1914 Silver-cased borgel WWI Royal Flying Corps Trench Watch
by ADAM HARRIS
The movement is a Longines calibre 13.34 manufactured in-house by Longines and introduced in 1910. It usually appears with 15 jewels, and the 18-jewel version is rare.
The B & Co signature on the movement stands for Baume & Co, the official British agents for Longines. Notice also the "AB" stamp inside the case back, which was the sponsor's mark of Baume. (Arthur Baume was the company's managing director, hence the AB initials.)
From Longines handwritten records:
“Further to your request, I am pleased to provide the information contained in Longines' handwritten registers.
The original serial number 3’052’109 identifies a wristwatch in silver, with a “Borgel” case, fitted with a Longines manually wound mechanical movement, caliber 13.34. It was invoiced on 7 September 1914 to the company Baume & C°, which was at that time our agent for the UK.”
The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed in April 1912 because the army and navy saw the potential for aircraft as observation platforms. It was in this role that the RFC went to war in 1914 to undertake reconnaissance and artillery observation. The RFC had aircraft and a balloon section that deployed along the eventual front lines to provide static observation of the enemy defenses.
At the beginning of World War I Britain had 113 aircraft in military service, the French Aviation Service 160, and the German Air Service 246. By the end of the war each side was deploying thousands of aircraft.
Before the war the RFC had experimented with arming aircraft, but it was awkward because of the need to avoid the propeller arc and other obstructions, such as wings and struts. Early in the war the risk of injury to aircrew was largely through accidents. As air armament developed, the dangers to aircrew increased markedly; by the end of the war the loss rate was 1 in 4 killed, similar to the infantry losses in the trenches.
For much of the war RFC pilots faced an enemy with superior aircraft, particularly in speed and operating ceiling. Determined and aggressive flying compensated for these disadvantages, albeit at the price of heavy losses, and the deployment of a larger proportion of high-performance aircraft. The statistics show the ratio of British losses to German at around 4 to 1.
When the RFC deployed to France in 1914, it sent four squadrons (Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5) with 12 aircraft each, which together with aircraft in depots, gave a total strength of 63 aircraft supported by 900 men. By September 1915 and the Battle of Loos, the RFC strength had increased to 12 squadrons and 161 aircraft. By the first major air actions at the first Battle of the Somme, July 1916, there were 27 squadrons with 421 aircraft plus 216 in depots.
Special thanks to Marcus Hardy – mentor and photos
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