Sgt. Graham A. Campbell No. 20 Squadron R.F.C, Netheravon, England.
January 2nd, 1916.
As we had suspected, there was no flying today again; England is still gently sleeping beneath the snow. Fortunately, the inclement weather seems to have passed us by, and so Jacky-Boy, Jimmy Reynard, Wallace Pearson and I headed into town, bartering a ride with one of the Batmen, who was being sent in to town to pick up food for the kitchen.
On the Salisbury High Road we stopped by a quaint, modest little place to have lunch, named the "Dorothy Cafe". Above the sign of the establishment hung a second sign that read "DAINTY TEAS", and I rather decided that it was my duty to test the boldness of this claim. The interior of the place was very homely; simple oak furniture was dotted around, eight-or-so tables, and in the corner sat an old dusty piano, nestled in behind a slow-burning fireplace. By the entrance was a large window, which was bracketed by deep red curtains, neatly swept to either side, and on the walls hung quaint little oil paintings of some of the landmarks of Salisbury. One particular paining was newer than the rest - an image of a B.E.2 flying over the town. Clearly, the cafe had become frequented by us R.F.C types! I wondered if perhaps an old regular, or an ex-owner had painted the pictures - they did all look of one style. Maybe, whoever they were, they still now painted pictures to pass the time in the trenches.
As we cheerfully greeted the owners, asking for our lunches to be served up, Pearson flopped down onto the piano stool and proceeded to play a delicately subtle rendition of "Keep the Home Fires Burning". By the window, a lone infantryman begun humming along to the tune, staring into his mug of tea while appearing to be half-lost in some private, deep thought. After the first two bars, a faint smile appeared on his lips but, for some reason, to me it seemed like an impossibly sad expression. I only lingered on the face of the tired infantryman for a moment, before my comrades' idle conversations dragged me back in, and we took the table closest to the piano.With Pearson still gently tapping away at the keys, we spoke of the typical subjects; Flying, the identity of the pilot who would shoot down 20's first Hun, and, of course, girls! Naturally, the latter subject led to some outrageous tales, by far the worst coming from Reynard, who told us some stories I dare not repeat, true scandals that stood on the edge of disbelief! During our idle chit-chat, Simon Sarisbury stepped through the door, with his observer, Kris Bistow. Jacky-Boy waved them over, and they pulled up a chair around our table. The loud scrapes of Bistow's chair dragging along were accompanied by a disproving frown from the lady who owned the Cafe - not that the roguish observer took any notice - as Sarisbury went up to the counter to procure their own lunch. Walking up with him, I ran a critical eye down the list of 'dainty teas', and finally went with a liquorice-flavoured beverage (much to the amusement of my colleagues), which I secretly enjoyed, all the while feigning displeasure at the drink. Needless to say, the tea was, in fact, an appropriate level of daintiness.
Finally, once our late-comers had lunched, we packed out of the Dorothy Cafe, all of us leaving small coins as tips for our hostess, who beamed at us and wished us good luck in France. Despite the piano falling silent again, I couldn't help but notice the infantryman now quietly whispering the lyrics of Keep the Home Fires Burning to himself, his voice quivering. "And we gave our glorious laddies, honour bade us do no less" he crooned in his pitiful, teary voice, his palm pressed to his forehead. The sleeve of his uniform bore three wound stripes.
Unfortunately for us, our Batman chauffeur was long gone, and so we walked to the outskirts of town to the conveniently placed Bicycle Depot, the owner of which was a forty-something year old hulking brute of a man, whose grey hair stuck out wildly from underneath a dirty flat-cap. We were happy to discover the man was a fierce patriot, and insisted in a booming voice that we borrow the bicycles for free in order to get back to the aerodrome. As we thanked him and turned to leave, he roared out "For king and country, boys! Go and get those godless Huns!". Jacky-boy rolled his eyes, and whispered to me "Says the bloke who isn't going to France!". Snickering, I mounted the red Raleigh bicycle I'd picked out, and off we went, back to Netheravon through the snow.