Sgt Alfred Keers had an exciting day today.

We woke on 29 March 1916 to the blissful sound of a light rain falling on the canvas. It was warmer than the previous days and you could smell the earth no surprise as it had been well manured since before the Romans came, I suppose. But at least that meant the ground was thawing properly. Anderto and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of tea and toast and a boiled egg before wandering over to our respective hangar.

I was assigned to Mr McNaughtons patrol. My aircraft, his, and Mr Reids were to patrol over into Hunland towards the aerodrome at Phalempin, south of Lille. We took off and climbed through the low cloud. Cloudy days like this put me on edge. There were too many hiding places for Fokkers. I had grown fond of the Fee, but I could not shake the feeling that too much could happen behind you on the other side of that rumbling Beardmore. But there were no Fokkers this day. We did our rounds for the allotted time and headed home with nothing to report.

30 March was a totally different matter. Captain Paget Graves led a three-machine patrol his machine, mine, and Mr Reids down south. For the past several days the enemy had dropped bombs on the airfields south and west of Doullens. It was a sunny morning and the clouds were sparse and fluffy. We climbed to 9000 feet and followed landmarks: the bend in the Lys near Trizennes; The town and the distinctive wood near St-Pol; the smoke haze over Doullens.

Just south of Doullens is the aerodrome of Marieux. As we approached, the gunners near the field were putting up a display of fine Archie-ing (for Id learned that anti-aircraft fire was known as nothing but, with all credit to George Robey and his ditty). We made out two aircraft and soon recognized them as Fokkers. It was most unusual to see them so far over. I picked out the closest and manoeuvred to put Mr Whieldon in a good firing position, but the Hun was wily and I had to throw our bus around to keep him from getting behind us. Poor Mr Whieldon knelt in his windswept tub with an arm locked around the rear guns post. I lost the Hun momentarily before spotting him beneath me, about to give us the slip and help his friend, whom Mr Reid was harassing. I put the Fee over to the left and dived. Mr Whieldon released his post and grabbed the forward Lewis. He fired about 20 rounds and the green Fokker began to tumble in a flat spin. I gave a whoop, but Im sure Mr Whieldon didnt hear me. That was one fine man on a machine gun!


"He fired about 20 rounds and the green Fokker began to tumble in a flat spin."

We watched only a few seconds, for Mr Reid was now in trouble. The other Fokker, a yellow machine, was on his tail and we could hear the firing of its gun. The yellow Hun was caught totally by surprise when we opened fire from barely 20 yards away. I nearly overshot him and as I slewed to one side, I saw our bullets tracing along the side of the Fokker. It began to smoke and dive away. Mr Whieldon slammed a fresh drum onto his Lewis.

We climbed, turned, and fell onto the Huns tail with Mr Whieldon firing nearly the entire drum. An orange puff appeared, and then flames began to pour backwards along the fuselage of the Fokker. Our Lewis kept firing, mercifully ending the day for the poor fellow.

Back at Clairmarais, we recounted the story to the RO and babbled like street urchins who have found a florin on the sidewalk. He made calls to 15 Squadron at Marieux. They confirmed our flamer, but informed us that the green Fokker was seen to recover close to the ground and head east. At least Mr Whieldon and I had our second confirmed kill, which made us the top-scoring pair in the squadron. Mr. Whieldon was good enough to arrange with the sergeant-major that I should have an open chit in the WOs and Sergeants Mess that night!


"The yellow Hun was caught totally by surprise..."


"An orange puff appeared, and then flames began to pour backwards along the fuselage of the Fokker."