Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Fearless Fighters of the Sky WW1 Pilots From Schuylkill County
95th Fighters in line
In today’s blog I want to take the time to pay tribute to the known pilots from Schuylkill County who flew and fought in World War One. 1st. Lieutenant Lawrence Richards, Pottsville who flew with the famous 95th Aero Squadron U.S. Air Service, “The Kicking Mules”. Lieutenant Stanley Davis from Pottsville who went to Europe and flew with the French Aéronautique Militaire with the 77th Aero Squadron flying Nieuports and Spads and fought against the famed Richtofen Flying Circus. And Robert Mills another Pottsville boy who went to Canada, and then to England where he flew for the RAF on a Felixstowe F3a flying boat, he was shot down and wounded numerous times. And also Douglas Crater who flew for the RAF in anti Submarine Warfare. I have taken the liberty to borrow from my book” Pennsylvania Voices in the Great War”, the letters written by Davis and Mills and Crater to the local Pottsville Journal and Republican. They will give a good look at two American Pilots who served in the RAF (Royal Flying Corps) and one in the French Escadrille Services.
I unfortunately have no letters from Lieutenant Richards, by utilizing the excellent books “First to the Front”(FTTF) and “ Echoes of Eagles”(EOE) by Charles Woolley, both books are about the 95th "Kicking Mules”. I can put together some kind a brief history and tribute to Lawrence Richards.
1st Lieutenant Lawrence Richards, came from Pottsville, he entered the military in 1917 and by October 1917 he was in flight training with the French Air force.. By the time he completed his war time service he had flown 53 sorties, shot down one combat action and had a total flying hours of 50:23. On July 20, 1918 Lt. Richards was wounded in an aerial combat. He began his flying career at Tours and Issoudun, France. Issoudun was the American Army’s first training facility for its up coming fighter pilots. Learning on a Caudron G4 and Nieuport Type 23 aircraft with French Flying instructors Richards began his flying career. The men who would become the famed pilots of the 95th were all college men, a large portion of the men were former Ambulance Drivers with the American Field Service.
Initially the men of the 95th were taught to a contraption called a “penguin”, they were Bleriot monoplanes with the wings clipped off so that they could never get airborne. The pilots steered them with foot pedals connected to the rudder. The pilots were taught to roll along the ground and gain the ability to steer it in a straight line. Easier said than done according to the pilots.
After the “penguin” the pilots moved on to the two seat Nieuport type 23, French instructor in the front seat and pupil in the rear.
The Caudron G3, G.3 equipped Escadrille C.11 of the French Aéronautique Militaire at the outbreak of war, and was well-suited for reconnaissance use, proving tough and reliable. As the war went on however, its low performance and the fact that it was unarmed made it vulnerable in front line service, and so the French withdrew it from front line operations in mid-1916. It continued in use as a trainer after ceasing combat operations until after the end of the war.
After many hours of training and flying mock combat the orders finally came and on February 14, 1918 Richards and 17 other 1st. Lieut’s were assigned to the 95th Aero Squadron. The men were assigned to Villeneuve les Vertus airfield.
The month of March 1918 was spent flying and training in the Nieuport 28’s on March 6, 1918 Richards along with 14 other pilots took off from Paris on a ferry flight with fifteen new Nieuport 28’s . Richards ran out of gasoline and landed at Pierre Morains. A majority of the other pilots had problems also, cylinders broken, magneto troubles. 6 arrived safe. (FTTF)
On the 7th the men drew their flying clothes, heavy fleece lined boots, gloves etc. On March 12, Richards was assigned to the 2nd flight under Lt. Waldo Heinrichs and assigned to aircraft # 6148
On March 15th the 95th was assigned to fly its first mission over the lines, 3 patrols of 3 aircraft each. Larry Richards was assigned to fly the 2nd patrol. So in the history of Schuylkill County we have another interesting feat. 1st Lt. Larry Richards flew the second patrol of American Aircraft over the enemy lines during WW1. On the 16th Richards went up with his section and practiced turns right and left faces and formation flying. Late March and early April were spent once again in gunnery school at Cazeaux, March 26-April 25.
