Hello fellows. I'm somewhat late joining as I've been active in the other campaign (where my pilot is out for three weeks), but meet Sgt Alfred Keers, my "Intrepid Flyer."




And here is Alfred's first journal entry.

5 March 1916, Pevensey Bay. Cold, snow and frost.

Today is the end of the first part of my journey. I should have started this journal at the beginning, but I simply didnt think of it. The beginning was at home in Seaham Harbour, where I was halfway through my apprenticeship as an engine fitter at the Seaham Harbour Dock Company when the war broke out. The work consisted mainly of keeping four antiquated locomotives in running order. When the war started, I didnt rush to enlist as the priority seemed to be infantry and I hadnt learned a trade only to spend my days digging holes and living in them.

In January 1915 the call went out for people with mechanical skills I made application for the Flying Corps. They wanted to know about my experience with internal combustion engines, and as there are not likely to be many steam-driven aircraft in this war, I left off talking about my civilian work and stressed my experience tinkering with motor-cycles. It did the trick, and I found myself posted to the shops at the Royal Aircraft Park at Farnborough.

By the autumn I had managed to bother my way into about a dozen hours as a passenger in Farmans and BEs. One particular officer, a Captain named Gooding, vouched for me when the door opened for the training of NCOs. I was accepted (mainly because I wasnt as skilled as most of the other mechanics) and trained at Farnborough, Gosport, and Netheravon.

Thus on the cold morning of 5 March 1915, as Flight Sergeant Alfred Keers, I mounted a brand new FE2b along with a Lieut. Alice, my orders for France in one pocket and a Michelin road map of the Pas de Calais in the other, bound for a place called Clairmarais and No 20 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. This was only the second time Id flown an FE. With its massive 120 hp Beardmore behind me, the machine was simple to keep in the air compared to the Farmans I was used to. A small brass plate told me the machine was built by G&J Weir of Cathcart.

We took off and set course for Southampton, passing just to the west of Stonehenge. We picked up the line of the River Test and followed it until the coast was in sight, then turned due east. There was a chance of making it the whole way without landing, but it would be close. I needed to give myself the option of putting down at Dover to refuel.


Leaving Netheravon


The non-stop option disappeared suddenly just east of Eastbourne, when the Beardmore gave off a metallic bang and shut down. Lieut. Alices worried face looked back at me and I shrugged. A road ran parallel to the coast straight ahead. It was a simple matter to put down.


Putting down on the coast road

We waited until dark for a tender to arrive from Dover. The lads were taking no chances, for theyd brought a complete new engine. We worked in a field with the FE pegged down against a stiff wind blowing hard off the Channel, our only illumination from the headlights of the Crossley. The officer thought that perhaps we should avoid showing so much light because of Zeppelins, and we could get rooms in Eastbourne, perhaps. We ignored the toff and got the engine installed and turning over by three in the morning.

I was chilled to the bone. We left a guard for the aircraft and drove to Pevensey Bay, where the local police gave us tea and sandwiches and put us up in their gaol cells. The lieutenant insisted on sleeping in the tender and missed out.

6 March 1918

At seven this morning the wind died down and we were off. It was a short hop to Dover, but wed just enough in the tank after the engine change to make it. An hour later we were climbing over the ancient harbour towards the sunrise and the war. Land was out of sight for only about twenty minutes. There was heavy cloud at 7000 feet, and it came as a surprise to see the unmistakeable shape of Cape Gris Nez off to our right side. I turned east towards Calais and then southwest to Saint Omer. As we approached our new station I leaned out the engine until it stalled. Mr. Alice turned and I motioned for him to tighten his lap belt. He raised a thumb impatiently. I put the Fee into a long full-throttle dive towards the aerodrome at Clairmarais and waited until I was 800 feet above the hangars before pulling the control stick back into my stomach. The Fee looped perfectly, as I had once been told it would. The overall effect was quite dramatic, although Mr Alice spoiled it by flailing his arms about wildly and threatening to have me shot once we touched down.


Making a first impression