Your Ever Loving Son

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Lorraine Colvill – Jones

Your ever loving son


Colvill Jones, Lorraine Your ever loving son : the story of the first ace of the first world war. - 1a ed. - Beccar: Grupo Abierto Comunicaciones, 2008. 264 p. ; 22x13 cm. ISBN 978-987-1121-32-8 1. Biografía Novelada. I. Título CDD 920

© Lorraine Colvill Jones. © de esta edición Grupo Abierto Comunicaciones, Buenos Aires Argentina. Av. del Libertador 17882, Beccar (B1643CRX), Buenos Aires, Argentina Texto: Lorraine Colvill Jones. Diseño: Fabián Canosa Armado: Claudia Maddonni Fotografía: La colección de fotografías pertenece a la familia Colvill Jones. Queda prohibida su reproducción sin autorización del editor. Hecho el depósito que marca la ley 11.723 ISBN: 978-987-1121-32-8

Impreso en Argentina Sociedad Impresora Americana S.A.I.C. - Lavardén 157 - Buenos Aires (1437)


Su hijo que los ama

Introduction Norman Franks

I applaud anyone who attempts to write a book, for it is said that everyone has a book in them.   I don’t quite believe that, so well done Lorraine. That she is writing about members of her own family is a bonus of sorts,foratleastshecanunderstandsomeofthesubject’sbackground and as I have found in the majority of my books, the people of a bygoneagewereverydifferenttopeopleoftoday.   Somemaysaythis is a good thing, or merely progress, but the lives of men who served their country 90 years ago – or even 60 years ago - had very different outlooks to the youth of today. Robert andThomas Colvill-Jones were similarly a product of their time, except that being in far away South America, they could easily have watched the war from that distance. But like so many other young men from afar, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc., they were instilled with that unique sense of loyalty to King and mother country that they had to fight for the freedom that was being denied many within Europe. It has to be said also that like most young men they probably had another agenda too, that of the great adventure.  Many of Britain’s Colonial sons saw the chance of travel to a foreign land, despite the risks that they knew they would be taking.  The two Colvill-Jones boysmustalsohavebeenawarethattheymightnever againseetheir homeland. While Robert fought valiantly in the trenches, winning a Military Cross, he, like his brother Thomas, eventually wound up in the sky above France.  While Robert was in the hell that was the trenches in France, Tommy had joined the Royal Flying Corps, and was learning to fly.  In due course he became a fighting pilot, sitting in the front 5


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seat of a Bristol F2b fighter, with an air gunner situated in another cockpit behind him.  The Bristol Fighter was not a bad aeroplane in which to fight, for unlike single-seater scouts, he had that additional pair of eyes in the rear to protect his back, while he could operate a forward-firingmachinegun.  Heandhisvariousobserversaccounted for almost a dozen enemy aeroplanes. Tommy’s story is as glorious as it is tragic.   He was too, among the forerunners of many other young men from British families living in numerous parts of South America who traveled abroad to serve, not just in WW1 but also in WW2.  I know a former Spitfire pilot who was among those who fought in the SecondWorldWar, and actually learnt to speak English on the ship taking him to Britain.  He once asked me if I knew why he had enlisted on 4 September 1939, and not the 3rd.   I replied, of course, the 3rd was a Sunday and recruiting offices were not open.  It was that sort of mentality that defeated Germany and Japan. Please enjoy Lorraine’s book. It is well worth reading. As you do so, please bear in mind that this young man – he was only 20 – gave his best years for all the freedoms we enjoy today, and like many thousands of others, gave his tomorrows for our todays. Norman Franks, East Sussex, England

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Acknowledgements

I would like to begin by thanking Tommy and Bobby’s parents and other close relatives who have kept these wonderful remnants of history intact for us to learn from and remember. Hopefully, these pages will achieve their aim, which is to celebrate their life and immortalize them. Claudio Meunier’s time and knowledge have been invaluable, since from the start he encouraged me to strive for better and include Tommy’s time as a pilot, so the lives of all these special men who fought in the Great War would live on. It has been a privilege to get advice from Norman Franks, and his expertise in the area of aviation has allowed me to learn a lot and hopefully make few mistakes. If there are any, my apologies to him and to all those generous members of the Great War Forum- Harry Betts, Petrol Pigeon, Archer, Moonraker and many others- who have made aviation so much clearer to me. I am especially grateful to Gareth Morgan (Dolphin) for his generosity and friendship. Information on 20 Squadron I obtained mostly from Bob Sellwood and on 57 Squadron from Allen Hudson; to both I am very much appreciative. One of the most rewarding results of this enterprise has been the amountofkindpeopleIhavebecomeacquaintedwithwhomadethe wholeprocessmoreinteresting.IamgratefultoJanPiggottandCalysta Lucy from Dulwich College, Hayley Butlin from Victoria College, Tony and Peter Keen (Fred Keen’s sons), George Newell (George Jr.’s son), Lowell Jooste (Danford Jooste’s grandson in South Africa), Silvina Piga (from the special archives at St. Andrew’s University), and Darío Silva (from Venezuela) for his artistic contribution. To those whom I have known for a long time, thank you for your input. First and foremost, my brother-in-law Tomás Bianchin for 7


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his priceless help from within the National Archives in Kew. Juanita Colvill Jones (Harry’s wife) who was just turned 101 years old for her photos and recollections. I am so glad I got to share my manuscript with Martin Garvie M.B.E. and receive his valuable contribution and I am very sorry he will not get to see it published. Brother, sisters, and my dear husband of course, for listening to me. And last of all, my never-ending gratitude to my lifelong teacher and mentor, my mother June, who has always been there to correct, recommend, and make life easier for us. It has been a pleasure and an honour to record this young man’s life. I am proud to say he is my great-uncle, and I am sorry we missed each other in this life. Lorraine Colvill Jones, Hurlingham

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To Dad (Rodney’s little boy) from his little girl

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Prologue Claudio Gustavo Meunier

When Captain Thomas Colvill Jones opened fire from his Bristol Fighter plane on his first German opponent and brought him down, a legend was born in British aviation history and in the Argentine Republic. The memory of his exploits survived the passage of time. A wooden box kept this well-guarded history in a home in Hurlingham, Buenos Aires: the letters sent from the war front byTommy Colvill Jones and his brother Robert. Onreadingthesepages, I immediately felt the magic of thestory, the adrenalin of combat, the loneliness on high, flying above the clouds in arctic winds, the incipient mystery of flight, the brotherhood of pilots makinghandsignalswhenevertheydetectedanenemyplane,flyingdown from the sun, attempting to bring down one of them,Tommy’s excited breathingonlookingbackandseeinghisgunnerwithhisbodyhanging out of the plane 2000 meters above ground, opening fire on an enemy prey, the pain on seeing a fellow pilot falling in a flaming dervish dance lasting only a few seconds, his thoughts in the face of these tragedies, imagining that this would not happen to him, or fearing he would be the next‌ During the air battles of the Great War the first Argentine Ace came into being: Thomas Colvill Jones. Like him, there were many other courageous Argentines: Alexander Beck, Augusto Lezica Hutchinson, Bertram Smith, Eduardo Olivero, Tommy Traill, Vicente Almonacid, and others who were forgotten in the mists of time, after receiving the honours awarded to them when they returned to Argentina. TommyandRobertColvillJoneswereforgotten.Acrossthedecades, only their immediate family kept alive the small flame of their heroic deeds, not allowing it to be extinguished. 11


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An Argentine veteran of the RAF in WWII made a comment which I willneverforget:‘Inlifetherearetwotypesofpeople,thosewhofightfor freedom or for an ideal, and those who enjoy the freedom and the fruits of that ideal.’ Thisstorybringstolifeanddocumentsinuniquefashionthecourage ofthoseyoungArgentineheroeswhogavetheirlivesasknightsoftheair, pioneersinaviationand air combat as told by the author –agreat-niece of the Colvill Jones brothers. My hope is that this book will be enjoyed by all those who love military aviation history and those who wish to learn the story of those young men who stood out for their bravery.Their exploits merit a place inhistory.LorraineColvillJonesdelvedintothelivesofherforebearsand conveysuswiththemabovethetrenchesandintothedangerousskiesof the Great War. Claudio Gustavo Meunier, Bahía Blanca, Argentina.

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Chapter I Departing


Lorraine Colvill Jones

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This is a story about war, and a family, and of letters home, and noble adventurers one might have the privilege of meeting once in a lifetime, if ever. This is a story that has waited too long to be told. Where to begin? A letter? A declaration of war? A young man crossing the Atlantic? A birth in the nineteenth century? Adventurers migrating to a faraway country? Let us begin with a letter. Written to an anxious mother only a few kilometres away, who has just experienced the ordeal of seeing her second son leave for the Great War.

On board ship s.s. “Highland Rover” February 23rd 1917. My dear Mums and Dads, I am now going to give you a detailed account of my adventures since parting from you at Plaza Constitución. The train journey down to La Plata was a very weary one. Most of the passengers got out at Quilmes, so I had practically the whole train to myself. Journeying on the FCS is rotten after being used to travelling on the FCCA every day. Everything is old and out of date, stations and staff included. On arriving at La Plata I had to change trains in order to go to Dock Central. Two old decrepit porters clutched hold of my luggage there and took me to the other side of the port. I was very indignant because it cost four dollars in tips and boat. I got on board alright after having my passport and everything examined. 15


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Next move was to interview the chief steward who on seeing my name asked me if I had come out on the “Highland Loch”. He happens to be the same bloke that was on the old tub we came out in last time and remembers you all. I didn’t recognize him at all and I don’t even know his name yet. I will let you know if I find out. He put me in a cabin with two other chaps, so you can imagine that there is not too much room to spare as the room is small. The cabin is on the port side- the hot side going to Englandand is on the deck below the dining room. He says he will not be able to fix up anything properly till after leaving Montevideo as we are taking on some more passengers there. The number of passengers has far exceeded all expectations, the total first class and intermediate being over twenty. At least seven are Anglo Argentine who are going to volunteer. There may be more but I have not yet made everyone’s acquaintance. The two fellows I share a cabin with are the brothers called Watson. I was very surprised when the older one told me they were going to volunteer, because the younger one looks about fifteen and is really twenty-one. The elder looks about twenty and is really twenty-six, so they are a queer pair. They are quite decent and I would rather share a cabin with them than with some of the awful creatures on board. I have already made the acquaintance of Frederick Keen and Grant. Rodney probably knows them both as they come from St. George’s College. Almost as soon as I got on board yesterday afternoon, a talkative old bloke on the ship came up and within ten minutes had told me all his family history! I had tea with him and during that time he told me what a beautiful daughter he had. She knows every language under the sun and is a marvel at music. The old blighter told me quite seriously that she had knocked Paderewski into a cocked hat, as the best player of Chopin in the world. He has a son 6 ft. three, and so I asked him if the prodigy was at the front. Whereupon he went on to tell me how the poor boy couldn’t stand the cold and had got heart disease. He rattled on like that for hours till I told him that I had to go down to see about my luggage. There are two fat ladies who always go round together. They are fat, forty and married. One is Danish and the other Belgian. The Danish one says she loves her beautiful dog (not on board thank goodness) and 16