On April 24 the 95th was back at the front at Epiez-Toul-Touquin. While at Toul Richards shared a room with Lt. Stuart McKeown. While here he flew alert type missions. On May 10 and 11 the 95th boys had their planes painted in American cocade of Red, Blue, and White changed from the french of Red, White and Blue. Richards went on patrol on May 15, they took some heavy anti aircraft fire. On the 17th Richards was to fly a mission to over fly a photo recon flight a CAP flight., but his engine had problems and he had to land. While at Toul Larry Richards flew Nieuport 28 , number 9.
On May 29, Larry Richards was on a patrol with the second flight, at 4p.m. came word that the Boche were attacking at Montanville . Jones and Richards broke from the patrol and went very low and strafed the trenches.
On May 31, Richards was on a patrol near Thiaucourt and at 2,500 meters was taking archie fire. He got hit under the tail but got home ok.
On June 2, Richards was on a 4 plane patrol from 11:30-13:00. with Waldo Heinrichs
they sighted enemy planes they claimed an Albatross destroyed but it was not confirmed the other aircraft were to far away. 7 July Richards and his section engage five Fokker’s; His room mate makes a kill. Stewart McKeown.
On 9 July the squadron moves to airdrome at Saints.
On he 14th Quentin Roosevelt is shot down in flames by Sgt. Thom of Richtofens Circus, near Château-Thierry.
On the 19th of July Larry Richards engages 7 Fokker’s over Chateau Thierry and is wounded on the thigh; he makes it back to an airdrome and is immediately rushed to a hospital.
On November 29, 1918 Lieutenant Lawrence H. Richards was awarded the French Croix de Guerre Medal.
RICHARDS. LAWRENCE H.
FIRST LIEUTENANT, 95TH AERO SQUADRON, AIR SERVICE
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES.
French Croix de Guerre with gilt star,
Under order No. 12.058D dated November 29, 1918.
General Headquarters, French Armies of the East.
With the following citation:
“An excellent pursuit pilot who possessed great skill and remarkable coolness. Was wounded in combat on July 19, 1918, by a bullet in the thigh.”
Residence at appointment: 1311 West Howard Avenue, Pottsville Pa.
The 95th Kicking Mules
I had the funniest experience you could imagine.
October 21, 1917
Lieut. Stanley Davis
U.S. Air Service
You probably noticed in my other letters that I was constantly complaining about the bad weather and not being able to get aloft. Well, that is all over now and never again will I complain about the good weather. But this morning is damp and densely foggy and we can not work, so we all slept till ten o’clock. In fact my two roommates are still sleeping but I got up on purpose to write you a little word before lunch.
I have finished all my brevet tasks and now just finishing up with my time. It was very exciting all the way thru and I have never gone thru anything like it in my life. Some six or seven hundred miles in an airplane is no easy matter and especially as one does it all in different kinds of weather and times.
I had the funniest experience, which you could ever imagine on one of my triangles. A ‘Triangle” is one of the voyages which is necessary for the brevet, and simply means that you start at one point, say this field and then go to another town some 20 miles away, and then to another place some 80 miles away from the second and in a different direction, so that when you take your map of the district and draw lines connecting the three points, the result is a triangle. All the work is by map of course because none of us know the country. But when you get up to 3000 or so and have the map in a holder case in front of you, the entire earth looks almost identical with the map. It is almost to difficult to imagine until you have had the experience of looking down on actual living map and passing rapidly along roads, over towns, rivers, forests etc. etc.
Well, I did the one triangle successfully in the morning of a beautiful day. As the tests are official, one sets out with all sorts of papers that must be signed and officially stamped at different regular stations or landing points. Well, I started out on my second triangle late in the afternoon with directions to go to the first aid station and have my stop recorded etc. reset my barograph and then proceeded to the second stop and rest there all night in the hotel. Everything was all fine except that they had a little difficulty getting my motor running properly and it delayed me to such an extent that when I finally left for my nights stopping point, it was about 4:30 P.M. That left about an hour ordinarily before it started to get dark, and we allowed about that time for me to make that second leg of the triangle provided I went in a straight line.
Cockpit of Nieuport 28
Everything was wonderful. In the cool of the evening, at sunset, with the motor buzzing along at 1150 turns per minute and up to 2500 feet, following a course directly over a long straight road, bordered by trees on one side and white concrete telephone poles on the other. I won’t take time to tell you my feelings, in fact I could not do it, for one feels so different being lulled to sleep by the buzz buzz of the motor, and with the cold air on your cheeks and face, suddenly I am awake however for it began to get dark, so soon and I could hardly see my friendly guide road below me. So I came down to 2000 feet and then in the darkness grew to 1500 and finally to 1000 and there I stuck as it was not safe to travel under 300 or 400 meters over strange country because you surely would be out of luck if your engine went bad and you had to pick a landing field with only several feet to glide in.
