Schreck F.B.A. Type H Seaplane
Single-engine three-seat observation/attack seaplane
The Aviation Militaire Belge acquired five Schreck F.B.A. (Franco British Aviation) Type H flying boats from the French authorities in mid September 1917 as new equipment for the resurrected Escadrille des Hydravions (Esc. d’Hydro) based at Calais (France). The first acceptance flight was executed on 18 September 1917 by the crew M. Burit (French pilot) accompanied by Cdt de Bueger (CO Esc. d’Hydro) and Adj Rondeau. Allotted the military serials 1 to 5, the Belgian F.B.A.’s were initially powered by the 150 HP Hispano-Suiza 8Aa engine, but some of the aircraft soon receive the more powerful HS 180hp 8Ab model or a Lorraine Dietrich of 160hp (these were all V-8 engines). Main task of the Belgian seaplanes was surveillance of the Channel and the North Sea looking for German U-boats and destroyers. Secondary tasks were the spotting and destroying of German sea-mines (over 150 being neutralised) and escorting transport ship convoys in the area. For this, the Schreck F.B.A was armed with a 0.303 in (7.7mm) Lewis machine gun in the front seat position and two bombs of either 35 or 50 kg under the wings. These missions were often flown with their French counterparts in the framework of the overall French command PAZAN (Patrouilles Aériennes de la Zone Atlantique Nord) and were not without risk as the Marinekorps Flandern could boost some excellent attack seaplanes such as the Hansa Brandenburg W12 from their famous bases at Zeebrugge and Oostende. On 3 February 1918 the crew Lieutenant Tony Orta and Adjudant Maxime Schollaert managed to rescue a French seaplane crew after their machine was forced down by one of these German aircraft.
In March 1918 a German U-boat was bombed and possibly hit but unfortunately this could not be confirmed. In another attack on 11 August, either U-boat Type UB III of the Flandern I. Flotille: UB-108 (Kptlt. Wilhelm Amberger) or UB-57 (Obltn z.see Johannes Lohs) was successful bombed and sunk by a flight of three seaplanes, comprising two Belgian machines and one French. Five Belgian crew members: Tony Orta, Victor Boin, Franz Orta, Jacques Ochs and Max Roberte were decorated for this act by French Admiral Pierre-Alexis Ronarc’h during a ceremony organised at Calais.
On 5 July 1918 Lieutenant Tony Orta had the honour to fly King Albert I to the English coastal town of Folkestone in F.B.A. number 4, while Queen Elisabeth I flew in F.B.A. number 1 (n° 588 H) piloted by Sous-Lieutenant Victor Boin. Both sovereigns were attending the silver marriage jubilee of British King George V and Queen Mary. A document released for the occasion claimed this to have been the first official royal trip by aircraft.
One of the last missions of the “Escadrille d’Hydro” was to the recently liberated town of Oostende, but already on December 4th, 1918 the unit was disbanded together with its French counterpart. In slightly more than one year the Belgian Schreck F.B.A.’s Type H had flown some 485 hours, 389 of which over hostile territory. A single Belgian F.B.A. (n° 5) is on display in the Royal Army Museum at Brussels and is the world’s sole surviving F.B.A. Type H. (Daniel Brackx)