[Received April 20, 1918]


No. 2 Auxiliary

School of Aerial Gunnery, Fighting

Royal Flying Corps,

Ayr, Turnberry. Scots

March 31, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have just glanced over the memorandums of the things I wanted to write to you about. It is all such ancient history now that it hardly seems worthwhile mentioning.

I got a fine letter from Mrs. Harriman Millikin telling me about Mr. being a Captain and going on an expedition to Palestine. It surely is a great thing for him, just fits his personality and training.

There are several little things that I have had on my mind to tell you about. I broke the main spring of my new watch. Sometime before when I was getting some watch maker’s tools to fix my camera shutter, I showed a well informed man my watch and he said if ever anything happened to it to send it to Switzerland and gave me the names and addresses of the Swiss agent and the manufacturer. But I talked with an R.F.C. pilot who used to be in the jewelry trade and he referred me to a Swiss agent in London. They seemed perfectly capable of doing the job so I took a chance with them. The new spring (or perhaps the repaired spring) seems shorter than the old, but so far it is working well. I never told you about any of the parties we had with the jam and jelly you sent. It was much better than anything of the sort we get in the mess and did some wonderful jobs like supplying a missed breakfast and making a 1.30 a.m. supper after walking 4 ½ miles from St. Albans when returning from London on the late train. All the fellows who indulged with me gave it first prize. Also the stories. At first I let them out singly to my friends and then put them in our library at the mess anteroom. It is a slick idea and the fellows enjoyed them. I did not read any myself.

I read a poem in an American magazine some 3 months ago (it may have been the Outlook) called “France.” It was about “Give me a name” that would cause a bunch of wonderful things, each verse ending “I give you France.” Well you should have seen the idea of that poem worked out in practice by the squadron at London Colney. There was one word that changed a group of ordinary pilots into a close brotherhood of wild artists. It gave them pep, and enthusiasm, and the resultant skill. They used to fly around like a bunch of fed up pupils, but you should have seen them after the message of France on such date had been given them. They got wonderful machines and learned to put them through all their capers. Such stunting and formation maneuvers I never expected to ever see. They can zoom vertically up for nearly 2000 feet, dive with practically no limit of speed, gain height on loops, half roll and fly off the top of a loop, and climb and turn with amazing quickness. There is another bus that is supposed to be as good and I am hoping I will draw one or the other types when I go across. I am pretty sure not to go on Spads as they are washed out all except one squadron and cannot begin to maneuver or show the speed of these others.

My instructor Captain Cairnes is going over as a flight commander with the aforementioned squadron, and he is tickled to death. You should see him grin and lick his chops like a 14 year old school boy whenever anyone asked him how he liked his new bus or any question about the fellows in his flight.

This formation fighting is going to be a wonderful game. You are very much of an individual in so much as you are the entire show in your own bus, but you have got your mates around to take part in the show. The leader sends signals by (say) wagging his wings in a certain manner and you all go to it in a bunch as a team. Just in practice formations it is quite thrilling to see the leader put his nose down and watch all the other noses go down as you do. That was one feature of my Spad training that I liked. When I saw formation flights from the ground it looked rather monotonous; those machines just flying around with each other, but when I tried to get into and keep my place it turned out to be a very interesting trick. The word is given “meet at 2000 over Radlett.” You go up when your engine is warm and in tune and circle over Radlett watching for your mates. Suddenly you see one perhaps below you racing by in opposite direction. He looks surprisingly small and businesslike, and seems to pass at incredible speed. He passes under one wing and is lost. Then you catch a glimpse of another perhaps about on your level. He is going so fast it seems useless to try to turn and catch him, but upon trying you see that you can. You go close and read his number and take your assigned place relative to him. By now the rest are gathering and each man tries to get into his place. You are surprised at the rapidity with which they rise and fall relative to you. You put your nose down just a wee bit and the rest of the fellows seem to go up on an express elevator, a slight turn one way brings you right up to an opposite mate or away from the whole bunch. A notch or two on the throttle puts you way ahead. One does not realize his speed until he gets up close to other machines. When the leader turns or slide [sic] slips, or dives it keeps you pretty busy to keep in your own place. (“Shinney [sic] on your own side”). Tommy Herbert led Frank Read and myself about 40 miles to his elementary training squadron one misty day. It was great sport because we all are very chummy and went on sort of a lark. Frank and l had almost no idea where we were. We could watch each other all the time. We followed old Herb like a dog’s tail and trusted he knew where he was going. Then Frank and I planned to fly to Oxford. We studied the map one night. The next morning was dud but we decided to go about 11 o’clock. I led and stayed down low 1000 feet so as to be sure to see all branches of the railroad I was to follow. It was some fun. If I got into mist so that I could not see the ground I would slide slip down and Frank stuck right along. We went by towns so fast we hardly got two looks at them. Then we got to where we should see the Thames, sure enough there it came along and there was Oxford. You could never mistake the town, the valley, the gray stone buildings, and the spires. I could see all of Stratton’s and my rowing course. There was Christ Church meadow, the church, the Camera, High and Cornmarket Streets and all the familiar things. We went up river, found the aerodrome and landed. As soon as we had been filled up again we started home. We went 10 miles down the Thames to Abington, back again to within two miles of Oxford and then the sixty miles home via Northolt in 45 minutes. Some traveling I should say. We planned some other trips but got posted to Turnberry before we could carry them out.

