After serving as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, Thomas Cathcart Traill joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. In 1918, he was posted to 20 Squadron as a Bristol Fighter pilot. Narrowly escaping death on more than one occasion, he collided with another Bristol Fighter on 23 October 1918 and went into a spin. His observer, Leslie Burbidge, climbed out onto the lower plane allowing Traill to regain partial control of the aircraft before it crashed. Downing 8 enemy aircraft by the end of the war, Traill remained in the Royal Air Force and attained the rank of Air-Vice Marshal before retiring in 1954.
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Lieut. (A./Capt.) Thomas Cathcart Traill. (FRANCE)
An officer of marked skill and bravery, who has shot down three enemy machines and seriously damaged a fourth. On 23rd October his machine accidentally collided with one of ours at a height of 7,000 feet, and a part of the left plane was carried away, the machine being thereby rendered out of control. With great presence of mind Captain Traill ordered his observer to climb out and so directed him to balance the machine which enabled him to obtain partial control. Displaying rare skill and determination, he managed to land his damaged machine safely.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 February 1919 (31170/2048)