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Redford Henry Mulock

Canada's First Ace

Mulock Sighting in Gun
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Handley Page V/1500 Bloody Paralyzer
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Colonel R.H. Mulock, RAF, 1918

'Red' Mulock may have been the second Canadian to join the Royal Naval Air Service, (RNAS) but it was a notoriety for 'firsts' that dominated his flying. He has rightfully been called Canada's most versatile and experienced airman of the Great War 1914-1918. (l)

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1885, Redford Henry Mulock graduated in engineering from McGill University in Montreal. Like many patriotic Canadians, he joined the colours in August 1914.   Although holding a Lieutenant's commission in the Militia, Mulock enlisted in the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) as a Corporal in order to get overseas sooner. Following training with the Canadian Field Artillery at Valcartier he shipped out to England that October.
In January 1915, Mulock requested a transfer to the RNAS. By March he qualified and received both his pilot's certificate, Federation Aeronautique No. 1103, and his confirmation as a Flight Sub Lieutenant. He was the first of some 152 CEF Officers and NCO's who would join the RNAS overseas.

It was late April 1915 when German airships began to carry out raids on southern England. At this point of the War responsibility for home defense of Great Britain had been given over to the Admiralty as the Army and its Royal Flying Corps were completely embroiled in Flanders. During the night of 16-17 May, Mulock made the first interception of a Zeppelin raider over Britain. Patrolling in an Avro 504, he discovered LZ38 casually floating over the Thames at the unusually low altitude of 2,000 feet. Swiveling his peg-mounted Lewis machine gun on target Mulock opened fire, but after a couple of rounds, his weapon jammed. While he struggled to clear his stoppage, the startled dirigible crew dumped ballast and soared to safety.

In July Mulock was sent to Number 1 Aeroplane Wing at St. Pol Airfield, Dunkirk. Flying Nieuport 10 and 11 type aircraft he carried out fighter patrols, bombing missions, photo reconnaissance flights and directed naval gunfire. He also pioneered the use of parachute flares to spot artillery at night. On September 6th, Mulock became the first Canadian to attack a submarine when he dropped five 20 lb. bombs on a U-boat. Later that same month he made a lone bombing raid through cloud and mist on the Zeppelin sheds at Berchem Ste Agathe near Brussels. His Wing Commander called the mission "...a remarkable incident of cross-country flying as he had to depend almost entirely on Compass and Time."

At the close of 1915 Mulock had been Mentioned in Dispatches (MID). He had also scored his first aerial victory, sending down an enemy aircraft on the 30th of December. In January of the New Year he downed another two enemy machines and by March he was promoted to Flight Commander together with the Gazette of another 'Mention'.

On the 21st of May, Mulock scored a double victory and became both the first Canadian ace and the first RNAS pilot to achieve five enemy aircraft driven down. This feat was accomplished during the time of the 'Fokker Scourge' when the Germans had revolutionized aerial warfare with their aircraft machine-guns synchronized to fire through the turning propeller. The Dunkirk Nieuports were only equipped with a single Lewis gun mounted above the top wing to fire over the propeller arc. Furthermore, as the Lewis magazine held only 47 rounds the Royal Naval aviators had to unstrap and stand up, holding the joystick with their knees, in order to change drums of ammunition.

The London Gazette cited Mulock in June 1916 naming him to the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). "This officer has been constantly employed at Dunkirk since July 1915 and has displayed indefatigable zeal and energy. He has on several occasions engaged hostile aeroplanes and seaplanes, and attacked submarines, and has carried out attacks on enemy air stations and made long distance reconnaissance."

In the winter of 1916-17, Number 3 Naval Squadron was formed, and Mulock was appointed Commanding Officer. The following spring the Admiralty loaned the Army five naval scout squadrons for RFC reinforcement on the Western Front. One squadron flew Nieuport 17s and three others flew the new Sopwith Triplanes. The fifth, Mulock's No. 3, was equipped with the older but agile Sopwith Pup. This period became known in aviation history as 'Bloody April'. The Germans had formed large fighting squadrons (Jastas) and they ruled the skies. Of the 23 British fighter squadrons facing them only 3 Naval was commanded by an ace. Under Mulock's experienced leadership his pilots (half of whom were Canadians) claimed 80uccessful combats for the loss of nine Pups. When the unit returned to the Navy in June 1917, General Trenchard of the RFC stated: "The work of Squadron Commander Mulock is worthy of the highest praise; his knowledge of machines and engines and the way in which he handled his officers and men is very largely responsible for the great successes and durability of the Squadron."

One of Mulock's English pilots, Leonard 'Tich' Rochford, gives a good snapshot of his Naval 3 CO when he described him as: "...older than most of us and I was at once impressed by his strong personality. A man of medium height, he had a square, weather-beaten face with eyes that nearly always had a twinkle in them. Later I was to discover that he was a highly competent organizer and had a deep understanding of human nature ...He knew most of his pilots were mere boys and sometimes mischievous boys and he was always ready to turn a blind eye on these occasions so long as you did your job loyally and well." This same Englishman became the squadron's highest scoring pilot with 29 victories. (2)

Taking leave of his Naval Squadron command in September 1917, Mulock become Senior Officer of the RNAS depot at Dunkirk. There he played a major role in rebuilding a base which had been wiped out by bombing raids in July. Mulock had already distinguished himself during that same bombardment by rescuing wounded and salvaging ammunition under shell fire at the railhead. Accompanied by a Royal Navy Surgeon and three mechanics he had proceeded to the vicinity of a blazing ammunition train and rescued one wounded man. Mulock then went on alone to search the weapons dump for other wounded and would not allow the others to accompany him. (3)

This action earned Mulock a further MID and the French Government also recognized Mulock by appointing him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. The British followed with a Bar to his DSO for 'Brilliant leadership & skill and bravery during the period August 1915 to December 1917' in April 1918. A promotion to Wing Commander had been made on the First of January that year.

