2nd Lt Archie Berry, Clairmarais.

20th March, 1916.

Dearest H,

Hello my darling, and thank you for your letter. I'm glad to hear that you're keeping the estate in such fine order. As to your inquiry, if the War Department want to use the back field for an encampment then I suppose we must do our duty and oblige them but I do not want those men intruding upon the nearer grounds. Tell old Tom Smith to keep his shotgun handy and a weather eye out for any "scroungers" in the orchard. Better still, if it does eventuate that this encampment goes ahead, make sure to send one of the help over with a few baskets of fruit and whatever else from the garden to prevent any nosey parkers from trying to help themselves and ending up with their buttocks perforated by buckshot.

I'm sorry if my handwriting isn't entirely up to snuff today, I'm writing this by candlelight while my machine is prepared for a dawn patrol. It's cold here but the weather has been generally pleasant so that means two or three patrols a day.
Things are still much the same here, Alan (Lt Osborne, my observer) and I have been having a jolly old time knocking the spots off of every Hun machine we see. I've put in three more claims since I wrote to you last, three Fokker E.III's. It must be Eindecker season because that's all we see lately.

No matter how many we knock down Master Fritz seems to have more in the big German cupboard that Eindeckers come from. I'm not particularly impressed with these aircraft but we did have rather a close shave the other day, ran into four E.III's in the area near Loos which you will have read about in the papers. Three of us (Paget-Graves, Reid and myself) were around there patrolling there at 6,000ft or so and along comes this cocky #%&*$# trying to attack us from head on and below. I decided to steam off after alone him as he was singleton looking for a fight and nobody else from B Flight seemed inclined to offer this German fellow battle. It wasn't hard to get Alan in position and when he eventually remembered where the trigger was on his Lewis gun he took a few shots and then stopped firing, his Lewis had jammed. Thankfully he sorted it out while I stayed with the Hun and he ended up making short work of the Fokker, sending it down trailing smoke after putting his Lewis gun to rights. Once again however, this Hun employed the ruse so popular with his ilk upon being out maneuvered, namely spinning for the deck and fleeing home. I decided not to follow as we were close to the Hun trenches and, as I said before, I'm not in any way inclined to afford those gentlemen the courtesy of a social visit. A lesson I learned back in 1915 in my poor old Morane Parasol.

Having lost height from a spin while attacking this first Fokker I made for Armentiers at about 5,000ft, spotting A flight at about 7,000 as I made my way West and it was at this point that I learned a valuable lesson: Never climb while over the lines. You see I thought that, since B Flight was nowhere to be seen, I would join A FLight instead and was climbing to reach their altitude when Alan started shouting and pointing and, just in time, I saw that we were in the company of three more Eindeckers! It was a running battle from there on in, they didn't get any shots in at since I kept pur Fee out of their way us but all I could do to further the "Offensive Spirit" was single one out briefly and let Alan have a crack at him before breaking off to maintain my line of retreat towards Armentiers where I knew out foes would be loath to follow.

Alan knocked one down with the pillar mounted gun which surprised me, I've always thought the thing to be a useless extravagance, dead weight really since using the silly thing is more of a danger to Alan than it is to the enemy but Alan is a very determined chap when he gets the bit between his teeth, he has quite the allotment of pluck when things get hairy and sees no problem in climbing out of his nacelle to shoot backwards over the tail. I didn't see much of what was happening behind me as I had to be looking out for three aircraft at the same time but Alan claimed that he sent one of the Fokkers down and his word is good enough for me. Fortunately for us both members from A and B Flight saw our actions and confirmed both Fokkers as being destroyed and, just this morning, the adjutant got a wire from an observation balloon crew who spotted our Fokker from yesterday going down so this brings our score to four machined confirmed destroyed.

We were lucky, what I should have done was make for Armentiers at full speed and THEN climbed back to join A Flight but the sight of them above gave me a false sense of security. Lesson learned.

In other news I've been poking around with a little black magic called "file editing" that I learned from a travelling gypsy who stopped by Clairmarais to sell us some eggs (Corporal May, the one in the records office has some deal with her). I consulted her in ways to instill the proper fighting spirit in the other members of 20 Squadron so that they might take the fight to the enemy but to no effect. Such is the spirit here that, while I may refer to my "Farman Experimental Model 2b" as a "Fighting Experimental", the others here operate their machines as "Fleeing Experimentals" which is a damn shame really. If they'd buck up their act then, between the lot of us, we'd be sending a lot of these Fokkers and Aviatiks down in flames and the war would be over by Christmas. As it stands right now, Alan and I are waging a one man war against the entire perishing Deutsches Luftstreitskrafte!

My machine is almost ready so I must sign off soon but, before I do I was wondering if you have heard from Lord Elliswood about having his stallion sire a foal over Black Bessie, the two should produce a fine progeny for hunting don't you think? If he does agree and deigns to pay a visit, be liberal with the Courvoisier and make sure he keeps his hands to himself. Rotten old lecher. I'm not above reaching for my duelling saber even in this day and age. Speaking of horses though, I've been thinking that we should do some fox hunting when I come home on leave. How would you like that? Just the two of us of course. We can fill our flasks, take a hamper out and make a day of it. There's some good country south of the estate for hunting and "picnicking" Just don't let on to your friends that I take you out on jaunts like that or we'll never hear the end of it! The fitter Sergeant has just informed me that my machine is ready to fly si I must end the letter here my darling.

Devotedly yours,

Archie.

P.S. It's late enough in the season now to begin summer planting, I don't think we'll be getting any more frost so do remember to get the vegetable patch in order.


Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.

Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein.