ROBERT ALEXANDER LITTLE


The Naval Eight / 208 Squadron Association is indebted to the following websites, extracts from which form the majority of this article:


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Little

Australian Dictionary of Biography: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/little-robert-alexander-7207

Military History & Heritage Victoria Inc: http://www.mhhv.org.au/?p=3250

Diggerhistory: http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-air-support/ww1/little-r-a.htm

Scotch College Melbourne: https://www.scotch.vic.edu.au/ww1/first/littleRA.htm



Robert Alexander Little, DSO & Bar, DSC & Bar, is generally regarded as the most successful Australian flying ace, with an official tally of forty-seven victories.


Little was born on 19 July 1895 at Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne, to Canadian James Little, a seller of medical and surgical books, and his Victorian-born wife Susan, formerly Smith, née Solomon. He was one of four children. As his family heritage was Scottish, he and his younger brother James were educated at Camberwell Grammar School and, latterly Scotch College, Melbourne where, although a swimming medalist, he failed to impress academically, leaving school while still 15 to join his father’s business as a travelling salesman.


‘Alec’, as Little was known, was living with his family at Windsor when World War I broke out in August 1914. Given the Imperial indoctrination of the age (a Scotch College historian described the school as ‘ultra-Imperialistic’), it is no surprise that he wanted to join the tens of thousands volunteering to fight.


Little had long been interested in aviation and decided to apply for pilot training at the Australian Army's Central Flying School in Point Cook. However, with only four vacancies, he was rejected along with hundreds of others. He therefore decided to sail for England in July 1915 and become a qualified pilot at his own expense.  Several sources say he did this on his own initiative and at his own expense, though The Scotch Collegian’s assertion that his father paid for him to go seems more plausible. Alec or his father also paid £100 for his flying training at Hendon where he gained his flying certificate (No.1958 Royal Aero Club) on 27 October. He entered the Royal Naval Air Service as a probationary temporary sub-lieutenant at Eastchurch on 14 January 1916. He was 20 years old at the time.


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