Well, this has been a whirlwind couple of days. First, the mess is all abuzz with the rumors of the Huns having some new kind of aeroplane. Neither Thayer or myself are convinced that the Huns even have a new kind of aeroplane, I mean really, could the Huns have developed something that is qualitatively better than what we have, I think not. We are the British for Heavens sakes, we span the globe and I'm sure that if there was anything better than what we are flying then we would have it. We've both decided that we shan't believe it until we witness it with our own eyes. Enough of this talk of Hun super weapons, let's get to the exciting part, shall we.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were like every other day with morning and afternoon sorties. The pace picked up for Thayer and myself when we were fortunate enough to score our eleventh victory during the morning mission
and our twelfth victory during our afternoon sortie. This was our second double and we were feeling mighty proud of ourselves.
Thursday was routine and those kind of days are very welcome with this constant flying and the ever present threat of mechanical failure. Dinner was delicious as usual and the small talk centered once again on the reports of these new Hun machines, which caused quite the discussion when Thayer announced to the group that he thought these rumors were "pure rubbish". He went on further by stating, "With the success that Ethelstan and I are having, don't you think that if the Huns did have these super machines they would be using them against us? Furthermore, we haven't see hide nor hair of any such machines." Well needless to say, that started quite a row and it might have gotten out of hand if the CO hadn't stepped in and made a general annoucement to the men. We were told that there would be no flying on the 10th because some brass was visiting our squadron for a tour and inspection. Friday dawned sunny and beautiful and promised to be another glorious day. We ate breakfast, shaved and put on our best uniforms and sat around awaiting the arrival of our guests. Everyone was quite curious because we had never had visitors in the past and as you know dear reader, when routines get changed people get curious. It wasn't long before we were called to attention as three staff cars began to pull up to the airfield. Out came more brass than I've ever seen, there were men that I've never seen before and a few that I was familiar with. After they composed themselves, our CO called in a loud voice, "Flight Lieutenant Arthur Ethelstan and 2nd Lieutenant Edmund Thayer, step forward". We looked at each other and wilted, could we be in trouble for our vocal disagreements about the new Hun machine. We stepped forward with much fear and trepidation and awaited our approaching doom. Well, the older general, I believe Trenchard was his name, began to read and I started to hear words like valorous and above the call of duty. By this time I was so confused I hadn't any idea what was going on until I heard the general say, "It is my pleasure to confer upon each of you the Victoria's Cross." Well as you can imagine, I almost fainted. I was expecting punishment but instead was rewarded. I don't even remember what I said as the General stuck me with the medal's pin. As soon as he finished and we were dismissed, everyone swarmed around us. These Generals are shaking our hands like real chums and everyone else is pounding us on our backs. Afterward, the CO told us that he had decided that it would be a good surprise if he didn't tell us what was going to happen. The rest of the day is pretty much of a blur, with the party getting started around lunchtime and just ending after dinner.
Now that I'm all alone with my thoughts, I'm not sure that I am all that happy with receiving this medal. Our CO will now expect us to always perform at the level this medal requires and though the two of us are committed to always doing our duty, we aren't perfect. I'm completely honored and humbled by receiving this medal, I can't but somehow feel like politics were part of the decision. Certainly, we've been very successful against the Huns, but I wouldn't say we are any braver than anyone else in the squadron. I think the brass are hoping this will motivate the others to push harder and I also think this is going to be used as a morale booster for the other squadrons. Whatever the motivation, I will wear this with pride and hope I can live up to the expectations this medal requires.
Member and provider of banjo music for the Illustrious BOC