[Received November 20, 1917]

Camp Harrowby, Grantham

[November] 4, 1917

Dear Mother:

Well we did leave Oxford 9:15 Saturday morning. We left our old Sergeant Springs and 19 other men to be sent to a flying school maybe Tuesday. Springs had a very important job and handled it very well. We gave him a handsome silver flask.

The train ride was interesting. We were in 3rd class coaches, ten and less to a compartment. It drizzled all morning. We stopped over at one station for an hour. I went out alone for a walk and just happened to run into an entrance to Sir Herbert Leon’s estate. I walked pretty much over it and never imagined that landscape gardening could be done so beautifully. I wish you could see it. The natural formations of the land, the arrangement of the rocks and trees, the paths in the woods, and the wonderful variety of shrubs, trees, vines, moss, and flowers. Everything in marvelous condition.

We arrived at Grantham about 3:30. When we formed up outside of the station a full band fell in with us and we marched thru the town and out here with thrilling music. American marches. It surely was fine.

This camp is a very large affair on a muddy hill side farm. We have a section of very nice huts, about 9 men to a hut, and our own mess hall with a comfortable ante-room.

They served us a good dinner as soon as we arrived. Then we sorted out our baggage from where it had been unloaded from trucks and toted it to our huts.

After putting up our cots and getting arranged generally we had supper at 7:45. Afterwards another fellow and I walked down town. Everything was closed up and all streets very dark.

I am with some men I did not know very well before, and they are very fine fellows. This camp is a machine gun school. Mainly for training privates to use and handle the guns. We will be here 4 months and then, it seems, will go to an aerial gunnery school. It looks like we got sent here because there was no other place to send us to—playing for time.

After dinner last night the captain who is in charge of us gave us a good talk. We are to be treated as officers. Have a regular officers’ mess, a man servant to each hut to clean up, make beds, shine shoes etc., and we do not salute anyone but majors and above. In other words we are mongrel—we wear half of officers regalia, are treated like officers, except are not saluted, but we are just cadets.

The living conditions are very good. We have hot and cold showers. The huts are the low long barracks buildings about like you see in the States. We have a little stove here but it is hardly felt. It gets very cold at night. Last night I got cold and applied my overcoat. Tonight I will don the fur lined union suit.

This morning Palmer and I took a walk up over and around a neighboring hill. We got a good view of the town and found a flying school by walking towards the place where the machines were landing. It is an advanced school. We saw some interesting machines and some good flying. It makes me feel pretty bad to watch the other fellow fly when I am so far away from it. Coming home we almost lost our way. This afternoon the same fellow and I took another long walk returning after dark. So I am pretty tired and expect to sleep well tonight. Continue addressing me at London.

Lovingly,

Parr

Grantham is in Lincolnshire, on the East Coast Main Line railway, which connects to the Oxford–Cambridge line. Grantham was the site of a flying training facility during both world wars. Additionally, a depot and training center for machine gunners called Harrowby Camp (less often “Camp Harrowby”) was established early in World War I on land of the estates of Belton Park and Alma Park to the north and west of Grantham, and this was where Parr was now stationed.116

Elliott White Springs of South Carolina was, like Parr, the son of a textile manufacturer. Springs received his A.B. from Princeton (1917) where he learned to fly at the Princeton Aviation School before going on to attend aviation ground school there, graduating August 25, 1917 (the same day that Parr graduated at Ohio State University). Major MacDill, commanding officer of the “Italian detachment,” had been Springs’s commanding officer at Princeton and had come to rely on him (in part because Springs had an automobile). When, on arrival in England, MacDill was ordered to Paris, he left Springs de facto leader of the detachment.117

Foss wrote in his diary on Saturday, November 2, 1917: “Now riding in car 840 third class in Great Northern Railway. Seven of us in a compartment.” He then got the signatures of his compartment mates: Brad C. Lawton, Parr Hooper, Robert T. Palmer, G. Dana Spear, A. E. Weaver, P. Melbourne Stoughton.

Bletchley Park, the 580 acre estate of Sir Herbert Leon, lies approximately 25 miles northeast of Oxford and was easily accessible by the railway line from Oxford to Cambridge. Any information about the grounds is now buried under discussion of Bletchley as the center of code breaking activity in World War II.118

Although he does not mention them by name in his letters, Parr did take photos of the fellows with whom he shared a hut at Grantham. Five of them (Lloyd Andrews Hamilton, Melville Folsom Webber, Henry Bradley Frost, Edward Addison Griffiths, and Harvard DeHart Castle) had been at ground school at M.I.T., graduating when Parr did, on August 25, 1917. The remaining two (Thomas M. Nial and Edward Russell Moore) had been at the University of Illinois, finishing up September 1, 1917.119

Robert Thomas Palmer from Alabama had been working as an electrical engineer in Ohio prior to enrolling in ground school at Ohio State University; he graduated on Sept. 1, 1917, in time to become a member, along with Parr, of the second Oxford detachment.120 Palmer and Parr probably saw R.F.C./R.A.F. Spitalgate (Spittlegate), a flying training facility southeast of Grantham.