Alfred Keers's last few days started with good news and ended quietly...

The evening of 21 May 1916 was memorable. That expression normally denotes that one remembers many things about the time. In my case it is quite the opposite. Oh, it started off well enough. My crate was downed in a field twenty miles away at three in the afternoon and it took until nearly eight oclock to get the thing airborne again. Id got myself a ride into Armentieres while the recovery team slaved away. There is a restaurant there the Au Boeuf on the Rue de Lille that some of the lads had spoken of. My grimy leather flying coat and oil-stained face was a nice contrast to the staff wallahs at the next table. Madame served up a fine but mysterious sausage with eggs and potatoes, all washed down with dark beer. The front room was crowded (the back had separate rooms so the rest of us wouldnt have to put up with the red tabs) and two New Zealand subalterns shared a table with me. They were fine fellows, I believe, for I understood about every third word they spoke. I returned to my machine around seven and we got it off the ground a half-hour later, getting back to Abeele just before dark.

I washed quickly and wandered over to the Mess, where I was met with a loud cheer. Major Dawes stood on a chair and announced that Id been promoted Lieutenant and would finally earn enough to buy a tunic that fit properly. And then he announced that the balloon Id downed yesterday had been confirmed, bringing my official score up to nine, quite possibly the highest score of all living British pilots now in France.

Thats when the champagne began. And there was whiskey. And beer. Things became vague quickly. I awoke around three in the morning to the rumble of guns in my ears and a light rain on my face; I found myself draped over a pile of sandbags outside the Nissen. My tunic, breeches, and boots were gone Pillings and Bolster had pulled them off me before I ruined them, as I seemed to have ruined my singlet and pants adorned with foul-smelling bits of Au Boeuf sausage. I half-crawled to my bed and prayed for the room to stop spinning.

I was scrubbed from the earliest patrol and assigned along with Sergeant Long to patrol the Hun lines near Bethune. We attacked two observation aeroplanes, one of which hit my fuel line, so once again I made an unscheduled stop, this time at the field at La Gorgue.

In the afternoon of 22 May we patrolled our own lines as far south as the Lys River, but saw nothing of the enemy. Pillings was forced to land in German territory when his engine failed. A strong headwind made any thought of getting home impossible. We are confident of his safe landing but are waiting to hear a confirmation that he is all right.

On 23 May the rain started and continued without stop for the next two days. I regained my appetite, got a proper bath in town, and caught up on my letter-writing.


"...once again I made an unscheduled stop, this time at the field at La Gorgue."