LT Arthur John Palliser

LT Arthur John Palliser, was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 02 Mar1890. He was a motor mechanic in Ulverstone, Tasmania and Enl.18Sep1914; Emb.22 Dec 1914 with 300 Mechanical Transport, AASC for service at Gallipoli as a Driver Mechanic; 10Jul1916 with Div Supply Col apptd L/Cpl; 03Oct1916 apptd L/Sgt; 10Feb1917 apptd Sgt; 22Jan1918 selected for training as pilot in AFC; 26Jan1918 transferred as Cadet, AFC and then to AFC Tng Dep and No2 R.F.C.S.M.A. to qualify for appointment as Flying Officer; 22Aug1918 to No 4 Sqn AFC; 30Aug1918 apptd Lieutenant; 5Nov1918 reported MIA while on offensive patrol; 14Feb1919 reported KIA by Court of Enquiry held at Cologne, Germany.

In Vol VIII Australian Flying Corps of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 by F.M.Cutlack, Lieutenant Palliser is mentioned. On pages 360-361 it states, ‘Lieutenants Barkell, G.Jones, and A.J.Palliser, from No.4 Squadron, were on offensive-patrol at 7,000 feet near Armentières shortly after 8 a.m., and, when over Frélinghien, were attacked from above by this same mixed Fokker fleet, now consisting of eleven or twelve machines. Three of them dived at Barkell, four at Palliser, and two at Jones. Barkell and Palliser each rolled smartly and got the upper hand with a Immelmann turn; each then fired a devastating burst at a selected enemy from close range. These two Fokkers fell at once and crashed east of Armentières near the Lys. Jones was attacked a few seconds later than his comrades and just as he had seen a biplane – which had missed Palliser in its dive – swirl away below him. ‘

On pages 376-377 Cutlack describes the air activity in the Lessines region on 28 October 1918 as follows; ‘Meanwhile King and his Snipes had arrived over Ath, and at 12,000 feet attacked and annihilated a formation of six or seven Fokkers. The enemy was slightly higher, but did not seem to be aware of the Snipes, until King, finishing a climb, half-rolled on the leader and fired his opening rounds into the enemy at fifty feet. The Fokker spun away under continual fire for 3,000 feet and then dropped on its back. Major W.A.McCloughry, in that part of the patrol which followed King, fastened on to another enemy and fired at him till he crashed outside Ath. Palliser shot down a third, which also fell near Ath, and, while climbing to rejoin formation, engaged and destroyed another Fokker.’

Then on 29 October 1918, Cutlack writes of one of the greatest air battles of the war. On pages 377 and 378 he states, ‘British machines were penetrating too far for his liking over the enemy’s line of retreat, and his fully available air force was now concentrated to thwart this reconnaissance. Early in the fine but hazy afternoon fifteen Snipes under King and Baker left the aerodrome for offensive-patrol of the area east of Tournai. This force towards the end of its patrol met about sixty Fokkers just east of Tournai flying at varying heights. Several British two-seaters were in the offing lower down. Five Fokkers promptly attacked King, who was flying lower than the others. King spun away to avoid them and at 3,000 feet ran across an L.V.G. two-seater in his path. Attacking this, he missed at the first dive, but returned a few minutes later, met the two-seater head-on, and destroyed it. Meanwhile the others, at various levels between 14,000 and 11,000 feet, were fiercely engaged. Three machines led by G.Jones at 11,000 feet were the first in action, when, climbing to meet fifteen Fokkers just above them, they saw ten of this formation dive towards the British two-seaters. Jones’ force at once attacked the ten, and at the same moment six Snipes under Ross entered the fight with a swarm of fresh Fokkers. Jones in his dive destroyed two of the enemy in quick succession; one crashed north-east of Tournai, and the other burst into flames. Almost simultaneously Palliser set another Fokker on fire. He turned at once to attack a second which whizzed past him on the tail of a Snipe, and destroyed that enemy also. Then four Fokkers in turn attacked him, and he was obliged to spin away to escape them. The air was so thick with German machines that, high or low, in every direction, a machine leaving the ruck of a fight could not fail to meet them. So Palliser, diving for safety, found another enemy lower down in his path, and this too, he shot down out of control with a burst of eighty rounds ripped into the enemy as he dropped. Jones’ patrol of three completely dispersed that particular body of Fokkers, but lost Sims. Sims was seen by Palliser to destroy one Fokker in flames, but shortly afterwards was himself shot down and killed.’

