It's been a while since I had time to sit down and write up Alfred Keers' memoirs.

Sgt Keers and his partner Lt Whieldon continue to do well in the Fee.

The period started well with the news on 5 April that the Aviatik wed shot at near Houplin a couple of days before had been seen to go down by a balloon observer near Neuve-Chapelle, and that the Fokker wed sent down out of control south of Arras the previous morning was also seen to crash. That made our official count four kills.

On 6 April 1916 we flew far south to observe enemy positions along the Somme river. Captain Paget Gravess machine mounted a camera. As we were escorting him, a lone Aviatik two-seater flew by about a half-mile off. I gave chase and slipped under its tail. Mr Whieldon fired only about 20 rounds before the enemy machine began to smoke. A trickle of flame appeared along the left side of the engine and it dipped. The observer could be seen batting at the flames with his arms. Then the machine erupted and fell like a comet, carrying its unfortunate crew to the ground far below. Unfortunately we were well over and out of sight of our mates, so our claim remained unconfirmed.

On 10 April I had a dead stick landing when the engine of our Fee died just over Arras broken petrol pipe. I shut off quickly and put down at Hesdigneul.

Heavy rain scrubbed most flying the next week. Mr Whieldon met me in the hangar in the wet afternoons, determine to teach me to play bridge. Sgt Craforth and Corporal Stringer, our master sailmaker and our #2 rigger, rounded out the foursome. Corporal Stringer was an unlikely champion at the game, having learned at sea before the war. The sergeant was nearly as good. Mr Whieldon despaired of my play, and taught me that officers could on occasion teach the other ranks a thing or two about profanity.

On 16 April the sun came out long enough that we were part of a three-machine reconnaissance headed to the lines south of Arras. On the way I spotted two Aviatiks near Bruay and signalled to Captain Paget-Graves. He waved his hand as if to say Off you go and play, and we pursued one of the Huns east until it was just over the lines. Finally, Mr Whieldon fired and the machines right lower wing partially separated. It circled down, its propeller windmilling, and crash-landed between the German main and reserve lines. We put in a claim for this machine, but it was rejected higher up because we could not swear the machine was damaged beyond recovery.


"It circled down, its propeller windmilling, and crash-landed between the German main and reserve lines."