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Friday, May 27, 2016

2nd/Lieut Henry Cope Evans, RFC

2nd/Lieut. Henry Cope Evans has the title as "the oldest Canadian ace of the Great War".

Born July 26, 1880, Evans was the only son of W. H. and Alice M. Evans of West Point, Camberley, Surrey, and was educated at Woodcote House School, Windlesham, and Haileybury. As a young man Evans emigrated to Ontario to learn fruit farming. He enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery during the Second Boer War, and served in South Africa for a year as part of "C" Battery. On returning to Canada he took up ranching near Macleod, Alberta, and also held a Government appointment as Range Rider. A keen sportsman and horseman, he was well known as a polo player, and was one of the early pioneers of the game in Western Canada. So in this sense, he was a an expert horseman like his 19th Dragoon and RFC mate, Stanley Winther Caws, and in fact was probably a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

On 23 September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec, he enlisted as a trooper in the 19th Alberta Dragoons, service # 1951, arriving in England with the 1st Canadian Contingent in November 1914. He served with the Dragoons in France from February until September 1915, was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was badly affected by poison gas.

He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on 13 September 1915. On 25 September joined No. 24 Squadron in action at the front, not being officially gazetted as a flying officer (observer) until 22 November.

Evans was posted to Home Establishment on 26 January 1916 for pilot training, being appointed a flying officer on 15 May, and being granted the Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 2603, after flying a Maurice Farman biplane at the Military Flying School, Farnborough, on 23 May.

He re-joined 24 Squadron, flying antiquated DH2's on 4 July 1916, gaining his first victory on 20 July, driving a Roland C.II down out of control over Fleurs, and the next day he destroyed another enemy aircraft over Combles. Between 6 and 9 August he destroyed a further three enemy aircraft, gaining the five confirmed victories needed for flying ace status. Awarded a Distinguished Service Order. Evans was shot down and killed by German anti-aircraft fire on 3 September 1916 while on a morning offensive patrol over the British Fourth Army front. 

According to Trevor Henshaw, "Evans was flying an operational patrol combat with three HA's (hostile aircraft)shot down FLERS (Somme) safe landing? N.20a. at 11:05 am, killed ldg?, aircraft shelled?"

A downed DH2 September 1916 the Somme
He was listed as "missing" by the War Office, and as his remains were never recovered he is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial.

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