Royal Flying Corps Pennant

This ensign or pennant, if you will, is accompanied by a note that reads "to Lt Colonel E.B.Ashmore M.V.C. from Colonel H.M.Trenchard C.B., D.S.C. upon appt. to Command First Wing RFC 22.8.15 Merville."

It was acquired from the Paul Wright Collection.  Mr. Wright explains that "the pennant was Ashmore's from the time when he was named by Trenchard to take over his own original field command No.1 Wing RFC at Merville just before the Battle of Loos in 1915. It is described as a "wing pennant" which indicates it was a sort of badge of office, or at least a badge flying near an office door. Trenchard had been appointed to this command earlier in 1915 when Sir David Henderson was recalled to Whitehall and handed over the RFC to him. Ashmore was promoted colonel for this post whereas Trenchard had held that command as a Lt. Colonel, but the wing and brigade structure was completely overhauled at that point in the war. Ashmore was promoted brigadier general in the spring of 1916 and commanded an RFC Brigade at the Somme. There are some conflicting stories about the pennant including that it was actually Trenchard's originally, or even Sir David Henderson's, and he gave it to Ashmore when he handed over the wing."  The pennant, according to Wright,  "hung up on a wall for a lot of years in his (Ashmore's) house in England."  Wright further explains "Ashmore was a very close  personal friend of Trenchard. Trenchard gave him his nickname "splash" as Ashmore was very slight of build and was teased that he would "splash more"  if only he were bigger. They learned to fly together (Trenchard was a terrible pilot and he never flew again after he qualified for his wings) and both had been near death following devastating wounds in the Boer War; neither were expected to survive the following 24 hours after their injuries fighting the Boers. They were not wounded together however and didn't know each other at the time.  Both also became close friends of the Prince of Wales, Ashmore having taught him fencing when they were attending the Imperial Defense College in 1908."

E.B. Ashmore was the Officer Commanding the Administration Wing of the Royal Flying Corps from 18 Nov 1914; then Officer Commanding 1st Wing RFC 10 May 1915; Brigadier-General Commanding No IV Brigade RFC from 30 Jan 1916 and General officer Commanding the London Air Defense Area from 5 Aug 1917.

As discussed Squadron Leader in P.G. Hering's Customs & Traditions of the Royal Air Force, page 27-28,as shown below, "From the very earliest days of the Royal Air Force opinion has always been controversial on the subject of distinguishing flags to be flown by officers. There have been those who held the view that such flags were unnecessary; others who wanted them confined to Air Officers holding senior appointments, whilst some advocated their use by all officers of squadron leader rank and above. The design that these flags should take has given rise to an equal measure of controversy. In consequence, one finds that the designs have changed almost as frequently as the regulations, and that, regardless of controversy, the custom of officers flying distinguishing flags, both from flagstaffs and on motor-cars, has always existed and is still firmly established.  How they first came to be flown at all in the Air Force is somewhat obscure, as was revealed by official records in 1947. The Air Ministry was anxious to trace the original regulations authorizing the flying of flags in the Air Force. Their own archives revealed nothing concrete on the subject, so the War Office was asked if they could throw any light on the subject. The reply was that whilst the War Office had been unable to ascertain the origin of the custom, records revealed that orders issued to the British Army in the field on 1st July, 1917, authorized the use of a Royal Flying Corps Headquarters flag, and that this was flown only on the R.F.C. Commander’s car. It was light blue, edged with dark blue, and had a red stripe running lengthwise across the centre and the letters “RFC” in dark blue.  Here, then, is the origin of the small flag, commonly referred to as a pennant, which is flown today from the mast-head of flagstaffs at R.A.F. units and also on the radiators of R.A.F. cars. And, as with many other customs that originated in the Royal Flying Corps, it was revived and perpetuated in the Royal Air Force soon after its formation."  A young Ashmore in Naval uniform is shown in the photo to the right, below.