Four Australian squadrons flew operationally. No.1 Squadron AFC had a unique role, serving in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Its airmen undertook reconnaissance and bombing and were often drawn into aerial combat. Lieutenant Frank McNamara won the Victoria Cross for rescuing a downed comrade under fire; it was the first to an Australian airman.
Meanwhile Nos. 2 and 4 Squadrons operated in single-seaters on the Western Front. They were involved in patrols, low-level bombing and ground attacks and fought many engagements with enemy aircraft until the war’s final days.
No.3 Squadron AFC, equipped with RE8s, did vital reconnaissance work in Flanders and on the Somme during the Australian Corps’ 1918 advances.
During the war, approximately 4,700 men, in a variety of postings, served in the AFC. Australians were also in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service and, after April 1918, in the Royal Air Force. Some of those in British squadrons joined direct while others transferred from the AIF. Among the Australian fliers there was a noticeable proportion from the light horse. No.3 Squadron AFC, arrived in France in late 1917 and operated with the Australian Corps. Nos. 2 and 4 Squadrons AFC soon followed. Approximately 200 members of the AFC died during the war, including a high proportion killed in training accidents.