#15

London, Colney

No. 56 Training Squadron,

Royal Flying Corps.

Near St. Albans

December 18, 1917

Dear Mother:

Well what do you know about my being posted here. My old friend of the lost-in-the-fog flight. It seems that this wing of the R.F.C. is going to make this an American Training Squadron. There are 13 of us here. I was quite delighted on my arrival to find my old friends of the Italian Detachment among them being Herbert (family name) my roommate at Christ Church College and Exeter College Oxford. I am now rooming with “Ted” Brown a fellow from Princeton.

I received my posting orders this A.M. at Northolt and packed up and left before dinner. As you know I am only 12 miles from Northolt, but I had to go into and across London to get here. You remember the large amount of baggage I went into the army with. That full suitcase I took to Columbus. Well now I only have 290 pounds of baggage. I cannot imagine where it all went to. Myself and luggage made some load for a taxi going across London. Incidentally I weigh 152 pounds, 12# of which is probably uniform. I’ll be a man before you are, yet.

They say there are only 3 Avros (the dual controlled rotary engined machines we start our stunt training in) here. At that rate we will not fly very often. However the weather will not hinder us as much as it did when we were using “rumpties.” This is a very good squadron—good instructors, good fellows as students, good mess, good huts, and pretty convenient to London. We walk about 3/4 miles, take a bus 3 miles to St. Albans, and there we have good train service to Town, the express going in in about 35 minutes. The only possible thing I have against being posted here is that I had been here once before. I like to take a chance on some unknown bran’ new thing.

Anyway I know the way by air to Northolt. The next time I get a good excuse to go straying I am going to find Oxford. You see I would like to call on Miss Wright under interesting circumstances.

Speaking of the ladies, I met a very attractive Canadian one Sunday. I went in early in the A.M. and went to church at the Abbey. After the service I was walking in the cloisters and met two American sailors off of a destroyer. We had a very interesting chat. They were in high spirits and enthusiastic about their jobs. They told me some marvelous figures about speed etc. of some of our new destroyers. I walked about town a bit and then went to the American Y.M.C.A. on the Strand, “Eagle Hut,” to get a first hand impression of the place. (This is very thick paper to use only one side of but here goes.)

I guess I told you about having looked it over once before. I got roast beef, cabbage, and stewed prunes for one shilling & one pence = 25 cents. It was very good and served by a very sweet young lady. I got to chatting with a fine looking redheaded sailor from a U.S. destroyer, a young kid from Texas. When I finished dinner I joined his pals. They were about the best chaps I have seen in England. They seemed to think that the flying corps was great stuff, and you know what I think of the destroyer fleet, so we got along very well. They treated me to a real American sundae (the first I have had here, as this Y.M. seems to be the only place you can get them). Then I took them to the Grill Room at the Regent Palace and we had a party on port wine with a savory egg omelet for an excuse to be in the Grill Room. They were very much tickled with the place, and we spun out imaginary tales about rushing the Kiel Canal, etc. I surely do think that America is going to put some real effective pep into this war.

My mates were going on some sort of a party arranged by a wealthy American through the Y.M. so I went back to the Hut with them, and then went back to Paddington where I met “Bish” & “Rit,” and the three of us went to call on the McLellands.

We arrived at tea time. There was Mr. and Mrs., Jean (19 yrs.), Mary (younger), a captain, a first lieut. (both British) and a private. They have a very nice home and it was a fine party. “Bish,” “Rit,” the soldier, and I stayed for dinner and until 10 o’clock.

Mrs. is very sweet, Methodist, likes to hear the boys sing, and played the piano very well. Mr. was very friendly, a bit quiet. Jean is very pretty. Her yellow hair is cropped level with her neck (result of some sickness). She is very lively, plays the piano well and has lots of friends dead and living who are flight commanders and all sorts of notorious folks. She also has a bunch of very interesting photos of these friends and the war zone which she delighted in showing. They say she dances very well and I believe it and hope to see her often, and when it is not Sunday. We were invited very cordially to come again.

As there was no late train out to Northolt Sunday night we went back to the Regent Palace and enjoyed its luxuries again. “Bish” was orderly officer for Monday and I had to report to the adjutant to inquire about my posting so we had to leave early before breakfast. “Rit” stayed and had breakfast served to him in bed.

