Greetings, all! hope you all had a great christmas! Graham’s made it to No. 20, and by a twist of fate has joined the Netheravon Mob! I wonder if any of our fellow DiD’ers will be joining Graham in No.20...! Very excited for the beginning of the DiD proper, come new years!
Sgt. Graham A. Campbell No. 20 Squadron R.F.C. Netheravon, England.
December 24, 1915.
Part 4: Welcome to the Flying Corps.
Jacky-boy, Switch-off and I said our good-byes to the training mob before heading off to clamber aboard the flat-bed truck that would take us to our new home at No. 20. Freddy Foster’s been assigned to No. 24! The lucky Kiwi’s switched to DeHavs and will be undergoing additional training as a scout pilot at Hounslow! Teddie Lawson’s off to No.1 - straight to France! The lucky sod was grinning all the way as his B.E lifted off, bound for the Channel.
We arrived at maybe quarter-past three, and upon excitedly piling out of the truck we were at once ambushed and snapped into an inspection line by a tough-looking Sergent Major, by the name of Brookings, who promptly took our names down in between frustrated ramblings about picnic baskets and aerial crashes, much of which went straight over our increasingly confounded heads. Happily for Jacky-boy and Switch-off, they were not subjected to Brookings’ unpleasant bawling for long, as a youthful Captain quickly arrived and saw them off in the direction of the Officers’ quarters. I, however, was stuck at the mercy of Brooking’s ramblings.
“Right, you,” he began, in an irritated tone, and gestured for me to follow. ‘I should ‘ope that you know what yer’ doing, Sergeant! My men are gettin’ fed up of fixing up aeroplanes thanks to the like of you carefree young types”. I made to respond, but before I could the Sergeant-Major abruptly stopped and pointed ahead to a smattering of small white huts, at the northern end of the aerodrome. “This is you - first on the far left. Drop yer’ kit off and report to the Men’s mess in a half-hour’. And with that, he marched off at a wicked pace, kicking up white dust-clouds from the gravel path as he went.
As I later discovered, I shared my hut with two other men, both of No. 20; Sgt. Pilot Edmund Archer, a well-mannered painter from Shropshire, and Sgt. Pilot Jim Reynard, a tough-looking Scotsman with an incredible head of wiry, bright red hair. Both men were my seniors, and at first I felt intimidated, but I soon discovered my two compatriots to be perfectly friendly and welcoming. I rather enjoyed the juxtaposition of the quiet, softly-spoken Archer and the exuberant Reynard. In the far-right corner, a fourth bed remained ready-made, awaiting an owner.
Netheravon is an incredible place, much larger than Hounslow. There are all-sorts here, Canadians, Kiwis, Australians, Scots, Irishmen, and even an American or two, I hear! There are also all kinds of aeroplanes here; Avros, DeHavs, B.E’s, and, of course, our F.E.2bs, or ‘Fees’, as Archer and Reynard call them! I saw one fly overhead as I was going about my business, and cannot wait to have my chance at flying one!
I met my C.O today, Major Wilson. After inspecting my file, he informed me as to the organisation of the squadron. At the moment, we had eight Fees, and four B.E.2s, divided between 14 pilots and their observers. As Jacky-Boy, Switch-off and I were the ‘new boys’, we’d be on the B.E.2s, I was disheartened to learn! However, my spirits rose considerably once I found out that this would only be until we reached France, and that I would still be able to fly the Fees as time allows.