So sad to see Jericho go out in such a brutal fashion. I liked him, MFair, better luck with your next pilot.
This story takes place at the start of June. ---------------------------- After a few days in the mining cottages of Auchel, 32 squadron moved once again to Treizennes.
This field was set up in parkland south of the little strip of village that was Treizennes itself. The parkland belonged to the owner of a couple of factories nearby, as did the 'château.' This wasn't a real châteaux but was called one anyway. Instead it was a recently built country house and was quite nice.
Stanley hoped that he would be staying there, as indeed A flight and the CO's staff were. However, the owner, Monsieur Schatzmann wouldn't have it. “Too many!” the little old man declared when it was raised.
So it was that B and C flights once again found themselves in workers' cottages. Some of the pilots were resentful of this, but Stanley set out his cot in an attic with a smile on his face. “Why are you so happy Wags?” Bill (Lewis) asked. “Isn't this a bit off, A flight in that Chateaux and you, the son of an Earl, washing in a foldaway basin?” Stanley neatly stowed the case that held his belongings and sat back. “Not at all. This is pretty good compared to some of the places that I have had to sleep as a soldier.” “What's the worst you've had then, Wags?” Stanley's eyes looked far away for a moment. Then he looked at Lewis solemnly. “The Metropole hotel. So many Whitehall mandarins. You simply cannot get a table.” He sighed theatrically, “terrible!”
The first operational flights took place the day after arriving at Treizennes. Lewis landed in the afternoon with a wild and exhilarated look on his face. “I found a Hun two seater,” He told Stanley, in the recording office. “One of the new ones I think. I dived on him but he ran for it.” “Good work Bill,” Stanley smiled.
That evening, things turned a bit more sombre in the mess as word got around that Lt Stubbs had been hit by Archie and hard tried to land at Erevin-Capelle. Witnesses at the aerodrome there said that the DH2 had descended to 100 feet, but suddenly zoomed upwards and then dived into the ground. The pilot was dead when they reached the wreck. Strangely, there only seemed to be a few scratches on him.
Stanley’s own first offensive flight came the next day. The instructions were to meet FE2bs from 18 squadron over Bruay before escorting them to photograph the enemy rear positions near Monchy.
An hour and a half into the flight, there was a terrible bang and a crash. Stanley's aeroplane started shaking terribly. He realised that it was a cylinder missing. Waving to the Fees, Stanley left the formation and headed for home. Gliding as much as he could.
Stanley knew he had to put down somewhere immediately. Luckily he was close to Mont St Eloi and was confident that he could make the field there. There was a row of trees and beyond that the sheds of the aerodrome, but engineless Stanley neither had a choice, nor any concern as he knew that he would clear them.
The undercarriage plucked at a branch on the tree as he passed. The DH2 kept flying forward, but the collision had wrecked the undercarriage and the machine crumpled as Stanley hit the ground. Wood splintered and canvas ripped in a horrifying cacophony.
Men and officers ran toward the crash. The single seat machine was now unrecognisable as a modern weapon of war and looked more like a rag and bone man's haul. The pilot was sat in the cockpit holding his face. His gloves were wet with blood.
“Hello there! Are you alright?” Stanley looked at the people peering in at him. “I banged my head on the bloody Lewis gun! That's going to be a shiner!”*
------------------------------------------------------- *I was really lucky. The crash was a bad one, but the roll of the dice gave me only four days in hospital. I was complacent about the landing and didn't pay as dearly as I might have.
The picture of a wrecked DH2 on a trailer is that of FE Hellyer, one of 32 squadron's pilots who crashed it on the 15th June 1916. Because of time I won't be covering that, but Hellyer survived and went back to England for recovery before returning to France.