Lastly, on page 383 Cutlack writes of the end for Palliser when he states, ‘The fight lasted but two or three minutes, and died out in the usual way, with machines spread over a wide area and making to regain formation. When the Snipes had re-formed it was found that three splendid pilots had been lost in the action – Baker (a flight-commander), and Lieutenants Palliser and P.W.Symons.’ These three were all aces and the encounter with the enemy which included the German ace Karl Bolle on 5 November 1918, just 6 days before the cessation of the war, was a black day for No 4 Sqn AFC. At war’s end No 4 Squadron, one of the most aggressive allied squadrons, was the highest scoring AFC squadron with approximately 220 victories.

Also, in the book, Men & Machines of the Australian Flying Corps 1914-19 by Charles Schaedel, reference is made to this battle when he writes, ‘a week before the Armistice came into effect, the squadron suffered the loss of five pilots in one day. Lts E.J.Goodson and C.W.Rhodes were taken prisoner in the morning and in the afternoon Capt Baker, the leader of ‘B’ Flight and Lts A.J.Palliser and P.W.Symons were all killed during one short but particularly torrid engagement.’

Another reference to this action is made in the book, Fire in the Sky, The Australian Flying Corps in the First World War by Michael Milkentin. On page 323 he states, ‘Somewhat paradoxically, Jasta Boelcke’s victims were among No.4 Squadron’s most experienced pilots. One, Thomas Baker, was a veteran flight commander with a dozen victories to his credit. The other two, Arthur Palliser and Parker Symons, had been at the front since August and Palliser had claimed five Fokkers in the week before his death. His was a particularly cruel fate, having survived four years of war, not only to be killed a week before the Armistice but also a day before he was scheduled for leave to Australia. Jones recalled speaking to Palliser before taking off that morning. ‘I am due to return to Australia tomorrow’, he said. ‘If I was only lucky enough to break my finger in the hangar door I would not be able to fly today’. Palliser, along with Baker and Symons, were probably the last three Australians to die in action during the First World War.’

In the Court of Enquiry into Palliser’s fate held on 14 February 1919 it was reported that he failed to return from patrol over enemy territory November 4th 1918 and was last seen in combat with enemy machines over Ath, Belgium. One informant told the enquiry that the patrol was met by about fifty Fokkers who downed five out of nine Snipes. Captain King reported that Palliser had gone down badly.

In his short wartime flying career in France from mid-1918, Lieutenant Palliser is credited as an air ace. Flying a Camel his first victory was against a Fokker D VII on September 16 over Fr linghein, next he destroyed a balloon in early October. Flying Sopwith Snipe E8064 he claimed two Fokker D VIIs on October 28 and the following day he destroyed two more and another was last seen out of control north east of Tournai. His end came when he was shot down during his patrol’s disastrous battle with Jaska Boelke, the specially created fighter squadron established by the famed German fighterace, Oswald Boelke, under command of the Aviation Chief of Staff. Boelke was killed on 28 October 1916 while flying with Jasta 2 and in honor of their great leader, Jasta 2 was officially renamed Jasta Boelke on 17 December 1916 a name which continues today.

In correspondence with the Minister of Defence dated 31 December 1918, regarding the fact that her son was reported to her as MIA on 11 November, Mrs Palliser wrote that in his last letter to her dated 2 November 1918 that ‘he had nailed a figure of a kangaroo (made of felt with red, white & blue ribbon round its neck which we sent him from Tasmania) on the front of his new machine for good luck’. In the letter she stated that she thought the Minister should have this information as it may help identify her son’s flying machine, if found.

A Court of Enquiry found that in fact her son was KIA on 5 November 1918. This information was forwarded to the Military Commandant, Hobart on 4 March 1919 vide List 6/533 and the Governor General was informed on 5 March 1919. This message was posted not wired and because of wartime delays the message was not received by the Commandant until 11 March.  A telegram was then dispatched on 12th to the Church of England clergyman at Ulverstone to give the sad news to Lieutenant Palliser’s family. Unfortunately the Governor General had received his message earlier than the Hobart Commandant and in turn sent a message of condolences to the family and this arrived before they had been informed officially by the Army of their son’s death.

Mrs Palliser was advised on 6 December 1921 that her son’s remains were exhumed during December 1919 from a small German cemetery a few hundred yards east of their present resting place. They were then buried in Grave 1 Frasnes lez Anvaing Churchyard, Hainaut which is about nine miles north east of Tournai, Belgium. Lt Palliser’s body rests beside Lt A.E.Moir, 65 Sqn RAF, also KIA 5 November 1918. They are the only two Commonwealth airmen of WWI buried there. Lt Palliser’s name is also located at Panel 187 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial.  (Source: Orders Decorations and Medals

Other Information

Australian War Memorial