Cognelée est situé sur le périmètre de la ville de Namur et constituait dès lors un maillon important dans le ceinture de forts destinée à la défense de la cité.
Le 22 Août 1914, l’agression allemande désarçonna rapidement cette ligne de défense, le fort de Cognelée fut ébranlé et l’état-major allemand décida quelques semaines plus tard d’ériger 3 hangars pour recevoir des Zeppelins destinés à bombarder Paris et d’autres grandes villes du front…
Le Quotidien républicain » L’OUEST ECLAIR » datant du 14 Mars 1916 relate un article concernant 2 Zeppelins provenant du site de Cognelée…
Issue du Zeppelin LZ 77
Les hangars servent à l’aviation alliée à la fin de la guerre
149 Squadron RFC/RAF
149 Squadron was formed at Ford Junction, near Littlehampton, from an
element of 148 squadron on 1 March 1918. The same month the Squadron
equipped with the RAF FE2b, which it was to operate as a night bomber. Major
GP Greenwood arrived to assume command on 3 March.
Edward Frank Wilson was one of the first pilots posted to 149 Squadron. He
arrived from 38 (HD) Squadron having completed a total of 119 flying hours.
Wilson’s first flight with the Squadron was in A6549 on 3 April. He flew
B469 and D9089 also, before 149 moved down to Lympne for the flight across
the Channel on 2 June. By then D9089 had been allocated to Wilson.
19 May 1918 Captain George Robinson MC, attached from the Canadian Mounted
Rifles, was killed when C9792 crashed. The observer, 2Lt CHP Hughes, was
injured. Robinson was buried at Wye in Kent.
2 June 1918 Flew over the Channel to St Omer to join II (Army) Wing, 2nd
Brigade, attached to Second Army for Flanders battle.
(2 June 1918 Marquise ? – first operation was from St Omer, and then various
satellite airfields were used as the Allied troops advanced. These included
Marquise, Alquines, Quelmes and Abeele. Marquise needed a lot of hard work
by all ranks to turn it in to a useable airfield.)
‘Lighthouses’ on wheels were used to guide bombers back to base.
Red flares were used by returning aircraft which were lost. The aerodrome
would answer with flares indicating that it was OK to land. The Germans
discovered this and used it as a navigation aid to help them bomb the
4 June 1918 Quilen
16 June 1918 Alquines, forming part of II Brigade, with detachments to
Abeele and Clairmarais North
16 June 1918 Clairmarais North
23-24 June 1918 first operation flown from St Omer. This resulted in 149
Squadron’s first loss of personnel to enemy action when Lt JW Thompson
(Thomson) and Lt LJW Ingram failed to return on 23 June. The crew, who had
left to bomb Armentieres at 11:36 pm, were confirmed later as prisoners.
They were repatriated on 13 December 1918. During this period the targets
bombed included communications, supplies, ammunition dumps, airfields etc.
Reconnaissance was undertaken also. 18 July 1918 Lt RA Vosper and Lt A Smith
failed to return in FE2b D3779, having left Clairmarais North on a bombing
raid at 10:30 pm. They were confirmed as prisoners and remained so until
repatriation on 13 December 1918.
4 July 1918 Wilson flew on his first operation. He took off at 22:50 hours
with Lt Sturgies as observer. The targets were Merville and Armentieres, on
which Sturgies dropped eight 20lb bombs.
9 July 1918 Wilson flew a night reconnaissance patrol over Armentieres and
Bailleul, during the course of which he dropped six Cooper bombs.
18 July 1918 Merville, Armentieres, Lille and Ypres were reconnoitred. Four
bombs were dropped.
During August three or four short distance bombing sorties were flown each
night. These included, for Wilson, a sortie against Cambrai railway station
on 6 August, 112lb bombs on Lille and Bac St Mair on 11 and 13 August and a
forced return with a dud engine on 24 August.
Engine problems were not unusual. In September Wilson, flying with Cuffe as
observer, heard the engine cut out while they were over Lille. Wilson was
able to get the engine started again by putting the FE2 in to a dive.
On 25 September Wilson dropped eight 25lb and one 112 lb bombs on Roulers.
28 September was particularly busy, with 149 Squadron dropping a total of 42
x 112lb and 326 x 25lb bombs on Menin, Courtrai and Lille. Eight aircraft
made four sorties each that night, while Lt Haldiman and 2Lt Jones made five
trips between 19L50 hours and 04:50 hours.
4 October 1918 Wilson made his last successful operational sortie, to Menin.
13 October 1918 Wilson forced to return due to bad weather. His FE2 had
lost a wheel, which was not apparent until the aircraft was coming in to
land. Wilson jettisoned his bombs over the Lines and managed to land the FE2
with only minor damage to the aircraft.
25 October 1918 Ste Marguerite, attached from IX Brigade
Two very successful tactical attacks were carried out at the end of October,
followed by raids on the roads to Ypres in the driving rain with the cloud
base as low as 1 000 feet. Up to nine sorties were flown each night. Over
two nights 12 tons of bombs were dropped, in addition to ground strafing.
15 September 1918 Lt Alexander John Gavin King, a 24-year-old pilot from
East Griqualand, South Africa and 2Lt John William Hogan, an observer, was
killed while flying in FE2b D9106. They are both buried at Longuenesse.
3-4 November 1918 Lt Frank H Marsh and Lt Cuffe failed to return from a
sortie against railway sidings at Renaix, and force landed in the mist
behind Allied Lines. They arrived back with 149 Squadron 24 hours later.
Captain CES Russell developed a ‘flame reducer’ to obscure flame from engine
exhausts. This became standard a fitting for night bomber squadrons.
Chief Mechanic Latham modified bomb carriers to take either bombs or
Michelin flares so that the FE2 could be used as both a bomber and a
10-11 November 1918 Last operational sortie completed.
11 November 1918 By the Armistice 149 Squadron had dropped 80 tons of bombs
and completed 161 reconnaissance flights. Seven of the original 11 FE2bs
were still operational and only two crews were lost.
26 November 1918 Fort Cognelee (north of Namur). Aircraft hangared in a
former Zeppelin shed.
24 December 1918 Bickendach airfield, Bickendorf, as part of the British
Army of Occupation.
26 March 919 England
26 March 1919 to Tallaght, Ireland, as a cadre where the Squadron disbanded
on 1 August.
En 2004, lors de l’abattage d’ arbres sur un terrain de Cognelée, découverte des vestiges des fondations des hangars de Zeppelins.