Topic: Ernest Alfred Rogers (1898 -1993)

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Ernest Alfred Rogers (1898-1993) was a WWI pilot in the era famous for the Red Baron. He is remembered by Tauranga resident and granddaughter Carolyn Mooney.

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Ernest Alfred Rogers (1898-1993) was a WWI pilot in the era famous for the Red Baron. He came to New Zealand in the 1920s and worked as a wool grader among other jobs before settling in Auckland. He is remembered by Tauranga resident and granddaughter Carolyn Mooney. (Click here to download a 3mb pdf of his training flight log).

"Ernest Alfred Rogers was my mother's father. Born in England on 1st October 1898, he "put his age up" to eighteen, because he really wanted to fly with the Royal Flying Corp in WWI.  Flying a Sopwith Camel was a bit like playing Russian roulette in the sky. The timing of the machine guns and the propellers was often "out of sync" resulting in bullets ricocheting back and hitting the pilot. My Grandad lost an eye in the war , his glass eye was really authentic looking. He moved to New Zealand in 1923. The blurb on the photo is transcribed from Grandad's handwritten spiel on the back of the original. Grandad died in 1993, aged 95. My Mum thinks his longevity was at least partly due to his great appetite for bananas!"

The original of the photo below had his handwriting on reverse noting:

Lt Ernest A. Rogers, No 3 Fighter Squadron, R.F.C. and R.A.F., at Bausieux Aerodrome, France (on the Belgium border), around September 1918, during the burning of Cambrai. With Sopwith Camel single seater fighter, powered by a Le Rhone 180hp rotary engine, armed with two vickers machine guns. This photograph was taken just prior to loading up with four 20lb Cooper Bombs. We were about to "lay eggs" on some hostile tanks. One of the jobs for those on C.O.P. (Counter Offensive Patrols).

 Ernest Rogers WWI Pilot

In a 1977 article in the Auckland Star (September 19), the above photo is captioned "Lieutenant Ernest (Don) Rogers in his Sidcot fur-lined flying suit and fleecy boots stands proudly next to his Sopwith Camel. The photograph was taken near Amiens in France in 1918". In the same article by Felecity Anderson, he recalls that the application process to join the Royal Flying Corps required his parents permission and "a complete dossier on his background and activities" before the interview took place. Other quotes from the 1977 interview include:

  • Of his physidcal training in the south of England: "We had a lot of running ... they used to make us run up the beach in our singlet and shorts while it was snowing to try and toughen us up".
  • Of his academic training: "We had to study everything, including theory of flight, construction, photography, guns, bombs and civil and military law".

The Sopwith Camel was introduced in October 1917 adding a fighting capacity to the squadron in what had previously been primarily a scouting one. In a 1989 interview with Jonathan Underhill (Auckland Star, February 14) he described it as "a sturdy little plane that made a noise like a sackful of empty tins" that "conked-out every now and then". The noise was a result of the aluminium pistons.

 "We didn't have any parachutes so you just had to sit in the plane, put your belt on and hope for the best. If you got shot down that was it. Only the chappies in the observation balloons had parachutes."

Although he claimed hits ("we all claimed hits"), they were never confirmed because of the strict rules around corrobrating hits by ground observation. Ernest flew mostly over the Somme and in Belgium, engaging enemy planes in dogfights during dawn patrols and when opportunity arose, dropping 20 pound bombs on enemy tanks. At the end of the war he was flying  both Sopwith Camels and Snipes. On one occasion he even flew a captured German Fokker (Auckland Star 1977, Sept 19).


 Remnants of Sopwith Camel in Light Horse and Field Artillery Museum, Nar Nar Goon, Victoria, Australia.



A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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Ernest Alfred Rogers (1898 -1993)

First Names:Ernest Alfred
Last Name:Rogers
Date of Birth:1898