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also her husband, but she is so thankful she has no children as she can’t stand them as they are such nuisances. Your pal Leahy is on board and is always going about with two pals of his, and the trio has not yet been seen sober. Last night they kicked up an awful row in the smoking room and dining room much to everyone’s disgust. The boat has been lying here at La Plata loading frozen meat since yesterday morning from the Frigorífico Swift, and the day before yesterday they were at Armour’s. The stink and the flies have been something dreadful on board and especially at meal times. I am very thankful indeed that I came a day later than everyone else, for lots of them got ill already with the beastly niff. I retired to bed last night at ten o’clock, but the other occupants of the cabin did not come down till twelve o’clock so I was unable to get any sleep till then. I slept on from twelve till six, but could not go to sleep any more because of the heat and the flies. At seven the steward brought round a cup of a questionable beverage and nobody could make out whether it was meant for tea or coffee. Nobody could have a bath today because of the ship being in port and the river so low. It is awful to be without one in this sort of weather especially after sleeping in a sniffy cabin and perspiring all night. At 8:30 we had breakfast and I have been stuck at a table with an awful crowd of stiffs and I hope to get shifted up in Montevideo soon. First of all come three Irishmen that give me the pip, next comes a gent with a bulbous nose red as a beacon, who drinks his tea out of a saucer and behaves in general like a bally hog. The drunken creatures talk and shout the whole time, and nobody else says a word except to ask for food of some sort. The dinner last night and breakfast this morning were quite nice meals, but the flies are awful- I have never seen them so bad before. Nobody seems to know when the ship will sail eventually, though at present the general opinion is at five or six tonight. I had 21 dollars when I came on board so went to the bar where they changed it into English money for me and charged the rate at $12 per pound, which is entirely different to $10.80 which was the rate I got at the bank on a draft through Uncle George’s account. He paid me all in half crowns so I have a pretty hefty weight in silver. The chief steward 17


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will take charge of my money once we have parted from Montevideo as he will then have more time to spare. The bed-room steward talked to me yesterday and after a while told me all his history also and I can’t make out whether he is pulling my leg or not as he tells me he has been practically all over the world. In fact, you can’t suggest anywhere at all that he hasn’t been. You will be pleased to hear that my knee has quite healed up, so you have nothing further to worry about on that score. This has been written from La Plata whilst the boat has been still in dock, so I hope to be able to rest it before leaving. If there is any news I shall write again on getting to Montevideo. After that you shall not hear from me for some time as we don’t stop till either the Canary Islands or Vigo. Show this round to put people to sleep. Hasta la vista* with love to all from your ever loving son Tommy. P.S.: I have received a telegram from Mrs. Mendl wishing me good luck for which thank her very much.

The wild rumours that had circulated around Buenos Aires for the past days had been confirmed: Russia had declared war on Germany on August 1st 1914.The uneasy atmosphere in the Argentine capital was almost tangible, especially after news arrived on August 3rd that France and Belgium had entered the war on Russia’s side.Telegrams circulated ceaselessly between Buenos Aires and other towns and rural areas where Europeans and their descendants lived. In cafes and clubs one could hear over and over the same questions and the same theories being delivered- what action would Great Britain take, and why should she get involved in the conflict. The British community held its breath when a cable arrived with news of Britain’s ultimatum to Germany, to be answered before midnight on August 4th. Unable to bear the suspense, many Britons donned their hats and took to the microcentro or city centre, to wait 18


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Frederick Keen wearing his pilot´s uniform. (Keen family- Buenos Aires)

outsidethemainnewspaperoffices.However,theywerenottheonly ones who waited impatiently for some news.The streets were filled with an assortment of people, their clothes and accents showing a mélange of nationalities.The most amazing aspect of this crowd was the subdued mood and chatter among so many, which soon petered out to a low murmur as the appointed hour approached. At 11:15 pm the cable arrived with the words: “Great Britain has declaredwaronGermany.”Thefewsecondsofsilencewhileeveryone absorbed the enormity of the information were suddenly filled with a uniform roar of excitement and relief. Some men turned and hugged complete strangers, then quickly disengaged and coughed embarrassedly. “God Save the King” was taken up spontaneously by the crowd, who began a boisterous parade along the city streets. This was followed by the Marseillaise and the National Anthems of other countries, and Russian, Belgian, British and French flags materialized out of nowhere. That same day, the government of PresidentVictorino de la Plaza declared Argentina’s neutrality as regards the conflict in Europe. Many Argentines were disgusted by this passive decision, but it was 19


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not an ill-advised choice. The number of European investors in the country made it difficult to choose which side to support, although the President and his cabinet were ‘aliadófilos’, supporters of the Allies or the Triple Entente. Backers of Germany and the Central Powers were referred to as‘germanófilos’, and they mainly included factions from the military and the Roman Catholic Church since the latter was more respected in Germany than in France, Anglican Britain, and Orthodox Russia.The majority of the elite and Porteños (as inhabitants of the port and city of Buenos Aires were called) were ‘aliadófilos’, probably due to the influence of French culture and British ethnicity. Nextmorningatbreakfast,whenRobertopenedAnglo-Argentine newspaper The Standard, doyen of the Argentine press, he read the headline“SpecialTelegrams. Long-Delayed Anglo-GermanWar Officially Declared Last Night.”Robert then read aloud the words in the other English paper,The Buenos Aires Herald:“bands of students throngedthestreets,demonstratingwildlyonbehalfoftheTripleEntente. TheAvenidadeMayowasimpassable,andhugecrowdssurgeddown Florida and San Martín.The police behaved with excellent tact, but experienced some difficulty in maintaining order.” His wife Abbie and two eldest sons, Bobby and Tommy were the onlyothersatthebreakfasttableandtheybegandiscussingtheevents enthusiastically. Although both boys were Argentine born they had attended school in England as boarders, so the feelings of loyalty, blood-ties and service towards the Motherland were very strong. Bobby mentioned the idea of travelling“over there”and leaving his job as clerk in Touche, Faller and Co. His father’s impassive reaction to this was enough encouragement for him to present himself at the Consulate-General the following day, to offer his services for King and Country. Robert was careful not to influence his child with his own ideas of patriotism and devotion to Great Britain, even though he was Canadian. He had been born in the year 1868 in St. John, New Brunswick but emigrated to Argentina in 1890 after suffering a great personal loss that haunted his existence in Canada. Tommy expressed his longing to be old enough to show his courage and worth, especially as people predicted the war would be over by Christmas. Abbie remained silent during the conversation, 20


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realizing that neither of her boys dared look at her.Years after, what she remembered most about that momentous meal was the way the silver sugar spoon glinted in the morning sun. It was so irrelevant, yet she could not get it out of her mind. A month later, the whole family travelled on the train from Hurlingham and later on the tram to Constitución Station. Many familieswerethereforthesamereason,andtheexcitementandsadness were palpable in the chaotic atmosphere. As the train pulled out on its way to the big port in La Plata, Bobby leaned out of the window and shouted“Back in a year”. From one of the carriages verses of“It’s a long way toTipperary”could be heard.The scene tore Abbie’s heart, as she fought hard not to cry.There were cries similar to Bobby’s from other windows, together with “God Save the King”, and Tommy’s “See you there soon”as he looked into his brother’s eyes. They both grinned at each other as the train gathered speed.

s.s. “Highland Rover” Lying at Montevideo. February 24th 1917. Dear M & D, We left La Plata last night shortly before seven which was a great relief to everyone. A cool breeze made dinner quite a pleasant meal and the absence of flies and smell was quite a luxury. After dinner I went up on deck and there was a very nice wind blowing, and in fact it very nearly took off the remains of my hair. I stood out there till nearly ten o’clock and felt very sleepy so went down to my cabin. Since finding out that my two companions were late birds I decided not to read in bed till they came so went to sleep right away and slept like a log till 6:30 this morning when the steward brought that stuff to drink. You can imagine how soundly I slept when I never heard them go to bed at one o’clock. The silly coons had been playing cards till that hour, and no wonder they could not get up when called! It was impossible to have a bath again today because all the 21


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water pumped up for that purpose consisted mostly of mud and smell. My bath hour had been booked for 7:30 and I am allowed fifteen minutes. On looking out of the porthole, after having wrapped myself round with coffee I spied land so got dressed quickly and watched all the proceedings till we weighed anchor at night. At 8:30 I had breakfast. I had a huge appetite from walking round the deck so early. At present they are busy loading more frozen meat and 800 tons of coal. The ship is full up with frozen meat already, and every spare corner has been filled up also. We hope to get away from here today though there is certainly a lot to get through. On leaving La Plata last night the boat had an awful list on her, but is righting it today with coal. A lot of the chaps went ashore today and although I was asked preferred to stop on board in case there is nothing to do there and I would only be bored and spending money. The big fat Irishman and his pal have been making themselves very objectionable and getting drunk and sick, etc. Everybody is getting fed up with them, for if they behave rottenly it will spoil the chance of all the intermediate passengers being treated as first class. At present we have the run of the whole ship, though the bar has to be closed at night on account of those bally swine. The chief steward’s name is something like Cole and he was bar steward when we came out last time on the “Loch”. Nobody is allowed near the 4. gun at the stern but I was told that we would be able to go and look at it once away from here. On coming away, Talena very kindly gave me a bottle of agua oxigenada* and everything went alright till I opened it and used it on my knee last night. I must have corked it badly for on opening my little bag this morning I found everything smelling of the stuff and my precious bottle empty. Luckily, it did not spill over any collars or anything damageable but merely over my shaving tackle to give it a scent. All my luggage arrived quite safely, but I don’t intend taking anything out of the trunk unless absolutely necessary till properly settled. I have got through two big books already and I’m jolly tired of reading. I hired a deck chair for 4/., but had to desert it yesterday on a row kicked up by two beastly kids, and if they go on like that for long they will be pitched over board. There is an awful row going on while loading and everything 22


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is dirty because of the coal. Did you get my letter from La Plata that I wrote yesterday to you? There is no more news for the present, so goodbye, with love to all the fly from Your loving son Tommy. P.S.: I don’t write to everyone as it would only mean a repetition of this letter. Twiggy vous?