I was then as low as was safe and my hour was about up I thought I must be near my destination, and I began to look around and just about that time it started to rain buckets full and got dark as pitch, and the wind blew a regular gale, at least that’s how it seemed to me. Then I couldn’t find the road with the telephone poles, and I pretty nearly passed out in my predicament. Heavens only knows it is bad enough making landings in fine weather and when you know your fields. The wind and everything favorable to you. But here I was, at night or nightfall, in a strange place, with rain besides and absolutely compelled to come to earth or crash into something in the dark or fall down. I don’t know how under the sun I did it but I got down, in a farm, and my wheels and skids came shooting along over a field, which loomed up under me, filled with little piles of hay, drying. I just managed to pass in between two apple trees, and came to a dead stop, with a jolt as my wheels struck the furrows of a plowed field at right angles. To say that I was happy at being down to earth again would indeed put it mildly. I was petrified and paralyzed and just sat in my seat, still strapped in, and sweated, and thanked the Lord he brought me down, for I knew I never did it myself. When I finally got myself together again, and the straps undid, and my gas and oil and one thing after another tended to, I was greeted by a flock of hurrying pheasant men, ( old men ) women and children, all hurrying across the fields, slopping along in the rain in their wooden shoes, and wildly chattering and waving their arms, and as they came at me with a million words a minute in French and I stood there like a post with all my flying mitts, helmet, goggles etc. still on, they probably thought I was a dummy or a person from a strange planet. After they had all gathered around and looked the machine over and talked and waved the entire outfit finally. I pulled off my head gear they congregated around me and waited and watched every single thing I did until I finally got myself out of my helmet and then you should have heard them-oh-oh-oh Anglais, Anglais. I heard the words and then more and more chatter and then an abrupt silence as an old man took center of the stage and looked into my face. Well the rest of the story you can fill in for yourself, mother, as I finally conveyed the information to them, that I was an American Volunteer, flying for France, “Pour la Patrie” and that I had lost my way and all I wanted was a place to couche ( sleep) and something to eat. Then I felt the need for a little protection for the night for the plane and I got the entire assembly to help push the machine over the plowed field and against a little woods which offered as a sort of wind break for the wings. Then I warned them about touching the airplane and gathering up my things, the old man and I started out in the dark. I didn’t know where we were going, he couldn’t understand me and I certainly couldn’t understand him. But in a little time we struck a road and about twenty minutes later came into a little village all dark and gloomy and drizzly with rain, and it was so late by this time that I was quite willing to try my French on anyone and when the old man mentioned the word “Maire” which means Mayor the town boss, I knew I was safe and sound.
I was only about six miles from my proper place and the mayor telephoned the next morning and a mechanic came out in a motor cycle and fixed a broken wire and we pushed the plane out of the mud and on to some dryer ground and I had a little runway off into the wind. It was a little dangerous getting off, due to trees and the short strip of the length of the ground, and the wind was still pretty high, as it had been raining most of the day. But the natives were all there fifty or more of them, and we had quite a time getting the dogs and kids away from the front of the machine and out of the road from the whirling propeller as we started the engine. But again providence was with me, and I got of and waved good bye to my friends and in ten minutes more was safely at my point and with some other boys who had arrived there and were stopping over night at the hotel. Snook my room mate happened to be one of the four and you will guess that we had a happy evening as we sat around the fire, over coffee and cigarettes and I told them of my luck, and then I heard what they would have done had they been in my place. It is always quite easy to tell a fellow what he has done wrong, but it is a different matter when you are in the air and things are coming thick and fast.
Yes I am through my tests now but still have a little time to kill to make up the required 25 hours and 50 landings, but the rest is simple and will only take a day under good weather. So I am ready for a three-day pass to Paris, and a good bed in a big hotel, and a little rest and a few letters to you and then down to another school for final perfection work on fast planes. No one can tell what will happen there after that but I will write to you and tell you everything promptly.
You’re loving son,
Richard Stanley Davis.
