to death.
(1) Sopwith Camel D3416
Extract from Garrisson, A.D.J. (Arthur Dean John) (O350) Australian Fighter Aces 1914-1953, Air Power Studies Centre Fairbairn ACT 2600, 1999 – Pages 55-56
Australian War Memorial Commemorative Roll On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Garrisson, A.D.J. (Arthur Dean John) (O350) Australian Fighter Aces 1914-1953, Air Power Studies Centre Fairbairn ACT 2600, 1999 – Biography: Pages 51-57
National Archives UK RAF Casualty Book AIR 1/969 page 318, 171056