Any Experts on U.S. Aero Squadron Creation, Training and Deployment During WW1?

This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules


1st Lieutenant
Jul 25, 2007
Utah, USA
Hi Folks,

I came across this photo online which actually shows a relative of mine, James Gamble (on the left), who flew Bristol F2b Fighters in France towards the end of WW1. The photo came from the collection of the chap on the right, Arthur George Simmons (on the right in the photo) who was clearly a friend of Jim's.

In between them stands a sergeant of the U.S. Army Air Service. His shoulder tab likely shows he belonged to the 17th Aero Squadron, although it's possible he belonged to one of the 170-series Squadrons, with the last digit lost in the folds of his sleeve. The American is wearing fug boots, perhaps indicating he was an observer or, perhaps, was being taken up for a flight with the British squadron:

James Gamble (Left) Allegedly Beaulieu Afld (COMP4.008.061) (Adjusted).jpg

Jim and Arthur are also shown in this image below, with Jim on the back row, second from right. He clearly borrowed the American's hat for the photo.

James Gamble (2nd Right) - Allegedly Beaulieu Afld (COMP4.010.016).jpg

I need some help decyphering these images. Allegedly they were taken at Beaulieu in the UK, which is where Arthur Simmons undertook his flying training. The problem is Jim Gamble has absolutely zero association with that airfield. His flying logbook only records a single reconnaissance flight over the area and no landing.

The other confusing part is that at least 3 of the other men in the lower image served with Jim in France as part of 11 Squadron RAF. Arthur Simmons' service record shows no association with 11 Squadron. However, the odds that so many men who later served with 11 Squadron would all be at Beaulieu on the same day seems a stretch to say the least.

I tried narrowing down the location based on the presence of the American airman. If he was from the 17th Aero Squadron, then it likely puts the photo location in France because 11 Sqn and the 17th AS flew from airfields that were just a few miles apart in October 1918. The problem is that Arthur Simmons wasn't in that area. questions:

1. Is it more likely that our American friend was from the 17th Aero Squadron or some other 170-series squadron?

2. If it was taken at Beaulieu while in training, would the American have already been assigned to a squadron or would he be part of an undesignated pool who would later be allocated to a squadron?

3. Are there any experts out there who might be able to confirm the identity of the American?

I know these are hard questions but I'd really love to pin down the location of these photos. Any and all suggestions/expert input would be very much appreciated.

Users who are viewing this thread