Wow, the stories just keep getting better. Wulfe, you do a great job with Edith's broad Scots dialogue. And I'm getting jealous of your Fee as I bounce around in the Parasol, stalling in every high wind. Fullofit, it feels ominous reading of Gaston's experiences in the days leading up to the meat-grinder of verdun. Great video, too. Lederhosen, it was interesting to see you're in the Pfalz. That's one I haven't flown yet. I'm curious whether it feels at all different from the Morane. 77_Scout, good thing Aleck had a quiet return from hospital. I find the first couple of missions after a lay-off are always dangerous. MFair, I loved your story. Mine below is a tribute to it. Carrick, you were lucky the motor conked out when it did, another five or ten seconds could have put you in the trees!

Special thanks to Maeran for the great story idea and for the lyrics below.

An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins

Part Twelve: In which Bethune meets the Wild West

On the 21st and 22nd of January, I shivered my way through two reconnaissance flights, escorting Captain Mealing. The first flight was to the north of Ypres and the second to the south of Lens, so I got a good tour of the front. Then the snow began in earnest and the wind blew and angry wraiths of driven snow roiled and twisted over the frozen fields and the ice pellets rattled the mess window.

Sgt McCudden, whom I have already mentioned, has distinguished himself as both a mechanic and a fine observer, has been awarded the Croix de Guerre. It was awarded to him personally by General Joffre at an investiture in Lillers.

I spent Sunday 23 January quietly. The padre from Wing was to have held a Sunday Eucharist in one of our hangars but his driver put his car in the ditch, so I spent the entire day in the mess reading a smashing book, The Thirty-Nine Steps. It belongs to Johnson of “C” Flight, and goes next to Jericho. The mess steward is keeping a sign-up sheet for the thing! Around three, Swany and Jericho and I caught a drive to Bethune. We split up for shopping and I got a haircut at “Eugene the coiffeur,” a highly recommended spot. Eugene must have traded his scissors for a rifle as Madame ran the place, and a finer hand with a razor was never seen. She chatted merrily all the while and I understood every fifth word.[1]

[Linked Image]
Grande Place, Bethune

We reunited for a fine dinner at the "Hôtel de France," but the place was full of red tabs and French officers and officials so we repaired to the "Lion d’Or" off the Grande Place. There a lovely young girl named Agnes served a dish of meat and pastry and wonderful little cakes for dessert. Scarcely had we stepped back onto the street, laughing and singing, than Jericho dropped his parcels and sprinted ahead down the pavement. He'd seen a French officer slapping the girl he was with. Jericho appeared like a knight of old and put the officer down in the gutter with one blow. He then put a knee on the fellow’s chest and began to alter his appearance with a rain of punches. Swany pulled him away while I (gallant chap that I am) attended to the maiden. She was clearly unharmed, for she suggested that I looked in need of a drink and suggesting that I could perhaps “visiter chez moi.” Swany was in a great rush to get out of the area, for the Frenchman seemed to be of high rank. Luckily, our rendezvous with the squadron tender was only minutes away and we were soon safely back at Auchel where the tale of Jericho’s defence of a fille de joie brought many laughs – until the following day.

We were attending a lecture on military law given by the CO when, appropriately for the subject, an Assistant Provost Marshal and two grim-faced military policemen with starched brassards on their arms knocked on the door and interrupted Major Harvey-Kelly in mid-dissertation. Apparently, three British officers, two of whom were wearing RFC maternity jackets, had accosted a French colonel in Bethune the previous evening, and he asked if any of our officers had been in town that night.

I looked nervously at Swaney across the aisle, and Swaney looked at Jericho, and Jericho looked at his hands, which bore the scars of the evening in question.

“I am the Commanding Officer of this squadron,” the Major declared with an imperial air, "and I can swear on my honour that not one British officer from this squadron was in Bethune last night.” The A.P.M. touched his riding crop to his hat and thanked the Major. As soon as the door closed and the footsteps subsided he returned to the podium. “Before we resume our discussion on the proper completion of charge sheets, I should mention that all Canadian and American officers present shall be required to open a chit at the bar after dinner and to leave said chit open for at least an hour. Now, let us continue...”

Captain Mealing played the piano that evening while our fellow pilots and observer became sloshed. The boys paraded Jericho around in a chair like the Pope, until too drunk to keep him up there, they let him fall over a table, smashing it to firewood. But it was Major Harvey-Kelly who capped the night off with a song he’d composed on a napkin at the bar, all to the tune of the American song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home":

The shame of France left the Line
Skidoo skidoo
To beat the women and steal the wine
Skidoo skidoo
He met an angry airmen there
Who knocked him right across the square

Don't mistreat her or else beware
The Boxer of Bethune

Born too late for Agincourt
Skidoo skidoo
Too late for Waterloo
Skidoo skidoo
When he saw the Frenchman acting foul
He said "by Jinks, you'll do"

Don't mistreat her or else beware
The Boxer of Bethune

To all the mademoiselles of France
Skidoo skidoo
If you want better; now's your chance!
Skidoo skidoo
Oh, Landlord you've a daughter fair
With lily-white arms and golden hair

So raise a cheer and send a beer
To the Boxer of Bethune


[1] There was a "Eugene: Coiffeur" in Bethune. The place is mentioned in With the Tanks, 1916-1918, by W.H.L. Mason. Mason is also the source for the description of Agnes, the girl at the "Lion d'Or."

Attached Files Bethune2.jpg