Jump to content

Raine

NEW MEMBER
  • Content count

    9
  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

15 Neutral

About Raine

  1. Paroni – Armand has shared some lovely paintings. And he has made his presence known among the enemy with an early victory! Was it confirmed? Condolences on losing two machines and their crews to a collision. Seb – Chesham! Hawkwood and you are certainly neighbours. The photo and video images from the early morning flights out of St-Pol are very atmospheric. Congratulations on a confirmed victory. Albrecht – A brilliant introduction to Jean-Fidele. The petit-sous did a fine job of putting down his crippled Morane. Maeran – Characteristically splendid episode. I like the way you picked up on McCudden’s visits to the squadron. Hasse – Another great introduction. With any luck, Auguste will remain pointed in the right direction and stay out of Spain for the rest of the war. TWK – Look forward to seeing our Bulgarian friend back during August. Best wishes for the schoolwork. MFair – Interesting tale about how Elijah ended up joining the RFC in Canada. War Journal – Sergeant David Armstrong Hawkwood, Royal Flying Corps 4 Squadron, Baizieux, France Part 4 By 1 August 1915, we were well settled at Vert Galant. Accordingly, on 2 August we received orders to pack up and move to a new aerodrome at Baizieux, about four or five miles west of the town of Albert. The village of Baizieux was not long in giving up its secrets, for it had none. It was little more than a scattering of low brick houses and farm outbuildings bordering a muddy country lane that led northward from the Amiens-Albert-Bapaume road towards the only slightly larger village of Warloy. The aerodrome was to be set up on several featureless fields a little east of the village. About the only landmark in the area was a lonely windmill that stood on a slight rise in the ground just west and north of the aerodrome. Every officer and man in the squadron was kept fully occupied making the place serviceable. The first priorities were getting our munitions stowed under canvas, establishing latrines, and getting our own tents up. The weather did not look promising. Three timber and canvas huts had been already erected on site by a work party impressed from the infantry. These became the squadron office, the main stores, and (naturally) the officers’ mess. We also managed to get up four canvas sheds for aircraft and we dug in and sandbagged our storage area for petroleum, oil, and lubricants. The rain started during the night and so we worked soaked to the skin for two full days. Finally, on 5 August, I was able to take up Mr Osborne for a familiarisation “flip.” When the weather was clear one could see the spire of Albert Cathedral with its golden Virgin and Child. Beyond Albert to the east lay the pockmarked, dung coloured stain of the front. We flew twice in the surrounding area on 6 August and then the weather closed in again. Our first operational flight from Baizieux came on 8 August. It was a reconnaissance patrol over the lines just north of the River Somme. We flew with two other machines, providing a guard because of reports that the enemy had deployed their new Fokker monoplane with a machine-gun synchronised to fire forward through the spinning propeller. At one point in the patrol as we turned north again from the river, I noticed two tiny specks against a background of grey cloud a couple of thousand feet below us and about a mile off. There was no chance of catching them and, in any event, our orders were to stay with the rest of the patrol. As we returned towards Albert, I saw another lone machine in the distance below us to the north. We were now finished with the patrol and free to give pursuit, so I went to investigate. It was too late. We dive through a cloud bank and circled about, but saw nothing and returned to Baizieux. We have a new squadron commander. His name is Major Waldron, and the like Major Longcroft before him, he was among the earliest group of RFC pilots in France. On 22 August, I was called to the squadron office for a brief interview with the new boss. He seems like an “all business” type and did not know quite what to make of a sergeant pilot. He asked a number of questions about my education and interests and I managed not to reply “bugger all” and “football.” I told him that I was hoping to study engineering after the war and was reading the Iliad in translation. Both fine lies. My thought is that he was probing for any facts that might suggest I could one day gain a commission. A number of the officers go on about the Latin and Greek writers, hence the Iliad. I did pick the book up once – dreadful stuff. Give me Sherlock Holmes any day.
