The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command. It is usually presented to the recipient, or their next of kin, by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace, or by the Governor-General for awards made by other Commonwealth countries. (Wikipedia)
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in the air during the First World War.
It was June 7, 1915, and Warneford had been sent on a mission to bomb Zeppelin hangars in Bruge, Belgium. Despite being a neutral country, Belgium was invaded and occupied by Germany in the First World War. It was that invasion which brought Great Britain in the war. Great Britain's Royal Naval Air Service was designated to eliminate the scourge of the Zeppelin bombers
The Zeppelins were big, slow and dangerous and were bombing England. They carried several gunners to ward off fighter aircraft and they had the advantage of a fairly steady platform from which to aim and shoot.
Warneford spotted a Zeppelin and decided to go after it instead of the hangars. He was carrying six bombs, and considered that his best chance of destroying the big Zeppelin was to get above it and use his bombs.
The Zeppelin gunners saw the fighter and were ready. Just as Warneford neared the ship the gunners would open fire. The young Sub-Lieutenant continued to stalk the Zeppelin trying to figure out what to do. He finally decided to climb out of range of their guns and position his aircraft directly above the big ship.
He dropped a bomb, but it wasn't even close. He dropped another, it was closer but it also missed. He dropped the third, fourth and fifth. Each time his bomb would get closer. He finally released his last bomb, the sixth. Boom!
Even though he was several thousand feet above the Zeppelin, the bast from the explosion flipped Warneford's plane upside down and stopped the engine. As he regained control of his aircraft he saw the Zeppelin go down in a ball of flame.
Warneford's engine wouldn't restart and he was forced to glide in and land in enemy territory. He quickly jumped out of his aircraft and fixed it, jumped back in again, and took off for his base at Dunkirk before enemy ground troops caught him.
There is a Canadian connection to the story in that Warneford, who was born in India, was in Canada at the outbreak of the war. He immediately sailed to England, joined the army but was immediately transferred to the Royal Navy Air Service for pilot training.
Just 10 days after he destroyed the Zeppelin, he was killed when his aircraft had a structural failure. Both starboard wings of his biplane collapsed.
In addition to the VC, France awarded him the LÉgion d'honneuander.