It was almost like having Tommy in the room, listening to his animated chatter and colourful descriptions. So close yet so far already. The letter was read aloud by Abbie to her family assembled in the large sitting room. She could sense a mixture of amusement and longing to be experiencing this with him, especially from the two boys sitting either side of her on the sofa. Little Evelyn looked up from her watercolour wanting to know if her brother would really dare to chuck those two naughty children overboard. Abbie recognized that look in her boys’ eyes and only prayed for the war to be over soon, before they were old enough to volunteer. Hertwoeldestsonswereenough.Rodney,whowasherthirdboy,had just turned sixteen and was almost as tall asTommy. Although he had never expressed such a fervent desire to become a hero, likeTommy had ever since the beginning of the war, he might wish to volunteer to follow in his brothers’footsteps or not to be considered a coward. Twelve-year-old Harry was too young to worry about just yet. Shefoldedtheletterneatlyandwalkedtothefireplacewherealarge woodenboxembellishedtheemptygrateduringthesummermonths. She opened the carved lid and looked fondly at the numerous letters stackedefficientlyinsideit.Awoodenwedgedividedtheinterior,one sideholdingmorethanahundredletters,theotherasingleenvelope. She placed Tommy’s letter behind his first one and let her fingers caress Bobby’s. There wouldn’t be a letter from Tommy for at least eight weeks, not until he had crossed the Atlantic.Then she let the lid 23


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fall with a snap, rearranged her features and turned back to her family with a smile. When Abbie proposed going to the Hurlingham Club for a game of tennis, the younger ones scrambled to get ready, wanting to make themostoftheirlastweekendbeforeheadingbacktoschoolafterthe long summer holidays. When she suggested one of them could use Tom’s racquet and they would not breathe a word to him, Rodney was out of the room like a flash. Her husband also hurried to get his belongings when she hinted as to the contents of their picnic basket.

The four brothers (left to right): Tommy, Bobby, Rodney and Harry, a few years before the war.

s.s. “Highland Rover” February 25th 1917. My dear old M. & D. We left Montevideo this morning not having been able to 24


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get away till then because of the coaling which went on all night. The latest development on board which has made everyone fed up is that no intermediate class passenger is allowed to use the first class promenade deck, boat deck, recreation room, smoke room, etc. It is awfully rotten to be confined to the dirty narrow second class deck and treated the same or worse than second class passengers. It is the fault of those drunken Irishmen who got very rowdy in the smoke room, with the result that the first class passengers complained and then the captain put up that notice. At present I am writing this in the recreation room, as it is the only place which has writing tables, but I am not going to budge for anybody unless the captain himself comes to tell me to move. This morning I had my first bath since leaving Buenos Aires and I enjoyed it very much. I slept very well from about 10:30 till 6:45 except when the older of the two Watsons woke me up when he came into the cabin about 12:30 with some pals of his that he had been playing cards with. Several passengers more were taken on yesterday among them being four men of HMS “Pembroke�, one being a petty officer and the rest AB’s. Nobody has heard of that cruiser being round here before, and so far we have not heard any news from them. The ship has an awful list on at present, and I hope they will straighten it out soon as it is not very comfy sliding about. It is also going very slowly, about ten knots and one of the stewards told me that if it went any faster the engines would probably break down. It is pitching and rolling very considerably though the sea can hardly be called rough. We are very heavily laden with about 7,000 or 8,000 tons of meat and 800 tons of coal. The right number of volunteers is seven, six being AngloArgentines and the remaining one English, though he can hardly be called a volunteer being a conscript. There are four ladies on board all married. Three are grass widows, one of them with two beastly squalling kids who are always making a row. Today is Sunday so they will probably be having a Church service. The bacon and eggs at breakfast this morning was simply it, being done to a turn. There is nothing more for the present so I shall cut off the current and continue tomorrow. 25


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26th. Nothing new to write about today except that I’m tired of the voyage already! It is bally awful to stop on the bally awful second class decks all day long. Ennis promised me a cabin to myself on the cool side, and I have got one on the hot side with two other blokes in it. He also said that it would be quite alright about using the first class decks, and it is nothing of the sort. We are well out at sea today and don’t expect to see land again for about ten days. They are very strict on board about lights at night time, so that the ship travels in absolute darkness. I had a nice sea bath this morning which gave me an appetite for breakfast, though I was doomed to disappointment as they gave us a rotten meal. 27th.The ship has stopped now and nobody knows how long we are going to remain thus. It has still got a list on and is pitching and rolling all over the bally show. I was down on the second class deck today when one of the first class passengers asked me to go up and make a fourth at shuffle board, and so of course I was only too glad to say yes, having nothing else to do. We were half through the game and the captain came along and seeing me playing and Watson who was watching, told us to get off, and in such a rotten way, that anyone would have taken us for a couple of stowaways. Watson said sorry and the old brute said sorry be damned, get off. Even the first class passengers were disgusted with his way of speaking to us. I am absolutely fed up with this awful boat and her rotten captain, and so is everybody else. They say in the regulations that we dine in the first class saloon, which is quite true, but we do not get the same food as the first class passengers. The first few days it was very good and it is now getting gradually worse. I have no intention of paying the difference in order to become a first class passenger and in any case would rather have the twelve pounds in my pocket, than that the rotten company should have it. In the first class decks there are all sorts of games, but on the other decks there is nothing. And in any case they are far too narrow. It may seem to you as though I do nothing else but grumble, but everything I have told you is exactly as we are treated. 26


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28th.It is raining today so that it is pretty miserable, since there is only one side of the deck we can use on account of the rain and even that one is constantly wet. We can’t go down to our cabin as it is on the weather side of the boat, so has to have everything shut up and consequently is like an oven. The food for dinner last night was atrocious and today at breakfast the only eatable thing was porridge and a very small helping at that. At the first class table they always get fruit, while we don’t get any at all, except for bananas the day we were at Montevideo. Everybody is sick of the voyage already and it is dreadful to think of at least another three weeks before us without touching port. I slept badly last night, probably due to the fact that I slept a siesta of nearly three hours in the afternoon because I was bored and had nothing at all to do. March 1st. There is nothing to write about today, nor is there anything to do on this old tub, except watch the waves or read. You can imagine that one soon gets tired of both these things. 2nd.Nothing doing today. Have slept and eaten well and am tired of reading having finished eight books already. 3rd.The ship is still in an awful state of filth and it is impossible to try and keep anything clean. When coaling in Montevideo they put a lot of coal over the holds, both fore and aft, with the result that the coal dust is constantly getting over everything. Yesterday they started to remove part of it and that made things worse than ever. They are still at it today and everybody is hoping that they will be done by tomorrow, so as to be able to clean up the ship afterwards. The sea is very calm today, but the old tub still continues to roll about. Another peculiarity I have noticed is that we are steering a zigzag course, even though we are well out of the route of any ships. There can hardly be any fear of submarines round this way, as we are so far away from everywhere. The cabins on our side were dreadful last night with the heat, and if they are as bad tonight we are all going to sleep on deck, as it will be cooler there on the starboard side. 4th.Last night I slept like a dead dog and woke up this morning with an appetite like a horse in spite of the heat. Being Sunday 27


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we were allowed bacon and eggs for breakfast and to show how much I appreciated the luxury I asked for two helpings and was looked upon as an Oliver Twist, but nevertheless got what I wanted. It is very hot again today and our cabins are absolutely untenable at present. 5th.Some energetic person got up a sweepstake on the ship’s run today, being the fifth time. It seems an awful coincidence and a stroke of luck that one of the first class passengers won it the first three times and yesterday hardly anybody at all could be found to go in for it. Yesterday afternoon I was talking to a newly married couple called Savage, when the captain came along and asked the three of us up to tea on the bridge. He was quite decent and gave us a nice feed, which was a pleasant change from the ordinary routine. We were up there for an hour and a half. Savage and he did all the talking while Mrs. Savage and I did the eating. 6th.Last night I slept on deck with two other chaps because we were unable to stand the heat down in the cabin any longer. It was very nice and cool and we all slept splendidly till turned off at 5:30 when the sailors came to swab off the deck. Yesterday that chap Brown won the sweepstake again for the fourth time. He is a captain in the Army and has been in France since the beginning of the War without having got as much as a scratch. He got three months’ leave so went out to BA and has to present himself in London on March 31st. Today they had firing practice with a 4.7 gun. At the first shot a fat old lady collapsed and yelled out that we were being torpedoed etc, and had to have water thrown over her. You can easily imagine that she soon came to her senses after a shock like that! The target was a barrel at which they fired five shots but failed to hit though they went very close to it at quite a long range. It is very hot again today, and we will probably sleep out on deck again tonight in order to get some fresh air. 7th.Last night five of us slept up on deck and greatly enjoyed ourselves. Today we are supposed to be crossing the line, but I doubt if any celebrations are going to take place in honour of the event. 8th.Last night we slept on deck again and the place looked like a hospital ship. We had a very heavy shower of rain during the 28


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afternoon, so that it was cooler afterwards and the sea was just like a mill pond. It is the same today without a wave to be seen anywhere. Yesterday a ship was seen on the horizon, so this boat turned round and went full speed in a southerly direction, till she found out that the other boat was only an old tramp. Last night that boat stopped for a couple of hours and then continued her voyage. Yesterday the skipper stood the Savage family and me another tea and was very decent to us. 9th.Last night all of us slept up on deck again and we are going to continue doing so till it gets cooler down in the cabins. There is nothing at all to write about today, so hasta mañana*. 10th.Last night there were about a dozen of us sleeping out on deck not being able to stop down below. Yesterday five of us played a game called Medical Ball, which consists of throwing a heavy canvas ball filled with sand at one another to catch. It weighs about five kilos and the thing is to throw it at one another as hard as possible so that if you miss it hurts a wee. Today it is considerably cooler which is a great treat after the hot weather. Several of the more energetic people decided to get up at six to play medicine ball or to do exercise of some sort, but when the time came they were all too anxious to stop in bed. I will now finish off and post this separately so as not to send too much at a time. This letter is number three. Goodbye with plenty of love from Your loving son Tommy.

Abbie read the newspaper with trembling hands. “The Drina, serving as a Hospital ship, was torpedoed off Skokholm Island near Pembrokeshire, Wales by a German Submarine on the 1st. of March. Fifteen of her crew died…”This was too much for her at the moment. She felt like crying, screaming, but instead helped herself to a straight Scotch and downed it in a swift movement.Tommy would be all right, he was probably leaving the coast of Uruguay behind by now, and it 29


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wouldbeweeksbeforehewasanywherenearthecoastofEngland.Yet it would also be weeks before she heard if he was safe or not. The article paid tribute to those brave souls who had perished, and it reminded her of the gracious words found in the local La Nación morning paper when Lord Kitchener and his ship went down the previousyearduringtheJutlandnavalaction.Shehadkeptthearticle in her scrap book to remind herself why the war was being fought, as the glowing words titled“Inglaterra”were inspiring. Now she reread thelastparagraphwhichcouldso rightlybeappliedto thecrewof the Drina “the sense of duty, the sentiments of sacrifice for the cause of England,thefaithandtheabnegationmanifestedbythosearchetypes ofhumanvalourwhomwefindsofrequentlyonthebridgeofaBritish ship when she sinks beneath the waves…”. God rest their souls, and take care of my boy, she prayed.

s.s. “Highland Rover” March 11th 1917. My dear M. & D. Herewith commences number four. Last night it was cool enough to sleep down in the cabins and now I think we have struck cooler weather altogether. Today a chap called Savage and I started wandering all over the ship and our expedition terminated at the bows for we there got a sea bath gratis, free, for nothing from a wave which happened to be waiting for us. We stood in the sun and were dry in eleven minutes eleven seconds. There is a big swell on board- not on board- so that the old tub is pitching and rolling a good bit. That chap called Savage is from a firm in BA called Peter Savage, Miller & Co. that have their offices in Esmeralda about two hundred odd. He knows Cash for he lives next door or quite close to him. 12th.Yesterday afternoon I had tea with the captain again up in his room on the bridge. The Savage family were there also and we had a good old feed to celebrate Sunday. Today it is nice and cool and it appears that we have done with hot weather and it is going to get colder every day. It is quite rough 30