I had a wash out day the week before I left Northolt. Spent morning boxing around town, took tea with Miss Sturgis, and took supper and spent the evening with Whitings. They seemed very much interested in flying so I decided to pay them a visit on a Spad. The second following [sic] was pretty good. I had only been up four times on Spads previously and two of those were for firing the machine gun at the reservoir so I did not know just what I could do. I got up about 5000 feet and tried her and myself out. It was a different machine from any I had flown and I could not Immelman or half roll without losing a lot of height to come out so I decided not to try that near the ground. These Spads won’t loop. So my stunting was limited to rolling and spinning. The first dive I made on the house brought them all out from the breakfast table waving their napkins. I played about for about 45 minutes, stalling dives, and slide slips down near to their garden, some rolls, and a nose spin. It seemed to amuse them very much, and I enjoyed it immensely. I wanted to go there when I was flying Pups, a bus that can be tossed about a bit, but I never got the opportunity.

Tommy, Frank, and I left London Colney on a Monday afternoon. I called on Helen’s friend Miss Greville for tea. She surely is a lovely girl. I met her younger sister (17 or 18) and her parents. I will try to see them again before I go “Over Seas.”

From Turnberry we used to see some interesting convoys. Ships and destroyers and dirigibles.

I am in the non flying pool here and will be for as long as the weather is dud. Six of our fellows left here for France last night.

I received a commission as first lieut. in Aviation Section Signal Officers Reserve Corps Easter morning March 30. I do not get lieut’s pay and do not wear the uniform until I get my active service orders which will come in perhaps a week. I will cable you then. I am getting a new uniform made and will get a picture taken for you. In my next I will tell you something about this place. It is fine.



Bryson Carter Millikin, husband of Louise Millikin (née Harriman), worked as Educational Secretary for the Presbyterian Board for Foreign Missions in New York. In February of 1918 he applied for a passport to travel with a Red Cross Commission to Palestine and other near and far eastern countries.322 He apparently departed in March of 1918 and returned in November, having worked in Palestine and Egypt, with a focus on building hospitals and clinics and improving sanitary conditions in Jerusalem, which had been in Allied hands since General Allenby’s capture of the city in December of 1917.323

Parr mentions receiving The Outlook with “The Name of France” by Henry van Dyke in the postscript to his letter of December 1, 1917.

Captain Cairnes had been assigned to No. 74 Squadron. This had been the training squadron at London Colney where Parr had initially landed when lost in the fog in December (see his letter of December 10, 1917) and where Stillman and Fry were posted for a time. Ira Jones, in his biography of Mick Mannock, writes that on “March 1st, No. 74 Training Squadron ceased to exist, and from its personnel No. 74 Fighter Squadron was formed.” He notes “the departure of Captain Thomas, who, owing to his short period of rest in England, was compulsorily relieved by Captain W. C. Cairns [sic], a pilot who had three Huns to his credit whilst serving with No. 19 Squadron.”324 The squadron was equipped with S.E.5s. When Parr remarks that there “is another bus that is supposed to be as good,” he was perhaps referring to Sopwith Camels.

The misty day when Tommy Herbert led Parr and Frank Read to his training squadron appears, from Parr’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book, to have been March 15, 1918. Parr notes as their course “Lond. Col. to Hunnington Wyton.” There is an R.A.F. station at Wyton just east of Huntingdon in what is now Cambridgeshire; in 1917–18 Nos. 5 and 31 Training Squadrons were based there.325 Herbert’s R.A.F. service record does not provide enough detail to determine which was his training squadron. The next day, March 16, 1918, Frank Read and Parr flew from London Colney to Oxford and back.

There is a cable from Pershing dated March 4, 1918, recommending that Parr, Grider, and a number of others receive their commissions as “First Lieutenants Aviation Reserve,” as well as a cable dated March 25, 1918, to Pershing indicating that the appointments have been made.326

Parr’s dates here are confusing: Easter was not March 30, but March 31, 1918, the date of this letter. March 31, 1918, was also the last day of existence of the Royal Flying Corps. On April 1 it became part of the Royal Air Force, which combined the R.F.C. with the other air arm of the British military, the Royal Naval Air Service.