Shortly after the RNAS and the RFC were joined together as the new Royal Air Force, Mulock was called upon to form a Bomber Wing. The objective this 82nd Wing was to attack the industrial heartland of northwest Germany. In July, he was promoted to Colonel (Group Captain) and given charge to establish and train 27 Group, a special force consisting of two wings of Handley Page V/1500 'Super' bombers designed to strike deep into Germany from bases in the British Midlands. These monster four-engine machines gave the RAF a 'Bloody Paralyzer' of an aircraft and Mulock was just the man to make them operational. By early November he had worked up one of his squadrons to bomb Berlin. At the eleventh hour the mission was scrubbed and German capital saved by the Armistice. 

The year 1919 found Mulock involved in a totally different role. Due to delays in demobilization, unrest was building in the ranks of enlisted airmen anxious to get home. Strikes began taking place at aerodromes around England and Mulock was given full powers to settle the problems. With his native ability to grasp the essence of a situation, 'Red' Mulock resolved the troubles by dealing with ringleaders man-to-man, explaining the difficulties besetting the government's change of mode from wartime to peacetime. For this action together with his outstanding wartime services, Mulock was appointed a Companion of the British Empire (CBE). He was the only Canadian Airman to receive such an honour.

When the Canadian government finally got around to forming an Air Force, their first choice for a commander was Colonel Mulock; however Mulock expressed no desire to remain in military aviation. He left the RAF and returned to Canada to become involved in the peacetime aircraft industry. He did enter the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve and rose to the rank of Air Commodore, becoming an Honourary Aide de Camp to the Governor General.

In the 1930's, he joined the newly registered Canadian Airways Limited in Quebec. At that time a number of small companies with lucrative mail contracts had to be absorbed and Mulock worked for James A. Richardson to help pull the mishmash together. (4)  They had, in Mulock's words, "Gotten into such a mess" and he later admitted that the job was one of the toughest of his career. (5)
During the Second World War Mulock was a member of Ottawa's Honorary Advisory Air Council. In 1961, Redford Henry Mulock died in Montreal, Quebec.

In his book, Courage in the Air, Arthur Bishop wrote the following: "Red Mulock held the distinction of being the most experienced combat pilot, aerial leader, administrator, and organizer of any Canadian in WWI. His proficiency ranged from Zeppelin hunting to attacking submarines, dog-fighting, artillery spotting, photographic reconnaissance, and tactical as well as strategic bombing. In fact, by the war's end he was the RAF's chief bomber commander."   (6)

Speaking in England in 1919 to the pilots of the newly formed Canadian Air Force. Mulock had offered eloquent advise on the type of military aviation that Canada should maintain after the Great War. "Don't forget that every Canadian in the air services wanted to fight — you couldn't keep him on the ground. That was to the credit of you fellows, but now it reacts.(sic) We have no highly trained technical men, no experienced equipment men. If this Canadian Air Force goes across to Canada, as some of you are proposing, you must have an organization from the ground up—not the other way. We've got the best flying men in the world, and they're a great future asset to the Dominion—but don't forget that there are such things as aerodromes, a supply system for spares, and, above all, a real Air Policy. Someone has got to go to Ottawa with a clearly defined plan." (7)

J.Allan Snowie
For:  Mulock Nomination to the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. June 2009

  1. First Canadian to Join the RNAS was Francis Gilmer Tempest
    "Wuffy" Dawson of Nova Scotia. Later the Founding Director of Fairey Aviation in 1916. Public Records Office, Kew, England.
  2. I Chose the Sky. Squadron Leader L.H. Rochford, DSC & Bar, DFC. Wm Kimber & Co. Ltd. 1977. ISBN 0-7183-0085-8.
  3. An extract from the Routine Orders of the 4th Army (General Sir H.S. Rawlinson), 28 August 1917.
  4. E-Mail, 18Jun09, from Shirley Render, Author of Double Cross. The Inside Story of James A. Richardson and Canadian Airways. Vancouver: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1999. ISBN 1-55054-722-4.
  5. Shorty - An Aviation Pioneer: The Story of Victor John Hatton.
    By James Glassco Henderson. Trafford Publishing 2004. ISBN 1-4120-3897-9.
  6. Courage in the Air. Arthur Bishop.
    McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd. 1992. ISBN 0-07-551376-5.
  7. CANADA - Overseas Pictorial Weekly 1919.

Colonel Redford Henry Mulock, CBE, DSO & Bar, MID (3), Ld'H Honourary Air Commodore, RCAF. ADC (Governor General) Born 11 August 1885; Died 23 January 1961

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