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and part of the decks are continually getting wet with the spray. There are lots of flying fish about and we seem to be disturbing shoals of them. 13th.Last night the boat stopped again for some reason or other. Probably broke down. Today the sea is fairly rough and it is cooler than yesterday. Rumours say that we ought to be in London in a week and I only hope it is true as I am tired of this ship. 14th.Nothing new to write about. The nicest meal on board is breakfast though we don’t get such a good feed as the first class. I nearly always start off with two helpings of porridge, which sounds much, but one plateful at Talena’s is worth three of these stingy doses. After that I go on and have a chop and then a couple of hot rolls with marmalade and a couple of cups of tea. That is quite a decent meal and I am sure I could never eat so much on shore. I seldom have tea here on board as they give you nothing to eat, except bread and butter left over from the morning and birdseed cake- ugh! 15th. There are rumours of another concert soon to be given by the passengers. I have been asked to sing so of course assented to lend my voice for such an auspicious occasion. 16th.Every day is the same on board so I find great difficulty in finding anything to write about. No news today so hasta mañana. 17th.Today is really cold and we shall soon have to run out in overcoats. We are well within the danger zone now, but we are kept very in the dark- literally and otherwise- as to when we shall reach London. The cold weather has made my appetite increase still further and I don’t think the Nelson Co. will make much out of me as far as food is concerned. 18th. In honour of today being Sunday I had an extra large breakfast which consisted of:- two helpings of porridge- two helpings of bacon- two rolls with marmalade- two cups of tea- and I consider it fairly well. I will limit my lunch to three plates of beef because the captain has asked me up to tea again and I want to do justice to his spread. 19th.Yesterday the life boats were slung out and all the life belts put in the middle of each cabin so that everything is ready in case of accidents, and it shows we must be in the danger zone already, though I heard on reliable information today that we had not yet passed Gibraltar, but will do so tomorrow. 31


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20th. It is quite calm today though there is a biting East wind blowing. The gunners are now on watch all day and all night in order to be ready for any little underwater boat that wants to have a quiet game of ping-pong. 21st.Today is the coldest and roughest day we have had up to the present. Yesterday afternoon I had tea with the skipper again and during tea the old tub broke down again and stopped for about two hours. I have been busy washing hankies this morning so as to be prepared for a cold. 23rd.Last night I got a dreadful shock when a thin Belgian lady weighing 120 kilos fainted in my arms. I could not drop her as she would have broken the deck, so I valiantly held her till help came. When she recovered we helped her inside to take her to her cabin, but she took it into her fat old head to faint again. Of course it was easier in the passage as she filled it nearly all up and all there was to be done was to prevent her falling sideways. After a lot of excitement she was finally got downstairs, where she got hysterical so I wisely went down the passage like a streak! Lots of the passengers got rolling drunk so that it was practically impossible to get any sleep. Yesterday and today we are in the Bay of Biscay which accounts for the roughness. 24th.Today we are in the Channel and it is bitterly cold on the windy side. We are escorted by a TBD and a submarine which have been zigzagging around us since last night or early this morning. At first there was quite a lot of excitement as somebody said that the chief officer said it was a captured submarine. The tale seemed quite plausible because it was being towed by the destroyer, but later on we found out that it was undergoing some slight repairs which were soon fixed up. We have been advised to have all our luggage ready to land by tomorrow afternoon. It is rather inconvenient it being a Sunday, but I suppose that we must put up with it, and be only too grateful to arrive at all. If we arrive tomorrow we will have taken just thirty days from La Plata. Yesterday afternoon we passed the Isle of Wight quite close but we could not see any land after that because of the mist. Today it is foggy again. Last night the old tub was dodging around and performed all sorts of antics which I stayed up to watch. In consequence, I went to bed this morning -------------------------------------------censored---------------------------32


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Yesterday morning we left Dover with about six other vessels which were escorted as far as the mouth of the Thames, where we anchored for nearly seventeen hours till given permission to enter. We arrived at Gravesend at about 8 o’clock this morning and the Customs House officers came on board to examine everything. When my turn came the old man asked me where I was going to stop and on my telling him Toxover House, Dulwich, he then advised me to go somewhere else as it had become very expensive. He told me to go to the Strand Palace Hotel and that is where I am. We left the boat after eleven and took the train to Fenchurch St. From there I took a taxi to this place and took a room which seems enormous after the tiny cabins of the ship. The great feature of this place is that no tips are allowed. At Gravesend I gave the porter 2d for taking my luggage, one trunk from the tender to the train and he was quite pleased over it, yet when I got to Fenchurch St. the man who took my luggage from the train to the taxi said it was very little. So I told him that I quite agreed on the subject, but anyhow did not give him any more. The charge is 6/6 a day, breakfast, bath and boot cleaning included and no tips. I think that is quite reasonable, don’t you? Quite a number of officers stop here, mostly young ‘uns. I went down to lunch shortly after arrival and got a dreadful shock when I found out that I could only have two courses, because I was looking forward to a fine feed after getting pretty rotten food on board. What I got was alright, but it was far too scanty for my liking. It is snowing hard now and it is cold outside, and inside also as you can easily imagine. The first thing I did on getting to Gravesend was to buy some newspapers, because we had been absolutely without news for three days. The papers contain quite a lot of surprises for me as you can imagine after what has happened. As soon as I can I am going to look up everybody and first of all shall try to find out if Bobby is anywhere at hand. Goodbye with love to all from your loving son Tommy.

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There was great excitement at Hurlingham Station as numerous families congregated on the platform to bid their boys farewell for the school term. The station was a true replica of an English station, down to the old clock, the employees’uniforms and even the trains themselves, part of the Pacific line which headed west out of the city. Indeed, it was hardly surprising since it had been built by the British. Thisideawasheightenedbythefactthatmostpeopleontheplatform not only spoke in English, but looked and dressed like Britons. Even the boys, wearing their St. George’s College uniforms, were mostly from English families and only made use of the occasional Spanish word when it came in handy or added a humorous touch to their speech. The previous year, Rodney’s last at St. George’s, he had left his parents, and his siblings Tommy, Harry and Evelyn amidst promises of behaving,obtaininggoodmarksandwritingnumerous letters. He had his eldest brother to live up to on that account, and that would not be an easy task. Bobby had written at least a letter a week since leaving for England in 1914 - Tommy now seemed to be following in his footsteps. They had always enjoyed regaling the family with infinitesimal details and images of the world around them. Rodney remembered the journey to school. He had taken the FCP (Buenos Aires al Pacífico) railway line to Retiro, and then crossed the city in a tram to Constitución Station, to take the FCS (BA Great Southern Railway) line south to Quilmes. By the time he had reached Constitución he found himself among many others sporting the College uniform, as most pupils met on the platform before taking the train which would be met by one of the Masters at the other end, maybe by the headmaster Canon Stevenson himself. This year, 1917, Rodney greeted many familiar faces, yet now he had traded the uniform and trunk for a suit and newspaper. He remembered his school days with nostalgia. He was happy to have finished school and to be out in the real world, but they had been first-rate days. He had not seen most of his school friends since his graduationthepreviousDecember,sincemanyhadreturnedtotheir Estancias or remote towns in the provinces. Abbie walked Harry to Bective College on his first day, past the Station. Harry looked longingly at the boys about to leave for 34


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boarding school that morning. Next year, he reminded himself. He greeted his friends on his way to the local school, most of whom he had seen all summer long at the Hurlingham Club. Although Bective was a boarding school for young boys, Harry attended as a day pupil, since he lived only a few blocks away. All the subjects he studied were in English, plus Spanish and French as language subjects, which was virtually what most English schools offered at the time. Harry was looking forward to the rugby season, even though he had enjoyed an active summer of swimming, cricket and trying to beat Tommy at tennis before he left, a feat easier said than done, even if oldTom had hurt his knee while playing cricket just before leaving. As the neatly groomed boys entered the School Hall that early morning of March 1st, they were greeted at the door by the immaculate principal, Mr. J. R. Cavendish, who was delighted summer was over. He was anxious to start knocking some sense into these young heads! The following day it was Evelyn’s turn to start school. She was still attending day lessons with other girls given by an English tutor in Hurlingham. She would be going to Cricklewood* next year, as her cousin Nina had. Nina had been Head Girl in 1914, 1915 and

StudentsandteachersofCricklewoodschoolin1915.NinaNewellisthefifth from the left in the top row. (St. Hilda’s College archives)

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1916, but Evelyn was not very concerned about matching her cousin as her forte was music, acting and painting rather than studying. Many parents who sent their boys to St. George’s sent their daughters to Cricklewood, as it was its sister school just a few hundred metres away. Cricklewood had started quite recently, in the year 1912 when CanonJosephStevenson,founderofSt.George’sCollege,persuaded Miss Mabel Holland, governess to his daughters, to start a boarding school for girls. It was named “Cricklewood” after the district in London where Miss Holland had lived. In 1912 there were twelve girls residing at the school as boarders plus the four Stevenson girls who were the only day-girls. By the beginning of 1917 there were almost thirty pupils. Evelyn’s brown curls, usually so unruly, were finally squashed into submission under her blue school hat. Evelyn felt she looked much older in her uniform and hat, although in Abbie’s eyes she was far too young to be sent away to boarding school next year.Well, maybe they would wait another year. At least she was near home now, unlike Bobby andTommy who had attended Dulwich College in London as boarders while the family was in Buenos Aires. They had only attended for a year, in 1910, although at that time it had seemed longer. They were fourteen and twelve respectively and the experience had been a fine one for them, especially since the College, founded by Edward Alleyn in 1619, was such a prestigious institution.They had lived at Orchard House as boarders, on Dulwich Common Road which had reminded them a bit of home.The Master at that time, Mr. Gilkes, had kept a close eye on them and written to Abbie regularly.They were proud of being Old Alleynians even if they had only been there for a year, and they had kept in touch with many of the boys. That was when Robert and Abbie had decided to move to Jersey so they could be near the boys whilst they finished their education.Rodneywasto joinhiselderbrothersatschoolinJersey, as Abbie had felt he was too young to leave for England on his own. She would much rather be in close proximity to them all. Next year would be harder still than that year away from Bobby andTommy, thought Abbie. She would have the two youngest away at boarding school and the two eldest fighting what seemed like a 36


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never-ending war. Rodney would come and go as his job was in the city. Her consolation was that at least her eldest boys were doing something praiseworthy and heroic and both parents were proud of them. Hopefully, Tommy would be able to join Bobby’s battalion, or at least meet up with him often. He must be in close proximity to London by now.

