The Flying Officer 01


The Flying Officer

“Critics who speak of what they have not felt and do not know have sometimes blamed the air service because, being young, it has not the decorum of age, The Latin poet said that it is decorous to die for one’s

      country; in that decorum the service is perfectly instructed.”

- Sir Walter Raleigh, “The War in the Air.” Vol. 1.

It was at Dunkirk that - in R.N.A.S. days - most of the new pilots from England were congregated. We were fresh from an intensive course at Cranwell, and bursting with half-digested information, most of which was never the slightest use to us. This was fortunate, because the rapidity with which we crammed for our examinations was more than matched by our power to forget everything just as speedily. Much of our knowledge was important to us, but, for instance, having doggedly mastered the little ways of the Lewis gun, it was a trifle embarrassing to arrive at one’s squadron and to discover that the only machine gun used was the Vickers, with which one had only been permitted a bowing acquaintance. It was amazing, however, how eventually everything seemed to turn out satisfactorily.

In 1917, No. 12 Squadron formed the pilot’s pool at Petit Synthe Aerodrome, near Dunkirk. R.N.A.S. Squadrons in the field drew on No. 12 to fill their vacancies, and fresh officers from England were sent out to keep No. 12 up to strength. During their period of waiting, the new pilots’ only duties were to maintain high patrol over Dunkirk itself, ostensibly to drive off the enemy’s high photographic machines, which from time to time came over to observe the results of the numerous night bombing raids or the effects of the shelling by the long range gun. By some dispensation of Providence, there were, to my knowledge, no recorded instances of these enemy aircraft coming into fighting contact with the high patrol. Be this as it may, the work kept the pilots occupied and also gave us this additional flying experience, which we sadly needed.

Eventually, the day came when one was summoned to the Squadron Office and informed of being posted to such-and-such a squadron, and that a car would shortly arrive as transport. To anybody who had set their heart on flying scout machines, it was at this moment a relief to know that No. 8 was a scout squadron, as until then there was always the fear of being sent to fly heavy two-seaters or night bombers.

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