[Received May 28, 1918]



May 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Life is really beginning to pick up a bit. I made a trip across the channel to deliver a bus, and now I am on leave in London. I guess you will think that my part in the war consists in going on leave. Well Saturday 11th I go over as a real H to G Service pilot. I hope that will bring the remark from you “Look out Huns.”

Well I guess I won’t scare them very much, but we’ll have us a time. I am very much tickled at the prospects of having a good bus, two personal mechanics, and some time behind our lines to get everything adjusted, and get used to her. Now we’ll have things right and fly with a real good purpose, it will be great stuff.

My last letter was written on my first night as a ferry pilot. The next day was stormy so we all came back to London. I spent the night at the American Officer’s Inn. The next morning George Vaughn (a fellow who is going over in the same flight) and I went away by train and flew two more busses down to the coast. We stayed that night and the following morning at the same castle and flew across the channel in the afternoon.

Do you remember a Balto. fellow “Vertie” Burwell who used to run around with Dan Hopper? He is here and he and Vaughn and I have been going together during this ferrying job. Well we three were going to fly over the channel together. I was to lead so got off first and circled up over the aerodrome to wait for the others to come up. It was a pretty good day and I could see well. Their machines did not move for a long time. I was about fed up with waiting when one of them started. He made one circle and then made off for the crossing point without coming up for me. The other one did not seem to be coming so I buzzed off on my own.

I got a pretty good height by the time I got to the starting point and then laid my course (by compass) across. The bus was going like a dream. Every gauge and instrument was showing properly and the engine pulling fine.

I could see the shore and harbors away down below very plainly. Some destroyers and ships were seemingly having some stunt down there. The wakes were very long, white and curved through 90 and more degrees. I wished I could dive down and have a close look or take part.

This was the first real compass course I ever steered and I found that I did not keep her very steady with all my looking around. The channel did not seem a bit wide. Just as I began to think I had gotten good and started across I lost the sight of land and it was not long before the French shore came through the haze. I went on and then I could see its form. There it was. France at last. Seven months had passed since I first felt like I was sailing for France. Pretty soon I could recognize that I was coming over at the correct place. I throttled back and put my nose down a little. There were clouds down there over the land. I crossed the coast and then went down low under the clouds and had a real good look at France.

(Saturday May 11)

My goal was about ten miles inland. I went over a couple of little towns, and watched the layout of the roads, sure enough straight French roads. Away off to the south was a dark complicated looking bit in the mist that was a large French town. I did a bit of looking and swinging around and finally found my town and the aerodrome. There were hangars in most every direction and the drome had a very irregular shape. The wind was such that I was to land sort of across the main portion. I throttled back, got down, wound my tail back, (meaning adjusted the tail plane at the landing angle) and slid in. Just as I was about to put my wheels down I saw what I had thought was a skinned [sic] portion of the aerodrome coming right to me. It was a soft plowed plot and was about 3 feet lower than the grass portion. So I shoved on my engine and went around again and landed on the other side. Some mechanics came out and told me which hangars to taxi to, and there, my first trip was completed. I felt very much tickled.

After attending to the clerical part of a delivery I went to the mess for tea. All the activity here in France seemed to have more interest and vim to it than in England. The mechanics and dispatch riders and lurries were buzzing about with great energy, and all the people looked very happy and interested.

You should have seen the groups of Hun prisoners. You know I don’t think I am prejudiced against the Huns yet, but these prisoners were the rottenest looking people I ever saw. They made me mad just to look at their rotten faces. I suppose it just happened to be a bad looking crowd.

You will probably be surprised to hear that the food in France to the troops is very plentiful and of wonderful quality. The tea that we had was a wonder. No rationing, plenty of butter, milk, white bread toast, doughnuts, French pastries, cake, marmalade jam, sugar. And they say the same conditions exist in all the messes.

We took a tender to Boulogne and had dinner and spent the night at the Officers Rest Camp. The meals there were fine. The next morning we returned to England by boat.