  2. Raine

    Pictures for the DID IV Campaign
  3. Many stories to get caught up on… In the meantime, here’s Hawkwood’s latest. Journal – Sergeant David Armstrong Hawkwood, Royal Flying Corps Part 3 The next week and a half were uneventful. During that time, I ferried Lieutenant Osborne about over the lines while he took notes on enemy traffic and rail movement. Twice we spotted for the guns. We still have not been fitted out with W/T equipment and so must depend on an Aldis lamp. I was becoming rather proficient at Morse, but Mr Osborne prefers to handle all the signalling himself and I am beginning to forget. Lest we become too comfortable in our billets and too familiar with the front lines in our sector, the higher powers have decided to move 4 Squadron south. Our new home is a place called Vert Galant Farm. It is a country crossroads on the road between Amiens and Doullens. There is a large L-shaped farmhouse on the north-east corner, owned by a family named Bossu. We bedded down in the farm the first night until all our tentage arrived in the morning. The aerodrome itself is splendid – wide fields either side of the main road with only a shallow slope fading away to the south. The crossroads and farm are easily identifiable from the air and only a few minutes’ flight west from Doullens. It was easy to get our bearings. We soon learned the reason for our relocation. Our army has taken over a new section of the front from the French, extending our lines down to the River Somme. Third Wing, of which we are part, has responsibility for the aerial defence of the sector. We share the aerodrome at Vert Galant with 11 Squadron, newly arrived from England. 11 Squadron is unique in that they are equipped with the Vickers fighting machine. This is a rugged machine with a “pusher” configuration that allows the pilot to be accompanied by a gunner with an unobstructed field of fire to the front. It is hoped that we will be able to dominate the air with his new instrument of war! From Vert Gallant, I flew a half-dozen patrols in the last two weeks of July, most of them to drop bombs on a Hun aerodrome east of Bapaume or on road and rail connections to the enemy’s front lines. Archie in this sector is moderately heavy, but I have yet to see a German machine in the air. Ned Buckley and I have re-established our comfortable “pleasure dome,” as he calls our tent. We have yet to get time away from the camp to explore the mysteries of the surrounding towns. I am hoping to get into Amiens one of these days. On a bright note, I have been assigned a newer BE2c and this one is equipped with a Lewis gun. Mr Osborne is in charge of the gun, which is mounted on a sort of bent post and which is pointed backwards over my head! Occasionally when we are flying, he fires a short burst to warm the gun and the noise deafens me for minutes afterwards. Until we received the new machine, Mr Osborne had never handled a machine gun. He does not seem tremendously keen about the thing, and I must gently urge him to get some additional practice at the butts. Received a lovely surprise this week. After I completed my final advanced flying training, the army sent me a cheque for £75, repayment for my initial flying course at the Grahame-White school in Hendon. I deposited it and wrote a cheque for the same amount to Mr Cust, my employer, who paid for my course. Last Wednesday I received a lovely letter from Mr Cust enquiring after my experiences with the Flying Corps and enclosing two £5 notes with the request that I buy something to make myself comfortable while I am here. I have tucked the notes away inside a small Bible my mother gave me, as that seems to be the last place anyone here would look. Tomorrow begins August.
