Miodrag P. Tomich
Miodrag Tomich’s biography in many ways can be regarded as the history of Serbian Military Aviation.
He was born in 1888 in Stragari, Serbia. His parents were decent and well-regarded people and on his mother’s side, he is descendant of Tanasko Rajich a national hero from the Second Serbian Uprising against the Turks in 1815.
Tomich attended Military School and graduated with distinction. From there, he was sent to serve in the Infantry, only to be later transferred to the Royal Guard.
At the beginning of 1912, the Ministry of Defense announced contest whereby 6 officers and 6 junior officers will be sent to France for pilot-training. The response to this contest was great, and Tomich was among the first six to be selected.
In Etampes, France, two Schools of Aviation existed at the time: Farman’s and Blériot’s. Farman’s school had double plane engines with double commands, so that student could fly together with already trained pilot.
After the theoretical instructions on Blériot’s, a student would be practicing, first on the ground, and later on, all alone, in the air. He joined the latter, in April of 1912.
By August of 1912 he passed the exam and on October 1 was awarded Diploma (no.1026).
It is at that time that Serbian-Turkish War commenced, and the order came that all pilots should return home.
Tomich rushed back; however, the aircrafts that were purchased in France did not arrive on time, and the war with Turkey came to a quick end. Tomich did not get a chance to show off his skills.
Serbian Air force’s first combat flights and the first in history of Air force took place in March of 1913 above the besieged city of Skadar.
Turkish army, under the command of Esad Pasha, held strongly to the city, in spite of many defeats it sustained, and in spite of ferocious attacks by Montenegro’s army. Serbian army, which was technically much better equipped, arrived to the rescue. Part of the Serbian Artillery and Air force was sent in. Three airplanes, „Deperdussin”, „Blériot”, and „Henry Farman”.
There were two French pilots, one Russian and among Serbs were Ilich, Stankovich, Tomich, Jugovich, and Petrovich.
Overcoming some obstacles at the improvised airport in the village of Barbalusa, on the 7 of March (according to Julian calendar, - but according to the Gregorian it was March 20th), first take offs took place. Many foreign and domestic officers attended this event.
The weather was good, the warm wind flu from the sea while the tips of Albanian mountains were white, covered by snow. The first two pilots to take off were Milos Ilich and Zivojin Stankovich. However, once they reached the altitude of 900 meters, they were forced to give up due to the strong winds that came as a result of interchange of hot and cold air. Captain Jovan Jugovich tried to take off, but after five minutes was forced to land. Obviously inpatient sergeant-pilot Mihailo Petrovich was awaiting his turn. After getting permission, he approached Captain Ilich, they kissed each other; the captain advised him not to fly above 800 meters, just like Dedal would advise.
But Mihailo Petrovich did not listen to this advice. Lulled by the momentary calm, he easily crossed already mentioned dangerous line, and than, slowly flying above Skadar and surrounding area, he completed the reconnaissance.
As he was returning, just above the airport, he turned off the engine and began descending, in a sign of a spiral; suddenly, at the height of 1,200 meters, a strong wind ejects him from the plane. He did not tie the belt.
It was confirmed later on that the plain’s engine did not fail; the time on pilot Petrovic’s wrist-watch showed 10 o’clock and 35 minutes.
The history of combat air force witnessed its first victim.
The next day, pilots First Lieutenant Stankovich and Sergeant Tomich successfully completed first reconnaissance flights, and the following days, pilots Ilic, Stankovich and Tomich threw several bombs on the city of Skadar.
At the intervention of big powers, the siege of Skadar stopped, and Serbian planes returned to their basis, near Nis.
That same year, at the beginning of July, Tomich, Stankovich and Ilich accompanied by two „Blériot’s” airplanes were stationed at the airport Vodnik, near Kumanovo.
As the Second Balkan War or Serbian-Bulgarian war as it is known started in the summer of 1913, Tomich completed several successful reconnaissance flights above the enemy lines. One time he encountered Bulgarian pilot in the air, his class mate from Etampes, and now the enemy. Both were flying Blériot’s engines, and since none was armed, they just waived to each other.
General mobilization in the summer of 1914 found Serbian air force not well prepared. The highest political and military circles did not attach much importance to the air force, much less than they did to pigeon letter carriers. (Pigeon letter carriers were pigeons who were trained to transport mail and messages from one party to another.)
For that reason, the enemy who was already technically better prepared had an air advantage from the start.
At the beginning of First World War the first Serbian airport was build at Dabich Field near Valjevo. It is from that airport that Miodrag Tomich and Zivojin Stankovich commenced their first reconnaissance flights over the rivers Drina and Sava where bloody battles were in progress.
In August of the same year while Tomich was flying over the Mishar Field, he encountered an enemy plain that fired at him; Tomich managed by skilful maneuvering to avoid forceful landing.
On August 15, he encountered an enemy aircraft and shot at him with his revolver, but missed. That same year, at the end of October while he was flying above Platichevo and Drenovachka Ada he was attacked by anti-aircraft artillery from the ground.
He named his airplane Orlic . That name was inscribed visibly on the plane. After the battle of Kolubara and a dreadful defeat of Austro-Hungarian Army on December 2 1914, the whole Serbian Air force gathered at Banjica, suburb of Belgrade, where a new airport was founded. It is from this airport, prior to the arrival of French air force squadron, that he conducted reconnaissance flights above Srem and Banat.
Around that time, a machine gun was placed on Orlic and the equestrian lieutenant Milutin Mihajlovich was in charge. After numerous reconnaissance flights, bombing of railway stations, camps and enemy troupes ensued.
Mechanical maintenance of „Orlic“ was rather poor. It happened few times that the engine would suddenly stop in the air, and it was only Tomich's resourcefulness and pure luck that stopped the disaster.
During the Von McKenzie's offensive of 1915 and the withdrawal through Albania and Montenegro down to the Adriatic. Tomic, together with the Air force escadrille withdrew all the way to Skadar, and from Skadar, together with Duke Bojovich, he flu over to Ljese.
While Serbian army was recuperating and reorganizing on the island of Corfu in Greece, Tomich was already militarily engaged in the Western Front as part of one of French escadrille. In a fight above the river Somme, he landed his first enemy airplane.
While taking part at Thessalonica’s Front, he was at first stationed at escadrille number 389 as part of French Air force contingent. Later on, he was transferred to Newport’s Escadrille which was part of Serbian High Command.
On April 17 1917, in an uneven fight, his engine was damaged but he managed to land, unhurt. He downed two more enemy plains.
By downing three enemy planes, he stood at top of the list of Serbian combat pilots.
Upon the break through of Thessalonica Front, Tomich landed in Novi Sad, together with his Newport.
On May 20, 1928 Belgrade marked 15 years of his air force career. This event was celebrated with festivities.
At that moment, he has reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
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