[Received December 18, 1917]

Northolt Aerodome

Nov. 27, 1917

Dear Father:

I will start in where I left off about my day in London. I got off the bus at Hyde Park Corner and walked a little over a mile to Victoria & Albert Museum. It is a pretty large place and not especially interesting to me, though I must confess I did not stay long enough to get a very satisfactory idea of what all it did have. I gave the catalogue the once over and decided to see the exhibition of Rodin’s work. They were the best things I saw—3 or 4 very fine small marbles. Then I was interested in some of the old Italian art, paintings, wood carvings, altar decorations, etc. There were some fine collections of old handsome French furniture, tapestries, and a whole bunch of the general museum stuff like metal work, vases, musical instruments, etc. I then hurried to the nearby Museum of Natural History. It appeared at a glance to be the ordinary variety. I inquired about the place that Mr. King told me about as the South Kensington Museum where they had running models of the important ships engines and all kinds of machines and inventions. I learned that it is the Science Museum of the Imperial Institute. It is closed to the general public during the war, but anybody is allowed to go through by making application. It is open during daylight on week days and until 8.00 o’clock on Saturdays. I expect to go next Saturday afternoon after flying.

By this time it was getting dark. I walked up to Hyde Park through what seemed to be a very fashionable residential section. Just where I came to Hyde Park is the Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. The Albert Memorial is a queer thing, but very fine and magnificent. The upper part is a large canopy on four columns. It looks like Hindu or Byzantine or some such funny type—very delicate and intricate in details and elaborately colored in gilt and blues and red. A heroic sized figure in bronze of the prince is seated under the canopy and it all is set on a mountainous marble base with terraces of steps and friezes and sculptured groups at the four corners. I liked the base immensely.

I walked on across the park. This time at a prettier section than I had seen in the A.M. The moon was bright among the clouds, and I thought it was such a good night for a Hun raid that I hated to go on into the station and leave the place.

You should have heard a Canadian talking about his experiences as an aerial observer in France. He is a very clever and amusing fellow anyway, but when he got comfortable around our little stove with two absorbing and attentive listeners like Rit and myself, he was a wonder. He told about his scrap. He and his pilot were up on an artillery reconnaissance about 2,000 yards over the Hun lines. He was endeavoring to pin point on his map the position of an active Hun battery when he suddenly heard the cackle (bop, bop, bop, bop, bop—500 per minute) of a Hun machine gun at his back. He turned around and started to let him have his Lewis gun. The Hun was flying straight at their tail and he could see his tracer bullets piling onto the Hun’s prop and engine, and seeming to do no harm, but could not see the Hun for the engine in front. The Hun’s bullets were coming through the fuselage just in front of him, cutting stay wires and going miraculously by him and into his pilot. When the Hun first started fire, one shot went through his foot at the heel resulting in a very large and throbbing head [sic]. While he was about to change magazines the Hun turned away and for the first time he could see his face, only 50 yards away. At the hospital afterwards that face and the gun with no amm in it used to haunt him. The tail of their machine was distorted and seemingly useless, his pilot had two shots in the right shoulder and a burst of ten in his left leg, but they managed to land behind their own lines and get each other out of the machine. They tied the bad leg up and smoked cigarettes until some Frenchmen came up and got stretcher bearers to take them away.

This Canadian has a chum who is flying a scout machine in his squadron. He told us about several of his friend’s escapades. This friend never saw the first 3 Huns he fought until he had heard the cackle of their machine guns on his tail. He also told how a fighting squadron had surprised and bombed a Hun airdrome early one morning while the Huns were getting their machines lined up for a flight by flying over the lines away high up and swooping down near the airdrome and then taxiing on the ground and flying very low up to the hangars.

Last night we heard the wildest yarns of [censored] He told about mud, liquid fire, gas attacks, corpses, listening patrol duty at night in no man’s land and all the stuff you read about. And the saying over here is that the seventh year of the war will be the worst and after that every fourteenth. But we will get the Hun before the winter of 1920 is passed. It seems incredible but he is not getting licked yet by any means with all the wonderful battle of the tanks.

The weather has been very dud for flying. I have been up 4 times, 1 hour and 35 minutes in all. Have been going to boring classes and cleaning up hangars and machines.



In November 1914 Rodin had donated a group of sculptures to the Victoria and Albert Museum in honor of British and French soldiers killed in the war. The collection was mainly bronze, with one terracotta and one marble, which makes Parr’s reference to “3 or 4 small marbles” puzzling.158 Parr’s interest in Rodin may have been sparked by hearing of Rodin’s death a week previously (November 17, 1918).

The man recommending sites to visit in London was Frank B. King, a retired naval architect based in Washington D.C.159 He was one of the sponsors of Parr’s successful application for membership in The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers in 1916.

The Science Museum was originally part of the South Kensington Museum, which housed items of both scientific and artistic interest and which acquired a significant collection of ship models and marine engines in 1864. The Science Museum became administratively separate in 1909 when the Victoria and Albert Museum, housing the art collection, opened.160 The relationship, if any, of the Science Museum to the Imperial Institute is unclear to me; they may simply have been physically proximate

The talkative Canadian is identified in the following letter as Bishop Wilson; he was perhaps the “1st lieutenant who got shot down by a Hun” whom Parr mentions in his letter of November 24, 1917. Bishop Arlington Wilson was born November 6, 1896, in Pittsburgh, but lived in Canada from 1899 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in early 1916.161 Initially in the British Columbia Regiment, he began training with the R.F.C. at Reading in February 1917 and went on to the wireless and observers school at Brooklands before being sent overseas in April or May of 1917.162 The combat he described occurred near Ficheux (six miles south of Arras) on May 7, 1917, when Wilson was acting as observer for Captain William Wilfrid Leete while they were flying a line patrol in an R.E.8 (A3426) for No. 59 Squadron; their opponent was probably the formidable Carl Menckhoff of Jasta 3 who, a year later, would be awarded the Pour le Mérite (Blue Max).163 By July of 1917, Wilson was back in harness, at No. 3 Training Squadron (Shoreham); he then attended the School of Military Aeronautics at Reading before being transferred on November 15, 1917, to No. 2 Training Squadron at Northolt.164

censored: About 6 vertical inches of writing, about 15 lines, have been erased or scraped away.

A week previously, on November 20, 1917 (as Parr was transferring from Grantham to Northolt), British forces under the command of Sir Julian Byng began the offensive of the Battle of Cambrai, where for the first time there was large-scale and initially successful use of tanks.