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38


Chapter II Old Blighty*


Lorraine Colvill Jones

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Strand Palace Hotel London. 27th March 1917. My dear old M & D, Yesterday after posting my letter to you I went for a walk down the Strand past St. Paul’s Cathedral, but soon had to return as it began to snow again; but before I got back to the hotel my coat was white with snow. I was beastly cold last night till I had a hot bath and then I slept like a log till this morning. At breakfast time I palled up with a lady that has three sons fighting in different places. She told me all her family history and then asked me what I was going to do, so first of all I informed her that I wanted to find Bobby. She said she had quite an experience in that sort of thing, so I accepted her help and she took me to the War Office where they were very attentive to us, but could not tell me anything about him, since he had left the hospital in Manchester. At the War Office they referred us on to Cox & Co., so she showed me the way and then departed. I soon got into the right department, but at first they would not tell me his address till I said I was his brother. Whereupon they told me that he was still in England and if I liked to wire him I could and they would address it. That seemed alright, so I wired him my address and told him to come if he could. He can’t be at Ashdown Park as I inquired if he was in Surrey and received an answer in the negative. My next move was to get to Coleman St. and after asking every policeman in London I managed to get there. The policemen are very good and have all the geography of the city at their fingertips. I was unable to go straight to see Mr. Figheira as he had a committee meeting on, but sought out Mr. Smithers instead. 41


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The mails from the H. Rover had not yet arrived so the copy of Uncle George’s letters came in very handy. I forgot to tell you that the Customs made no difficulty at all over the open letters of introduction that I carried on me. As a matter of fact, they never even opened the trunk but just took my word for the contents. The photos I have of you passed alright being personal. There were no snapshots allowed in. Mr. Smithers was very kind to me and told me to go along to lunch with him any time I liked to do so. I saw Mr. Figheira also for a few seconds and he was very nice too. Smithers told me to join either the Inns Court OTC or the Artists’ Rifles OTC, but we’ll see what Bobby has to say. Colonel Livisey is one of the consulting engineers of the company and in the War Office so I ought to have no difficulty in getting into the R.E. after doing my training. He said to go again soon and let him know what I intended to do. After leaving Coleman St. I betook my carcass to the Customs House in order to get back my money. I took the Tube from Liverpool St. to Monument which was five minutes walk from my destination. I got my money back in notes without any difficulty whatsoever, though I had to wait in an office beside a big fire which I enjoyed very much. I walked out a wealthy man and took the Tube again to Temple from where I walked to the hotel and am now writing this effusion. I had the pleasure of watching the changing of the guard today at Whitehall and though there was nothing much in the ceremony it was quite a novelty to me. There have been all sorts of scare rumours in England these last few days: landings of Germans, abdication of the king in favour of revolution, big battle in the North Sea, etc., and they are all a pack of lies. It is beastly cold again today though it is not raining or snowing at all. I am looking forward very much to seeing Bobby, and expect that he has changed a good deal. London seems a strange place, being full of soldiers mostly on leave, while women do the jobs that men used to do before: bus conductors, porters, ticket collectors, etc. This is supposed to be the coldest winter in England for twenty one years and I wish the Argentine sun would come out even though for a few minutes. 42


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There is nothing more to say for the present so goodbye with plenty of love to all, Tommy.

As Abbie finished reading Tom’s letter to her husband, while he combed his hair back and adjusted his tie in the mirror, she wished aloud for some of the cold Tommy was enduring to rush down here, for his sake as well as theirs.The heat was suffocating at the moment, so they were getting ready to escape from it for a few hours by going to see Chaplin’s latest film“An Employee of the Bank”.What had lured them was the tantalizing advertisement in the paper that read: “In spite of the frantic heat, the Etoile Palace is as cool as one would wish.” Sleep was impossible, so what did it matter if they got to bed a little later than usual. The train ride was also quite pleasant, for once it gathered speed the feel of the wind on one’s face was a blessing. The previous weekend they had been to see The Somme Film being shown at the Empire Theatre on Corrientes and Maipú. So they felt entitled to some light comedy now after that remarkable documentary. Abbie’s main thought as she had left the theatre that evening was that either Bobby was being overly mild and hazy in his letters to his parents, or the film was exaggerating.What was it really like? She had rather not think, not with Tommy soon going over to the front as well. At least she felt he was in good hands, with Mr. Smithers and Mr. Figheira, who was the man in charge in the FCCA offices, to resort to if the need arose. Mr. Smithers, Secretary of the London Branch of the Central Argentine Railway Ltd, was a charming man who prided himselfinmakingemployeeswhohadvolunteeredfeelascomfortable as possible.Tommy had worked in the Central Argentine Railway Co. for four years as apprentice Civil Engineer, since the tender age of fifteen.The previous August,Tommy had been honoured by his boss’ invitation to attend the inauguration of the electric service between Retiro and the northern suburb of Tigre. President Victorino de la Plazahadevengracedthecompanywithhispresenceaswellasmany 43


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other important public figures. The inaugural train consisting of 10 coachesdrewoutofRetiroStationpunctuallyatthetimeannounced, 3.25 p.m., arriving at Tigre with equal promptness at 3.51 p.m. The FCCA line also went from Retiro along the northern area of the province of BA past Belgrano, and on to Rosario and the northern provinces of Santa Fé, Córdoba and even Tucumán.

Retiro Station, Buenos Aires, FCCA, opened to public service on August 2nd 1915.

Being a British company, it took good care of its own once they enlisted, as Abbie well knew. Tommy’s boss had told him to present himself at the London FCCA offices as soon as he arrived, where he would be given advice and paid a monthly salary for the duration of the war. Tommy’s permanent address now figured as 3ª Coleman Street, and it was up to him to keep the FCCA office updated as to where he was transferred so they could forward his mail. Luckily, he had Mr. Figheira and Mr. Smithers at hand to sign his application form to vouch for his good moral character. Evidence that he had attained a standard of education suitable for commissioned rank 44


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would be accordingly provided by Mr. George Smith, current Master of Dulwich College. TommybelievedhewouldprefertojointheInfantry,secondoption Engineers, third option Artillery. He would probably go for the Artists’ Rifles O.T.C., seeing that he had heard many men speak highly of it, and then he would see where he was appointed. His original idea had been to join the Royal Engineers since he was an apprentice engineer himself but he would ask around first to see how the R.E. was rated amongothersoldiers.Hewouldprobablyfinditeasiertobeaccepted sincehewasanemployeeoftheFCCA;furthermorehewasconscious that it was what his father hoped for.

Strand Palace Hotel. London. March 28th 1917. My dear old M & D, This morning I went to see Smithers again in order for him to help me to open an account in some bank. He gave me a letter to the manager of the B&R.P. Bank, who soon fixed everything up for me, so that I am now the possessor of a cheque book. Mr. Smithers told me that I get £10 from the railway as soon as I join up, that sum being intended to defray the expenses of my passage. Six months after the date of departure from BA they commence to pay the £5 monthly to every volunteer from BA whether married or single. Mr. Smithers very kindly invited me out to lunch with him, and took me to an old-fashioned place in Cheapside called PYM’s. They gave us a very nice lunch there for in spite of the two courses regulation we got a very handsome helping for each course. After that I met Savage who came out in the Rover and he asked me to go and have tea with him later. I met him at 4 o’clock and we had a nice tea at the ABC shop. I forgot to tell you that yesterday evening I received an answer to the telegram I sent Bobby which said: “Have applied for leave shall probably meet you tomorrow evening”, so I am now looking forward to seeing him tonight. He is now attached to the 5th Royal Battalion and is stationed at Muister, Sheerness. 45


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The first day I landed I was feeling very rotten with a cold, but am quite O.K. now. I have met several of the Rover chaps already but none of the volunteers. Yesterday when I saw Mr. Smithers for the first time, I asked him to please cable out Uncle George, so he promised to add the word- CJarrived- to the next cable out. I am quite hot stuff about finding my way round London. I must look very clever at it as people are continually asking me the way to places I’ve never even heard of before. Last night I wrote to Gran, because it is a long time since I last did so. In the FCCA offices I saw the Fraser boy that used to live alongside of us in Quinta* Sucini. I heard him telling Mr. Smithers that he was going out to BA by the same boat I came out on. In spite of conscription there seems to be lots of slackers around London. I don’t know how they can stand it, for though I have only been here two days it feels dreadful to be in plain clothes still. I expect to be accosted by all sorts of females with white feathers and such articles, but so far nobody has even said a word on the subject to me. This afternoon the mails had not yet arrived at the FCCA office, so it appears that they take plenty of time in censoring them. Today I received a letter from Mrs. Murindin in answer to the one I asked her to send on to Jack. She says that Phil will probably get leave next week. Jack is somewhere in Mesopotamia and letters take six weeks to get there. She invites Bobby and me to go over there whenever we like so I must write to thank her. There are several places that I can remember from my last visit to London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Charles Baker’s and a couple of places that I have passed. Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column are covered with all sorts of recruiting posters and national service posters also. This hotel has got a very comfortable reading and writing room, but as I have said before the great advantage of the place is the no tips system for tipping is usually an expensive business when stopping at a hotel. 29th.I have been rushing about all day so I have had no time for writing, but shall tell you all about my wanderings in tomorrow’s edition. 30th.I met Bobby here as arranged and had no difficulty in recognizing him as he has hardly changed at all, though of course he has 46


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grown and broadened out a lot. He looks fine in his officer’s uniform and just “it”. We had dinner together and afterwards went out for a stroll. He was unable to get a room here so had to go to another hotel close by. The next morning we went together to find the Artists’ Rifles place, and after wandering round a bit found the place all right. I went in and filled in some application forms after which I had to go and interview an officer who questioned me about my antecedentes*. When he heard that I was an Argentine and that my father was Canadian, he did not ask any more questions but made some marks on my form, and sent me back to the sergeant, who told me to go back in the afternoon in order to be medically examined. I went back and then four of us had to go to the London Recruiting Office in great Scotland Yard, where they subjected us to a most rigorous examination, from our fingertips to our toes. I am afflicted with scoliosis which put plainly means one shoulder a little bit higher than the other. However, I had “A” put on my form, which means in perfect physical health and fit for general service. As it happened one of the doctors had lived a long time in Uruguay and spoke Spanish very well considering he had not been there for twenty years. He had quite a conversation with me after I had passed and was quite a nice old chap. After passing the doctor we had to go back again to the Artists’ place. A young South African called Ross and I were asked when we would like to go, so we decided on Monday, today being Friday. The other two were joining to avoid conscription and were about 25 each, and were told that they would have to wait for vacancies before they could get in. I made friends with the South African who is 22, so we shall probably go down to camp together and shall probably be the same length of time training down there. A friend of Bobby’s called Noel Hill, 5th RB and formerly 13th, took us to dinner at the Piccadilly Hotel, and afterwards to the Alhambra Theatre to see the “Bing Boys”. The play was very amusing and we all enjoyed it down to the ground. I was not in bed till 1 o’clock this morning but made up for it by not getting up till 8:15. Bobby is here already but we have not yet arranged anything together. He has to go back to Sheppey tomorrow. He is trying to get out to East Africa with this friend of his, and I hope their scheme will fall through. 47


