The worst April Fools’ joke you can think of
Here we see, in this image from the Imperial War Museum, RFC armorers issuing Lewis guns with Lewis and Vickers ammunition to observers and pilots of No. 22 Squadron at the aerodrome at Vert Galand, 1 April 1918– some 99 years ago today. This was during the time of the German Spring Offensive that year.
I say April Fools because the Lewis very often froze on these brave young men as their flying machines reached altitude. The only ways to solve this problem were as follows: a) fire a few rounds every so often to keep your barrel warm and mechanism moving; b) carry a small hammer in your cockpit with which to pound on your gun if it iced up, or c) carry your magazine inside your flying clothes to keep it warm.
Formed in 1915 on the Western Front, No. 22 Squadron gratefully flew Bristol F.2 fighters at the time of the above photo, which was armed with a synchronised fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun which, though it had its own troubles, was more reliable than the Lewis, which was used by the rear seat observer on a Foster mount.
With the motto Preux et audicieux (French: “Valiant and Brave”), No. 22 Squadron stood down in 2015 after 100-years or service which includes a VC awarded to Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell for executing a torpedo attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau in Brest harbor during WWII. Campbell, notably, was killed in that attack on 6 April 1941 though he was nobody’s April Fool.