100 years ago it was announced that Harvey's Grandad would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

London Gazette  Issue 31046 Supplement Page 14320
London Gazette Issue 31046 Supplement Page 14320

100 years ago, Harvey's Grandad's award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) appeared in the London Gazette as follows..

Lieut. Cyril Norman Ellen.
A keen and exceptionally able observer who for over a year has performed most valuable service in photographic flights at low altitudes and at times under very difficult conditions.

Cyril Ellen was stationed in Stavros on the border between Greece and Bulgaria from November 1917 to November 1918. His profession in civilian life had been in photography and this is perhaps why he was so good at his job. The 'very difficult conditions' included some hairy moments. His pilot on one occasion, Frank Marlowe, wrote in his diary on 14th July 1918...
A near disaster for me this morning on dawn patrol. Just as I was taking off the engine revs dropped, there was vibration and nasty noises coming from the engine and I immediately throttled down. Then I saw that I was approaching the end of the aerodrome where I would crash into ditches, wooden buildings, etc and my only chance was to try to lift over them and try to land among scrub and bushes on the other side. I gingerly opened up the engine and in spite of the awful clattering noise it kept going enough to get me off the ground and keep me up while I made a wide sweep just above the surface of the sea and back to the aerodrome where I landed with a sigh of relief. Ellen, behind me, had the wind up badly and so did I. Everyone had turned out of their beds awakened by the noise my engine was making and they all thought it would end in a crash. I then took Jakie's DH4 instead which ran perfectly. Slater says he can do nothing with the engine and it will have to be sent to Mudros.

And again, Marlowe's diary entry for 26th May 1918...
While spotting with Ellen yesterday for a monitor shelling enemy gun positions we flew through the smoke of an A/A explosion and while I was doing 'evasive action' Ellen nearly fell out. He had to hold on to his gun mounting to save himself. I suppose you can overdo things.

On another occasion Cyril was in the air with Marlowe when the pilot wrote...
Just as I was leaving to do some spotting over the lines Dunfee, who was to have come with me in his Camel sideslipped into the ground after taking off when his engine failed. He was killed instantly. I carry on and do the spotting for the monitor M22 shelling gun positions. Saw Dunfee's Camel when we got back - a horrible sight with blood and brains spread all over the wreckage.

These young men were literally taking their lives into their hands every time they attempted to fly and that was even before they got down to the task in hand. They were very brave people indeed.


The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

The award was established on 3 June 1918, shortly after the formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF), with the Royal Warrant published on 5 December 1919. It was originally awarded to RAF commissioned and warrant officers, including officers in Commonwealth and allied forces.

Since the 1993 review of the honours system as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in bravery awards, all ranks of all arms of the Armed Forces have been eligible, and the Distinguished Flying Medal, which had until then been awarded to other ranks, was discontinued.


There were 1045 DFC's issued for World War 1 compared to more than 20,000 issued for World War 2, a reflection of how the air force had grown in that time.

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