About this time the war in the air on the Western Front was becoming a very serious matter, terrific casualties were being sustained on all sides and appeals were made by the War Office for young subalterns to come forward for training in flying, and service with the Royal Flying Corps. Before this date I had made several endeavors without result to get into the Flying Corps. I was therefore very pleased to avail myself of the opportunity offered and was one of the first to volunteer for service with the Royal Flying Corps. I passed my medical examination, satisfied the Selection Committee that I was a suitable type for flying duty, and was eventually posted to the School of Military Aeronautics at Reading. After two months of intensive study of the theoretical technical subjects in connection with flying I sat for and passed the examinations in ground subjects and was posted to a course in practical flying training at Eastbourne Aerodrome, then the 206th Training Depot Station but later renumbered No. 50 Training Depot Station.

Never will I forget my first airplane ride! Our elementary instruction was given on the Gnome Avro Training Planes and I must admit that they were rather oil-spattered, flimsy looking contraptions.

"All set, my boy?" It was Captain Freddy Mills, my instructor. "I'm going to give you a little flip in the air to test your air sense."

With my helmet and goggles adjusted and the safety strap attached around my waist, I nodded to Captain Mills. With a sudden roar the motor leapt into life. The plane trembled and started to roll across the aerodrome. Gripping the side of the cockpit I glanced cautiously towards the ground. It appeared to be slipping away, and the buildings assumed an alarming prospective. We were in the air—at last I was flying!

How fresh and clean this seemed after the clinging mud of the French battlefields. To fight in the air—what a thrilling sense of superiority. My thoughts jumbled one over the other. Suddenly I noticed that the earth seemed to be sliding away from beneath us. Where but a moment ago I had glanced downward to see the tiny buildings and winding roads below, there now appeared the horizon and the skyline. I clung tighter to the fuselage but I could not realize what had happened. Glancing down I noticed that the sky was beneath us and looking above my head I saw the field and buildings.

Captain Mills looped, rolled and spun the little Avro until I was not only dizzy but so hopelessly jumbled and frightened that I lost all sense of where we were. I just clung to the airplane, scared out of my wits, and wondered what type of superman it required to control an airplane.

A ghastly feeling seemed to creep over me that I would never be able to learn to fly. I was benumbed with an aching pain of regret when I stepped from the machine. Even my admiration for Captain Freddy Mills was dampened by the horrible thought that after all my fighting was still to be done in the trenches.

The following flights, when I underwent dual instruction, gradually became more or less a matter of course and after about five hours of dual flying I successfully carried out my first solo flight. This time I sat alone in the Avro, and listened to the mechanic say "Switch off, petrol on, suck in," as he turned the propeller over and primed the engine.

"Contact!" With a jerk the engine fired and the propeller began turning over. The machine had previously been warmed up, and my instructor waved me away. Flying into the wind and out towards the middle of the field, I gave the machine full throttle, shoved the stick slightly forward, and then feeling the controls take hold I eased gently back. The nose began to rise. We were taking the air! Dimly I remembered the oft-repeated instruction, "Keep your nose down laddie boy," and again I eased the stick forward. We were now in a level flight and getting away into the sky. By gradual stages I worked the ship up to about 1,250 feet before I allowed myself to realize that at last I was alone in the plane and must master the intricacies of aerial maneuvers without the assuring presence of Captain Mills.

That is an awful feeling—to be all alone in the sky on your first flight. Oh, how you wish that you could only be down on the field again! Clenching my teeth, I eased back the throttle and prepared to make my first landing. Easing the nose further downward I started into a gentle glide for the field. After a few moments of ticklish and very amateurish reactions, I managed to bring the plane safely back to the lines.

After carrying out my first solo flight I gained about 20 hours experience flying solo at the end of which time I was tested in the handling of the elementary machine by my Flight Commander, Squadron Leader Grange, D.S.C. After passing all my tests I was permitted to fly the intermediate training machine, the single seater Sop-with Pup.

My experiences while flying solo on the elementary training machine were not very exciting. My first, and only crash to date, occurred on my first cross country flight. This happened after I had about seven hours solo experience. I was detailed to fly to three aerodromes, effect landings and obtain signatures from the commanding officers of the stations saying whether my landings were good, bad or indifferent. When about 20 miles away from the aerodrome my engine commenced to run very roughly and gradually came to a stop. I was flying at the time at about three thousand feet over very heavily wooded country with absolutely no suitable landing place. I quickly picked out the only spot in which I could possibly land and circled down towards the ground.

My judgment in bringing the machine in for the landing was very good but I was considerably handicapped owing to the fact that a line of telegraph wires ran along the boundary of the field. I however "sideslipped" over these and was beginning to congratulate myself upon effecting a safe landing when I discovered that I was not only landing down a very steep hill but also downwind. This meant a terrific speed over the ground with some large wooden palings and a fir copse waiting to greet me. When about three or four yards from the fence I let go the control column and placed my arms over my face in an endeavor to protect myself from serious injury through being thrown forward on to the instrument board. The wooden palings neatly sheared off the undercarriage and the two bottom planes. The aeroplane and myself continued to go forward, the nose of the machine coming between two fir trees, the two top planes were swept back over my head and we came to an abrupt stop.