The channel seemed to be a rather busy place despite the prospects of subs or mines. There were quite a lot of all sizes of fishing smacks peacefully plying their trade, and other boats about. But it all had a very warlike aspect. All the boats of course were darkly camouflaged, sea planes were passing about overhead and destroyers and cruisers were guarding and convoying. The trip across by bus seemed so short and the channel seemed so narrow, but now it seemed like crossing an ocean. We were going pretty fast but were a long time losing sight of land. Then we steamed for ages (about 1 ½ hours) before the English shore appeared through the haze. It did not seem possible that the channel could be so wide.

Wednesday afternoon when I reported to my H.Q.s. the order came in for the American pilots to report for over seas Friday morning. I being one. So they gave me leave to fix up any little doings before going over. I finished up my clerical work with the R.A.F. pool and went to the American Officers’ Inn to dinner. That evening Burwell and Douglas (Am. camel pilot going over seas now) and I went to see the Maid of the Mountains. It was very good.

The American Officers’ Inn is a fine place. It is managed by voluntary war workers and the Y.M.C.A. They have a large house as the main building and now have a couple of annex houses. The lady who is the leader and manageress is Mrs. Alan Nichols. She surely is a wonder and knows how to treat the fellows.

Everything about the place is very amaturist [sic] and first class. It is like a home but has all the virtues of a hotel. The girls who clerk and wait table etc. are pretty class and have been doing this sort of work long enough to be very natural in their relations to the fellows, and everything goes along very pleasantly. It is really a fine thing. It improves our fighting abilities. Since staying there and having the congenial contact with good Americans I think I can do a lot better work over there.

Thursday morning I did a little odds and end shopping and business. In the afternoon I went up to the hospital and saw Frank Williams. He had a tea date on and as he went to it I came back to the Inn and repacked. In all it took three efforts wrestling with my colossal bunch of luggage to get it into the shape I want it for France. Now I am taking over my locker trunk, one of those big canvas kit bags, and a haversack which I carry on my shoulder. The big black case is resting, stuffed full, at the Inn.

That evening I took Helen’s friend Miss Greville to the theater. I volunteered to take her younger sister or mother along, but we went by ourselves. The show was the best thing I have seen since Helen and I went in Phillie. You would consider it very ungenteel to take a girl to, but all English shows are. The comedian characters were the cleverest and funniest I ever hope to see. They were so funny they could have gotten away with murder and not shocked anybody. I laughed until I was sore. The girls in the show were exceedingly good too. “Yes Uncle” was the show.

Friday morning I packed the second time, and then reported to H.Q. and went the round of the various war officers getting my orders and such. Tommy Herbert, Frank Read, and Paul Winslow (a mate at Ayr) are in town starting to ferry pilot. They and “Rit” Ritter (my Northolt roommate, who is going over with this flight I am in), Knight (who has been Rit’s roommate for the past month, also going with us) and two other of us Am. pilots (who are starting to ferry) and myself all went to lunch at the American Officers’ Club. We all got in the back of one taxi and yelled and sang in a manner that probably shocked the Britishers and our superior officers that might have seen it. The Am. Off. Club is a bit more hotelie and class than the Inn. We had a fine meal there, fried chicken on a meatless day, and lots of fun. Then Rit and Knight and I went the round of the American war offices and got our passports and identification cards. I came back to the Inn and did my third and last packing job, and sent the luggage to the station.

There was to be a dance at the Inn that evening and I did not know whether to take it in or go out and say goodbye to Whitings. I had purchased a pound of sugar, and a quarter lb. of butter on some ration tickets I had gotten for my ferrying job, and a box of chocolates which I wanted to take out to them. So after dinner I decided to go out. Mr. Whiting and Muriel were away, but I saw Mrs., Ralph, and the middle daughter, Katrini I believe, her husband an Australian soldier and his cousin (also Ast. sol.) were there. He is home to a recuperation camp, and his cousin is just on his way out. Katrini was looking fine and happy and they are to have a little child soon. Mrs. Whiting has not been very well. I got back to the Inn about 11.30. The dance was just ending. Frank was there to see me and stayed until after twelve.

