[Received February 22, 1918]


Royal Flying Corps,

London Colney

January 27, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Today has been a regular Christmas for me. I received 5 letters from you, two Christmas cards, and 9 letters from the States. Isn’t that great. Wasn’t that card from Helen a wonder? You don’t know its full quiet significance and I can’t tell you, but I am about 300% better as the result. I could have taken a Spad up and rolled it this afternoon if they had let me. You mentioned that you wish your letters were as interesting as mine. Well don’t fool yourself because they are. You don’t know how much they tickle me. For instance when Father says, “don’t you think you need a nurse to bring you home after dark,” and Mother’s telling about the Christmas balls, and turkey. And I surely do want a picture of Jimmy. I got a great letter from Margaret today. She says Jimmy wants a stream lined cap. Why did not I think of that before. I’ll make a trip to London the first wash out day and get it. You ask to know what I can do with an aeroplane. I gave you the dope in my last letter. I seem to get my flying in spurts. I got several hours at Northolt just after my solo and then I had a long wait until this feast I am getting now. My flying training has been spread over many months but my time in the air has been but few hours.

This morning was very dud—low and thick fog. But about 11 o’clock the sun broke thru and cleared up the sky at 2500 feet. I was sent up to act as target for a fellow who was shooting at me with a camera machine gun. I had to go up to 3000 feet and play about over a certain town keeping a sharp look down thru the clouds to keep my whereabouts well in mind. The gunner had some engine trouble and did not come up for 20 minutes and then went away. I came down and learned that he would be alright in a few minutes so went up again. He was a long time coming. It seemed like a terrible waste of time to just be circling around up there waiting for him. I wanted to climb up higher in the sunshine and try some stunts. Finally he came along and got a couple of shots and went down. I was told to come down after him so had to follow. It was quite some sport going down. You had to get between the sun and the airdrome in order to see it through the fog and then circle around to the other side of it to make a landing down wind. When you were flying down wind you just guessed where the hangars and the field were and pretty soon when you were almost on them they appeared through the mist. Then you came down closer and could see where the other machines were on the field just before you landed there yourself. I put the wind up everybody when I came in the first time by taxiing too fast up to the hangars. I bowled down about 3 men who were supposed to stop one end of my wing and twist me around in front of the hangars, and went almost into the hangars, just turning in time to have one wing clear it by about 2 feet. But a miss is as good as a mile.

I got up again this afternoon just before dark. I got up to 6000 feet, and did my nose spin twice. The bus I had would not nose down to dead vertical. She laid down to within 30 degrees of vertical and spun around fairly well. You surely do lose height fast. I practiced side slipping, a loop and two Immelmans and had to come down because an instructor wanted the bus. I am scheduled for early morning tomorrow morning. I am going up and practice stunts for 3/4 of an hour and then take my instructor up and try to put the wind up him. He is going along to see if I am doing the stunts properly. I have done all the stunts now that they say it is possible to do with an Avro. It is too clumsy to roll on 1/2 roll, and the landing wires are not strong enough to make flying down safe. You see I am taking your advice and am not taking any undue chances.

A cross wind landing is a difficult thing to do without crumpling a wing or wiping off an undercarriage. My roommate Ted Brown has a very amusing and wild instructor. He walks like Captain Kidd and goes by that name, but he has the funniest big blue eyes. He came into lunch the other day, and approached Ted and told him “You can go up on 4481 at 3 o’clock and practice cross wind landings—if there is no wind.” We all thought it was a very funny joke. Ted had just gone solo, but knowing the wild antics of his instructor thought that he meant what he said before the pause.

Now I will go back to answering your letters. First a list of what I received. From home Nos. 25, 26, 29, 30 and 29. I have now received all of yours from 18 to 30, including two each of nos. 29 & 30. My record does not go back beyond #18. You still don’t seem to see the numbers I put on mine. I also received letters from Mary Henderson, Ruth Morley (Haddon Heights). Virginia Fleet (Rox’s sister), Margaret, Mrs. Bates, Artie, Wip, Charley Piggot, Knud, and Christmas cards from Helen, Sid Edlund and Emmitt Reynolds.

This is now Jan. 28 and I must cut it off short. Tomorrow is our wash out day. Just announced to me. I don’t know what I am going to do but I am going into London this P.M.



Did 1 hour of landings this A.M. Low clouds.

By “stream lined” cap Parr probably meant the brimless field service cap that he and his fellow cadets started wearing when they began training with the R.F.C., as opposed to the brimmed campaign hats they had been issued in the States. That Parr’s use of the term “stream lined” was not entirely idiosyncratic is apparent from a passage in An Airman’s Outings by “Contact” [Alan John Bott]: “But Marmaduke the volatile was doomed to suffer a loss of dignity. He had neglected to bring an emergency cap, which an airman on a cross-country flight should never forget. Bareheaded he accompanied us to a hatter’s. Here the R.F.C. caps of the ‘stream-lined’ variety had all been sold, so the war baby was obliged to buy a general service hat” (pp. 25–26).

The bus Parr was flying on January 27, 1918, was again Avro C4481.

Mary Henderson was the daughter of Philadelphia lawyer George Henderson and his wife Bertha S. Henderson (see Parr’s letter of May 21, 1918); Mary was about four years Parr’s junior.241

Ruth Morley is unidentified.

Artie is unidentified.

Another of Parr’s correspondents was probably Charles Snowden Piggot. Two months older than Parr, he was born in Sewanee, Tennessee, to a family with strong ties to Baltimore. In 1907 he enrolled at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore, graduating in 1911.242 He returned to Sewanee and the University of the South, where his father was a professor, receiving a B.S. and a B.A. in 1914. He pursued graduate studies in chemistry initially at the University of Pennsylvania before transferring to Johns Hopkins. When the U.S. entered the war, he served briefly with a field artillery battery before joining a team at Hopkins seeking a means to protect against carbon monoxide gas.243

Sidney Wendell Edlund was two years older than Parr but in the same class at Cornell and, like Parr, a student of mechanical engineering and active in track.244 He was working as a salesman when he registered for the draft; he served in the army starting in December of 1917.245

Emmitt Reynolds is unidentified.

On January 28, 1918, Parr’s classmate from the Ohio State University ground school and member of the second Oxford detachment, Roy Olin Garver, died when his Sopwith Camel crashed at No. 3 Training Squadron R.F.C. Shoreham.246 Born February 12, 1892, in Martinsville, Illinois, Garver attended George Washington University and was serving as a correspondence clerk in the Interstate Commerce Commission when he enlisted.247