It was said during World War 1 that becoming a pilot required a young body, high spirit, quick wit, personal initiative and unshakable nerve. Thus the best and brightest of America’s sons are the ones who take to the air with its perils and joyous ardor. The required 25 hours and 50 landings, along with the various cross country flights still would not qualify a pilot for the rigors of aerial combat, especially against the hardened German Aviation Service, As Lieutenant Davis would soon experience.
Off for the front.
June 19, 1918
Lieut. Stanley Davis
77th Aero Squadron,
French aviation Corps.
Somewhere in France.
Yesterday Saturday I got so that I thought I’d go crazy if I didn’t get somewhere. So I took my plane about 4:30 P.M. as it seemed to be clearing up and flew for one hour and 40 minutes, and I had fog and clouds and rain but landed carefully in one of the fields they have for the defense of Paris, a large aviation field. Then I came into the city in an American truck and last night alone went to hear “ Thais “ at the Grand Opera House which is wonderful. Then I slept the sleep of a tired man and the day Mothers Day dawned with your son in between clean white and fluffy sheets, elder down quilts and a hot bath being drawn in the tub. Then I hopped out at 10:30 and tried to get my uniform which I gave them to have cleaned during the night. Well, I had a fit ! The garoon told me it would take six days as they sent it to the cleaners. Think of it, Mother but then I got an English speaking man and finally got my uniform. Think of it six days in bed without a uniform, because it is my only one, as I flew up here without even a toothbrush.
Then the following Sunday we were enroute between two places and spent another Sunday in church in Paris. There was a fine sermon by a minister from Pittsburg, pretty near home, how about it. Well after that we had lunch with some girls from Bryn Mawr who are over here in Relief Work or something and then we all went to the movies and what do you think we saw? Bessie Barriscale and a dandy Triangle picture, once more my thoughts went flashing home. And just as we were going in the cinema we heard a distant boom! And knew the long-range gun was again in action and another shell had landed. The long-range gun really does shoot there as the paper say and sometimes does some damage to innocent people and kids, but it is really quite rare.
While there we met a chap, a friend of Walt Snooks, my pal, and he had just come into Paris on 24 hours leave, due to bad weather. He is in a French bombing escadrille and told us of a recent trip he took into Germany, along with about 20 other bombing planes. They knocked the deuce out of things around large munitions works etc. Just imagine that and he has the Croix-de- Guerre for faithful service and being always on his toes I guess. He told us a lot of other stories, too, but I guess I better not write them because of their military value.
The other day the orderly came to my quarters and told me HQ wanted me on the telephone. Well, a general was going to visit the camp today and they suggested that we have some formation flying for his pleasure. I got busy and this A.M. We had our show for the general, a formation of 15 planes and we circled round and round just as it is done at the front as some of these chaps will soon be doing and as I hope to do, too, when they think I can be spared, I guess. It was really pretty and I got quite excited at times, going chasing up and down along both sides and weaving one after another to close up and get together and then dropping down in front to take the lead and steady things up. It sounds like drilling men doesn’t it, or forming boats or something. I guess you can hardly imagine chasing airplanes into a formation but it all seems sort of common place to me now and not at all unusual although I will admit that eight months ago I would strain my neck and eyes for an hour trying to find a plane in the sky. And in those days an airplane was an airplane to me. I never thought of the different types and makes and varieties in each make. Why, I swear there are almost as many different kinds as there are automobiles and one gets to name them as readily when they pass high overhead, Nieuport, Spad, Farmer Caudron, etc. Innumerable to say nothing of the German planes of which I know little and of which I have got learn or meet the fate of the gods. For each type has its weak points and points of attack and one must be well versed.
June 19, 1918
It is a rainy morning and so there is no chance to fly until this afternoon at any rate. I just stopped here to think a minute whether I had better write what I first intended writing or not and as I glance back over the first part of these letters I find I am becoming worse and worse in my penmanship. I wonder if you can really read my writing at all. This mixture of letters reminds me of my flying. I never try to fly in a straight line but always zig zag up and down, around and over and over. One great long S S S S in the sky. That’s for safety only I can’t understand why my letters should be this same way. Now I’m going to write one good line, there just to show you. I can do it.
Well, mother I have some good news to tell you this trip, you can guess it, of course, but I am going to tell you anyway for they are such sweet words to me. And I have waited so long to receive the orders containing these precious words. “ I am on my way to the front. “ Yep honest to John and here is how it is. The man at the head of Aviation decided that if some of the men who had been acting as training officers were given a chance to go to the front and then made good and were recalled at the end of a few months they would make all the better instructors and the students would, of course, respect them 100 % more for advise gained through experience. And so three of us are here with some other Americans about a score or more, all great chaps, most of whom passed through the field in the course of their training.