Upon scrambling out of the wreckage I found two Canadian Red Cross men standing beside the machine, or I should say, what had once been a machine, complete with a nice comfortable looking stretcher. Beyond two very nasty bruises on my shoulders I sustained no other injury so needless to say, I did not avail myself of their very kind invitation to give me a jaunt to the hospital. It appeared I had landed right beside a Canadian Convalescent Camp.

Having notified my authorities by telephone of the mishap I sat down and patiently awaited the arrival of the break-down at the scene of the accident. Later that afternoon one of the instructors from the training school arrived by air. He endeavored to land and although I should not really say it, I felt rather tickled when he also crashed his machine in landing, because I knew that his accident would exonerate me from all blame.

After about 15 hours solo flying on the Sop-with Pup I was ready to commence on my service aeroplane, the Sopwith Camel. I was very sorry to finish my period on the Sopwith Pup because it was a very beautiful little aeroplane to handle in the air, but unfortunately they were no longer of any practical use as service fighting machines. At last the dreaded day arrived when I had to carry out my first flight on my service aeroplane, the Camel. I was on the early morning tour of duty at this time which meant that flying commenced at four o'clock in the morning. Somewhere about this unearthly hour I had to climb into my machine (feeling more asleep than awake) and sit patiently there while my instructor Captain Knight, better known as "Noisy Knight," explained all the controls, instruments and peculiarities of the machine which were not unknown to me as I had already spent many hours prior to this time sitting in this type of machine with a view to becoming accustomed to everything, in preparation for this particular moment.

The Camel was an extremely difficult machine to fly, it was tremendously sensitive on the controls and had a very nasty habit of going into accidental spins if not properly controlled. A large number of fatal accidents occurred at the training stations on these machines for that reason. I was therefore "keyed up" with intense excitement and my knees were visibly shaky. I was very pleased when the chocks were waved clear and I opened up the engine to take off. Raving climbed the machine flying straight all the time I gained a ceiling or approximately 4,000 feet. At this safe altitude I practiced some gentle turns, felt the stalling speed of the machine with the engine on and off and feeling that I knew all about it and that my previous fears were unfounded I decided to try to execute some stunts.

A loop being the most simple I decided to try this first. Not being used, however, to the very sensitive controls I carried out what appeared to me to be a loop and a half and found myself on my back hanging in the belt and holding on tightly to the control column—it was an awful moment. I next realized we were in an inverted spin. I thought it was all up and that I was due to go the same way many others had gone before me. I did not however give up hope and after trying many things with the controls I eventually found myself in an ordinary spin but had lost over 3000 feet height. The machine was very quickly brought to a level keel and I was beginning to congratulate myself when we went into another spin in the opposite direction. From this position however I quickly righted the machine and displaying extreme caution I glided down and effected a fairly good landing on the aerodrome. Upon getting out of the machine after taxiing over to the hangar I felt very proud of having successfully flown my service aeroplane. My instructor congratulated me on having carried out some stunts on my first solo flight. I did not have the heart to disillusion him and tell him that it was all quite accidental and that it had given me a great fright.

Later, however, after having gained a little more experience on the machine I came to like it very much and having passed all my tests at the training school I was posted to the No. 1 School of Fighting and Aerial Gunnery at Marske, Yorkshire. From here I was posted to the Pilots Pool in France and was due to sail on the 11th of November, 1918, which turned out to be the day upon which the Armistice was signed. It was a bitter disappointment to me when my orders were cancelled as I was very anxious to see some service in the air in France. I was posted back to my original unit at Eastbourne and from there transferred for a special course in Aerial Navigation to the Admiralty Compass Observatory at Datchet near Windsor.

Because of the drastic casualties of war and due to the dire necessity of placing every eligible man in active service in the combatant forces, England had recruited a number of girls into a unit known as the W.R.A.F. (Women's Royal Air Force). It was whilst training at Eastbourne that I met and incidentally fell in love with one of the beautiful little non-commissioned officers. How attractive they looked in their smart service uniforms, and each one was so earnestly doing her bit to help those who were taking the brunt of the conflict.

Our early association and eventual marriage were filled with the spice of romance. We were forced to meet clandestinely, due to the fact that the disciplinary code of the Royal Air Force forbade commissioned officers to associate with, or be seen in public with, non-commissioned members of the W.R.A.F. It is literally true that love increases when the difficulties increase, and our many meetings were made even more interesting by the fact that we were in love despite all the rules to the contrary notwithstanding. Our meetings were made even more difficult because of the fact that we were stationed at the same aerodrome.

