De Havilland D.H.4
Single engine, two seat bomber and observation aircraft
Immediately post World War I (March 1919), a Belgian detachment of No 1 (Communications) Squadron RAF, based at Buc near Versailles (France) was reorganised as a separate unit designated No 2 Communication Squadron, RAF. The new unit operated a number of De Havilland D.H. 4 aircraft including Rolls Royce Eagle VIII powered A7920, B7986, D8353, D8370, D8417, F5721 and Eagle VII powered F5707. Already on April 30th, 1919 some six of these aircraft arrived at Evere airfield near Brussels earmarked for special duty with King Albert of Belgium. In view of the RAF planning to disband N° 2 squadron by October 14th, 1919, the Belgian Government signed a contract in August 1919 for the acquisition of five of the aircraft in use (B7986, D8417, D8353, F5721 and F5707) at the agreed charge of £10750 for the 5 aircraft. In the summer of 1919, N° 6 Squadron (Bee/Abeille) was assigned the tasks of Royal Flight of the Aviation Militaire Belge operating as part of III Group from Evere aerodrome. The assigned aircraft were numbered “1” (F5707) to “5” (other tie-ups are not known). Later the unit also acquired two Bristol F.2B Fighter Type 14 aircraft (which see) for Royal use. N° 6 Squadron was disbanded in 1926.
Between August 8th and October 14th, 1920 a first batch of 21 De Havilland D.H.4’s was delivered by Handley-Page Transport to the Aviation Militaire Belge having received the serial numbers O-1 to O-21. Of this lot, 6 aircraft were almost immediately transferred to the emerging Belgian airline SNETA (Société Nationale pour l’Etude des Transports Aériens) at Evere/Haren subsequently becoming O-BABI (O-2, ex H5925), O-BADO (ex H5936), O-BAIN (ex H5915), O-BALO (ex H5931), O-BARI (ex H5928) and O-BATO (ex H5929). Between June and October 1921 nineteen more D.H.4’s were received from the Aircraft Disposal Company. Some additional deliveries brought the number of surplus RAF machines to a general accepted 53. With “Ordres Journalier du Corps n° 297” (Daily corps orders) a rationalisation/restructuring of the registrations of Aéronautique Militaire aircraft was introduced. Some D.H.4’s received a new O- registration number to avoid double use. On May 29th 1923 the “Ordres de Materiel Aéronautique N° 30 - OMA n°30” (Orders for Aeronautical Equipment) introduced a standardised service wide registration system in which all D.H.4 aircraft were to receive the letter “E-” in front of their individual number, as such replacing the letter “O-” used up to then. As such the numbers E-1 up to E-53 were known and in June-August 1926 this was brought up to E-68 with de delivery of 15 additional Sabca built aircraft. In Belgium the D.H.4 was operated by Observation Squadrons N° 1 (Mephisto), N° 2 (Gull/Mouette), N° 6 (Bee/Abbeille), N°9 (Dragon), N°10, N° 11 (White Cocotte Blanche) and later (Marabou/Marabout), N°12 and Pilot Schools at Asch and later Wevelgem (Penguin/Pingouin). (Daniel Brackx)
More individual aircraft will be added in the future.