[Received April 20, 1918]

#42

Ayr, Scotland

April 3, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I surely have had a wonderful day. Frank Read and I have been seeing Ayrshire on bikes. When we returned tonight we saw a lot of soldiers about town. They surprised us and we remarked “there must be a war on.” I believe I edited Sherman’s remark about war once before, now I want to revise it again. “War is H—sometimes.” Today was not one of the times. We went up to the airdrome this A.M. and learned that we would not get out of the pool so we decided to take a walk. Coming thru Ayr we hired two bikes and started out nowhere in particular but south in general. I had my map and we thought we would go to certain hills and lakes. We followed along fine roads thru very picturesque valleys and over hills. The little towns were very interesting. We stopped at a little inn at Kirkmichael and got lunch. Rations limited us to one and tuppence each but the landlady treated us very well. Then we went to the little store and bought some oat crackers and chocolate candy (28¢ 1/4 pound). While riding to the village we had seen a monument on the highest nearby hill. Some of the old men we talked with said there was a fine view to be seen from it so we decided to eat our dessert up there. We rode a little way towards it, left our wheels and climbed up. This is hilly sheep raising country. Very steep and rugged hills covered with grass, and moss and a matty sort of short bushy stuff. Stone walls dividing steepest and wildest parts and a wonderful old castle and estate in every section of each valley.

We were blessed with a wonderful day. Quite cool, rather clear, and wonderful white clouds in a blue sky to make sky scenery and hide the sun every now and then.

Climbing this young mountain was hot work so we left our coats and belts on the first stone wall. The view from the top was a wonder. We nestled in the sun in a bit of a pocket in the hilltop to keep off the wind and eat our dessert while taking in the country. The moss is made up of a sort of soft bushy vine that beats grass all hollow for a mattress. The little village of Straiton, that we had come through looked like one big stone barn. We could see one handsome castle and the estate around it and several villages tucked between the hills.

This fellow Frank is a fine mate. He is very refined and genteel and a sport from A to Z. He enjoyed it all as much or more than I did and was singing and raving all the time about living up there with some wonderful girl after the war.

After our fest and a carroos [sic] over the map we decided to have a look at Loch Doon. So we clambered down, got our wheels and rode further back into the hills. Finally we came to the end of the road and the last farm house. Mr. and Mrs. Farmer Scotsman and their really pretty daughter were very sociable and gave us detailed directions to follow over the trackless hills. They invited us in to have a glass of milk, but we declined and started to wheel our bikes over the sheep hills. I cannot describe the grass or matty covering of the hills. It seemed to be of indefinite thickness, tuff [sic] grass, heather, matty moss, bushy moss, etc. They cut it out in slabs about a foot thick and burn it. I suppose it is peat when it is pressed and dried. We dragged our bikes along. There were flocks of sheep, shepherds, dogs, individuals walking, all around in the landscape but each group miles and miles away and apart. We passed Loch Derclach and Loch Finlas and then came over the ridge to where we could see “Ye banks and braes O bonny Doon.” The moor and the hills, and the smaller lakes were very interesting and picturesque, but I was disappointed with Loch Doon. Its shores were so bare and barren it looked anything but bonnie. We rode home along the valley of River Doon. It surely was a fine trip, and gave us a good idea of the Burns country. We covered 47 ½ miles. Such sights and pleasures are going to make it harder for Mr. Hun to get at us, because, as Frank said, we will have to see this war thru.

It is lucky for you all that we were not over the lines for this push. Sometimes we wished we were in it, and at other times we were satisfied with the position in which providence has put us. There surely has been some doings over there. Probably we will be there in time for our push when the Hun is tired out by his own.

Ayr is the best town next to Oxford that I have been in over here. It is on a sandy point. Half of its shore line is developed as a park with a good street and stone promenade just where the beach and land join. It is evidently quite a popular bathing beach in summer. Back of this park is the best residential section. The houses are very handsome. They are built of grey sandstone with towers, gables and chimneys like little castles. Each place has a pretty garden and plenty of grounds around it, and all surrounded by tremendous stone walls. The streets are very wide, well paved and kept in good condition. I do not know anybody who lives here but the people in general look very nice.

