Fullofit, great photos. Carrick, best of luck surviving with the BE2. And thank you Banjoman for keeping up with the stats.

Alfred Keers has had an eventful week...

Dearest Ma and Da,

What a cracker of a week this has been! Since my last letter Ive bagged four more Huns and got another promotion. Tomorrow Im off to a new squadron with a topping new machine cant say much about it, Im afraid...

I looked down at the paper and wondered how Id put the thrills and laughs and terrors of the past few days into words that my dear parents would understand. The mundane world they lived in bleak rows of pitmens houses on hills overlooking the North Sea it was a world away from all this.

29 May 1916 saw me on a distant offensive patrol to Houplin. We chased two Aviatiks away from crossing the lines.

Then the next day we attacked a balloon and were jumped by several Fokkers. Sgt Long got the balloon and one of the Huns. My machine was shot up a bit and I put holes in a Hun, but could claim nothing. That afternoon we saw two more two-seaters, possibly the same two Aviatiks from the day before, for we saw them in the same place. We sent them running.

On 31 May I was up twice again, leading B Flight. We escorted two Fees to Ghistelles up north, and were engaged by three Huns. I downed a Fokker, but was well separated from the others so it remained unwitnessed and unconfirmed. But in the afternoon we took some Fees from another squadron south to Loos. We saw Huns everywhere, but the EAs did not engage us. We took our Fees back over the lines, and then we went hunting. Northwest of Lille we saw three Fokkers and dived on them. I got mine on the first pass and Blackie (Lieut Black) saw it go down. Number 12 for me.

June arrived with a glorious, cloudless, warm day. The morning had us over Ghistelles again and I stalked and downed a two-seater, but it remained only a driven down. In the afternoon we escorted some BE2s over the lines, seeing nothing.

That night we read of a huge naval action in which the Grand Fleet put the chase to the Huns. Perhaps the war will be over sooner than expected.

On 2 June we attacked a balloon near Lille. Sgt Long got the balloon. I downed two Fokkers of three who tried to put the jump on us, but only one was confirmed, the other being classified only as driven down. Official count is now 13. In the afternoon we chased some two-seaters. One of them had a very stout gunner, who damaged my controls. I put down in a field up north and waited until late that night for the repair and recovery team.

Then, on the morning of 3 June, life got interesting. We were dispatched to shoot up ground targets near Lille. I spotted a train on a siding and signalled the attack. Blackie and Sgt Long joined in. What a show! There poor railway Huns were running in all directions. One of the carriages must have been carrying something highly inflammable, for we created quite a pyrotechnic display.

We had attacked from the south, and as I pulled up I noticed specks dancing in the sky low over Rekkem. I signalled for the others to follow and climbed to 2000 feet. As I approached I saw two DH2 being harried by three or four Fokkers. I threw my machine into the middle of the melee and picked a Hun. It did not take long to get behind him and I fired from less than 50 yards. The Hun tumbled over and fell into a field. I caught a fleeting glance at one of the other DH2s. It was Sgt Noakes, who was assigned to A Flight that morning. He had a Hun on his tail and I scared him off.

But by now three more Fokkers had joined the fight. Blackie and Long were engaged farther south, and I was here over Rekkem with three Huns all to myself at low altitude. Just dont let anyone get behind, I kept telling myself. Several times I came close to stalling as I pulled the poor machine around and around, first one way and then the other. There was one particular Hun who gave me a chance at a few fleeting shots. Finally he broke for home. Then more Fokkers arrived.

For about five minutes it was five to one. Several times the enemy machines holed mine. On occasion I got a quick burst at one, then another. After nearly ten more minutes one of the Huns flattened out momentarily. I saw the pilot leaning over the breech of his machine gun. In seconds I was directly on his tail, probably only ten yards away. I fired perhaps fifteen rounds and the Huns machine lurched and fell spinning to earth. I turned to meet the other Fokkers, but they had had enough and were heading northeast. All alone, I climbed towards our lines.

About ten seconds after I began the westward climb there was a massive blast. My DH2 was flung forward. Strips of torn fabric purred in the wind, and I noticed the engine sounded a little rough. I focused on climbing without losing a great deal of speed. All I wanted was to see our lines pass beneath me. The machine would not stay level without left aileron and a bit of rudder. Then the engine coughed and died. I picked out the first green field past the lines. There was just enough height to put the machine down, threading my way between trees on the approach.

I returned to Abeele late in the afternoon, my machine following in pieces on a truck. As soon as I arrived, Major Dawes drew me into his office.

How many Huns today, Keers? he began.

Two sir, both Fokkers. I saw both hit the ground, I replied.

Indeed. Well, youll be please to know that Sergeant Noakes said he owed his life to you today. And he saw your first Hun. Black said he saw a second crash in your area as he headed home. Both will be confirmed, Keers. That brings you up to fifteen.

Thank you sir, I said. This was a far cry from a few week ago when all I destroyed were DeHavillands. But then the big news came.

Major Dawes shook my hand. Congratulations on running your score to fifteen. You should know, Keers, that Ive put you in for a significant decoration for todays work. Afraid thats all I can say for the moment. Oh, and youve been awarded the MC.

I was stunned. If Id already got the MC, the significant award had to be the DSO. I wondered.

But thats not all, the Major continued, because youve also been requested by the OC at 70 squadron to transfer over as a flight commander.

I hadnt heard of 70 Squadron, and was informed that their first flight had just arrived in France, flying over last week. The next flight was due tomorrow. They were flying the new Sopwith two-seater scout type, which the RFC had acquired from the RNAS in anticipation of the summers big push. Becoming a flight commander would also mean a captaincy.

The binge that night was modest, as I had the early show in the morning and it was already eight-thirty. On 4 June I was up twice, my last flights with 29 Squadron. Both were offensive patrols. We saw nothing in the morning, and in the afternoon we got into a furious but inconclusive scrap with a group of Fokkers.

Then it was time to pack.

"It did not take long to get behind him and I fired from less than 50 yards. The Hun tumbled over and fell into a field."