Merz, Lieutenant George Pinnock MID
George Merz came from Melbourne, where he was born on 10 October 1891. He was a Doctor, and served in the Melbourne University Rifles and with the Aviation Instruction Staff prior to the outbreak of War, after which he served as a Second Lieutenant with the Naval and Military Expeditionary Force in New Guinea from late November 1914 to January 1915. Two aeroplanes, a BE 2a and a Farman waterplane, were shipped to New Guinea on the sloop HMAS Una (formerly the German Naval yacht Komet) but were brought back to Australia without being unpacked. In 16 April 2Lt Merz was promoted to Lieutenant; he left Melbourne on the SS Morea four days later, after being detained in Australia as an instructor after the bulk of the Half-Flight had left. He rejoined his unit on 13 June, when he arrived at Basra in Mespotamia. Shortly after his arrival, the unit received Caudron aeroplanes to supplement the Maurice Farmans previously in use.
Lt Merz was Mentioned in Despatches for services during the Euphrates Campaign, during which
he carried out numerous reconnaissance missions as the Indian Forces advanced up the River.
He was killed in action in Mesopotamia on 30 July 1915 while flying in Caudron GIII IFC4 with Lt W W A Burn, a New Zealand officer serving with the Half-Flight. The Caudron, along with a similar machine flown by Capt H L Reilly of the Indian Army and Sgt Palmer, left Nasiriyeh for Basra after a reconnaissance mission. Capt Reilly’s aeroplane soon had to land due to engine trouble, but came down among relatively friendly Arabs. A short time later, Lt Merz was also forced to land some 20 miles south east of Nasiriyeh due to engine failure, but the Caudron landed among hostile Arabs. The airmen defended themselves with revolvers, but were eventually killed after a running fight that extended some eight kilometres.
Despite a search, no trace of the airmen was found. The remains of the Caudron were recovered some days later. Lt Merz was the AFC’s first fatal casualty.
Lt G P Merz has no known grave and is commemorated on Panels 43 and 65 on the Basra Memorial, Iraq.