  4. TWK – Welcome to our first Bulgarian pilot! I know there will be the inevitable aviation stories, but I hope you can work in some tales of wonderful Bulgarian food… Carrick – Welcome to Klaus. I hope he makes it safely to the war after boarding that trolley. Paroni – Good to meet Karl. I was enjoying his accounts of his early missions and was truly shocked when I came to discover that he had been killed. I wish all the best to Armand Bouchant. He is already using his share of luck. I’m happy that his visit to the German lines was not a long one. Too bad about Armand’s second claim being denied. What happened with his first claim? Seb – Wonderful to have you back! And a welcome to Theodore “Runt” Andrews. He was lucky to get drafted to France (RN prefers drafted to posted) as he wanted. Great stories. You had me listening to Noel Coward doing “Uncle Harry Is a Missionary Now.” Interesting connection with Tring. I took a drive there with my son shortly before Christmas – to visit the brewery of course. It’s a lovely town. Where did you go to grammar school? Just read about your first claim as well. You did a wonderful job taking revenge on the claims gods by downing the next Aviatik you saw in flames. Congratulations! Maeran – An entertaining and well-crafted introduction to Mr Le Mesurier. I laughed out loud when I read, “That went awfully nice.” MFair – A heartfelt welcome to Elijah Gallagher! It looks like he’s going to have an interesting time as Captain Goon’s partner. Hasse – As I have come to expect from you, your introduction of Auguste Besson was outstanding! Rick, VonS – Great to have you checking in on us. There will always be a drink for you at the bar. War Journal – Sergeant David Armstrong Hawkwood, Royal Flying Corps Part 2 I have settled in comfortably in Bailleul. Ned Buckley and I wangled a few hours off to head into town, and we have managed to kit out our Tent, Circular, Mk IV. The poor ORs are housed nine or ten men to each such tent, but Ned and I live in luxury with the whole thing to our two selves. All our tents are pitched over a circular wooden floor piece, so we are high and dry. In town, we bought a threadbare oriental rug to cover much of the floor near the door and we have set up our two camp cots radiating from the central pole at 11 and 1 o’clock with a small table and paraffin lantern set between them. We have acquired a narrow dressing table with a mirror and a ceramic wash basin for shaving. Finally, we have two folding chairs that we can take outside in fine weather. Outside the tent, we have dug a shell scrape and have daubed the canvas with blotches of green paint so that from the air, the Hun will not recognise it as a comfortable Tent Circular at all. Rather, he will think it is a Tent Circular with blotches of green paint. Very clever of us. The Sergeants’ mess is a good spot to pass the odd quiet hour with a book or magazine. There is decent ale to be had. Unfortunately, I am the only pilot in the mess and am therefore unable to share my day fully with any of my comrades. The majority are mechanics by trade and, when we do talk, we talk about motors. One mildly irritating bit is that my BE2 is consistently referred to as “Mr Osborne’s machine” and I am “Mr Osborne’s pilot.” All the other machines are referred to by the name of the officer who is the pilot. Mr Osborne and I have become a good team. We conducted several artillery shoots over the past couple of weeks and we are both finding it easier to make out our target on the ground. On 25 June we were sent over the lines on a reconnaissance of road and rail traffic. The mechanics fitted my machine with a rack for dropping bombs. I have a control lever in the cockpit which releases them, at least in theory. That day, we flew all the way to Roulers. On the way back I noticed a field where the enemy were building what appeared to be aeroplane sheds. I dropped down to 2000 feet and let them have it with my bombs. What a joy it was to be able to strike at the enemy like this. I am reasonably sure that my bombs landed close enough to the German works that, if they did not actually frighten the Hun, he at least noticed their presence. Since then we have conducted further artillery shoots but no German aeroplanes. For that matter, I have only noticed our British machines in the air on two occasions. On both occasions, the machines I was surprised to see approaching were Bristol Scouts that had been assigned as our escorts. It is devilishly hard to see other aeroplanes whilst flying. The weather continues to get warmer. We leave our flying kit in the sheds and put everything on just before climbing into our machine. That way we are not soaked with sweat when we take off, for in five or ten minutes we will be chilled through if we are wet. Had another long