Lieutenant Ernest C. Stooke
Lieutenant Ernest Cecil Stooke was born in Glenferrie, a suburb of Melbourne in 1894. Before enlisting in 1915 he was a station hand in Northcote. Stooke distinguished himself with the 3rd Battalion as a temporary Lance Corporal being mentioned in dispatches, which appeared in the London Gazette on the 6th July 1917 and in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on the 2nd of September 1920. Stooke was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal which was gazetted in the London Gazette on the 26th of April, 1917.
Stooke joined the Australian Flying Corps and was commissioned with his pilot wings. He was soon in the action, while on an escort mission with Lieutenant William Weir for the reconnaissance Bristol Fighter of Captain George Peters and Lieutenant James Traill on the 29th of May, the pair of Bristol's had their attention diverted with the activity of Anti-Aircraft guns over Bireh, shelling a German two-seater aircraft. Stooke fired a Very light to notify the Bristol of Peters and Traill and then the pair took off after the Rumpler which had put it's nose down towards Nablus.
Peters intercepted the aircraft first and fired 200 rounds into the aircraft until his guns jammed. The German aircraft's observer hit Peters with accurate fire, one bullet going through the propeller boss and finishing in a journal bolt. Stooke then engaged the aircraft and fired 20 rounds into it, until his guns jammed. Peters then returned and continued to fire into the German aircraft until he had to break away with his engine running roughly and leaving a plume of white smoke behind it. Stooke described the nature of his stoppage in detail,
O the 11th of June the crews of Stooke and Lieutenant Louis Kreig with Captain Ross Smith and Lieutenant Walter Kirk were on a Hostile Aircraft Patrol at 6.00 AM in the morning. They were patrolling at 6,000 feet in the area of Tul Keram when they spotted a camouflaged Rumpler two seater aircraft at 10,000 feet. A climbing race ensued between the two Bristol Fighters and the Rumpler with the Bristol Fighters slowly catching the German aircraft.
Ross Smith overhauled the Rumpler first and he fired 70 rounds into the underneath of the Rumpler, which then took evasive action and went into a deep spiral dive. Smith stayed behind it and fired another 100 rounds until his gun jammed, he then turned to give a field of fire to Walter Kirk. Stooke then got behind the Rumpler which was at around 3,000 feet and fired into the aircraft.
The Rumpler landed in a field near a village and the pilot and observer got out of the aircraft and ran. Smith wrote in his report,
On another patrol along the Nablus road on the 23rd of June the two Bristol Fighters of Major Sydney Addison and Lieutenant Hudson Fysh and the crew of Lieutenant Ernest Stooke and Lieutenant Les Sutherland spotted a formation of four Albatros aircraft flying close together 1,500 feet underneath them. The two Bristol aircraft dived on the formation, breaking it up.
Addison then attacked an aircraft but his Bristol threw oil over the gun sight and he cleaned it, he then dove on another Albatros and fired two bursts into it at 50 yards. The aircraft spun into the low clouds. Stooke attacked the third aircraft while Addison chased the remaining two. Joe Bull's diary records that one Albatros was seen to crash and another spun into the clouds. Addison's Combat In The Air Report only mentions a claim for an OOC victory. According to the Official History, one Albatros was discovered to have crashed later,
According to documents found later one of the machines broke up in the air and crashed.
Stooke and Krieg were killed in an unfortunate accident while about to do an engine test. Joe Bull recorded the crash in his diary for Monday the 19th of August,
We had a very bad accident this morning. Lieutenant Stooke and Lieutenant Krieg went up in B.F. No.1280 for an engine test. While he was taking off the engine cut out and he came down near the railway line and crashed into a moving railway engine and both the petrol tanks burst into flames and blew the machine to pieces. The pilot was killed immediately and the observer burned to death.
An unfortunate end to two skilled and reliable aircrew in 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps. Lieutenant Ernest C. Stooke is buried in Israel in the Ramleh Cemetary.
Victory information taken from "One Airmans War. Aircraft Mechanic Joe Bull's Personal Diaries 1916-1919", edited by Mark Lax. 1997.
28th April 1918 : Observer Lieutenant Howard B. Fletcher. Victory shared with the crew of Bristol Fighter C4646 of Lieutenant Edward P. Kenny and Lieutenant Fred C. Hawley.
Roll Of Honour Card
Ramleh War Cemetary, Israel. AA. 18. Ramla (formerly Ramleh) is a small town 12 kilometres south-east of Jaffa. From Tel-Aviv, proceed along Route One (Ayalon) towards Jerusalem. Pass the exit to Ben Gurion airport and take the next exit signposted Petah Tiqwa, Ramla, Lod Route 40. Proceed along Route 40 to the T junction with Route 44, signposted Bet Shemesh, Lod. Turn right and follow Route 44 towards Lod until the first set of traffic lights. Turn right towards Ramla (Ramleh) Prison. Before you reach the prison, Ramleh War Cemetery is signposted right along a minor road/track. Turn right and follow the minor road/track for about 200 metres and the cemetery is to be found on the right.
The war cemetery dates from the 1914-1918 War, when Ramleh was occupied by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade on the 1st November, 1917. Field Ambulances, and later casualty clearing stations, were posted at Ramleh and Lydda from December, 1917 onwards, and the cemetery was begun by the medical units. The cemetery retains the name by which it was originally known, although the name of the town itself is now Ramla to distinguish it from Ramleh in Egypt. The 1914-1918 War burials include graves brought in from the battlefields and from Latron, Sarona and Wilhema Military and Indian Cemeteries. During the 1939-1945 War this cemetery was used by the Ramla Royal Air Force Station and by various British General Hospitals posted in turn to the area for varying periods. There are now over 3,500, 1914-18 and 1,000, 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over 1,000 from the 1914-18 War are unidentified. From the 1939-45 War, a special memorial commemorates a member of the W.A.A.F. buried at Jerusalem (Vaad Hakehilla) Cemetery whose grave is now lost, and bears the quotation "Their glory shall not be blotted out". The cemetery covers an area of 23,895 square metres and the Commonwealth section is enclosed by a stone wall.
www.australianflyingcorps.org : A Complete History of the Australian Flying Corps