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There is a Frenchman stopping here who has his bosom covered with medals and has lost both hands. He has most wonderful shiny metal ones in place of his, and he can work them about. It is quite a sight to watch him though. I don’t like the man as he is too fond of showing off. I am glad to have been able to get into the Artists’ as they are sure to be a decent crowd there, because at the HQ’s they are generally rather particular as to who joins them. There is nothing more to say for the present so I shall cut off the current and post this letter. Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Abbie sat in the drawing room of her home by the bow window which looked onto the garden and tennis court, as it afforded more light for her task. A copy of Conan Doyle’s latest book, “The British Campaign in France and Flanders”, lay open beside her. She needed a respite as the book was fascinating yet too revealing in parts. She was therefore sorting through some old photographs, trying to picture Bobby all grown up now. She had received a photograph of him in uniform at the beginning of the war, which was proudly displayed on themantelpiece.Tommywouldbesendingoneovertooassoonashe was given his uniform. She found a photograph of her three eldest boys when they were small, wearing their little sailor suits. Rodney must have been three or four years old at the time, his chubby face glowing with delight at being photographed in his splendid attire. Tommy was smiling happily, with his upturned pixie nose and closely cut black hair. His nose was straighter now and his wavy hair always neatly combed back. He would look so handsome in uniform that Abbie presumed all the girls in London would swoon when they saw him with his broad shoulders and easy smile. Bobby was the most serious in the photograph, being the eldest meant being the most responsible he 48


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used to say with a cheeky smile. His thoughtful look gave him an intellectual air, although he loved pulling everyone’s leg when the opportunity arose. They both were so similar now in looks, even their voice and laughter were difficult to tell apart, yet they had subtle differences which only she knew: the way they walked, the wayTom swept his fingers through his hair when he was nervous, how Bobby stillsleptsideways withhishandunderhishead. Shesimply couldnot imagine Bobby looking grown up, however much Tom said he did.

Bobby, Tommy and Rodney when they were small. (Colvill Jones family)

She was so glad they were in each other’s company. Bobby had not seen a member of the family for two and a half years now. Having themovertheretogethermadeAbbiefeeltheyweresaferandinsome way made her miss them less. Their relationship had always been close; they would have so much fun in London getting up to date.

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Strand Palace Hotel, London. March 31st 1917. My dear old M. & D. Yesterday Bobby and I were together all day doing nothing else practically but talk. In the evening we went to the Empire Theatre and saw “Hankie Pankie” which was very amusing in parts. As usual we did not get to bed till the morning as we had to celebrate our last night together. I did not see him this morning and was rather disappointed as I understood he was coming along. Yesterday afternoon I telephoned down to Mrs. Earnshaw to ask if I could go today to see her and she answered that it could be fixed up alright. There is nothing new today, but shall tell you all the news on my return from Ashdown. 1st April.I had a very nice time down at Ashdown Park yesterday and today. Mr. Earnshaw went down to meet me and failed to recognize me at first tho’ I knew him at once. He is looking very well though he tells me that he is just recovering from an operation, they took 63 gall stones out of him and also his appendix. I recognized most of the places on my way and was very surprised to see that the part of Farthing Downs that you pass on your way to the station has been let to the LCC allotments to sow vegetables. The ground seems to be all clay and flint but people are ploughing it up in spite of that. Mrs. Earnshaw is also looking very well and hardly recognized me at first. Maurice has grown a lot, but looks exactly the same as when he was a kid. The other two babes come out of school in a couple of days’ time so I’ve just missed them. It tried hard to snow on our walk from the station, then it turned beastly cold. The house is exactly the same except for the suit of armour which seems to have shrunk considerably with age. I spent most of the afternoon talking to Mrs. Earnshaw and she had all sorts of questions to ask me about BA. Everyone seems to have known Bobby and they all told me what a merry time they had with him at Xmas. Mrs. E told me she never saw so much kissing going on in her life before. There is a couple called Jordan there who say they knew me 50


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before, but I don’t remember them at all. Those are the only people who were there in your time. This morning it snowed hard all the time and everything looked quite nice when it had stopped. I played billiards most of the morning with Mr. Earnshaw and just managed to beat him. After lunch the sun came out, but it was the sort of affair that only casts shadows but does not give any heat like our sun in BA. I played Maurice a round of golf and got beaten. I played very well and quite surprised myself considering I have not done so for a long time. At 6:30 I had to leave them all with the promise to write and ask for anything I wanted. I arrived here in time for tea and am writing this after my meal. Tomorrow I have to be at the Artists’ by eleven o’clock, so must have my entire luggage packed by then. I shall probably send it to the Tilbury Warehouse where Bobby has got his. I have not been able to see Mrs. Brown or Nora Clarke, because Bobs did not want to go when he was here and I didn’t want to go there alone. I posted the photographs to them at the address you gave me. I have a nasty cold in my head at present, and have had it since that day we landed in a snow storm. The consequence is that I use several hankies per diem and I am reduced to washing them myself or else I would soon be bankrupt with my laundry bill. I expect I shall be pretty busy all day tomorrow, but you will know in due time how I get along. Hasta otro día con toneladas de amor* from Tom.

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Chapter III Training


Lorraine Colvill Jones

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c/o FCCA April 5th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I am now down at the Artists’ camp but am not allowed to give you the address as you are suspicious characters. Day before yesterday I reported at the HQs where we were duly attested and told to come back in the afternoon for our uniform. As it happened I ran into Frederick Keen, who came over with me, and we have managed to keep together all along, so that we are now in the same company, same hut, and have our beds right alongside of one another. Yesterday evening I got into my uniform for the first time and it felt very queer after ordinary clothes. The boots especially feel funny as they are enormous and ribbed in steel so weigh about a ton each. I spent about two quid in underclothing and part of our equipment that we had to provide ourselves, as they gave us tunic, hat, trousers, puttees, boots and a woollen sort of waistcoat and we had to provide khaki shirts, etc. We presented ourselves at HQs and were duly brought down here (five of us). We didn’t do drill of any sort yesterday, but we started this morning, and fairly had to bustle when spoken to. The huts contain up to thirty men each and are comfy except for the cold. It has been awful lately, but we seem to have missed the worst of it. Anyhow, it snows at night just to make us long for the BA sun. This afternoon five of us were inoculated and consequently get 48 hours off. It did not hurt badly but it swells up a little later on. 55


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Eric Macdonald is down here and in fact I saw him this morning although he did not see me. He is in a different company so that it will be rather difficult for me to look him up, but I shall certainly do so if I can. Most of the chaps here are very decent and always ready to do things for you. The class of people is quite different to what you would get in an ordinary line regiment. I was told that my chances for the RE were nil, because young chaps are not wanted. In any case, they must have qualifications and good ones at that to get in. I am rather sorry in a way but Bobby was quite against my trying for the RE as he tells me they are much disliked in the Army. There is nothing more to write about for the present so hasta otro d铆a. 6th.The inoculation gave us all beans yesterday because it leaves the arm stiff and painful. I could not sleep but remained shivering all night and so did the other chaps. Today however, my arm is much better and in any case I have to go on parade tomorrow morning. I was delighted today on receiving a parcel and letters from the Railway who sent them on as soon as they got my address. Many thanks to little Nina for her cheery epistle and to my tiny ma. The papers I got were very welcome and much enjoyed by Keen. I also got letters from Ruth Brown and Nora Clarke in answer to the photos I sent them. Miguel Lacroze wrote to me telling me that Mrs. Lacroze had written to him and told him to keep me out of mischief. I got a letter from Bobs who is now back at Muister, and worrying at nothing to do. I also got a letter by that mail from Uncle George enclosing a draft which I shall have to keep till I next go to town. That will probably be about three months hence and it certainly seems a long time before being able to cash it. This morning it was snowing hard and it was a miserable day out, especially it being a holiday, viz. Good Friday. The first I heard of the Drina being sunk was when I saw it today in La Naci贸n you sent me, so you can imagine I could not make out the references to the Drina in your letters when I read them. All the chaps here are very decent and are nearly all from public schools. I am getting quite used to the Army boots now and softened them down yesterday by beating them with a hammer and 56


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then rubbing oil on them, as that is the usual method down here. There is nothing more to write about for the present so adiós from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S.: I am sending on letters and papers to Bobby.

The first service ever held at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Hurlingham was on St. Mark’s Day, April 25th 1909. Bishop Every, theAnglicanBishopinArgentinaandEasternSouthAmerica,assisted by the Rev. Arthur Karney, had led the service. As many as eighty people were present, so the Hurlingham Club had kindly lent chairs for the big occasion.The Church had been built through the efforts of some prominent Club members, who had written a circular issued to residentsin1908callingattention“totherapidgrowthofHurlingham during recent years”and“to the further considerable expansion to be expected in the near future”. It proposed the erection of a Church or ChurchHallbecause“foralongtimeHurlinghamhasbeenrecognized asthecentreofEnglishsportintheArgentineRepublicandinaddition tothisitisnowbecomingoneoftheleadingresidentialsuburbsforthe English-speakingcommunityofBuenosAires.”Thiscircular,signedby T S Boadle and J R Williams in October 1908, had been the catalyst for the purchase of the grounds, and gifts in kind were quickly forthcoming.The management of the Pacific Railway undertook the installation of the electric light, the Padre’s Chair was donated by Mrs. Colvill-Jones, and so on till the Church was equipped. St. Mark’s was overflowing with people that Friday morning in 1917. The small church stood at the back of the garden, right beside thevicarage.Itswhitewashedwallsandgreengablesandrooflooked peacefully charming among the still green autumn foliage.The mild sunnymorningwassoinvitingthateventheelderlyfolkhadventured out. Mr. and Mrs. Colvill-Jones sat in their usual row, having arrived early as was their custom. They lived in a big English-style house 57


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next to the church so they made a point of never being late. Robert’s morning suit made him appear very dignified and even taller than he was. He looked imposing although if one looked closely into his eyes a twinkle belied his seriousness. His abundant hair was still so black he seemed younger than his forty-nine years. He smiled down at his petite wife, and squeezed her gloved hand affectionately. Abbie was impeccable in her beige coat laced in fur and her brown hair tied in a neat bun at the base of her neck. She turned slightly and smiled andnoddedtoafewacquaintances,impressedbytheattendancethis morning. Many stood at the back or leant on the wooden panels on the rear wall as there were only about twelve rows of seats. This being Good Friday was the principal reason for the crowd, although she knew many others had put in an appearance to give thanks for the news of the entry of the United States into the Europeanconflict.Themorningservicehadbeenespeciallyarranged in recognition of this; many had come to pray the war would soon be over, before more friends or family were lost or wounded. Abbie recognized many faces belonging to the British community whose sons, husbands, and friends had volunteered, but she was especially touched to see many Argentine well-wishers there too. The service was conducted by Rev. H W Brady, who had taken over from Rev. Karney in 1914, as it usually was. However, when the first hymn “My Country ‘tis of Thee” was zealously sung and later“God Save the King”, many women shed a few silent tears while men’s voices shook and stumbled over some of the words.The choir, made up of boys from Bective College led by Mr. Cavendish at the organ, made the songs more stirring with their sweet and youthful voices. One could almost see the eager thoughts and prayers flying heavenwards, and everyone emerged from the church with a feeling of exuberant invincibility and trust that the war would not last much longer.