reconnaissance on Monday (5 July). This time Lieutenant Osborne and I flew south-east all the way to Lille. That city is noted by its large star-shaped fortress and by the pyramid-shaped slag heaps around the nearby coal mining towns. We are told that the Germans are feeding their steel industry with the coal they are stealing from the French here. There is another aerodrome nearby, next to the large asylum north of the town. The asylum itself has been taken over as a casualty clearing station. There are many doctors and orderlies about and some very attractive young nurses. The nurses, unfortunately, are all kept under the gaze of steely eyed matrons and they are liable to be shot at dawn if they even glance in the direction of an admiring young flyer! Have received several letters from Mum and Dad and Auntie Peg. Also, Eddie Bristow has joined up. He is now an engine room artificer in the Royal Navy. They say you can join the Navy and see the world, but as an ERA he will be a lucky man to see the sun once or twice a month. I must write him and share all the joys of flying to make him jealous. Postscript – Just returned from a late morning “show.” Went with Lieutenant Osborne to direct artillery south-east of Bethune. We experienced rather heavy anti-aircraft fire, or Archie as the chaps call it, and even some machine gun fire from the ground although we were up around 5000 feet! Our duties took us as far south as Vimy. There, just as we were turning back to the north, I saw a single aeroplane about a mile to the east and heading south. I signalled to Mr Osborne and we turned to investigate. To my joy, the mystery machine turned out to be the first Hun I have met so far. I was able to position our BE2 below and in front of the German (which we believe was an Aviatik type), and Mr Osborne fired six rounds at it from his Lee-Enfield before the Hun dived away to the east. We do not believe he was seriously damaged although mental distress is a definite possibility. By this time we were some ten miles over the lines and I made my way westward by dead reckoning, as the compass did not settle down for several minutes. During our trip back to the lines, we were Archied more than I had yet experienced. Navigation was a challenge. As far as I have seen, all of France is a featureless plain except the bits they have dug up for coal. Every town has its obligatory church and they all look much the same. The buildings are low brick farms that line the various roads and all look much the same. Occasionally there is a fine straight highway, too good to be French and thus obviously Roman. But there were no such landmarks this morning and I did not get my bearings until we crossed the lines and I spied the chimney smoke of a large town off to the north. I headed in that direction and identified the place as Bethune from the pattern of roads that converged on it. Then I picked up the line of the Lys River a little farther north and from there we made our way safely back. Mr Osborne went off to file our report with the Recording Officer and I washed up and poured myself a celebratory noontime whisky back at the tent. A while later I visited the sheds where Tony Taylor, our technical sergeant, informed me that our machine had been holed in no fewer than fifteen places!
  5. Good to be back and to get dug in to the campaign! Many thanks to epower for an outstanding job getting us up and running. I won't get a chance to read everyone's stories tonight, but I thought I get my first one up and then go back to them. War Journal – Sergeant David Armstrong Hawkwood, Royal Flying Corps Part 1 I found my calling as a pilot quite by accident. My parents, having failed as farmers, acquired a toyshop in the lovely market village of Tring in Hertfordshire, and there I grew up as a lacklustre student and reluctant part-time shopkeeper. My best friend, Eddie Bristow, lived nearby. His father owned a small garage where Eddie and I spent every spare moment tinkering with motorcycles and, when Mr Bristow was inattentive, with the occasional automobile. The night I learned to drive will remain with me forever. Mr Bristow had been labouring for two days over the most beautiful machine I ever saw – a gleaming black Rolls-Royce touring car. It was a chance of a lifetime and I shamelessly put Eddie up to sneaking into the garage after midnight and helping to roll the machine to a place in the high street where we could start the motor without waking the Bristows. I had a rough idea of the theory behind operating a motor car and had watched Mr Bristow’s trick of starting the motor by inducing a spark by a rapid flicking of the ignition advance lever. We were therefore soon underway and headed for the countryside. I shifted up into third gear without quite waking the entire population. Poor Eddie