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Arras Memorial Image

Historic Flypast Over CWGC Arras Memorial Commemorates WWI Aviators

13 August 2014

The ceremony has been organised by The Western Front Association (WFA) with support from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and is part of a series of events to commemorate the centenary of deployment of the British Expeditionary Force to France in August 1914.

On 13 August 1914, twelve BE-2 observation aircraft of No.2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps flew from Swingate Down near Dover to Amiens in France in support of the British Expeditionary Force. It was the first-ever aerial deployment of an air force to a theatre of war. The feat, in terms of airmanship, was unprecedented.

Peter Francis, the CWGC's Media Manager, said: "Over four years of war, thousands of young airmen fought and died in the skies above the Western Front. Today's event is a fitting tribute to their memory."

 The CWGC's Arras Flying Services Memorial commemorates almost 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave.

 The replica BE-2c taking part in the flypast bears the number of the aircraft piloted by Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly DSO of the Royal Flying Corps. Affectionately known as "Bay", Harvey-Kelly was the first British pilot to land in France in 1914 after war broke out.

Described by a fellow pilot as "the most likeable of men, famous for his great sense of humour, a noted individualist", Harvey-Kelly was shot down and killed on 29 April 1917 by Kurt Wolff of the Red Baron's "Flying Circus" and is buried in the CWGC's Brown's Copse Cemetery, Rouex. Members of his family are taking part in the event.

 Following the flypast, 85 poppy wreaths, reflecting the land and air units that made up the BEF, will be laid at the CWGC's Arras Memorial. A CWGC display at the memorial will provide useful information and advice to visitors.

For more information, contact: Peter Francis on 01628 507163 or 07766 255884 or by email
Notes for editors:
1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (
The CWGC maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
The CWGC operates in over 23,000 locations in 153 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.

14-18: A series of high-profile worldwide events will take place to mark the centenary of the First World War, many of which will take place at Commission sites. The Commission will ensure that these sites are maintained to the highest standard and is installing information panels at over 500 sites to enhance the visitor experience. Smartphone users will also be able to access additional information, including the personal stories of some of those buried at the site.

The CWGC provides teachers and youth workers with a comprehensive range of educational resources and support materials so that future generations remain engaged in the work of the CWGC and continue to remember those who died in the two world wars.