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Pioneer air fleet

Sir,

In view of your most interesting series “Wartime Diaries elan RFC officer”, I wonder if your readership can throw light on why Mann & Egerton at Bury Sr. Edmunds ran an aeroplane fleet?

I have a photo of two Shorts and a Sopwith which belonged to the fleet.

David CM Burns,  London, NW

“The War Time Diaries of an RFC Officer”

Sir,

In connection with the Recollections of an RFC Officer, I wondered if you would be interested in the two enclosed photographs. The Henry Farman photograph is copied from a postcard sent by my late father who was a driver in the RFC. It says “We are travelling in convoy from London to Edinburgh and we are about halfway”. The squadron was engaged in pilot training in the early stages of the war when pilot training was rudimentary and the average life of a pilot was only a few weeks.

The lorries were Maudslays with overhead camshafts which could be swung out of the way to permit cylinder head removal. They were very fast but if they were driven fast the valves became burnt.

My father was later transferred to the squadron office in charge of petrol supplies. As an interesting sidelight on life in the RFC in those days, he recalled that the young officers had been using aviation petrol in their private cars, with the result that an unexpected visit by the Auditors promised to be a major disaster. My father worked on the records over and over again to make absolutely sure that every fraction of a gallon added up correctly and every cash sum added to the last farthing, finally including in the records a single entry for a large quantity of petrol entitled “visiting squadron refuelling”. The auditors checked the records meticulously and signed them without a word.

The other photograph, of the shell-scarred Austin ambulance, is contemporary with the RFC officer’s recollections but shows a completely different aspect of the war.

DF Ward, Brentwood

1914/18 Aeroplanes

Sir,

I am sure many readers, both young and old, have been fascinated by the unfolding saga of the “Wartime Diaries of an RFC Officer”. Recently I have been avidly reading a copy of “Aces High” by Alan Clark, published by Fontana and currently on offer in WH Smiths for the princely sum of 35p!

This, mainly pictorial. treatment of the war in the air 1914-1918 comes strongly recommended and car only enthusiasts are treated to an excellent picture of a circa 1916 Rolls-Royce on page 155. The tragic story of its owner Charles Nungesser does, however, detract from the aura it conveys. Also, on page 138 the German Ace Werner Voss is shown with his favoured motorcycle — make unspecified. I have enjoyed my monthly copy of Motor Sport for several years now and I hope the above few lines might be of interest to other like minded enthusiasts. Keep up the good work.

JR Ellis,  Cardiff

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