appeared to die a thousand deaths with each painful crashing of gears. But once into top gear, the powerful Rolls-Royce engine carried us up and down hills and ran smoothly at all speeds from a sedate walk to a terrifying rush. When we reached Berkhamsted, we discussed whether we should turn back or continue our explorations. Eddie opened the glove box in search of a map and immediately began to jabber like a madman. He had found the registration papers for the vehicle and discovered that it was owned by Walter Rothschild – the Rothschild family basically owned Tring. All sense of adventure evaporated in an instant and we turned for home. When we got back, Mr Bristow was standing outside the garage in a pair of overalls pulled over his pyjamas. Eddie got a sound cuffing and I was dragged to my parents’ home by one ear. It all paid off in the end, though. My father promised that I would spend every Sunday that summer doing jobs for Mr Bristow at the garage. Mr Bristow was surprised that I had been able to start and drive the Rolls-Royce and soon had me picking up and delivering motors for customers who needed work done. By the beginning of 1913, I managed to secure employment as a chauffeur for a gentleman by the name of Cust. This fellow was young and adventurous and rich, and more than anything he wanted me to teach him to drive. He was, however, hopeless at it and soon gave it up. Undaunted by his inability to handle a motorcar, Mr Cust acquired a 50 horsepower Bleriot aeroplane and hired an instructor to teach him to fly. Within a week he had succeeded in smashing the Bleriot, both his legs, his jaw, and one arm. Scarcely was he able to get about with two canes before he bought a Farman. He then proposed that I learn to fly it myself and act as his aerial chauffeur. At my employer’s expense, I was enrolled at the Grahame-White School, Hendon. I obtained my Royal Aero Club certificate in August 1913 and flew Mr Cust many times that autumn and the following summer, that last glorious summer before the war. When the first call for volunteers went out, I immediately signed up and informed the recruiting sergeant of my experience in aviation. He was supremely disinterested and told me that flying machines were useless objects and best kept far away from real soldiering. His eyes lit up, however, when he learned that I was a chauffeur and had some knowledge of internal combustion engines. Before I knew what hit me, I was a newly minted Private in the Army Service Corps. We did several weeks of training – mainly drill and inspections – and then were sent off to Avonmouth, near Bristol. From there we shipped out to Boulogne. I spent the next three months driving supply lorries back and forward between the coast and our lines in Flanders. In December I came down with a nasty case of pneumonia and was invalided back to Dover. While recovering in Dover, I met an officer of the Royal Flying Corps and enquired about transferring to the flying service. He was quite taken with the fact that I already had my RAeC ticket. I was set up for an interview in London, and within two weeks found myself in training at Larkhill on the Salisbury plain. Most of my flying hours were spent in machines identical to Mr Cust’s, and I had few problems impressing the instructors. There is even a chance to fly one of the new tractor Avros and a BE2a. Finally, in late May 1915, I received orders – after two weeks of home leave, I was to report to the pilots’ pool at Saint-Omer, France! This was the headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps in France and Flanders and all replacement pilots were drawn from the pool. Saint-Omer was a bit desolate despite being one of the busiest spots one could imagine. I knew no one and mattered to no one, least of all the band of hairy sloths in the kitchens of the warrant officers’ and sergeants’ mess. The food was truly dreadful and, as my name was somehow forgotten on pay parade, I was not able to remedy the situation by visiting any of the local cafés. The only redeeming feature was the availability of several rather battered BE2s. As there was a better than average chance that this would be my next official bus, I added another ten hours of BE time to my flying log. On 1 June 1915, I received orders at breakfast to prepare to move. A tender would pick me up outside pool headquarters at 9 o’clock to take me to my new home – 4 Squadron at Bailleul. Two officers were waiting there with me. One gentleman wore wings on his tunic and was bound for 1 Squadron and the other, Lieutenant Norris, was an observer just transferred from the Royal Artillery and was bound for 4 Squadron with me. When the tender arrived, the two officers crowded into the cab while the corporal driver stowed their kit in the back. When he was done, the driver