Crashes and fires were everyday hazards for the First World War flier. Second Lieutenant Frederick Gulley suffered both when trying to land his aircraft in England on 17 October 1918. Gulley was on a cross country flight and struck a post whilst attempting to land in a field close to Tidworth Barracks, Wiltshire. In the resulting fire Gulley’s clothes, harness, face and hands were burnt. He was taken to Tidworth Hospital with superficial burns to his face, neck and both hands, including all fingers.
The aircraft of the 1914-18 period were visibly frail and delicate and quite unlike the capable machines we know today. First World War aircraft were prone to structural or mechanical failures and could easily catch fire. Armament was limited to rifle-calibre machine guns and protection for the crew through armour and parachutes were only beginning to be used in the closing stages of the war. Aircrew operated with few aids to navigation, and were usually exposed to the elements while in flight.
A native of Franklin, Tasmania Roy Lytton Cummings enlisted in the AIF on 19 November 1914 and after training was posted to the 3rd Field Ambulance. He embarked for overseas service aboard HMAT A70 (Ballarat) on 9 September 1915 and saw a short period of service in the last month of the Gallipoli campaign.