At the Inn I roomed with a fine fellow from the Univ. of Michigan, who has been flying “blimps,” (airships) on coast patrol duty. He is in our naval air service and has been with Eugene Wolfe of Balto. who I have been trying to run across here. Pete Wolfe now has gone to France. “Pickels” Henderson, a fellow I know and liked well in Balto. is also at the Inn. He enlisted in the Navy over a year ago and has been everything from apprentice seaman to ensign. He has been on battleships and is now doing wireless message decoding etc. in London.

This morning they gave us an early breakfast and we got our train for here at 7.30 A.M.

We cross the channel this afternoon. This town is very pretty and the hotel looks like it is going to afford a nice dinner party.

I’ll tell you about what a nice bus I have the next time I write.



The American Officers’ Inn, operated by the Y.M.C.A., opened in January 1918, at 5 Cavendish Square, in London’s West End, to serve officers of the American Expeditionary Forces in transit through London, for whom the available hotel rooms—many of which had been taken over as office space—were insufficient. As Parr notes later in this letter, additional buildings had been added by the time he arrived.390

Parr’s fellow pilot was George Augustus Vaughn, Jr. Five years younger than Parr, he had studied at Princeton, where he was a member of the Aero Club. He interrupted his studies to join the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps; he was a student at the Princeton Aviation School and then at Princeton’s ground school, graduating August 25, 1917, in the same class as Elliott White Springs, Charles Edward Brown, and Arthur Richmond Taber. He crossed to England on the Carmania with Parr and the other second Oxford detachment cadets.391 He was among those chosen by Springs to go to Stamford, rather than Grantham (see Parr’s letter of November 1, 1917). From there he had gone to No. 85 Squadron at Hounslow, and then to Ayr. While training at Ayr, he “cracked up an S. E. in splendid style,” but came out unscathed.392

Parr’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book for May 6, 1918, indicates that when he and George Vaughn “flew two more busses down to the coast,” they flew from Brooklands near Weybridge in Surrey, to Lympne; Parr noted his machine type and number as “Viper S.E.[5a] C1861.”393 Brooklands, built in 1907, was an auto race track enclosing an aerodrome. Vickers Aviation opened a factory there in 1915; there were other aircraft manufacturers near by, and the Brooklands air field was an important site for construction, testing, and supply of planes for the war effort.394

The “Balto fellow” was Paul Verdier Burwell, who was a year older than Parr.395 His friend was probably the slightly younger Daniel Cox Hopper, Jr., who lived on Bolton Street near the Hoopers, and whose parents lived nearby across the street from Burwell’s cousins on West Lafayette Avenue.396 As one of the “early birds of aviation” (i.e., he had learned to fly prior to December 17, 1916), Burwell made faster progress in his military career Parr.397 He was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps in July, 1917; in November of that year, he took charge of a detachment of cadets travelling to Europe to train.398 Once in England, he trained with the R.F.C. On May 10, 1918, he was assigned to No. 40 Squadron of the R.A.F.399

The bus that was “going like a dream” was another S.E.5a, C1853. Parr’s goal, as indicated in his Pilot’s Flying Log Book, was Marquise, a town, as he notes, a few miles inland from the French coast (and about 35 miles from Lympne) that served as a dropping off point for planes being ferried to and from the front.