nodded at me and said, “I’m afraid there’s no more room in the front, Sergeant.” I stowed my own kit and climbed aboard. There I found the officers’ greatcoats atop their valises. I placed one coat on the floor and used the other as a blanket, and then settled down for a very good sleep. Fortunately, I awoke in time to replace the greatcoats before the first officer dismounted at 1 Squadron! Bailleul seemed to be a delightful place, crowded with soldiery of every description, with a wide market square ringed with interesting restaurants, hotels, and shops. Our aerodrome was just on the edge of the town and in fact was referred to as the “Town Ground” aerodrome to distinguish it from the Asylum aerodrome nearby. I dismounted and assisted the observer officer with his kit. His name was Lieutenant Norris. He suggested that we report to the OC, Major Longcroft. I told him that I would first make my presence known to the disciplinary Sergeant Major and then report to the OC. Sergeant Major Parson seemed to appreciate my gesture and made it a point to accompany me to see Major Longcroft. The OC was an immaculately groomed and polished Welshman, obviously from a family who had never had the need to buy furniture. He welcomed me to the squadron and advised me to take my time in getting to know the place. Apparently, I was the squadron’s only NCO pilot. The Major suggested to Sergeant Major Parson that I share accommodation with Sergeant Buckley, a technical sergeant who had been with the squadron since the start and who had flown many patrols as an observer. The squadron was under canvas. Only the squadron office and the messes were in proper wooden buildings. I found Sergeant Buckley’s tent and threw my things inside, and then went in search of my new roommate. I found him in one of the single-aircraft canvas hangars, directing an engine change on a Bristol Scout. Ned Buckley, for that was his name, hailed from Lancashire and had a broad West Country accent that would take some getting used to. He suggested how best to arrange our things in the tent and let me get on with it, even to the point of moving his cot. That afternoon I took up a BE2 with Lieutenant Norris in the forward seat. A few of our machines were fitted with Lewis guns. Ours was not. Mr Norris’s sat glumly with his collar pulled up around his ears, cradling a Lee Enfield rifle. Our orders were to get our bearings, get used to one another, and stay away from any enemy aeroplanes. Mr Norris reminded me emphatically of that last point. It was a glorious day, the deep blue sky marred only by a single puffy cloud far to the east over enemy territory – “Hunland,” in RFC parlance. We flew north until the Channel coast lay just ahead and turned back to circle widely around Bailleul, taking careful note of any useful landmarks. I flew several more familiarisation patrols over the next few days. Then, on 10 June 1915, I flew with Lieutenant Osborne as an observer to spot for the artillery. Our target was a German gun line in front of Lille. Although the squadron had one machine fitted out with the new lightweight wireless apparatus, we made do with the old system of signalling with coloured Very lights. With the wireless sets, there was room only for the pilot as the set took up all the space in the front cockpit of the BE. Mr Osborne was new, as was I, and I suppose that the aim was more to give us experience than to discomfit the Hun. It was something of a relief when Mr Osborne confessed when we were back on the ground that he was not at all sure that what he was firing at was a German gun line. 15 June brought my first experience of losses in combat. Lieutenant Norris went out with another pilot and the machine did not return. No one knows what became of them. On 17 June, I again piloted Mr Osborne for a spotting patrol. We had a couple of moments of excitement. At one point, as we were flying over the enemy lines near the town of Lens, Mr Osborne raised himself in his seat and aimed his Lee Enfield off to my right side. I looked behind but saw nothing. We spoke of it later and he told me that he was sure he had spotted a strange aeroplane emerging from a cloud bank. He said it vanished back into the cloud before I turned about. A little later in the same patrol, we had just turned back to the north when I heard a dull popping sound over the roar of the engine. Two black puffs of smoke appeared off to my right and a little below. This was my first experience of “Archie” – anti-aircraft fire. The Hun Archie merchants were a dud lot and came nowhere close to us, so it was not too difficult to maintain the look of sang froid.
  6. Books?

    Another excellent overview of life in the Royal Flying Corps – "No Empty Chairs" by Ian Mackersey.
×

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..