2Lt Alfred Keers is finally back in the air...

My mechanics thanked me for burning my DeHavilland so thoroughly. They estimated it saved them thirty-six hours of repair work. The back strain from my two wrecks continued to bother me. At times it was difficult to walk. I slept with a board under my mattress. For the first three days I was ordered to rest and then begin mild stretching exercises.

On 6 May I was sent over to St-Omer, ostensibly to await delivery of a new machine, but in fact to get more hours in on the DH2. I headed over to the depot on after dinner that night. Lieut. Kennedy-Cochran-Patrick, the OC Depot, welcomed me back like a long-lost brother and insisted I stand him a gin in the mess to celebrate my commission. There were two DH2s earmarked for 32 Squadron. He assigned me one and said I should treat it as my own machine for a couple of days or until someone came to pick it up. But best of all, he flew the other alongside me. We practised dead-stick landings, S-turns, and spin recovery. The DH2 had a reputation for spinning its pilots into the ground, but it was actually quite simple to get it out of a spin as long as you had a bit of altitude. Patrick then led me in games of follow-the-leader. He threw his machine all over the sky. I soon learned that Id been far too light on the rudder. This aeroplane needs a good boot on the rudder bar to start a good turn. Aileron can wait. The thing is light and easy to turn, as long as you keep your speed up.

My two days were well-spent. By the time I my replacement machine arrived from England, Id regained my confidence. Now all I had to do was learn to shoot in the thing. But my plans for some extensive practice shooting were dashed by the weather. It rained every day for a week.

Finally, on 16 May 1916, I was added once more to the duty board. To my delight, I was assigned to lead a three-aircraft raid on the Hun aerodrome at Lille. There was heavy cloud from 7000 to 9500 feet. I led the fellows through it and emerged into glorious sunshine, the first Id seen in a long while. We followed a bearing southeast for twenty-five minutes, which should have placed us over the Lys river. When I finally found a break in the clouds, no river could be seen. We descended and continued southeast. At 3000 feet I made out the smoke from a thousand chimneys off to the east. We had nearly overshot Lille!

Turning north and following the lines, I at last saw the line of hangars at our target aerodrome. I fired a green flare, our attack signal, and made a firing pass over the hangar. Sergeants Thomas and Long followed close behind. I turned for a second run, emptying my drum and pulling up only when my wheels skimmed the rooftops of the Hun buildings.

Suddenly there were three loud smacking sounds. Two holes appeared in the instrument panel in front of me and there was a gash in the arm of my leather flying-suit. I regained height and checked my instruments. The LeRhne continued steadily. I fired a red flare to order the flight to regroup. The scene we left behind was rewarding. We saw an overturned tender and a hangar and fuel dump on fire.

We made for home. I was looking forward to our second, real breakfast when we got back to Abeele. This time I cleared the treetops and cut the engine only when nearly on the ground and down to 50 m.p.h.

As I dismounted I noticed for the first time that the mechanics has stencilled a small yellow arrow on the side of the DeHavilland's nacelle. It pointed upwards and beneath it were stencilled the words, "This end up. Handle with care."




"This time I cleared the treetops..."