We are all happy and I will write to you real often as soon as we start moving again. There are some airplanes, now I wish I dared describe one. Maybe next time I write you will be able to hear the big guns. In my letter who knows. We heard them last night way, way off and soon I guess the shells will be whistling as they did a year ago, over my head at the front.
You’re loving son.
It was said during World War 1 that becoming a pilot required a young body, high spirit, quick wit, personal initiative and unshakable nerve. Thus the best and brightest of America’s sons are the ones who take to the air with its perils and joyous ardor. The required 25 hours and 50 landings, along with the various cross country flights still would not qualify a pilot for the rigors of aerial combat, especially against the hardened German Aviation Service, As Lieutenant Davis would soon experience. Davis went to Europe and joined the French Air Service and flew Nieuports , actually shooting down a German aircraft and getting full credit for it.
The propeller stopped dead and my heart did too.
July 18, 1918
Lieut. Stanley Davis
77th Aero Squadron,
French Air Service.
Somewhere in France.
Another month has rolled around since I left the old Estats Unis and when they ask me how long I have been over here, I say in an off hand sort of way…”Oh only seventeen months.” But it is some time, some long, long time, and I’m heartily fed up on the whole business.
But I must not tell you my troubles, when I am really very happy and full of pep, and feeling that I’m doing something-yes- yesterday I felt that I earned all the salary the government ever paid me.
I’m still in the French Army, and our group has been moved bodily from one section of the line to another., the very worst in the entire outfit, I guess. I have been having considerable trouble with my motor in different planes, and while they were installing a new motor in my plane, I flew a different plane down to the new location, and then they sent me back to the first place via Paris for my original plane, and so I had two days and nights in Paris again. Saturday morning at 6:30 I left our old aerodrome in my plane and the new motor went dead and I managed to creep along until I saw a large aviation field and I landed there. It was right outside of Paris and saw the wonderful fete of July 14th the French National holiday, never have I seen such troops in parade, they were from everywhere, and our boys would do your heart good.
I got back to this place Sunday evening in my plane and yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m. we were awaken by an alert, the Boche had pulled a grand attack at daybreak, and it was no fun, another chap and myself got off, he is an ace, 24 Boche to his credit, and did a patrol at 500 meters, due to the deep low hanging clouds, never have I been so scared in my life. Everything was in an uproar and the great guns burst right under your plane, you’d think a powder mill blew up or something-and the vivid flashes of red and all the time, one rush up and down, and I was completely lost and you could see the Huns crossing the river on specially built bridges, and all the Spads were going up and down, diving at them and shooting at them as they tried to cross, and the earth would go leaping up in big clouds of dirt and dust and water as the big shells landed up and down around the advancing troops.
We flew up and down along the river, it was the old line of the night before, and by George, when we got back to our aerodrome, we found we were at least five kilometers inside the Hun lines, they had advanced so quickly, golly it was some excitement.
In the afternoon we were off again, a big formation of seven this time as the clouds were very high 3,000 meters, and never have I seen such a sight as below and above. We got in several mixups and I am not sure whether I got a Hun or not. I never waited to see, because as I pulled both triggers with all my might shooting between two big crosses one on each wing, I saw four other crosses and two other planes moving around, and well, it was a thriller, and I was one happy boy. When the leader, I found him after the scrap, pointed down and dived and we were comfortably heading north for home, and I was all smiles and riding close to him, sort of snuggling under his left wing, because my wing was up a little after the thing was over. Just about that time I felt a lot of hot oil on my legs, the crank case had sprung a leak and my motor stuck fast, the propeller stopped dead and my heart did too. But I managed to hit a good field somehow, and a second later the leader of the group number 3, shot down over me and waved and a second later another one came whizzing down and loomed up again, and I knew they would soon come and get me. I read and smoked and thought it all over, and then the auto came. They had to leave my plane there under the trees and we got home in time for supper at 8:15.