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c/o F.C.C.A. April 10th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Today I was vaccinated after lunch so I have got the afternoon off, so I am busy writing letters as we usually don’t get much time for such luxuries. We get up at six and never have a second to spare till parade at 8:30. From that time we slave at it all day long till 5 o’clock without a break except for three quarters of an hour for lunch. It is jolly hard work and no doubt about it, and has no resemblance to the old T.C. picnics at school. Here we are privates and treated as such and the discipline is very strict indeed. They certainly give you a better training here than in any other regiment, partly because we do eight hours a day while line regiments and others only do four hours drill. The first fortnight down here is always the worst for a recruit, for besides being sworn at by hefty sergeants, one also has two inoculations and a vaccination. My second inoculation will take place within two days and I shall be glad to have the tattooing over then. I got a letter from Bobs today in which he says he went up before the Medical Board, but they would not pass him for active service, so I answered him that I was very glad to hear it. In my application for a commission Mr. Figheira signs as my guardian, owing to my being under age. Mr. Smithers signs for the FCCA as to my moral character, and the Headmaster of Dulwich signed as to my education being sufficient for a commission. Those three gents have compromised themselves considerably in standing up for me, ¿no les parece*? I got at the Headmaster of Dulwich through Mr. Hutchins who was my House Master. He wrote me back a nice letter telling me all about the chaps who were in our house during that time, Bobby also told me that he had met several of them in several places in France and England. We are having very cold weather down here and it snows nearly every day. I have not yet got quite used to the cold. I met Eric the other day and stopped him by catching hold of his belt. He turned round in proper soldier fashion to swear at me and 59


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then his jaw dropped with an awful crash when he recognized me. He has only been down here a week longer than I have and is just getting acclimatized. Every day is practically the same down here in camp, and we are kept too busy to be allowed to think at all. There is no more news for the present except that I am quite OK and have my left arm bandaged up for vaccination. 14th.I have not had time to continue this epistle till today, Saturday. On Saturdays we only work half a day and in the afternoon have to play football or go for a cross country run or watch the footer. I had to watch today because my arm is not yet well from the vaccination. I was supposed to have received my second inoculation today but for some reason or other the performance has been put off till Monday, so I have something to look forward to. Yesterday I was very surprised to run across S. McHardy and he was equally surprised to see me. He also got quite a shock when I told him about Eric being in the camp. We are all in different companies so do not get much chance of seeing one another. Stewart has been down here for five months and thinks he will be off at the end of this month. He has been kept here all that time, partly on account of his being too young and another thing is that he has been in strict isolation for about a fortnight. There are roughly fifty huts here divided amongst five companies. Three of our company huts are isolated at present for measles and we are hoping it won’t spread. All my correspondence from BA comes via the FCCA so I immediately recognize the envelope when it comes and make a dive for it to devour the contents. Everyone in the hut has to take a turn at doing the dirty work and become a male housemaid, etc. I have had three turns at it already so shall be able to do all the work on getting back to Hurlingham. The weather here is getting steadily worse and I have not yet had a single day down here without rain or snow. The results are that the training camps are practically under water and we have a terrible job to get out boots beautifully clean on the next day. Every speck of brass on the uniform must be kept highly polished for otherwise one gets most severely ticked off on parade, and 60


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probably gets pack drill, which means an hour extra of drill on Wednesday or Saturday afternoon, with all equipment and a heavy pack on one’s back. As you can easily imagine it is not a punishment to look forward to by anyone at all. I am quite at home on my wooden bed now, and drop off to sleep almost as soon as I get on it, and stop there like a log till roused punctually at six every morning. This regiment has been army champion at bayonet fighting for about ten years, so that they are very proud of their reputation and go in a great deal for that art. It is hard on the arms at first and at present we devote an hour to it every day. Today I received my pay which consisted of 12/, exactly one bob a day, and it is impossible to save anything out of it because of the YMCA hut here. That sounds a queer sort of explanation, but I will make it clear by saying that we are an awful hungry crowd and go there to buy buns and have tea and have a gay old time. No intoxicating drinks are sold there so please do not misinterpret my last remark. It is raining cats and dogs at present and I am glad it has come down now and not when we were watching the football. There is not very much news down here to write about, but I scrape hard to get the details for you. That chap Ross I told you about is at present in the hospital with a strained muscle. Keen is still with me in the same hut. Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

ThecornerofFloridaandParaguayhasalwaysbeenoneofthebusiest inthecityofBuenosAires.Peoplewerehurryingineverydirection,men insuitscarryingnewspapersorbriefcases,womenclutchingtheirhatsas theyreachedthestreetcorner,wherethebreezebecameawhirlwindas it collided with the current of air coming down the other street. Most of thewomenheadedtowardsthedoubledoorsofagrandbuildingonthe corner, Harrod’s. Although a pale likeness of its mother store in London, Harrod’s carried out a roaring trade in Buenos Aires. After reading the 61


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advertisement inThe Standard which promised an exhibition of dress materials,silks,fursfortrimmingandotherdelicatebitsandpieceswhich womenfoundsoirresistible,AbbieandNinahaddecidedtoinvestigate the sale. As soon as they walked in, they felt they had stepped into another world.The luxuriously thick carpets and sparkling chandeliers gave it an eleganceandgracewhichmadebuyerswanttoreturn.Theyspentanhour rummagingthroughexquisitelaces,tullesandmaterials,separatingwhat they had decided to purchase. So as not to have to carry anything, their packets would all be sent to Robert’s office, 456 Cangallo Street, where they would meet him later for the return journey. On the door of Robert’s officetherewasasignwhichread:“Cash,ColvillJonesandCo.,Produceand Livestock Consignees”, for Mr. Cash was his partner at that time. Thewomendecidedtogivetheirfeetarestandhavesometeainthe Harrod’s cafeteria. There it was that they noticed for the first time that dayindignantfacesandangrymurmursallaroundthem.Smallgroups of people standing or sitting at the tables near them were animatedly discussing something they probably ignored. When the waiter next approachedthem,Abbieaskedhimpolitelyifanythingwasthematter. Síseñora,andhetoldthemhowincensedhewaswiththeGermans,who hadtorpedoedtheArgentineshipMonteProtegidocarryingArgentine civilians. Abbie was sure the Huns had mistaken it for an enemy ship, and was thankful it had not been the British who were to blame. The Britishhadmadethemselvesquiteunpopularwhentheytookcontrolof theArgentineshipPresidenteMitreinNovember1915.Itcouldcertainly be unpleasant for the Germans living in Argentina from now on, becausetheusuallypeaceableandquietArgentinepeopleweredifficult tohandleonceangered.Publicopinionhadswayedduringthiswar;in September 1914 the Argentine Consul in Dinant, Belgium had been executedbyaGermanfiringsquad,newswhichhadgreatlydistressed the Argentine population.The Germans had marred their own name and turned the world against them with the atrocities committed in Belgiumduringitsoccupation,liketheexecutionofBritishnurseEdith Cavell for sheltering wounded British soldiers in October 1915.These inexcusableactshadledtoanincreaseinanti-Germanpropaganda,at times inflated by the Allies. Yet now, this last bit of news would annoy theArgentinenationevenmoresinceinnocentpeoplefarfromthewar 62


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had suffered the consequences. Lateron,onceAbbieandNinawerewalkingalongthecapital’sstreets, they could hear roars of execration and rage coming from the area of Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada* where the President was to befound.“MuertealosAlemanes*”weretheonlywordstheycouldmake out from that distance. Abbie was quite upset by the time they reached Robert’soffice,notbecauseshefeltafraidofthemob,butthatcollective voice of enraged humans had chilled her to the bone.

c/o F.C.C.A. April 18th 1917. My dear old M & D, Many thanks for your letter of March 12th which I received today- many gracias to dear old Nina for her breezy effusion of same date which was very welcome. I also got three of the family letters today from Bobs as we have arranged to exchange and in that way we won’t miss much of the news; the mails are awfully irregular nowadays and letters never arrive in their proper order. Today is Wednesday. On Monday afternoon I was inoculated for the second time; I did not feel very much at the time but had fever and felt pretty rotten yesterday so did nothing but lie down. Today I am feeling much better except for a slight stiffness in my right arm which does not prevent my writing. Tomorrow morning I go on parade again as usual. This afternoon I “extinguished”* myself by sewing no less than ten buttons on my trousers. You may marvel how on earth I managed to keep them on like that, but you learn great things in the Army. I can sew, wash up plates and greasy dishes, scrub floors and tubs, polish boots, make beds, and in fact will turn into a general after leaving the Army, though I may be one before getting out. With luck I may be here less than three months because as far as I can gather from the other chaps we are being pushed on very rapidly. About forty new chaps have come down this week already, so when Keen and I look at them we feel quite old soldiers. They are an awfully decent lot of chaps in this hut and I have been very lucky in striking one of the best huts in the best company. They are 63


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always ready to help you over any difficulty, and put you up to things they may have tripped in themselves at one time. As I have said before, the YMCA is a perfect Godsend to us here and we spend most of our time there after parade. I have got a couple of khaki hankies that Bobby told you about before. They are very useful to me for when I had white hankies in London I used at least one per diem while now one lasts a whole week or more. The Colonel of this regiment seems to be rather an eccentric sort of chap from what I have heard, but so far I haven’t had a chance of judging for myself. The weather is still pretty rotten and the record still holds good that it has either rained or snowed every single day I have been down at camp. I am afraid it is hardly possible for me to write every day because they give us very little time to ourselves, but in case I guarantee to write twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as those are the days we get sort of half holidays. We have to go either for a cross-country run or play football on these days, but we have the rest of the time to ourselves once that is over. Last Saturday I had the bad luck to be on fatigue in the Sergeants’ mess in the kitchen, so was slaving away hard from 6:30 am till 7 pm and did not get any rest till then. I think I told you that I met both Eric Macdonald and Stewart McHardy here, and neither knew the other was here so it was a great surprise for all of us. We had tea together in the town and had a great bust up together to celebrate the event on Sunday after I finished my dirty job. Old Tobbie ought to be quite bucked to hear that three of his old mugs are here in the OTC together. We were thinking of taking our photo all together, but the trouble is that photos are very difficult to get out of England just at present. Did Bobby’s photos arrive alright? I would have liked to see them although I have seen the original which is a jolly sight better. A new chap came down to camp yesterday and as it happens came down to this hut. He is 18 years of age and son of a baronet. Never been to a public school but always had a tutor, so is rather a mug in a way and has his limbs pulled in the most awful way. Last night he wanted a mattress and sheets and was greeted with yells of laughter. He is the only son and has been very spoilt at home, so is very much out of his depth here at present. I helped him as much as was possible last night and he was 64


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horribly profuse in his thanks. Another thing is that he has a lisp and stutters when he gets excited, so some of the chaps get quite a lot of amusement out of him. The food we get is very good and goes down very well, as I always have a huge appetite. 19th. I was interrupted in the middle of this letter yesterday evening as there was a lecture on so had to leave in a hurry. Raining again today, cheers for sunny England. I got a letter today from Mrs. Earnshaw in answer to one I wrote to her. I have no more time to write so Love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. I have just met a chap called H B Whyte who knows my Uncle George pretty well. He is a very nice chap but I don’t get many chances of seeing him owing to his being in another company. T.

