Royal Flying Corps
School of Aerial Gunnery.
Sunday Oct 21st
My dearest Beryl Ruby Hester
Thank you all for your nice letters received today wishing me birthday wishes etc. They are a few days late but of course this is only natural for they have been chasing all over England after me.
It is terribly cold here now but the sun I am glad to say comes out every day which makes things more cheerful. Last evening Capt. & Mrs Ley, who are living in Hythe, came here to see me, unfortunately I was out, but she left a note asking me to go round to dinner on Tuesday, so off I go!
We live here in billets and my billet is about 3 miles from the aerodrome, so a huge motor bus, commandeered by the R.F.C. comes every morning at 8 am collects us all from the different billets & takes us to the aerodrome. By jingo we can go at a speed to. I have never seen anything like it- jolly fine! We have 4 of these busses and they are always breaking down- Everybody gets out and we all think we understand & know everything about Engines! No one really does! We are doing a lot of shooting here and yesterday was great fun. We use the Lewis Automatic gun which fires about 600 rounds per minute! The great idea here is a splendid & powerful camera tied on to the gun so that when the gun’s trigger is pulled the camera’s shutter is worked. Then 2 aeroplanes go up equipped with this camera-gun & then begin to fight- fighting is maneuvering your machine till you can get the other chap in the sights of the gun- then pull the trigger and you have got a photo of the exact position he is in when you fired! We generally take six photos at a time- so the great thing is be quick at taking your six and come down so as not to give him any chance to complete his six. In the evening the films are developed & we see our results- quite often the films are a blank! which meant if he had been a Hun machine you wouldn’t have got him! The great thing in this game is to get the other chaps for if you dont get him he will get you- therefore a very thorough knowledge of the entire mechanism of the gun is necessary for very often after such quick firing a jam or a stoppage occurs & you have to put this right quickly.
Another great practice is this. White canvas, the exact shape & size of an aeroplane is placed on the ground. We are then taken up in machines & have to stand or riggl up in the seat and fire at this on the ground It is great fun- especially with some chaps who go up- for we are not strapped in at all but have to move about- some dont like the idea at first! but you soon get used to it.
Another thing done is chasing balloons (rubber ones) from aeroplanes & trying to hit them with machine gun fire: it is jolly hard, for they wont keep still for you.
I told you didnt I that I was going across as an observer I was as you know training at Oxford for 2 weeks as a Pilot but then volunteered to go as an observer. The observer really has all the work to do for he has to fight with the gun, send the wireless, write out reports, drop bombs pick out the way on the map & direct the pilot the way to go- the pilot on the other hand is merely a chauffeur & drives the machine After 6 months out there we can come back & take our pilots ticket this is what I hope to do for a pilot who has been an Observer is always much better.
I hear that there is going to be a Canadian Flying Corps This will be fine & I may get a good job in it- perhaps instructing in Canada- after I have been to France!
Well this is all for just now,
With best love to all
From your very loving brother