22 Nov 1916 @ 08h17 Arrival at Auchel airfield and Orientation flight
Arrived early today at Auchel after a short hop from Choques, and was quickly greeted by a Capt. displaying a rather unusually chipper nature towards a man of lower rank such as I. Charles Henry Chapman Wooven Capt., showed me to my quarters and asked of my background.
I explained I was from Vancouver, Canada, practiced as a gunsmith there, and spent my idle time building an aeroplane and racing motorcycles and that seemed to prick his interest even more. I told him I had joined the local militia, The Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles in 1904 as a drummer and bugler and gained a rank of sergeant when the War broke out. “A lad of many useful talents it seems” said he. “Where have you served since?” he asked, and I replied that I had come overseas with the Canadian Mounted Rifles and then switched to the Pioneer Corps where I gained some reputation as being somewhat of an expert with machine guns, having made several improvement suggestions, although none of them bore fruit in production. I then gained a transfer to 10 Sqn as observer in BE.2c’s “I dare say we may find some practical use for your skills when you are not flying”. Get settled in here, and then come over to the briefing room and we shall have you shown the place, and at that he stepped sprightly off towards the briefing room.
Shortly there after, I arrived at the briefing room door knocked, and entered, to find Capt. Woolven in conversation with a number of officers who I was to soon be introduced to as the “New Lad”. The Capt. Waved me to come forward and immediately drew me to the attention of Lieut. Mark Everard. “Mark, this lad is apparently skilled in the use of the bugle and drums and just may fit nicely into our squadron band. What say you?”. Mark, with a two fingers to his mouth and a frown on his face said “We could use the talent for sure, as long as he is not inclined to practice early in the morning” at which point he looked directly at me and fingered the flap on his holstered webley. The Capt. Broke out in a hearty laugh, patted me on the shoulder firmly, and looking at me said “that is highly unlikely isn’t it Sgt.?” I replied “Formal military use of the bugle has never really been a great interest of mine Sir, but the band does sound like a fine diversion!” They both broke out in laughter along with the other two Lieut’s. in the room. “Sgt. Godfrey here, says he has worked on aircraft building, engine work related to motorcycle racing and apparently a gunsmith with considerable familiarity with maching guns.” Says the Capt. “Lieut. Whitney here, will take you on the rounds of the hangars and introduce you to the mechanics and fitters. It is my hope that there will be some shared knowledge exchanged over the coming days in those fields you are experienced in. Hopefully the squadron as a whole will benefit Sgt., but for now, I would like you to go up for a spin with Lieut. Green here and get the general layout of our area set into your noggin. If all goes well today, I will take you on as my observer for a short mission to the front tomorrow morning.” “Yes Sir!” says I. That is all for now Sgt. You may now accompany Lieut. Green on his rounds.
It seems that my arrival at Auchel has left a positive impression of me with the officers. That is something I hope to cultivate further, for I have my mind set on flying scouts, and to do so, I would need recommendations to gain access to flying school back in old blighty. Woolven had recently made quite a name for himself, having been gazetted for the MC, for an attack on a train on the 14th of this month, which was followed up by downing an Albatros DI on the 16th. I expected I could learn a few things from the Capt. that could help me achieve my goal.
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