Distinguished Service Order and Bar : Acting Flight Commander R A Little, 8 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service

Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number REL/04031.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver gilt; Enamel
Location Anzac Hall: Over the Front: Concept of the Ace
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Distinguished Service Order and Bar (Geo V). Unamed as issued.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Captain Robert Alexander Little. Little was born in Hawthorn, Victoria on 19 July 1895 and was a commercial traveller in 1914 when he unsuccessfully attempted to gain one of the four places on offer at No. 1 Flying School, Point Cook, Victoria. Little sailed for England in July 1915 at his own expense and qualified as a pilot on 27 October. On 14 January 1916 he entered the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a sub-lieutenant and posted to Dover, Kent. In June Little was posted to No. 1 Wing, Dunkirk where he saw action against the submarine base at Zeebrugge. On 26 October he was posted to No. 8 Squadron 'Naval 8' flying Sopwith Pups over the Western Front. Little shot down his first enemy aircraft on 1 November and by March 1917 had scored nine aerial victories. When he went on leave to England that August, his tally stood at 37, with many more damaged. In recognition, Little was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and bar, the Croix de Guerre, and was mentioned in despatches.

Little was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 11 August 1917, and a bar on 14 September 1917. His citation for the DSO reads: 'For gallantry in action and for exceptional skill and daring in aerial combats. Since the 9th May, 1917, besides having driven off numerous artillery aeroplanes and damaged six hostile machines, he has destroyed six others. On the 26th June, 1917, an Aviatik being seen from the aerodrome he went up to attack it. He engaged it and fired a burst at close range, and the enemy machine stalled and went down in flames'.

Little's citation for the DSO Bar reads: 'For exceptional gallantry and skill in aerial fighting. On 16th July, 1917, he observed two Aviatiks flying low over the lines. He dived on the nearest one, firing a long burst at very close range. The enemy machine dived straight away, and Flt. Lieut. Little followed him closely down to 500 ft., the enemy machine falling out of control. On 20th July, 1917, he attacked a D.F.W. After a short fight, the enemy machine dived vertically. Its tail plane seemed to crumple up, and it was completely wrecked. On 22nd July, 1917, he attacked a D.F.W. Aviatik, and brought it down completely out of control. On 27th July, 1917, in company with another pilot, he attacked an Aviatik. After each had fired about twenty rounds, the enemy machine began to spin down-wards. Flt. Lieut. Little got close to it, and observed both the occupants lying back in the cock-pits, as if dead. The machine fell behind the enemy's lines, and was wrecked. Flt. Lieut. Little has shown remarkable courage and boldness in attacking enemy machines.

Little was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and bar, the Croix de Guerre, and was mentioned in despatches.

Promoted to Flight Commander, Little returned to France in March 1918, flying Sopwith Camels with 3 Squadron, RNAS. On 1 April when the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force, he became Captain Little of No. 203 Squadron, RAF.

On the night of 27 May 1918 Little took off from Ezil le Hamel to intercept a group of German gotha bombers. He was fatally wounded in the groin and crashed near Norviz, where he was found the following morning. He was buried in the village cemetery but was later reinterred at Wavans British War Cemetery.

Little is officially credited with a tally of 47 aerial victories, making him the most successful Australian ace of the war, the eighth of all British Commonwealth aces and the fourteenth of all aces from both sides of the conflict.