The fighting school is under the command of Col. Rees, V.C. He visited the U.S.A. last fall. The aerodrome is at the race course. There are quite a lot of all varieties of aeroplanes and from averaging the various “for and against” remarks they are well rigged and cared for busses. I spent my first mornings looking the place over, examining the machines, and watching the flying. I was very much interested in a Hun Albatross and an English made monoplane. They are both several years old. The Albatros is not in flying condition now. The monoplanes are wonderful little things. Their performance in the air looks so good Frank and I wanted to go to France on them. If I get a day or so in the graduate pool here I may get a chance to fly one of them. You can see everything from them that is in the hemisphere from your horizon up, but you cannot see at all well below. That makes it difficult to land, so I hope I don’t smash it for them.

The other morning they had an “air day.” A flock of Avros (20 or 30) went out on a reconnaissance patrol, protected by S.E.5s flying above them. Then the Camels and Bristol Fighters went out in formations and scrapped them—air sham battle. We could not see them when they got far away, but there was a lot of excitement on and over the aerodrome when they were taking off and trying to get in their proper groups in the air. I wish I would get out of this blooming pool and get to flitting again. I have not flown for so long it will seem like a first solo when I take off again. I think we will get started tomorrow.

I have not gotten my active service orders yet, and I am really not a 1st lieut. until they come, because my lieut’s. pay does not start until I am put on active duty. I put up all the regalia when I got my commission because even as cadets we are instructed to wear about half of it and there are so many American air mechanics in town saluting us that it is much better to be a full lieut. when they do it. Easter morning I started wearing the entire outfit. I have not put any wings up yet because I cannot buy any here. When I get my active service orders I will cable you. This lieut. dope has been drawn out and held up so long that it does not thrill a bit. I remember how tickled I was to wear those little wings on my shirt sleeve when I came home from ground school.

I have been really highly elated only about three times. First when Captain Lippencott told me my application was accepted and I would get my physical exam. Then when I was home from Mineola, and then when we left Halifax. Going across to France is quite a cut and dried thing in these parts. I have said goodby to so many fellows going over, and will be with fellows who have gone back and forth several times when I go, that it probably won’t seem like any especially wonderful event. What I look forward to mostly is the moment (I flatter myself with skill and good luck) when I first lead a flight and give the wriggle to my bus that will tell all my mates “there they are, let’s go, noses down.” When I first go down as a new member of a flight I will be so blooming busy and windy that I will never receive any registration of the sensation.

I have gotten several Outlooks, the last is March 13. They came at close intervals, but for some time I have not received any. They are the best things I get next to your letters. I see the stream lined caps our new army wore on parade in N.Y. Since seeing the pictures I looked up the cap. It is not nearly so neat as the R.F.C. cap. I got two fine letters from Margaret. James’ hat arrived and I am very glad she likes it. Sara is having great luck in getting a chance to come across as a field clerk.

I wish you could see these English W.A.A.C’s., pronounced wack. They are great sports. They are mostly recruited from the ordinary class, about the same social grade as the Tommies. The ones who do not work as cooks, waitresses, maids, etc., namely those who drive cars, lurries, clerk and play office and messenger boys around the airdrome, drill every morning the same as the men. It seems very funny. English drill is a scream anyway. The severity and bull voice of the sergeant major drill master makes the Tommies act like energetic galley slaves. The drill master puts “the fear of god” up them and their faces look very drawn on parade. But the girls are a scream. The sergeant major can bellow his head off and it has no effect on them, except perhaps it makes them smile the more. And with all their happy and talkative manner in ranks they drill pretty well. When they are given double time the stout ones drop out and the rest jog along in broken rank as though it is the funniest thing they do.

Your letter No. 48 was received and enjoyed last night. Father’s #47 which Mother speaks of him having written has not arrived yet. So the Friday Club has met at our house. Some salad I should say. We get good food here, but English people do not know the first thing about preparing food. It is due to too much servant [sic]. I hope you will tell me what all the high brow papers were about. Glad to hear that Miss Redden is started to be going across. [sic]

I think it is funny about my pictures. You say you want them and yet when I give them to you you make bad remarks about them and don’t seem to like them. Even that time I got a swell photographer in Phillie to shoot me for Helen you did not like it, and you don’t seem to like my snaps even though you are having one enlarged. For Pete’s sake give me a little encouragement, say they are fine sometime. I am expecting to go through the Philly ordeal again here at your request and I have nothing but failure staring me in the face. How do you expect me to smile and look unnatural when from all past experience I know you won’t like the result. It is April 4th, now.

