Sgt. Graham A. Campbell. Hounslow Heath Aerodrome December 4th, 1915.
Last night, after I had returned to the Barracks, several of the trainees had gathered around and were feverishly discussing Webb's Avro crash.
Lt. Weston (whom you may remember was the unfortunate chap who witnessed a mechanic being killed in a prop-spinning accident) called me over excitedly, mentioning to the small gaggle of recruits that I had seen the whole incident firsthand. "Go on, Graham, tell us what happened!" he urged, as the other men seemed to draw a collective anticipating breath. I looked them over, shocked that they should be so curious about a crash when many were yet to fly their first solo, but, I thought it best not to keep my impromptu audience in suspense. "Well, you see, he was doing his first turn around the aerodrome, he'd gotten up in the air with no issue, but about halfway round I heard his engine miss, and the silly bugger tried to turn back. In the blink of an eye he was tipped over on his nose, on the ground". An uncomfortable silence followed my explanation, followed by Weston matter-of-factly blurting out "well, Andrews has told us enough not to turn back, it's the lad's own bloody fault!". It rather seemed to me like he was trying to bolster his own courage; perhaps the crash had left the men shaken after all.
After a short half-hearted discussion about Webb's condition (the poor old Avro got not a single mention!) I was offered to join the men in a game of cards, which I politely declined. By that point in the night, I still hadn't fully recovered from the shock of seeing Webb come down.
Anyway. That was yesterday, and today was a new day. I awoke around 7 O'Clock, feeling surprisingly well-rested, and slowly pulled my uniform on. I was in no spectacular rush to get myself prepared for the day, as I already knew that I was not scheduled to do any flying. Instead, I rather fancied asking Andrews if I could make a quick excursion to London, to experience some of the charms of the Capital. Perhaps even a trip to Hendon aerodrome, to see the wide range of machines they had there! It was at Hendon that I'd seen my first aeroplane fly, which had inspired me to pursue a transfer to the R.F.C.
Once I was ready, I made my way through the bunks and idle pilots towards the door. Curiously, I passed one bunk that had been freshly-made already, and had no kit resting on the floor beside it. I was sure I had seen that bunk occupied when I had arrived! Glancing strangely at the absent bunk, I continued outside and made for my cigarettes. It was only as I was lighting up that I realised, my, that's Webb's bunk! The poor lad must have been scared right off of flying for good. Who could blame him, after all?
As I smoked, I saw two 'pusher' machines coming in to land. At first I thought that they were two of No. 24's Gunbuses, but as they drew closer I could see that they were a new single-seater type that I didn't recognise. The two machines glided in, blipping their engines as they levelled out, and both made beautifully smooth landings. As they taxied towards the hangars, I noticed that each machine had a Lewis gun mounted in the pilots' forward nacelle. Single-seaters with machine-guns!
Unfortunately, I never did manage to get away to London for the day. Instead, I marvelled over the new machines. They belonged to No. 24, and a short chat with one of their pilots revealed that they were called "D.H.2s", and were supposed to be the answer to the Fokker monoplane menace. Gosh, I do hope I'm put in one of those when I get to France!
In the evening I was approached by one other trainee, 2nd. Lt. Jack Fisher. The man had a drunken look about him, red-faced and perpetually smiling. I assumed he would ask me about the Avro Crash, but it came as a pleasant surprise when he asked me in a chirpy, musical voice about my opinion on the B.E.2. I told him, and our chat led elsewhere. I swapped him stories of my time in the Sherwood Foresters, my first initial day in France and my unfortunate case of Pneumonia, and he paid me off in tales of his time as a Concert Pianist, before the war, playing to various Aristocrats, and even Royalty in some cases!
I soon discovered that Fisher and I got along near-instantly, and felt quite good about having formed the makings of my first friendship at Hounslow as I retired for the evening.