I was not posted. I spent the day fussing about—arranging myself in the new hut I had been moved to in my absence Sunday, unsticking two rolls of films, mending clothes etc.

I got a letter from Rox Fleet. He and Red Wheeler and Mac are at a home defense squadron. They are billeted in nice homes and do not do anything except occasional flying when the pilots feel like taking them up.

I am different from the English in that I think it is best to have the folks at home realize what may actually be coming and not patch up unduly rosy pictures. I mean that I expect to go to France and fly in active service over the lines, but I do not know it for sure; and, if you will not expect to see me home right away, I might say that there is a slight possibility of us being sent back as instructors. I personally cannot see the logic in the idea. They have got a bunch of instructors in the States now and as we are already over here and as March is probably the time that pilots will be needed at the front—therefore—I think they will keep us here.

It would be very interesting to me to know just what you all think about the military situation now. Do you think the Huns are beating us? Or do you think we (our allies) have it all over them? Do you think the Huns are better shots, or pilots, or better trained? How long do you think the war will last and what kind of an ending will it be? The Huns are trying a raid on London tonight. All we can notice of it is the faint booming of guns.

Tomorrow I hope to write to you about my first taste of stunt flying. Here’s to good weather.

Lovingly,

Parr

The shortage of Avros turned out to be not as bad as rumored. In his Pilot’s Flying Log Book Parr recorded flying nine different Avros 504s during his time at London Colney. A. V. Roe and Company (named for Alliot Verdon Roe, who, with his brother, founded the company in 1910) introduced the Avro 504 in 1913; it was used at the front only in the early days of the war, but was then widely used as a trainer; the Avro 504J & 504K were specifically manufactured as trainers and used as such throughout the war.189

Ted Brown was Charles Edward Brown, Jr., born in Buffalo, New York, in 1894. After attending St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts, he studied at Princeton, receiving his B.A. in 1917.190 While at Princeton, Brown, like Springs, was a student at the Princeton Aviation School prior to joining the Signal Corps and attending ground school at Princeton (graduating August 25, 1917).191

The Eagle Hut, which had opened to much fanfare on September 3, 1917, was the largest of many establishments run by the YMCA, in cooperation with the military, that provided inexpensive meals, lodging, and recreation for the huge number of men in transit to and from the front.192

Parr wrote “Keil Canal,” but was almost certainly alluding to the “Kiel Canal,” which cuts across Schleswig-Holstein to link the North Sea to the Baltic. As far as I can tell, the effectiveness of the British naval blockade of Germany meant that the Kiel Canal had no strategic importance, so there would have been little point in rushing it. But it was obviously fun to fantasize about.

The McLellands were a Canadian family from Kingston. The father, Reuben Alexander McLelland, was a bank manager in Ontario at the time of his marriage in 1890 to Lulu Belle Magee.193 By 1916 he is described as a “steamship manager” and was traveling back and forth between Canada and England. Residing in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel, he and his wife, like the Oslers and the Wrights, kept open house for American and Canadian soldiers.194 In addition to the daughters Jean (born in 1897) and Mary Charlotte (1899), there was an older, married daughter, Helen Grace (1891).195 Parr does not indicate how he was introduced to the McLellands, but perhaps it was through his Canadian friend Bishop Wilson, or perhaps through his other Canadian acquaintances, the Oslers and the Wrights.

Mac was a nickname for Clarence Bernard Maloney. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 1, 1889), he received his B.S. in agriculture from Michigan Agricultural College (“M.A.C.”) in 1915 and his M.S. from the University of Florida; he was employed for a time as an inspector by the State Plant Board of Florida before enlisting June 25, 1917.196 He attended ground school with Parr, Wheeler, and Fleet. R.A.F. records for Wheeler and Maloney indicate that on December 15, 1917, they were assigned to No. 112 Squadron, a home defense squadron at Throwley in Kent. Parr’s report of Fleet’s letter indicates that Fleet was there as well.197

The day after Parr wrote this letter, Harold Ainsworth, a British born Swarthmore graduate who had completed ground school in Ohio on July 28, 1917, and had gone to England as a member of the first Oxford detachment, died in a flying accident while training with Elliott White Springs and others at Stamford. He was the first of the American Oxford cadets to be killed.198 Springs’s letter of December 25, 1917, to his stepmother records the event, and there is an account of it in the January 1, 1918, entry in War Birds.