2nd Lt Archie Berry, flying a Fe-2b with 20 Sqn, RFC.
I've fiddled the RFC mail system with the aid of a corporal in the records office, he's quite a rake. Cost me an arm and a leg but I should be able to write to you without the censors bothering us. Now you're a good girl and I trust you not to show these letters to anyone nor talk about anything I say in them. Mainly because I want someone to know the truth about life here and the war and not that guff they print in the papers. Please keep them under lock and key!
I arrived at Clairmais by tender (It might be in the home atlas if you look it up) in mid March, 1916. They didn't have a machine for me at St Omer and I got tired of waiting around. Luck had it that there was a Sgt there after spark plugs or some such nonsense who was headed to Clairmais so I rode along with him. The weather was terrible when I got here, for a few days there was nothing to do but play cards, drink in the mess and break gramophone records. We have a piano but it is missing a few bits and pieces.
The fronts is quiet in our sector, we mainly conduct line patrols and deep offensive patrols. They're fairly self explanatory, we fly up and down the lines or over Hunland. Deep offensive patrols give me the willies, we're often sent over at 5,000ft which is stupid. It's too low to be 10 miles deep in Hunland. Engines aren't magic carpets, they break quite often and I don't like the thought of having to walk home through all that mud. When I'm ever flight commander we shan't be flying at 5,000ft 10 miles into Hunland, that's for damn sure.
Was lucky enough to bag an Aviatik on my first trip out, we snuck up behind two of them at 7,000ft between Oppy and the Lys. My gunner, Lt Alan Osborn, gave him a drum of Lewis and his wings fell off. Flamer. Lt Reid (HA) confirmed the victory and bought me a drink. The bus had a few holes in the left wing so I had another drink for her as well, a large one.
After that they sent me on a navigational exercise, not sure why, maybe they forgot that I'd already shot down an Aviatik and made it home alive. Bit of a lucky break though, my engine quit just miles from home and I had to deadstick at St Omer, the bus spend 1 day in the shop. Just as well that didn't happen on a DOP. I was fuming that I didn't have enough height to make it all the way home but nobody seemed to care.
Since then I've tangled with various Fokker E.III's on patrol a couple of times. They're the Hun's favourite gag these days, they think it's a hell of a laugh pottering around over the lines and looking for Quirks to blow to buggery. I drove one down the other day around Oppy somewhere, thought we'd nailed him but he was just foxing and spun away from the fight after taking a solid burst from Osborne's Lewis gun. I didn't go down after him, the ground down there has all kind of nasty things in it, most of them German and all of them armed with something. The Fee is a good old bus, she doesn't deserve the coarse handling and leering of barbarous and rapine German infantrymen so I try to keep her high enough to be out of their sight. Those poor E.III's can't do much against a well flown Fee, their engines aren't as powerful as ours her but I will still be taking pains to make sure I'm always above them, that seems to be the key. If I'm not above them I need to be close enough to our lines if things go pear shaped. They are still a danger though, one got poor old Evelyn Paget on the same trip I just mentioned. THis keen young fool in his E.III came screaming in from above and flew right into Paget, guns blazing all the way. I saw the whole bloody mess and I get repeats of it in my sleep at night. Lucky for Paget he's a historical figure so he was able to use this black magic called "programming" to resurrect himself like Lazarus from the wreckage, much to the surprise of the Tommies who came over to poke around at what was left of his Fee. His observer wasn't so lucky though, when I mentioned him to the adjutant he started off muttering about sandbags for some reason. Chap's gone off his rocker.
Must go now, we're on 2 or 3 trips a day since the weather started to improve. Love you my darling, I'll write you when it looks like we'll get some leave. Try to keep the garden in order for me will you, the help have no clue about gardening and I know I can trust you to see to it. The sunshine will do you good.
Fondly, your very own 'King of the Skies' (Since that's how I often feel upon my mighty Bearmore powered throne, provided to me by the aptly named "Royal Aircraft Factory" no less)
2nd Lt Archie Berry.
Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.
Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein.