[Received February 23, 1918]


London Colney

Thursday, January 31, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Well now I will attempt to finish my last letter of Jan. 28, No. 26.

First I will relate some news partly good and partly bad, and all just rumor. Father asked when I would get commissioned and said he was betting on a Captaincy. Well I will be recommended for my commission when I have done 20 hours of solo flying (I have done 11 1/4 hours now) and it will probably be a 2nd Lieut. It seems that all the allowance of 1st lieuts. in the aviation corps have been filled up by the fellows who got their training quickly by staying in the States. Seven men who trained in Italy have been made 2nd Lieutenants. The fortunes of war again. BUT it is also pretty certain that we are going to the front as soon as we are trained in English machines and under English leaders so we will probably get an early chance to get promoted and if we show promise will be flight commanders in our own aviation corps when it goes out.

I have at last seen something of an air raid. Tuesday I took Jean to the Savoy for supper and we sat in the coffee room listening to the music until 10.30. When we went out to go home we learned to our great surprise that an air raid warning had been given some time ago, and that all means of transportation had practically ceased. Jean, like everybody who has experienced a raid was very much frightened and excited. She did not want to go out. I finally persuaded her to chance it with me, and we walked down the Strand about 3 blocks to the underground. There were very few people on the streets. Practically all lights were out. No taxies were running. Occasionally a bus with all lights out and only one or two passengers aboard went swiftly by not seeming inclined to stop anywhere. The majority of the people on the streets were overseas soldiers probably out for the same reason that I was, viz., to see what a raid was like. The subway was jammed with people. The poorer classes were huddled on the floor using it as a shelter. They had babies, lunches, bottles of water, and looked like a gypsy camp in a cave. Some fashion of an aisle was kept clear on one side of all stairs and passages for the throng of all kinds of people who were trying to use the trains. There was a big rush and a jam to get aboard, and Jean and I were successful in the first assault. We went thru it all again at the station where we had to change and finally got out without mishaps or undue delay. The raid had not started yet. We could hear no guns. We walked home and found all her family pretty scared. Mrs. was preparing to take to the cellar. I said good night and made for the underground to go to St. Pancras. Then the raid started. There seemed to be anti-aircraft guns behind every house. They sung out in a resilient pushing sound followed by the whistle of the shell up into the air. The moon was full and as usual there was a ground mist or fog. I could not see any shells bursting, and did not see or hear any shrapnel falling. I figured that the safest and best thing for me to do was to go on and attend to my own business, so I proceeded to St. Pancras. I thought if the subway stopped so that I would miss my train or if my train did not run I would stay at the Midland Hotel all night and be there to take the early train in the a.m. My subway train did stop just before we got to my jumping off place and I had to sit there for ½ hour realizing that I was missing my train and the raid also. Finally we pulled into the subway station and I got out and walked to St. Pancras. The guns had stopped and there was no excitement in the air. At St. Pancras all lights were out. No trains had been run since 9 o’clock and would not run until the “All clear” signal was given. The hotel was full so I bumped around among people in the dark until I found the waiting room where I went to sleep on a bench. I was wakened at 1.45 by a girl who announced all clear and I went out and took the 10 o’clock train for Radlett.

Father wonders why we can’t go up in aeroplanes and shoot the Huns down. Well it is a very difficult job to bag them under raid conditions. First it is a moon light night. The moon makes the search lights non effective, but does not let us see the Huns by its own light. Our men go up but they cannot find the Huns. The upper air is a terribly big space, and it is almost hopeless to find a little thing like 5 or 6 aeroplanes in it at night. You can’t see them and you can’t hear them for the noise of your own bus and you don’t know at what height they are or anything about the way they are going. You see the London area is tremendous. The Huns can get their approximate position from what the moon shows them of our coast and the Thames. The A.A. barrage has not a chance of hitting them and they can come over, drop their bombs promiscuously and beat it back. It is pretty hard to catch them at night.

Now I will tell you about my “washout” leave. I got to London about 5.30 p.m. Monday. I went to the Overseas Club, got a chit to get a room at the Regent Palace, got my room, washed up and then called up Miss Muriel Whiting. She did not seem to make out very well with the phone so got her father to take it. He invited me out that evening, gave me full directions and said to come immediately as he had to go out and wanted to see me first. So I went out. The maid let me in. Mr. Whiting came out and welcomed me and led me into the dining room where I met Muriel and Ralph. They were finishing dinner and had kept a good one for me which they sat me down to and I did the rest. We got acquainted in spite of Muriel’s stuttering. I met her at our house when she was visiting Virginia Woollen. I had a very interesting evening. They are the most interesting and intelligent people I have met here. Mr. Whiting is a retired (18 mo’s. ago) British Admiral and had charge of the department of the admiralty which oversees all the shipbuilding that is done by private yards. He was one of their important naval constructors and a lecturer at the Naval College of Greenwich. His oldest son is a superintendent of a submarine building yard and Ralph has studied naval architecture at Cambridge, worked at Yarrows and is now working for the admiralty. So you can imagine how much they tickled me. I was sorry I did not see their mother who was at some other town, and a sister who is a math shark teaching at a girls school.

Muriel showed me the pictures of their trip with Mary B. in Norway, and her views of her trip in the States. Mr. and Ralph discussed some of the points of shipbuilding. And in so much as there was a little thing like a raid on that evening I had a very interesting time. Muriel was the first to hear the guns about 9 o’clock. She seemed to have each one spotted and know its bark. Later some guns nearby began shooting rather lively and we went out and looked for the excitement. We could follow the whistle of the shells up but could not see the flash of their bursts. Just once or twice we did see some flashes up among the stars, and we saw flocks of tiny puffs of smoke float across the light region around the moon. The first little puff I saw I thought sure was an aeroplane. That is the first time I have ever heard a shell go thru the air, and it is the first time I ever heard a gun shot with intent to kill. The Whitings persuaded me to stay all night because transportation would be stopped and I was very pleased to do so. By the way this meeting that Mr. Whiting was to attend broke up immediately on account of the raid so he came home and spent the evening with us.

Mr. Whiting left immediately after 7:45 breakfast, Muriel and Ralph and I read the papers, and Muriel and I fed the chickens. Ralph and I started for town about 9 o’clock.

I’ll have to close this to go to bed. No flying today because of the heavy fog.



Can you send me 5 lbs. of sugar. Muriel cannot get any to make jam out of the fruit of her trees and it would be a fine thing for me to give her. Send it as soon as you can if you can.

P.S. Will you please subscribe to the Outlook for me. I wrote them about it and received the enclosed reply. Have not made any payments. My address is simply.

Parr Hooper,

c/o Brown Shipley & Co.,

123 Pall Mall, London.

Don’t give any “until” or anything about U.S. Aviation.

Also please pay my Phi Theta dues. Use my bank account (laughter); I believe I have a 2x4 one for these.

Yes. Please open my mail before you send it on and read it; then I won’t have to tell you about it. Did you see my Christmas card from Sidney and Helen?

German bombing raids on London initially relied on Zeppelins, but from mid-1917, Germany, in its “Operation Türkenkreuz,” used planes, Gotha G IVs, to bomb London, while Zeppelins targeted the Midlands and the north of England. Aircraft bombing raids on England were initially conducted in daytime, but by early autumn 1917 British defenses were sufficient to deter daylight attacks, and Germany focused on nighttime aerial bombing. Initially many Londoners behaved as Parr did, curious to find out what a raid was like. Significant casualties gradually led to more people reacting with fear as Parr’s friend Jean McLelland did.248

Midland Hotel, see below, letter of February 29, 1918.

Marian Muriel Whiting was about ten years Parr’s senior; her mother was Marian Ellen (née Little), and her father William Henry Whiting.249 She spent some of her childhood with her family in Hong Kong, where her father, a naval architect, had been assigned, and then studied at Wye College, Kent, (an agricultural college of London University) and at Swanley Horticultural College.250 In the summer of 1912 she, her sisters, and one of her brothers spent holidays in Norway.251 There they met Parr’s sister Mary, Virginia Woollen and, probably, Sally Lucas Jean, three Baltimore friends spending the summer in Europe.252 They invited Muriel to visit them in Baltimore, and in the autumn of 1913, she did, staying apparently with the Woollens, but visiting all her Baltimore acquaintances from the Norway trip.253

Parr’s description of Mr. Whiting’s work is corroborated by census records, which document his start as an apprentice shipwright, rising to “Chief Constructor Admiralty” in 1901 and “Assistant Director of Naval Construction,” Admiralty, in 1911.254 In the King’s Birthday Honours list from June of 1914, announcing Whiting’s CB, he is described as “William Henry Whiting, Esq., Superintendent of Construction, Accounts and Contract Work, Admiralty.”255 Parr was in error in assuming Whiting was an admiral.

The family’s oldest son, William Robert Gerald Whiting, figures prominently in Parr’s letter of February 27, 1918. The “math shark” sister was Madeline Holland Whiting. A year older than Parr, she had received her B.A. from Cambridge (Girton College) in 1913.256 The youngest child, Ralph Oakley Whiting, was a few months younger than Parr.257

 Parr and his friends Frederic Wipperman and Sid Edlund belonged to the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, whose Cornell chapter was designated Phi Theta.258