Aristedes

                  Moraetenes

 

 

Aristedes Moraetenes

(Αριστείδης  Μωραϊτίνης)

 

Aristedes Moraetenes occupies a prominent position in the Greek Aviation. He was one of the first who attempted an air attack against a naval target , the first Greek pilot with 9 conformed victories and the first to receive the British DSO (Distinguished Order Cross) – an event not to be often repeated with later generations

Born in 1891 he has graduated the Naval Academy in 1910 as an Ensign. During the Balkan wars , in 1912 , he is the commander of a torpedo boat ; his eyes however look forward to a new weapon , the plane. In England the first aviators belong to the Navy and the reason is that to them this is a fast moving machine to cover long range reconnaissance beyond the battleship horizon , notify early the home fleet while at the same time is able to throw some light bombs against enemy shipping far away from the typical naval guns range. Additionally most of them were hydroplanes a very important feature for Greece as they needed no special airfield construction to approach the many islands of the country.

The base of the first two Greek hydroplanes was in Moudros, Lesvos island , opposite to the Dardanelles entry. It was then when  Moraetenes volunteered as observer together with the pilot Michael Moutouses to operate for a mapping of the enemy ships stationed deeply into the Dardanelles . Then he is called to Elefsis , the naval base west of Athens where he is trained by the English Commander Pizey as pilot and he then continues training the rest of his group. At this time a severe epidemic fever strikes the area of Attica and many operations have to cease but after some months the first hydroplanes bought from France arrive , they are four  Henry Farman F22 and he becomes the squadron's CO with the grade of the Captain

 

Near the end of 1916 this squadron moves to Thsasos island and becomes part of the 2nd British RNAS operating against Turkish and Germans cruisers – it is now the WW1. There they will get their first British planes , the Bristol Scout D , some fine reconnaissance planes that gained  significant reputation  .

The operations over the Dardanelles are many and the enemy ships do not dare a sortie into the Aegean as their moves are monitored day and night. But the entry of the British and Greek scout planes are no longer unimpeded : many flak batteries are installed on the surrounding hills ; luckily the gunners are not that experienced , though. In June 1917 , Greece becomes officially the Ally of the British and French forces against   Turkey . Moraetenes receives officially more planes that are integrated to the Greek Squadron : Sopwith Pups and Camels , the Airco DH4 and  Sopwith Baby and Short 184 hydroplanes. There are enough planes to form four  squadrons , which are named H1,H2,H3 and H4 .

Bristol Scout D  with Greek insignia (1916)

This plane proved to be stable and maneuverable ; together with the Avro 504 have shared most of the reconnaissance roles in WW1 on all fronts. Initially considered as possible bombers, have been equipped , however, with an external machine gun only. Occasionally the pilot or observer could through some hand grenades. After WW1 served for a long time as trainer planes

In January 1918 a serious air attack is developed to bomb the German-Turkish fleet in the Dardanelles consisted mainly of the Geben and Breslau cruisers. This time however flak is better organized  and some Turkish planes , manned by German pilots, arrive on the scene. The fight ends with two Greek planes lost but three Turkish downed , all by  Moraetenes. Similar fights will continue until the end of the war ; at its end Moraetenes carries the grade of Commander , he has participated in 40 reconnaissance flights , 80 bombing missions , 19 intercepting missions and has been credited with 9 air victories , thus  awarded the DSO . The British will make a useful present to him in recognition : a DH9 with the following phrase painted on it : « To the Commander A. Moraetenes, D.S.O. ».

DH9  : « To the Commander A. Morai­tinis, D.S.O. ».

DSO ( Distinguished Order Cross ) 

His career will end with his early death on the 22nd of December of the same year (1918) ; as many of the experienced pilots he did ignore the importance of severe weather developing fast in front of him. While flying from Thessaloniki to Athens, the wreckage of his plane will be found on the Mount Olympos