A note in Duncan Grinnell-Milne’s Wind in the Wires indicates that “Crossley Motors supplied all the RFC’s transport from ‘workshop lorries’ to the squadron ‘touring car’. The ‘tender’ was a light personnel-carrier.”400

Burwell and Parr probably went to the theater with Charles William Harold Douglass. Douglass was about a year and a half younger than Parr. Born in New York, he studied at the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University before joining the staff of the journal American Forestry in Washington, D.C.401 He joined the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps and was both one of Parr’s classmates at ground school in Ohio and a fellow cadet in the second Oxford detachment. An excerpt from one of his letters home appeared in the February, 1918, issue of American Forestry, where he memorably describes having completed his initial training on a plane akin to “an animated lawn mower” before going on to more advanced machines.402

Maid of the Mountains was a musical that had been playing in London since February, 1917.403

Mrs. Alan Nichols is described in similar terms in other accounts of the American Officers’ Inn: “The living centre of the Cavendish Square Inn was, however, a little grey-haired American lady, Mrs. Allan [sic] Nichols. Everybody’s pal and mother, with a quick and kindly wit . . . “; “Just inside the door at the registration desk sits Mrs. Allen [sic] Nichols already called ‘Little Mother’ by the Americans. Mrs. Nichols is an American who has been supervising welfare work among munitions workers at Coventry.” I have not been able to discover any further biographical details about her.404

Parr wrote about meeting Miss Anne Greville and her family in London just before he left for Turnberry in his letter of March 20, 1918.

Yes Uncle” was another successful musical comedy; it opened at the Prince of Wales Theater in London on December 16, 1917.405

Parr’s “mate at Ayr” was Illinois born Paul Stuart Winslow, who attended ground school at the University of Illinois, graduating July 28, 1917.406 He was a members of the first Oxford detachment, who had arrived in England in early September.407 His younger brother, Alan Francis Winslow, was already flying in France, initially with the Lafayette Flying Corps, then with 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron.408 According to War Birds (entry for October 19, 1917) Alan had at one point come over to visit Paul.

The man Ritter and Parr went to lunch with was probably Duerson Knight. “Dewey” Knight, a graduate of the University of Chicago, was a few months younger than Parr.409 He trained at the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois, graduating July 28, 1917, and sailed on the Aurania to England with the first Oxford detachment in August of 1917.410 After Oxford ground school, he trained for a time at No. 1 Training Depot Squadron Stamford; from there, according to his R.A.F. service record, he went in early January 1918 to No. 40 Training Squadron at Croydon. He served as a ferry pilot starting April 2, 1918 and then was assigned on May 11, 1918, to No. 1 Squadron R.A.F.411 Ritter was also at No. 40 Training Squadron, Croydon, for a time starting in early March. Ritter’s R.A.F. service record makes no reference to his serving as a ferry pilot, but his rooming with Knight around this time suggests he may have done so.412 On May 11 (the day Parr was writing) or perhaps May 12, 1918, Ritter was posted to No. 56 Squadron, which was stationed at Valheureux, France.413

The cousin of Herman de Quetteville Robin whom Parr met was probably Rupert Farquhar Shepherdson; Rupert and Herman were actually second cousins.414

The “fine fellow” who was Parr’s roommate at the American Officers’ Inn may have been either Robert Lawrence Piper or Harrison Le Grand Goodspeed, both of whom had studied at the University of Michigan, and both of whom were involved with “LTA” (lighter than air, i.e., airships or blimps) in the Naval Air Service.415 They, along with Eugene Lewis “Pete” Wolfe, were among a group of fifteen naval aviators who had arrived in Liverpool in early November, 1917.416 Wolfe was Parr’s age and was in the Cornell class of 1914. He entered the Naval Reserve Force in 1917 and attended the Navy’s ground school at M.I.T. in August of that year. He was in England through the fall and winter and was posted to France May 3, 1918.417

“Pickels” Henderson was probably Charles Martin Henderson, who was born in Baltimore in 1891 and grew up at 1826 Madison Avenue, a few blocks away from the Hoopers.418 He received a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1913, and joined the naval reserve force in July 1917, serving on the battleships Missouri and Indiana, and at naval headquarters in London in May of 1918 before going to the Naval Base at Inverness in June.419

our train for here: Parr appears to have completed this letter, begun in London on May 9, 1918, in Folkestone. The last pages are written on stationery from “The Grand, Folkestone.”