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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Diary of a Dispatch Rider

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Quel jour! The OC wanted some screws so Carson gave me the job & permission to see Hughie [John’s brother, who was serving with the RAF] en route. I found him & was promptly invited “up”. I was keen but afraid of being sick or something, the lift feeling possibly. I threw out a line or two about not going far or high but they fell on barren ground – fortunately. The rush of wind prevented much foreboding at first but one’s mind became active as we dashed across the open ground slightly bumpily & with an unsteady feeling about the engine. Then all at once all was smooth. We were up. Then a gust of wind or rather several gusts drove us upwards in jerks. The plane rode them as a boat rides the waves though – no feeling of being turned over after the first one or two but the lift feeling was just noticeable. I wasn’t wasting any time in thinking about falling out though & soon began taking an interest in the ground. There was a very slight feeling of precariousness, and as we turned to cross a wood at two or three hundred feet or rather more the idea that it would be soft to fall on came up. All at once however I got used to the security & comfort of the motion & never had a second’s uneasiness of the slightest sort. Shortly I noticed the altimeter at 1000. The sea became easily visible with a big haze on. The base depot I know best showed up very clear, also some pretty villages, a big church, and a great wood. While I was taking all this in, we had risen to 2000 feet before I tumbled to the fact that we were still climbing. When I saw the dial I realised how different the fields looked, the patchwork had become smaller & less marked with detail. Soon it was 3000 & we sailed over the town. Everything was very clear & distinct & I picked out, I think, my old camp & the hospitals marked glaringly with the red cross. Everything look[ed] comically tiny & a group of some 20 Nissen huts puzzled me for a minute. They looked like little bed rolls.
Banking round curves was mildly exciting, especially when the wind gave a boost at the same moment, the first sign was an apparent movement of the ground until one noticed the wing tips. Hugh went some distance “hands off” & the machine was perfectly steady. He wrote several notes which I shall keep. The first was “What would Mother say if she could see us now!” At 2000 a waggon on the road would have been an exceedingly difficult target with a gun, but one sees the value from a photographic standpoint, every road, track, depression, hay-rick &c was clearly defined. A couple of holes in a field were strongly shaded & suggested bomb holes – possibly they were. Then came time to descend. Hugh took the ground, after sundry manoeuvres for position relative to wind, with perfect smoothness & was congratulated on his landing by the mechanics. In the moment of landing more than anything I realized that he was “some” pilot. I was quite deaf for some time afterwards having had neither hat or helmet. I was rather impressed with my novice’s difficulty in locating myself & mistook our own village within a few minutes after glancing elsewhere &, as I thought, back again. Perhaps the most striking thing was the absence of any feeling of height or being unsupported – even when looking straight down. The earth always seems like a big saucer & too full of interest somehow to appear a long way off. This was purely a natural feeling & not forced by calculating safety or anything like that. The "atmosphere" was one of safety & not of a falling proposition. I cannot define it more clearly.



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