Great story and photos. Swanson is such a pro -- take off, bat a few Halberstadts out of the air for fun, carry on with the mission, and back for cream cakes and tea. All in a day's work...
Here is a quick piece from Collins.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Captain James Arthur Collins, VC, MC
Part Fifty-Nine: In which my life changes
“Do you know why I have sent for you?” It was the second time in a week and a half that I had met General Henderson. This was the fellow who had brought the RFC into being, who learned to fly in 1911, who had commanded it in the field before General Trenchard, and who was the most impressive soldier I’d ever seen. He was tall, striking, and impeccably turned out, a DSO ribbon leading the band of campaign ribbons on his tunic. His voice, rich Scots mixed with public school English, was tonal caramel.
Brigadier-General Sir David Henderson
“Your life, young Collins, is about to change. I have here a letter from the King, who has seen fit to award you the Victoria Cross. Do you know what that means for you?” I was breathless. Free pints at the Kings Head came to mind. I stared blankly at the General, who continued. “It brings expectations. It brings responsibility. You wear it not only for yourself, but for all you serve with. Do you understand what that will mean?”
“I believe I do, sir,” I said. God, what comes after the pints? “Example, sir. One needs to serve as an example.” A schoolboy answer, but the best I had.
“That is exactly the point,” said the General. “When the award is gazetted later today, your life as a private person is effectively done. You will never again be out of the eye of the people. I expect you to do our Flying Corps proud.”
“Yes, sir.” I had rather hoped that shooting down a Zeppelin or two would help me meet girls, and had mused about the likelihood of a filthy weekend or two. The former was still likely. The dreams of the latter were rapidly receding.
The General passed across his desk several bars of crimson ribbon. “You can get these up today but leave the ribbon off the tunic you will wear to your investiture. Oh yes, the investiture. Major Higgins will meet you at the station in Windsor on Saturday at one o’clock. You’ll travel there with Lieutenants Sowrey and Leefe Robinson, who are both receiving the DSO. The investiture is at the Castle at two. And it’s just for the three of you. Let me be the first to congratulate you, Captain Collins.”
“Yes, and you’ve been approved officially as flight commander with Thirty-Nine. Now I believe you’d best be off to see your tailor. You are to meet me at Simpson’s in the Strand at seven. We’re dining with the Secretary of State for War, Mr. George, and the Leaders of the Lords, the Marquess of Crewe. Both Liberals. They wish to meet you.”
“Is there a political agenda here, sir?” I dared to ask.
“There probably was when Lloyd George set up the meeting. And I suspect Colonel Aitken was involved. But the Marquess invited himself. He and Mr. George are not exactly in accord with one another. My job, Captain Collins, is to keep you safely out of whatever they are up to.” I thanked the General, who pulled his chair back as a sign I should leave now. “Oh, Captain Collins,” he said, “have you met a marquess before?”
“Then know it’s a simple ‘My Lord’ when you do meet him. Until seven, then. See your tailor.”