Lovingly,

Parr

Tommy (Herbert) and I took the bikes out this morning. We went down the coast south of the Heads of Ayr and rode down to the beach and played around on it with the bikes. Then we climbed up the rocks of the cliff of the Heads of Ayr and took some pictures. Coming home we cut into a little byroad, coasted down a winding and steep cow path. After several hair breadth escapes my bus finally chucked me down a ten foot bank into a newly plowed field. No casualties. Then we discovered we both had punctured our tires and had to walk them 3 miles home. We just got back in time to get the last end of lunch.

Parr

Frank and Parr’s walk apparently took them initially about ten miles south of Ayr to Kirkmichael and then southeast to the village of Straiton and, continuing southeast, up Craigengower Hill, where there is a monument to Lt. Colonel James Hunter Blair, who died in 1854 in the Crimean War and whose family’s castle, Blairquhan, can presumably be seen from Craigengower.327

Ye Banks and Braes,” by Robert Burns.

Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees (born 1884 in Wales), a highly skilled aviator and marksman, served as a flying instructor at the beginning of the war, and then served with No. 11 Squadron before taking command of No. 32 at the start of 1916. He received the Victoria Cross for attacking and damaging German planes on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916), continuing pursuit even after being wounded. He was credited with two victories that day, bringing his total to eight. Rees spent the remainder of the war as head of the School of Aerial Fighting in Ayr (and later Turnberry), Scotland.328

About three weeks before Parr arrived at Ayr, several student pilots died in air accidents at the school. Difficulty of access to records has led to confusion regarding the identities of at least two of them. In addition to Frederick William Hough of the Navy’s First Aeronautic Detachment and Andrew Carl Ortmayer of the Signal Corps, Harry Glenn Velie, also of the Navy’s First Aeronautic Detachment, and Thomas Sydney Ough Dealy of the Australian Flying Corps were killed; all were flying Sopwith Camels.329 The entry for March 12, 1918, in War Birds indicates that, additionally, two (unidentified) Englishmen were killed flying Camels around this time. David Sinton Ingalls, a navy aviator of the 1st Yale Unit was at Ayr during this period; his diary entry for March 10, 1918 reads in part: “Well, there was a strike today. All the pupils refused to fly any more Camels.”330 The entry for March 12, 1918, in War Birds relates how “Col. Rees . . . tried to put pep in the boys by giving a stunting exhibition below five hundred feet. He certainly did fight the tree tops and he wouldn’t come out of a spin above fifty feet.” Advanced training resumed. (Vaughn, War Flying in France, p. 65, also recalls concerns of student pilots at Ayr about the Camel; he mentions Captain D’Urban Victor Armstrong being brought in to “put his Camel through all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers just a few feet off the ground.”)

Parr could have seen any of a number of planes supplied by the German aircraft maker Albatros Flugzeugwerke, but was probably referring to the Albatros D 1 flown by a Lt. Büttner, about which more in Parr’s letter of April 19, 1918.

The English made monoplane was probably a Bristol M.1C, designed in 1916 and in production in small numbers in 1917. Although biplanes made up the vast majority of World War I aircraft, all the major combatants had monoplanes as well. The Bristol M.1C was highly regarded by some of those who flew it, including Gerald Maxwell, one of Parr’s instructors at Ayr, but a belief among the “higher ups” that biplanes were inherently safer and more reliable meant that few monoplanes were built or flown in combat at this time.331

Parr probably encountered Captain (later Colonel) Aubrey Lippincott, who was “in charge of the personnel division of the Air Service” in 1917.332

The March 13, 1918, issue of the Outlook, does, indeed, have a picture on p. 415 of soldiers in a parade on Fifth Avenue wearing caps somewhat similar to those worn by the R.F.C./R.A.F. cadets.

Sara may have been Sarah Lawrence McQueen (born in 1896), sister of James Russell McQueen. The 1920 census indicates that she was working as a secretary for the U.S. government; perhaps she was hoping in 1918 that her secretarial skills would allow her to go to Europe as a clerk.333

Cecelia Olive Redden, a nurse, was living at the Hooper residence at 1626 Bolton Street in 1917.334 She was presumably a classmate of Parr’s sister Mary, or at least a friend from their mutual work in nursing. A few months older than Parr, she was born in Nova Scotia and came to the U.S. in 1912.335 Writing to his parents in August of 1917, Parr inquired about Miss Redden’s success with the Red Cross and a few days later asked them to “tell Miss Redden I will look for her in France, and am mighty glad she was accepted.”336 On March 12, 1918, she joined the Army Nurse Corps at Camp (now Fort) Meade halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.337