Our marriage was celebrated on my 21st birthday, and was held in secret. It was not until many months later that we dared allow the fact to become generally known. Bill, as she is affectionately known to all her friends, has been the best of pals since we have been together. Her experiences in the war have developed in her that high sense of fortitude which is such a necessary qualification for a soldier's wife. She has always had the greatest confidence in my ability or luck to succeed in the face of the greatest difficulties

and dangers. She has been my inspiration and is responsible to a great extent for the successes of the many adventures which I have undertaken.

At the conclusion of the special navigation course at Datchet, and after having successfully passed my examinations, I was posted to No. 110 Squadron of the Royal Air Force in the capacity of Squadron Navigation Officer. This squadron, under the command of Major Stanley Clarke, M. G., was at the time engaged in experimental aerial mail work between Folkstone, Kent and Cologne on the Rhine. In addition to my ordinary duties as Navigation Officer I was posted to a flight and employed as a mail pilot.

My first flight to Cologne was not quite successful. Upon arriving over Brussels I came to the end of the section of map on which I was then working and whilst trying to get the next section out of the map case it became caught in the slip-stream of the propeller and disappeared over the side. I had therefore no map from Brussels on to Cologne, nor did I know the route as I had not flown over it before. As leader of a formation of three machines I circled around several times in the endeavor to get one of the other machines to take the lead, but they did not understand my signal and continued to follow me around. Under the circumstances there was only one thing to be done and that was to proceed in an easterly direction until we struck the Rhine—which runs north and south—and then endeavor to locate ourselves.

Unfortunately after flying for about a half hour we encountered heavy rain, low clouds and a very strong wind. We had been in the air for approximately four hours from the time of departure. By this time the Rhine should have been below us. A heavy cloud bank obscured our vision and I decided it would be best to effect a landing in a field and ascertain our position. One of the other machines had followed me all this time, the other had had a forced landing somewhere along the route. I found myself in a very heavily wooded country and picked out a small field which appeared to be a meadow, shut off my engine and proceeded to land. As I was landing I discovered that the field was a corn field practically ready for cutting. Some peasants came across and after great difficulty they succeeded in explaining to us that we had passed over the Neutral Zone and had landed near a little village called Warstein. This was rather serious, as we were in military uniform and our machines were military craft. We decided to get out as quickly as possible before we were apprehended by the authorities. My companion succeeded in getting his machine into the air safely, but although I made a very determined effort and raced down the entire length of the corn field I did not manage to get into the air owing to the fact that I was carrying a very heavy load. The water in the radiator boiled and the propeller became badly damaged through contact with the corn. I had therefore to shut off my engine and await developments.

In a few moments I was surrounded by the very angry owners of the field and was very glad when the police arrived from the village.

Arrangements were made to compensate the owners for the damage to the corn, a police guard was placed on the machine whilst myself and the mail bags were removed to the local police station. Here I received very kind treatment and was permitted to sleep in the local hotel that night with a police guard. The following day a military officer and an escort of two soldiers arrived from the garrison town of Soest. I was removed to the military barracks in this town, where I was interrogated by the Garrison Commander, who informed me that he very much regretted that he would have to detain me until he received instructions from the War Office in Berlin. After three weeks detention I was permitted to return to Cologne by air, provided with a passport and proceeded to the field in which the machine had been left to find that a new propeller had been fitted by the repair party, who had come especially from Cologne.

With the assistance of the military guard who accompanied me from Soest the engine was started and I was soon on my way to Cologne. I had therefore the unique experience of being a prisoner of peace. This experience gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the German people whom I had been led to believe, during the war, were anything but what I now found them to be. I was treated with every courtesy, kindness and consideration.

I continued to be employed with the 110th Squadron on mail work until close to the end of 1919. The experience gained from this particular work was extremely useful to me, as we had to fly in the most impossible weather conditions on many different types of aeroplanes, as the whole object of the service was to ascertain some idea of operating costs and the regularity with which a commercial mail service might be carried on. During my service with this squadron I was chosen as Second Pilot and Navigator for the first experimental night air mail flight ever carried on in Europe. The machine used was the Dell 10 Number 551, fitted with two 400 horsepower Liberty motors. Capain Barrett, A. F. C., acted as Chief Pilot and Second Lieutenant Oliver was our observer. We left Folkstone at 10:15 P.M. on the night of the 14th May, 1919, and after a very thrilling flight landed safely at Bickendorf Aerodrome on the outskirts of Cologne at 1:20 A.M. on the 15th May. We were especially commended for this flight by Air Vice Marshall Sir John Salmond, who commanded the active service air force at that time. We were also informed that we would be chosen to carry out the flight from London to Cape Town via Cairo, which was under consideration at the time. Unfortunately this flight never materialized.

At the termination of the experimental air service I was appointed to the command of the Squadron, which was stationed at my old Aerodrome in Kent and during the three months I was employed in this capacity I closed down and removed all technical and quartermasters stores from six aerodromes which had been evacuated. This was very useful, as I gained considerable experience in stores organization, establishment and administration.

I was demobilized and transferred to the Reserve in December, 1919.