Another great batch of stories! I find myself simultaneously being glad to be away from the front, but also keen to get back!
Lou - sounds like Swan-eee may be getting luck-eee before too long...
Scout - oho! A transfer to a DH2 outfit! Sounds like some exhilarating times are ahead for MacKinlay! Here's hoping he scores many a victory. Sobering news about Davis - very unexpected.
Fullofit - that is a🅥ery cool personal insignia. Looks great on your Nieuport - I imagine every Hun in France will recognise it before too long.
MFair - Great story about the hunt!! For a moment you had me thinking "Uh-Oh, they've missed it!! How will Georgette react?" - after I kept reading I was as surprised and excited as Jericho! Great stuff. That being said - let's hope Jericho can master his temper. He was lucky to get off so lightly at the Major's mercy! Lederhosen - what an epic of the skies. I was on the edge of my seat during that one...I wonder when you'll next encounter Navarre. By any means, you're braver than I...if I saw a machine that bold, I'd be keen not to find out what made the pilot so sure of himself!
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, No. 20 Squadron R.F.C (On Leave) London, England.
March 24th, 1916.
Having had a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs and coffee at the Cavendish, I had asked my hostess, Rosa Lewis, if she could direct me to Savile Row. She willingly obliged, but not before pointing out to me that there was a handful of bespoke tailors on Jermyn Street. I thanked her, but explained “I rather want to see a bit of London while I am here”. I was happy to learn that Savile Row was not far at all, only one street parallel to Picadilly, on the other side of the Royal Academy of Arts - a grandiose building offering a luxurious architectural decadence to rival the Palace itself.
Turning onto Savile row, I looked down the endless rows of tailors, outside of which officers were pooled up, some collecting uniforms and, inside, having their measurements taken. Fortunately, Hawkes & Co, the Major’s suggestion, sat on the corner of Savile Row and Vigo Street, and I had no chance to get lost. Sheepishly I pushed the door open and stepped into a large two-storey foyer, ornate bannisters bracketing an upper floor that was supported by finely crafted marble pillars. From the upper level, a pair of cavalry officers regarded me with unimpressed eyes. Before I could acclimatise, a small, thin tailor appeared, a measuring tape slung around his neck and a thick-set pair of glasses resting below his finely cut greying hair. “Good afternoon, Sir,” he offered in a manner that reminded me of my old school teachers. I returned the greeting, before fumbling into my next sentence. “I, er, need a uniform”. The Tailor blinked, awaiting the continuation of my sentence which, out of my own ignorance, he was not graced with. After a silence that lingered a moment too long for comfort, he cleared his throat, his eyes flicking over the length of me in a flash. “Ah, I see. Congratulations on your promotion, sir. Shall we take your measurements?”
I was led to the side, where immediately the Tailor sprung into action in impressively fast and methodical movements. Before I could make sense of what was happening I was having the tape wrapped around my torso, being spun every which-way and almost involuntarily stretching my arms out to the side upon the Tailor’s command. I felt that my measurements were more being stolen, rather than taken. As he worked away, he begun to fire questions at me at a pace I found it hard to contend with - questions about cut, accessory, style, and so on. He also asked me what infantry regiment I had belonged to before the war. I told him that I had been a Sherwood Forester, but didn’t see the relevance. I appreciated that, despite my obvious social standing, he was treating me as any officer, but at the same time I struggled not to become overwhelmed.
The tape flashing across my vision as it made its way to and from my extremities, the Tailor finally asked “Naturally you shall want two uniforms? Or, perhaps three?”. What the devil would I need three uniforms for?!. “Two will be fine, thank you” I replied, not quite fully understanding the function of the extra one. “Very good, sir”. From there it was on to the footwear, and I was made to try on all kinds of different items, from comfortable leather shoes to full-length riding boots.
My purchase immediately eliminated a quarter of my spending money, much to my horror. Had I relied solely on the uniform allowance given to me by the Major, I would have had not a penny left! The Tailor asked me where I was currently residing, and explained that my uniforms would be ready to be picked up in four days. Despite the unfamiliar experience, I felt very pleased with myself as I left the tailors, despite still being in my old tattered Sergeant’s uniform (which was earning me a handful of irritated looks from the various officers nearby). Even the muttered “...Bloody temporary gentleman...” coming from a nearby artillery captain could not lower my mood as I headed back towards Picadilly, intent on exploring the limits of my rare position of wealth. Firstly, I set about the work of replacing my battered flying kit. On Jermyn Street I found a hattery named ‘Bates’. Inside, the proprietor excitedly showed me The Tempest, their top of the line flying helmet. By comparison to my old hard leather flying cap, it was lightweight, soft, comfortable, and very warm. Excitedly I purchased it, coupled with an R.F.C Cap to match my new uniform and a new pair of lightweight flying goggles.
At Harrods I purchased a new leather flying coat. Unlike my old coat, this one hung below my knees and was lined with a wonderfully soft wool. Later, I procured a pair of silk gloves, and some new gauntlets to wear them under. The gauntlets were a popular type - the fingers were covered by mittens which could be folded back, for when extra dexterity was required. I returned to the Cavendish feeling very pleased with life in general.
I deposited my new items in my room, before heading to the sitting room, where one of Rosa’s Soiree’s was already in full swing. As I entered, she happily greeted me and asked me how I was enjoying my time in London, and like a schoolchild I excitedly babbled to her about my new purchases, as she reclined in her chair, listening to me in amusement. “Well, it sounds like you’re starting to become a proper Officer, Mr. Campbell! But, you’re missing one thing”. I blinked at her confusedly, to which she smiled coyly, beckoning over one of her attendees. She whispered something in his ear, and he disappeared briefly, before coming back with a small scrap of paper. As he handed it to me, Rosa spoke again. “Every good English Officer needs an appropriate weapon…”
I looked down at the note, which bore an address. WILLIAM EVANS, GUN & RIFLE MAKERS, 67A ST. JAMES STREET”.