Our next patrol got moved up with the famous Hun outfit, Richtofen’s Ciricus. I had two Huns on my tail before I knew I was alive, there were three others above me and my guns stuck. I dove almost 8000 feet vertically and managed to cross the Marne into safety when I landed, lost, at a strange aerodrome. We found the plane pretty badly shot up, to say nothing of a number of holes through the wings and fuselage. One bullet cut half through my control rod that works the ailerons on the wings, one cut half through a hollow steel rod that works the elevation of the tail, it stuck there. And about six others in a group severed the main spar of my lower right hand wing. I guess I earned that two days rest in Paris, while mechanics practically rebuilt my plane. I didn’t sleep much the first night after the scrap, every time I’d doze off I ‘d hear the bullets whiz pass my head and ears. And that long dive, I’d still be going, if the Huns hadn’t started shooting from low, I came that close to the ground and it brought me to my senses with a rush.
Now we are waiting, the French and Americans are going, perhaps it is on now, for the cannonading is terrific, to push the Huns back again onto the river. We are waiting orders any moment to come and do our part, perhaps keep the Hun planes off, perhaps dive on the Huns as they try to re-cross the river. Think of it, mother, having to drive the devils into a river, but don’t be scared, it is only a day or two days work, perhaps after this is over, we will be around for a week, but by George, we have earned it.
It is getting fine out of doors, I wonder how soon we are going off, I get nervous waiting.
Your Loving Son,
Lieutenant Davis’s aerial victory was confirmed and on October 30, 1918 he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for this action.
French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Under order No. 11,054 “D”
October 30, 1918.
General Headquarters, French Armies of the North and Northeast, with the following citation:
“ A very spirited pursuit pilot who volunteered for all the perilous missions. On July 17, 1918, he shot down an enemy airplane. (First victory)
First Lieut. Robert Mills enlisted in December 1917 and trained at Benbrook field, Fort Worth, Texas. In March, 1918 he went to Beamsville, Ontario, Canada, and took a course in aerial gunnery. He sailed for England, May 1918.
He was stationed at the seaplane base at Felixstowe, near Harwich harbor England. He was engaged in the “silent navy” work, a series of brilliant strategic moves in and around the North Sea. Mills was in command of a 7 ½ ton flying boat, with a crew of 7 and armed with 12 Lewis machine guns. The aircraft carried six 230 pound bombs and over 900 gallons of fuel. The aircraft had an endurance of over 12 hours flying time. The aircraft carried two machine gunners on the top side of the aircraft, a machine gunner, observer, and bomber in the front, and two more machine gunners in the rear along with a wireless operator. During his flying career Mills lost 17 crew members.
During his time in the British flying service being ,over one year he was shot down into the sea three times and was wounded during an engagement at Hellgoland Bight. He also took part in the famous raid on Zeebrugge and covered other well known German bases, including Borkum, Trescheklling, Zeebrugge, Ostend.
Flying Boat Felixstowe F3 the type Mills Flew.
My heart was bouncing like an old Vickers gun.
August 5, 1918
Lieut. Robert Mills
Royal Flying Corps
Isles of Wright.
My Dear Dad:
Trusting that I may not rile the wrath of our most noble and venerable censor. I take this liberty to relate a narration of our patrol of July--. The day was perfect and most of our machines of the War Squadron were out on patrols, when suddenly a pigonierre ( messenger) dashed into the orderly room with a wireless message, stating that a hostile submarine had been sighted at ____longitude____lattitude___proceeding, etc. etc.
Immediately our famous bomb sprinkling patrol was ordered out to locate and destroy this monster of the deep, and within a few minutes we were under way. The weather was ideal. Visibility about eighteen miles, which is excellent, and the whole show was going like a dream. For hours we steered a due course cruising about 90 mph, constantly watching for this submergible custodian of Boche Kulture. But here our course suddenly changed to due south; for our bowgunsman had sighted this ghastly object. As we advanced, we flashed our recognition signal; awaiting their reply of identification, there was no reply. It was this mysterious raider of the high seas. With phenomenal accuracy our bombs were released with a vengeance and in an instant our objective was pulverized.
But lo and behold, this supposed to be pride of the German Navy, which disfigured the sea with its utmost impunity, was only a camouflaged launch. Our death deal bombs which had been released with the greatest caution and pride had only destroyed a suppositious float.
And the battle started. Their lure had been a success and from all the four corners of the sky came August and Heine and Fritz, until we were out numbered three to one. “Twas then that we realized, we were playing the hazardous role of a fly caught in the spiders web. For we were in the inner ring of Christiansonn’s famous circus.
