"The Diaries of an RFC Officer"

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Sir,

I have been most interested in the adventures of RFC officer “X” who certainly seemed to make the most of his time when not actually flying! I am old enough to remember his era well as, although only a small schoolboy at the time, I had a keen interest in cars and aeroplanes from my earliest years. My first recollection of an aeroplane is, when living at Leatherhead, of seeing one with the front elevator, probably a Farman “Longhorn” (known as “Rumpety”) about 1914.

Balloon racing was also very popular about this time and I seem to remember them being inflated at the local gas-works. Did they really use coal gas then? There was an occasion when one came very low over our garden with its drag rope hanging down. This caused some damage to my father’s much-prized roses and he was not amused.

Later, in 1916, my parents moved to Bournemouth where, in 1919, the Schneider Trophy races were held, the seaplanes and flying-boats being pulled up on the beach — all very informal. Harry Hawker was a competitor but due to fog the race was a fiasco as only one competitor completed the course, an Italian in a Savoia Machetti flying-boat. However, he was disqualified for cutting the turning mark off the Old Harry Rock.

Of particular interest to me was the mention in your review of “The Cornwall Aviation Company” mentioning Surrey Flying Services, as it was in one of their Avro 504s that I made my first flight in August 1923 at the age of nearly 16. This great event took place on Southsea Common and the cost was 5/- (25p), for rather less than ten minutes. I was the only passenger and was certainly not strapped in. We made a circuit of Portsmouth Harbour and I well remember my fond mama saying to the pilot before take-off “Be careful with him, he’s the only one we’ve got.” I enclose a photo of that Area 504, when with a VPK camera which I obtained from a friend at my prep school, in exchange for a mouth-organ, in 1921 and which served me well for the next 16 years. Those were indeed happy days — so much less complicated than they are now.

Lyme Regis, E. S. Taylor