- Stevens, Errol
- Naval Aviation, History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
During his second tour on the Western Front Little became increasingly aggressive and paid scant attention to his own safety. He seemed to prefer to operate on his own. On May 27 whilst his Commanding Officer R. Collishaw (later Air Vice Marshal…CB DSO OBE DSC DFM RAF) was on leave, Little was temporarily in command of the squadron. That evening a German aircraft was heard passing overhead. Little left the squadron mess and took off in a Camel in pursuit. The Camel had no instrument lighting. The next morning the wreckage of the Camel with Little’s body alongside was found behind Allied lines. Little had been seriously wounded with a bullet through both thighs. He probably passed out and in the crash sustained further injuries including a fractured skull and died.
And so passed on Australia’s top scoring fighter ace with 47 victories. His Commanding Officer described him as bold, aggressive, courageous and a brilliant loner. He was an excellent shot who believed in close range firing and who touched enemy aircraft with his own machine at least twice in combat. Collishaw also stated that it was pure speculation that Little’s Camel was illuminated by our own searchlights which blinded him whilst a German air gunner shot him up. German air records for that night make no mention of engaging or being engaged by Allied aircraft. At that time night air to air combat was unusual in that area.
Little was initially buried in the village cemetery in Norviz, France near where he crashed, under a carved wooden grave marker produced by his squadron which read “FLGT COMDR R A LITTLE RN”. He was later buried in Wavens British War Cemetery, France where his permanent grave stone is headed by a fouled anchor and reads:
FLIGHT COMMANDER R A LITTLE RNAS DSO & BAR DSC & BAR ROYAL AIR FORCE
27th MAY 1918 AGED 22 This is followed by a cross, and then the words
CROIX DE GUERRE WITH STAR HIS EVER LOVING WIFE AND LITTLE SON BLYMP ALSO HIS LOVING FATHER His wife and son later settled in Australia.
The Australian War Memorial has his original grave marker, his medals mounted on a wooden shield, part of an aircraft propeller and several minor items on display in the Air Gallery. Its archives also hold several photographs and two files which include some of Little’s log and notebooks.
There is a Little Place, and an accommodation block in the Australian Defence Force Academy, both in Canberra, named after him.
The Australian Naval Aviation Museum Nowra has a display including photographs, part of a propeller, epaulettes, cap badge, buttons, flying badge and medal ribbons. There is a memorial tablet in the grounds of Walmer Castle, Kent.
His name is listed in: The Commemorative Book in the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, The Honoured Dead War Memorial, Scotch College, Melbourne, and The Book of Remembrance, St Clements Dane, London.