It's been a while since I could catch up with Alfred Keers's narrative...

The next week or so was busy. Most days saw us on long distance patrol, recording rail and motor traffic in deepest and darkest Hunland. The weather was filthy and Herr Hun must have stayed snug and warm by the fire, scarfing down sausages and swilling beer, because on most days Archie was our only friend.

I shall touch only on the main points. The morning of 22 June 1916 was typical low cloud, drizzle, barely flying weather, so of course they packed us off to the area around Cambrai, thirty miles into enemy territory. We took notes about the number and directions of trains on the Cambrai Lille line for an hour and a half, and then headed home. Two Fokkers took off from Epinoy and followed us. When we were nearly at the lines I signalled for Patrick and Cruikshank to continue while Sgt Trollope and I headed back. We had a wonderful barney and I finally got a good crack at the Hun, who tumbled down. But just as I fired, Sgt Trollopes machine climbed from below right into my line of fire and one of my rounds wounded his observer, Lieut Gomm. As a result I lost sight of the Hun when he still had enough room to straighten out, so could report him only as driven down.

Gomm will recover, but Major Lawrence had me do the hatless dance in his office and put me on duty officer for a week. Its a bit embarrassing for a captain. It is usually a subalterns job, but being the perpetual duty officer seems to be a constant theme of my time in France.

The following day started for us at four in the morning when a massive barrage shook us out of our scratchers. Our pilots gathered outside in our drawers, woolen, universal. The eastern sky danced with light and the boys cheered, all except me, for Id learned the previous evening that I was up for leave any day. We were aloft before five in the morning heading for the southernmost sector west of St Quentin. Again we saw nothing until the homeward leg. I noticed a lone Fokker down low, scurrying eastward. We dived on him and my first burst got him smoking. I came about and my second burst stopped the Fokkers propeller. I watched him land and nose over in the German lines. Cruikshank witnessed the kill, which went in the books as my 18th official one.

At supper we were told that all leaves are cancelled and done will be granted until further notice.

We had a free day on the 24th due to heavy rains. I got two letters from home, one from the parents and one from my sister Eliza. She spoke of her work with the VAD. They had some sailors wounded in the big action at the end of last month. To hear them talk, the Hun pretty much had their way with the Grand Fleet, which is disturbing. Thats not at all what the papers said.

On 25th June, I bagged another Fokker. We were up near Wipers and three Huns approached us tentatively. When we turned to meet them they had second thoughts. I caught up with one who trailed behind the others and forced him to crash in a field north of Menen. It was only a driven down for a day, but Wing matched it with a balloon report and it went down as number 19.

On 26 June I attacked an Aviatik north of Bethune. The gunner was a stout fellow and his first burst hit my machine, shattering the windscreen. A piece of aluminum embedded in my goggles and I got something in my eye. It wasnt serious, but I was grounded for two days.

On my return I had a new observer, a young fellow from Leith in Lancashire named Aldridge. Hes a complete babe in arms, straight from school. Descent fellow, though. I hope he does well.

On 29 June we were north again to provide escort to a photographic reconnaissance of Messines Ridge and the land to the east of it. I was with Sgt Trollope and Cruikshank. Sgt Trollopes machine had to turn home due to a dud engine. Cruikshank and I headed south over Hunland to give Aldridge a taste of the real war. We were Archied fairly intensely. There was a low cloud layer at 5500 feet which silhouetted our machines and gave the Archie crews a good idea of our height. I expected Aldridge to get windy, but he held up well. In fact there was a foolish grin on his face every time I turned to check on him.

Then we spotted two Fokkers heading towards the aerodrome at Halluin. They were still about eight miles off and we caught them easily in a dive. Cruikshanks made off on him, but I was able to put a good burst into mine and stopped his propeller. He nosed over in a ploughed field. If it gets confirmed it will be number 20.


"We dived on him and my first burst got him smoking."


"They were still about eight miles off and we caught them easily in a dive."