There were only a few of us and we new it was a case of fight and shoot, as Quinlin never could _____, for Mister Boche was showing his tracer affections all about us. They whistled and spluttered every where we turned. Our guns also spitting back streams of fire and white wax in colossal defiance.
Then through a cloud of smoke; I saw the first Hun descending in a nose spin and crash upon the water and immediately after, through the flare of an explosion, I saw the second black cross go down in flames and the smoldering debris floating about the sea.
My heart was bouncing like an old Vickers gun, and being accompanied by whistling projectiles and chronic cold feet; I nearly upset the good old ship, which the blooming beggars had looking like a sieve.
I was wondering how much longer we would last, when faithful old engineer came up from behind, just like a thunder storm in England, and bellered in my ear, with a frigid air, “ Your petrol will only last three more hours sir!” Well I am wondering, whether it was his voice or the thoughts of being a flying target for one hundred and eighty minutes, that annoyed me, but I felt as tho I had lost my sugar card and Eddie had left me flat.
Possibly it would have been just as well, if he had mentioned this fact, for the next moment I felt a slip, yea, a wild side slip and I knew we were departing from our precarious position in the clouds, to one more appalling upon that glittering sea a few thousand feet below.
Our motors had knocked out completely, without the slightest provocation, we were left helpless. Fritz followed us down with his insalubrious attentions, until he felt certain that we were going to crash. Then he left us and returned to the show above, only to meet his eternal doom, for several hours later as a destroyer was towing us home, we saw his wrecked machine floating on the water.
All was tranquil and unconcussaive, there in that mass of twisted wings. We beat them at their own game! Christiansonn’s circus is no more!
Your loving son,
Three cylinders is rather unpleasant.
September 14, 1918
Lieut. Robert H. Mills
Royal Flying Corp.
My Dear Brad:
Am enclosing some newspaper clippings to let you know what the people thought of the Yanks doings over here yesterday. ( Friday the 13th). This old town went wild and last night as the news was coming in, it seemed as though peace had been declared. Everybody was cheering! The Yanks are certainly “top ole” (Ace High) now, both there and in France.
In the last three days I have had the extreme pleasure (?) of taking three new machines each day from here to ……. And returning in old ones ( for repair) is awful. Going over it is ok but coming back on one, two and never more than three cylinders is rather unpleasant and I am glad I only had to do three days of it. (as I was a nervous wreck), but as I am now considered an expert on crippled machines, I might get more of it ( lets hope not).
With kindest regards to all I am.
Lieut, Douglas Crater was also a flying boat pilot, flying out of Felixstowe England.
It’s a great game and we all liked it.
November 22, 1918
Lieut. Douglas Crater
Royal Flying Corps
R.A.F. Station, Felixstowe
Now that the war is over, everything is going along smoothly. I must tell you of a very peculiar coincidence. While in Texas U.S.A. training in the British Royal Flying Corps, I chanced to meet a young fellow from Pottsville, Bob Mills do you know Him? Well, when we left there in April, I lost track of him and then sailed to England in July. Upon arriving here I was posted to seaplanes here at Fellstowe. After being here about three weeks, one day while walking down the road, along came an officer. I didn’t recognize him at first. As I neared him who was it but Bob again.
It sure was a happy meeting, we had a long talk of days gone by. I inquired where he had been, answering me, saying he had just returned from hospital, being partly mended up from his wound. He felt fairly well, but after a few days he had to return, to be dressed. I then inquired around the station about him, and was informed he was one of the best pilots around the station, until being mixed up with a flock of Huns one day and shot in the leg. They say he had been in quite a few scraps, being extremely lucky in all but this. He came back a few days later, and after resting or rather being off duty for a week, he resumed his piloting duties. Since then, he had been shot down out of control a couple of times at sea, but being fortunate enough to be picked up by our boats, after being out a few hours. I have heard him say, that he was sorry now, for he wouldn’t be able to get another crack at the devils.
We see lots of them just now, for they are turning over their submarines to us now, and for the past three days, they have been coming in our harbor. Upon arriving here, their crews are taken off not allowed to land, but put on our ships, and taken back to Germany immediately. We fellows fly right over them as near as possible, getting a good look at them. Happy looking devils too. All seem very contended. We aren’t doing much flying now, but it’s a great game and we liked it while the war was on, but now we want to get back. Have had some very lucky experiences my self, but have gotten away with it so far.