[Received December 25, 1917]

Royal Flying Corps,



December 4, 1917

Dear Mother:

I want you all to rejoice with me today. I can fly! All by my little lonesome. I have had the most wonderful day. One of us Americans, Matheson, did his 1st solo yesterday. I told my instructor about it and today he gave me an hour and five minutes instruction. Two flights before breakfast and one after breakfast. Then we “washed out” (that is, stopped doing it and went away) because of the thick fog. After dinner the sun broke most of it away and he took me up and instructed me in the landings for forty minutes. Then he let me try it alone.

Luckily after dinner I had rehearsed to myself all the rules of the aerodrome such as passing, meeting, landing, etc., with other machines, and had put on my fur flying suit, and had borrowed a pair of big flying gloves. So all the little material things were O.K. and I had no worries. It was getting a little thick and the sun was hidden in the horizon mist. Holland said not to go far away, to make a circle and land there again. He waited out in the field for me.

So, in great glee I headed her around, opened the throttle and away we went. With the weight of a passenger out of the rear seat she flew and climbed much faster and always seemed to want to put her nose up and climb more. I used to have to hold her nose up, but now I had to push it down. In a jiffy we (meaning the machine and myself) were away up and considerably away from the aerodrome. About as soon as I thought I had her balanced and flying high and level, I realized that I had better try a turn. So we did; and after a few adjustments by the feel of things, and a glance or two at the “bubble,” the air-speed meter, and the revs indicator we got around and balanced and were all smiling again. I could not see the buildings and hangars of the aerodrome now, but had my bearings between a factory chimney near the aerodrome and the town of Harrow 3 miles away on a nice hill. You probably remember my slurring remarks about the “rumpties” (the nick-name for these Maurice Farman machines) being slow. Well I thought this one was pretty fast just now. No sooner had I tasted the relaxing pleasure of flying straight than we had passed the chimney and it was time to turn again. There were quite a few machines about but they were not at my height or in my way. We banked about and turned again. It was not perfect by any means, but we still had height and speed and got around O.K. Now I could see the aerodrome and machines in the field. I turned again, (all these turns spoken of being about 90°) and flew over the hangars in the direction for landing. Now the stunt was to shut off the engine, push the nose down, and keep her balanced and at gliding speed, as we coasted down to the field. Also to see that we did not go to land where another machine was. So I closed the throttle, pushed down her nose and was gloating over the wonderful desired effects, when I looked about for the other machines. Yes we had a clear road, but during the process of judging where the other fellows were going I had let my nose come up and we were going too slowly. We did not stall (that is lose flying speed and drop) but lost some of our balance and direction. I pushed forward, put on a little right rudder, brought my wing up and started on the glide all over again as it were. Now terra firma came closer and closer and traveled aft faster and faster. When I got down close (maybe ten feet) I leveled her up and we touched and bounced and touched again and ran along and turned 90° around and came to a stop. We should not have bounced or turned around. It was not a decent landing but the result was O.K. Now I could do as I pleased in the cockpit and the machine stayed still and level. Quite a contrast to the conditions that prevailed a few moments before when I had to do just so and so or the party would have developed into all sorts of exciting capers. Lieut. Holland was some distance away, beyond several machines, coming toward me. He beckoned for me so I started the engine and turned about and approached him, taxiing along the ground. He did not seem to think my landing was so bad and asked if I wanted to try it again. Which I did. I flew around in three large loops and tried turning to port & starboard. I made a landing, went up again for one circuit and down. I felt as though I had had enough for awhile: 35 minutes flying alone (solo). It was quite thick and hard to keep home in sight, so I turned around and taxied back to the hangar. This was quite difficult to do in any sort of straight line.

Naturally I was very much elated. I had flown, not by virtue of my own efforts, but by myself. There is one of the beauties of civilization—that the efforts, of all the men for ages back, mechanics, steel makers, linen weavers, scientists, experimenters, inventors, army organizers, and finally my instructor Lieut. Holland, had been coordinated, directed, and finally a little infinitesimal part had been side tracked onto me, and made the means and taught me to fly.

I speak of being taught to fly as though I had graduated from a post grad. course in the game. I have just made a bare start. However I am very much elated over the start. It is nice to feel that I am helping hold up the good showing that I think the Americans will make here. Two of us have soloed and the others are all just waiting for the conditions to be proper and we are well under the average time.

I have other things to be tickled about. We got our pay today. 100 American dollars worth of English money being 20£ 18s & 10d. Next month we only get $50, the rest being kept in Washington at 4% interest. If you can make better use of it I can transfer it to you.

Well I hope it is calm and clear tomorrow. I want to go a way up high and away from the aerodrome. High enough to be safe to drop a few feet if the bus gets to acting up, and clear enough to see home and not get lost in a strange landscape.

Love to all,


P. S. This is no. ten letter. I am enclosing five pictures. Happy New Year.

Matheson,” the American who got to solo one day ahead of Parr, was probably Conrad Henry Matthiessen, Jr. Born in Chicago, he grew up in Westchester County, New York.169 He attended Yale and graduated from that university’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1916.170 His draft registration card from June of 1917 gives “aviator” as his occupation; he graduated from ground school at M.I.T. the day Parr graduated at Ohio State University (August, 25, 1917).171 He was a member of the second Oxford detachment and thus a shipmate of Parr’s on the Carmania.172

An entry in Parr’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book for December 5, 1917, the day after the above letter, notes “Dud Mudge crashed.”

Counting from Parr’s letter of November 22, 1917, which he described as number four, this letter would be number twelve rather than ten. However, from here on out the numbering sequence goes on regularly, with the exception of numbers 43 and 51, for each of which there are two letters.