[Received December 26, 1917]


Royal Flying Corps,



Northolt Aerodrome

Dec. 6, 1917

Dear Father:

I suppose that I should have written to you every day after telling you that I had started solo flying. You may have been anxious about me, but I suppose you blamed any delay on the transportation of the mails and did not think I had crashed. Well I am all over the critical stage now. I can take an old bus up just as easily as riding George. I don’t do things just right all the time but I am safe. I have twenty minutes more to fly here and then I am ready and allowed to go to a scout squadron. However my instructor said that if I wanted to wait for my mate “Rit” I could, and fly rumpties here as much as I please while waiting. Rit did his first solo today, and we only have to do 4 hours solo in rumpties before we go to the more advanced squadron, so I am figuring on staying here until we can both go together. It will be all the better for me because there is no better practice for ordinary flying than these unstable rumpties give. I cannot find out definitely where we will go or just what machines we will fly next. It is pretty certain that they will give us any kind of work we desire and we are going to take the scouts. We will not be put into them immediately although we will go to a scout school. There is some intermediate dual controlled machine that they give us a few rides in first to give us a taste of real flying before we try to ride a scout.

You must not think that I am getting into a dangerous branch. As I have said before one is just as safe one place as another. No matter what machine you fly at the front you will get into a scrap with a Hun and it is much safer to go and get him, in a good machine for the job, than to have him dive under your tail and get you, out of a slow unwieldy observation bus. And then when you learn how to handle a fast scout you ought to be able to fly most anything.

My flight instructor is surely fine. He gives me every opportunity to go up and lets me take his favorite bus. I have not gotten that wonderful day I was wishing for in my last letter, but I have been getting my fun. It has been a little foggy. I got some practice landing and flew about a little. There is a compass in the bus but no map and I don’t think I could use either to much advantage yet any way. It is a bit interesting to fly in thick weather. The ground under you is about all you have to judge your bearings from, the horizon is lost in a wall of mist, and the region over yonder where the light sifts through (the sun) is your main gauge point for all motions and directions.

Today I was up three times. 20 minutes about 11 A. M., 1 hour and 5 minutes in the afternoon, and then 15 minutes just before sun down. The long ride this afternoon was a wonder. There was a breeze but it was very smooth and the mist did not hide much. I climbed up to 1600 feet and explored three neighboring towns and a church off on a hill. I was flying easily enough to really look around and watch the wings and tail of the machine and see the country. It surely does look wonderful, fields, hedges, roads, woods, brooks, ponds, bridges, rail road trains, villages, farms, and all. It is really a wonderful view.

I did three figure eights, shut off the engine and glided down, climbed up again, and made three landings. A rumpty will not climb but about 5000 feet and is no good for any thing but ordinary flying. They say that it is practically impossible to get one out of a nose dive, so we did not take any chances whatever. In calm weather I do not feel any sensations whatever. You feel just as steady at 1600 feet with nothing but air holding you up as you do in a limousine. I did not notice any change of air pressure, but of course I was not high enough to get much. Wait a couple of weeks and I will tell you what a spiral dive feels like.

When the sun went behind the cloud bank near the horizon the air got very “bumpy.” The machine lurched and twisted and required a lot of jerking about of the controls to keep her right. I supposed I had been up long enough so went around and down. When I got back to the hanger Lieut. Holland said he did not want the machine and that I might go up again. I did but found it much too bumpy for pleasure, and as everybody else was going in I did also after about 15 minutes. I have no confidence in the ability of a rumpty to weather the jolts and drops and do not enjoy negotiating them. I think I would like it in a strong and stable machine.

Well so much for the flying. Today I got my complete flying equipment from the British Army. Some things about it are better than ours. I got the best part of ours viz. the fur lined raincoat material union suit but not so much that I could not get all of the English issue also. I got a wonderful long double breasted leather wool lined coat, a big pair of hip boots made out of the fleece of sheep, a leather and fur lined helmet, a pair of fine big fur gauntlet gloves, and a pair of summer goggles. The stuff is so fine that it seems enough to make all this army life pay; and it will be wonderful to use in wintry weather after the war.

I don’t believe I ever told you all about the English drill we have after dinner each day. English drill is supposed to be very snappy but we do not do it at all well and the five green Americans in the ranks make it all the worse, the way they give their commands and all the various movements are entirely different from our drill and it makes it very amusing. I have not taken the time or interest to get one of their drill manuals and find out what they say and what the movement is supposed to be. Tell Margaret to bring Jimmy over, I want to give him a ride. Wouldn’t he enjoy being all diked up in leather and fur, and sitting away out on one wing with his legs dangling down. And wouldn’t he look cute.



George was apparently a means of transport (bicycle? motorcycle? automobile?) that Parr had with him when he was working at New York Ship.

diked up: decked out, dressed up.