Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Quoth

Mossyface

Recommended Posts

Hi All

 

Have just finished reading Winged Victory, and I noticed a reference to Mossyface Wood. I seem to remember this being mentioned quite frequently in the Biggles stories and thought it was a fictional place but now...

 

Anyway, my question is did it exist, if it does is it modelled in OFF and where exactly is it? (is that 3 questions?)

 

Look forward to any replies

 

Cheers

 

Q

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm just reading Flying Fury again myself. In my copy, on page 226 McCudden refers to "Havrincourt Wood, familiarly refrerred to as 'Mossyface'" and I was reminded of this query of Quoth's. I looked on McMasters and Havrincourt Wood certainly existed and was mapped. Then I checked on Google Earth and it's relatively unchanged. Can't quite see immediately why it should have acquired the name 'Mossyface' but maybe from a different angle...

 

Illustration below, trench map section from November '17 and Goggle Earth 2009...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm - I just googled it, but I won't repeat here, what I found it stands for... Ahem!

Olham: If you type in "Mossyface wood" with the quotes, you will get a different set of meanings. Even this thread is mentioned.

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mossy-Face woods gets mentioned on a not too infrequent basis in the contemporary writings of the day. I recently ran across it again myself in Captain Alan "Contact" Bott's "An Airman's Outing". The same author also referred to it in "Cavalry of the Clouds" which I read a few years back, and I think it might be in that text where he mentions that it was called that due to it's appearance from a certain direction, as Dej surmised. You should definitely be able to find it in our OFF landscape. Just fly southwest from Cambrai a few miles, or straight north from Metz.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BTW, here is a brief excerpt about the woods which I just transcribed from "An Airman's Outing".

 

"Some eight miles east of Bapaume the Bois d'Havrincourt stood out noticeably by reason of its curious shape, which was that of an enormous Ace of Spades. Around Old Mossy Face, as the wood was then known in R.F.C. messes, were clustered many Boche aerodromes. Innumerable duels had been fought in the air country between Mossy Face and the lines. Every fine day the dwellers in the trenches before Bapaume saw machines swerving round each other in determined effort to destroy. This region was a hunting ground of many dead notabilities of the air, including the Fokker stars Boelcke and Immelmann, besides British pilots as brilliant but less advertised."

 

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Lou.

 

If you look (alright, peer) at the attached you'll see some proof of that statement. Entente aerodromes are red, Central Powers are blue, those that 'swapped hands' are purple. I've mapped into Google Earth all the aerodromes for which Shredward kindly gave me coordinates and am gradually bringing the trench maps in as overlays. I wonder if the number of aerodromes you see here really constitutes 'many' from an airman's point of view. If not, then some aerodromes for which the coordinates are not yet known may have been here... which overlaying trench maps may yet show :good:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very good Dej, an ambitious project Sir. As to whether or not five or so aerodromes surrounding Mossy Face Woods qualifies as many, well I imagine that's a relative interpretation. I did find another passage of note while going through Bott's work. He mentions the following:

 

"The flight-commander headed for Mossy Face Wood, scene of many air battles and bomb raids. An aerodrome just east of the wood was the home of the Fokker star, Boelcke. C. led us to it, for it was his great ambition to account for Germany's best pilot."

 

Would this be Gonnelieu Aerodrome which you have shown on your map, or is there another in that area nearer the woods as yet unaccounted for?

 

I referred back to my copy of Boelcke's own notes in "An Aviator's Field-Book" to see if in fact he was in that AO at the time of Bott's writing, and he does mention a telegram he received on September 23, 1915 informing him that he was to be transferred. This would be his move to Metz and his attachment to the Brieftauben-Abteilung Metz, an offensive unit with the strength of four Flieger Abteilungen, later known as Jagdstaffels, (this according to Greg VanWyngarden's book, "Jagdstaffel 2 Boelcke"). Now, it seems to me that a four-jasta unit operating from the same general locale as the five other bases you have shown already would give more credence to Bott's claim that there were "many" Boche aerodromes clustered around Mossy Face Wood. Food for thought anyway.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, after some further reading and studies I believe I've sorted out why the RFC airmen referred to Havrincourt Wood as Mossy Face. The roots of the term begin as far back as the Bard of Avon, and it actually is sexual in nature. Gordon Williams in his work, “A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature”, notes that both the ace of spades and the ace of clubs have been used in English writings of the 16th through 18th centuries to refer to a woman’s nether regions. He goes on to offer examples showing that the term “mossy face” followed as a logical progression in this same style of prose as well, with all three terms ultimately becoming interchangeable. By the late 1800's and early 1900's it was not uncommon for college-aged Englishmen, when playing a game of cards, to call either the ace of spades or the ace of clubs “mossy face”, as a sly nudge back to the earlier sexually oriented works of George Chapman, R. Fletcher, and others. It follows then, (at least to my way of thinking), that our brave, and for the most part college-aged, flyers of World War One when winging their way over Havrincourt for the first time, upon looking down and seeing that large patch of trees that are decidedly shaped as either the ace of spades or the ace of clubs, depending on how you look at it, would quickly nickname the landmark “Mossy Face Wood”.

 

And now you know the rest of the story.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A question for you Dej. You noted you were in the process of bringing the trench maps in as overlays along with the airfields. Is this for the entire Western Front, or just the area around Havrincourt, and where are you finding all the maps? Do you have the trench map collection that is available on DVD? Just curious Sir.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A question for you Dej. You noted you were in the process of bringing the trench maps in as overlays along with the airfields. Is this for the entire Western Front, or just the area around Havrincourt, and where are you finding all the maps? Do you have the trench map collection that is available on DVD? Just curious Sir.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

I'm bringing in sections of the trench maps from the McMasters collection available online in the public domain at McMasters University. What I'm doing in detail is to take a screenshot of any part of a map that shows an aerodrome (mostly 1:20000 maps from 1918) and matching that to 'known' latitude and longitude co-ordinates of WW1 aerodromes. In a few cases so far I think I've grounds for correcting those co-ordinates. But I'm exploring possibilities with Shredward (whose knowledge I bow to) before I 'publish', so to speak.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, very good Dej, best of luck with the project. I'd really like to see the end result Sir. And an outstanding reference source there at McMaster's University. Thanks for sharing.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..