The Royal Flying Corps
• Home • Captured Aircraft • Lt. J. Todd • Postcards from the Front •


John Joseph Hollyhead (known as Jack) was born in Oldbury, Worcestershire on September 6th 1889. He enlisted as a reservist with the 2nd. Battalion of the Coldstream Guards on February 27th 1906 at the age of "18 years and 5 months" , and acquired the service number 6666. If his date of birth is recorded correctly, his true age upon enlisting was in fact 16 years and 5 months, so in common with many of his generation, he was a little 'economical with the truth' about his age on enlisting! It is interesting that in the official documentation the 'date of birth' box is blank. Only his age at the time of joining up is entered.

Subsequent events seem to follow this timetable:

12-Aug-1914 Arrives in France
13-Sep-1915 Marries Annie Eliza Roberts, who lived at Calside, Albert Road, Malvern, although her parents lived at the Lodge, Queenhill, Upton on Severn.
08-Jul-1916 Transferred from sergeant in the Coldstream Guards to Air Mechanic, second class in 70 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. Service number changed from 6666 to 45311.
01-Sep-1916 Promoted to air mechanic, first class.
01-Oct-1916 Promoted to Corporal
27-Oct-1916 London Gazette reports award of Military Medal as 2nd class air mechanic "for bravery in the field".
01-Jan-1917 Promoted to Sergeant
01-Feb-1917 Appointed "F/Sergt"
19-Jan-1918 Appointed Temporary Sergeant Major
01-Apr-1918 Transferred to the RAF "S.M.1"
03-Jun-1918 London Gazette (page 6520/21) reports award of MSM - RAF
01-Jan-1919 Reclassified "SM1 (with distinction)"
02-Feb-1919 Returns from France.
04-Mar-1919 Transferred to RAF reserve.
30-Apr-1920 "Deemed Discharged" A3/3Y063

He was awarded the following medals:

  • The Military Medal

  • The 1914 Star and clasp, engraved "1914 Aug to Nov", known as the Mons Star.

  • The Meritorious Service Medal (June 1918)

  • The British War Medal (Sept 8/9 1921)

  • The Victory Medal (Sept 8/9 1921)

The Pictures

There are four studio portraits of Jack and his colleagues. They were probably all taken in France. Some are dated, others are not. Click on a picture to see a larger version.

30th. March 1917 August 1919, Paris

Most of the remaining pictures were probably taken by Jack himself (except for the two in which he appears!). Some of the pictures had writing on the back. Most of the pictures were probably taken at the RFC base at Fienvillers in northern France between June 1917 and April 1918, although after the Armistice, 70 squadron moved to Cologne, where some of the pictures were taken. Various huts, tents, and a corrugated iron nissen hut are in evidence. Some of the pictures have notes written on the reverse. Where this is the case, the relevant area of the back of the print is shown.

Two of the pictures have hand-written captions on the front. The lettering is white, which suggests that it was applied to the negative before printing. One is labelled "A bunch of Sprites, Cologne '18". The other is illegible, but appears to have been taken at the same location.

70 Squadron was formed at Jersey Brow, Farnborough, on April 22nd 1916. It was the first RFC unit to operate the Sopwith 1 Strutter. It was unusual in that it moved to France for operations by flights, rather than as a full unit. Most of its original machines were ex Royal Naval Air service (RNAS) and had a variety of armament arrangements. The forward firing Vickers guns had either Sopwith-Kauper or Vickers Challenger synchronising gears. Both were mechanical rather than hydraulic devices, and were prone to problems caused by the inertia of the moving parts. The observers' Lewis guns could be carried on either a Strange mounting (a cranked pillar), an Eteve ring mount, or the Scarff ring.

Such was the hurry to get 70 Squadron operational in time for the opening of the Somme offensive that the observers of 'A' flight carried their Lewis guns, still in greased wrappings, on their laps for Channel crossing to Fienvillers on May 31st 1916. 'B' and 'C' flights arrived in France on 3rd July and 1st August respectively.

As before, you can click on a picture to see a larger version, along with more detailed information where available.

cp1 - A captured German LVG aircraft that had been repainted in British colours. cp2 - A captured German SESa aircraft. rfcm01
rfcm02 rfcm03 rfcm06
rfcm04 rfcm04-back rfcm05 - Jack Hollyhead is on the left.
rfcm07 - A lorry loaded with pieces of an aircraft. rfc31p - 70 sqn at Cologne in 1918. rfcm10
rfc29p rfcm08 - A lucky escape. rfc30p
rfcm09 rfcm12 - Taken from the pilot's seat looking aft. rfcm19
rfcm11 - Jack is in the centre of the front row. rfcm13 rfcm15 - A bunch of Snipes, Cologne '18
rfcm14 rfcm14-back rfcm17 - How to build a nissen hut.
rfcm16 rfcm16-back rfcm20 - The photographer's shadow can be seen on the right.
rfcm18 - Caption is illegible, but see rfcm15. rfcm22 - The original print is in very bad condition. rfcm22-back
rfcm21 - This is a photograph from a camera gun, used in training.

After being discharged from the RAF in 1920, Jack Hollyhead resumed his career with the Worcestershire Constabulary, rising to the rank of Superintendent. He retired from the police in 1947 and for many years he and Annie lived in one half of the Lodge at Queenhill where Annie's father, Harry Roberts, lived with his second wife in the other half of the house.

Acknowledgements and further information.

Grateful thanks are due to Jack's daughter, Mrs. C. Callow, who supplied three additional photographs, and to Mick Davis of Co. Durham for supplying much additional information about these pictures. Also to Ed Stephens for correcting an error with a picture caption.

For more information about the Royal Flying Corps, see the Cross and Cockade website. This contains a wealth of information and many useful links to other relevant sites. Another interesting site is being developed by Hylton Routledge at

You can also see some postcards that Jack Hollyhead sent home from the front here.

If you can supply any more information about the people, places, and planes shown on this web site, or can correct any errors, please contact me via e-mail to: rfc. Thank you.

(Last revised 07-Mar-2014)