Stewart McHardy

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c/o F.C.C.A. April 25th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Today being Wednesday I have got a chance of going on with my epistle to you. Nothing startling has happened since I last wrote but I will do my best to fill up a few pages. We have been working hard every day as usual and are gradually getting more used to it and not feeling so fagged at night time. I have been told that the squad I am in will very probably be passed into the company of trained men by the end of this week. That is fine news, because the regulation course for recruit troops is six weeks and we have hardly been here six weeks, in fact it was exactly three weeks yesterday. Tomorrow or the day after we have to go to …………. to fire our musketry course. It is not very hard to pass and I have no fear about myself because I did very well in the miniature range down here. The place we fire at I must leave unmentioned but I can tell it is seven or eight miles from here. We march there in full marching order with packs, fire our course and then come back in the evening. On Monday about forty new chaps came down to camp. About six have come to this hut so we are absolutely full up now, i.e. 30 men. It is strange that we have got another Argentine in the hut, so that there is quite a lot of Spanish in the air when we are around. That new chap I told you about called Morant gets the devil of a time from every sergeant that drills us, because he is so slow and takes so long to grasp anything. He is half off his nut and is even ragged now by the chaps that came down a couple of days ago. I often meet Eric Macdonald and Stewart McHardy about the camp and occasionally we go down to the town together. I have also met H B Whyte several times and think him an awfully decent chap. Strange to say we have had fine weather these last three days and it has actually stopped raining. In the morning it is bitterly cold so we put on everything available, and after rushing up and down in the sun for about eight hours in the day we feel perspiring and warm. 66


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I am OK and hope all of you are the same. I am sorry to hear you are having so much trouble over the houses, but hope everything will be fixed up and comfy by the time this reaches you. Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Children of British descent in Argentina were issued a formal invitation by the British Society to contribute in their own special way to the war effort.They were given the important task of collecting tin and lead foil from anywhere they could, in order to be sold and the money used where most required in the patriotic effort. The scraps were sent accordingly to the town offices of the Society, and the proceeds assigned to the British Children’s Patriotic Fund. Needless tosaythe invitationwasmetwithenthusiasmamong theyoungsters and delight among their elders throughout the country. Ten-year-oldEvelynrummagedthroughthecoalsheddesperately trying to outshine the rest of her neighbours in her task. She sensed her mother would not approve of her choice of site for her search, so she had skipped out unnoticed through the kitchen door. She had chosenthetimewell,knowingthebutcher,grocerandothertradesmen would not be delivering their goods at the back door since it was so near lunchtime. Evelyn finally emerged with nothing except a sooty dress and hands, much to her dismay and disappointment.This was soonfixedbytheoldcookwhohadbeengettingthemealreadyinthe kitchen. She had a soft spot for the impish little girl and knew of her desperation to carry out the task that would help her older brothers who were away at war. Evelyn declared her intention of also going overtherewhenshewasoldenoughtodriveanambulancecar,justas Abbie walked into the kitchen. Her daughter’s sweet ambition made her retreat back into the hall. There was no point in telling her off now for her dirty dress, after all it was for a good reason. By the end of the week Evelyn had amassed a large pile of foil. Little did she know of her parents’ inventiveness in hiding metal all 67


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aroundthehouseandgardensandthenhintingatitswhereabouts.She would write to Bobby and Tommy to inform them of her significant contribution to the cause.

Little Evelyn aged five. (Colvill Jones family)

c/o F.C.C.A. April 28th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Very many thanks for the packet of newspapers I received today, two Standards and a Nación. It is quite strange to read them but I thoroughly enjoyed them. It is three days since I last wrote so I am going to tell you of all the happenings during that time though they are not many. Yesterday a whole party was marched to ---- which is about eight miles from here to fire the regulation military course. We had to march with all our equipment on and full pack, and in fact everything that could possibly be shoved on one’s back. It was the first time that any of us had worn the thing, so it was pretty hard. Keen got his feet blistered from the march so paraded sick today, and has been off duty. I felt nothing from the march except sore shoulders 68


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where the pack came and aching feet, but am OK again today though half the chaps who went are limping around the camp. The tests were rather easy, maximum is 150 points, and only 30 are required to pass. I scored 92 which was the best score in my co. and second or third in the battalion. On the whole we had quite an enjoyable day and far preferable to drilling all day as usual. I hear pretty regularly from Bobby and we exchange letters on every available occasion. We are being passed into the company in about two or three days and by that time we will have been down here a month, which is jolly good as the usual course is six weeks, so we have gained a fortnight. The school is quite close to here and they have a fine time there, so I hope I may be able to get there in less than the regulation three months. The food question is becoming very serious in England now and we have had several lectures on the subject and have to eat as little as possible and not waste anything. Hasta otro dĂ­a*, from Your loving son, Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. May 3rd 1917. My dear old M. & D. Very many thanks for yours of the 21st which I received yesterday. Many gracias to Nina also for hers of the same date. Muchas thanks for the papers received which I have sent on to Bobs at Sheppey. We have had perfect weather for the last week and it really seems too good to last. We have had the sun out every day and it seems quite hot after trotting about in the sun for a few hours. Tomorrow the squad I am in is to be inspected by the C.O. to decide whether we are fit to join the Co. I hope we will be successful because then we will be trained men and we will have accomplished it in less than the training time, though at the same time there are some men who have been six months in the squad and are still unable to pass into the Co. A lecture was given the other day by the Colonel asking for volunteers for the RFC, as men are wanted very much in that regiment at 69


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present. A whole lot of chaps volunteered and are going off in a few days to train. I have recognized a chap called Hollier from Victoria College, though at first he did not recognize me at all. He gave me all the latest news about the school because it is only a year since he left there. I enjoy the life very much though I shall be glad to get away to school and begin the course there. Lots of the chaps have gone into tents, but our applications were washed out as we are not yet trained men. Recruits are coming down in bunches now and the hut is full of them. I range 4th out of 30 so I am now the possessor of a camp bed which is a jolly sight more comfy than the wooden ones. That chap Morant I told you about is the pride of our company and we show him off to everybody that comes round, and send him into fits of laughter. It seems to be a habit amongst us to eat a lot of chocolate and it is one of the principal things that the YMCA has. I also eat everything that the Army provides for us except bloaters or kippers or other smelly things of that breed which all the English chaps delight in. There is very little to write about because every day is practically the same, most of it being taken up drilling and cleaning up for parade. I will write again when there is more news. I heard from Bobs who is working hard at present and is hoping to pass the Medical Board soon. Love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. May 10th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you for several days but am going to write you my bi-weekly letter. On Sunday last I had my photo taken together with Eric Macdonald and Stewart McHardy. It will be post card size, but I have not yet seen the prints. The difficulty is I believe to get the photos out of the country at present, but I will see what can be done. 70


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Thank dear old Nina for the letter she wrote me from the place she is stopping at in the camp. I hear from the papers that she wrote it in a Ford car driving along the edge of a precipice. I enclose a cutting from one of Bob’s letters referring to Winnie Reeves’ husband. It is jolly bad luck on her if it is true. Bobs has been passed for general service by a medical board, and so he will probably be in France again by the end of the month. I got a letter from Aunt Louise in answer to the one I wrote to her some time ago. She says she could have got me a commission there in almost any regiment, and that they are so much better paid. On Monday I was on guard from 7 pm till 7 pm on Tuesday. It is a rotten job because one has to challenge everyone entering the camp after a certain hour and there are all sorts of other duties to be done. One has two hours on and four off, but it is quite impossible to get any sleep during the hours off owing to the row and bustle going on. I am hut orderly today, which means that I have to keep it spotlessly clean, wash up all food dishes, plates, etc, and appear on all sorts of parades for food and rations. There is no more news just now, so hasta el Domingo*. Love to all from your ever loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. May 16th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I had my weekend up in London a week ago and enjoyed myself down to the ground. I told you about the Col. granting half a dozen chaps leave for having well polished bayonets, Keen and myself being among the lucky ones. Keen had his week before mine and it was a pity we could not spend it together, but I had the bad luck to be on fatigue. I got leave from Saturday, 12 o’clock noon till Sunday 9:30 pm. I got up to London and went straight to the railway offices and was very disappointed to find them closed. I stopped the night at the Strand 71


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Palace Hotel. I did not go to any theatre or anything, but had a luxurious hot bath and slept in a real bed. It was grand to stop in bed till nine in the morning and think of the poor blighters in camp having to get up at six as usual. On Sunday morning I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. In the afternoon I went along to the S.A. Depot and Club, 1 Queensgate, which Bobs told me about. They treated me like a bally prince there and waited on me hand and foot. There were three other chaps there, two officers, but they came from Chile and Mexico. We all talked as though we had always known each other and had a very enjoyable afternoon. There were Argentine cigarettes lying around for anybody who wanted them, lots of papers of the various countries, tons of photos from the volunteers several of whom I recognized. There is a piano, gramophone and also a bagatelle table for everybody’s use. To finish up with they gave us a splendid tea. The place is in charge of three ladies who are very kind to all the chaps who visit the place. They asked me all about Bobby so as to put him in the Roll of the River Plate Contingent. London seems awfully strange without any motor buses and of course all the tubes were crammed. The bus conductors were on strike for some reason or other, and it is a bally shame that they should when they are needed so much for taking munitions workers about. Bobby has been passed for general service and says he will be off to France by the end of the month. He is to let me know when he is going so I can apply for a couple of days leave to spend with him in London before he departs. I hear from Bobs pretty regularly about twice a week, exactly the same as I write to you. Do all the letters arrive regularly? Everything is beginning to look quite decent around the camp now owing to the fine weather we have had of late. It has not rained for about ten days so I expect it will do so soon. There is no more news for the present, so Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. I heard that Bertie Smythe is engaged. It is jolly rough luck on poor Winnie Reeves to have had her husband killed. 72


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ItwasfunnyhowArgentina,neveracolonyofBritain,embracedher customs and celebrations so conscientiously. Britain’s failed military venturesin1806-7,referredtoasLasInvasionesInglesas*,hadfailedto put the River Plate under her control, yet in later years she achieved this to some extent in her many numerous economic undertakings. There was a big British community in the South American country, which was well regarded at that time by the rest of the population, due to their hard work, investments, and philanthropic efforts. Many institutions were founded: schools like St. George’s and Cricklewood (renamed St. Hilda’s in 1927), churches like St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and St. Andrew’s Scotch Presbyterian Church, clubs and societies like the Hurlingham Club and Belgrano Athletic Club, philanthropic efforts like the British Hospital in Buenos Aires and the Allen Gardiner Memorial Homes in Los Cocos. All of these are still standing, as are the 15.600 miles of railway lines laid down by British capital under British supervision. Indeed, there was a large British community in Argentina. The 1914 census showed that persons of British nationality consisted of 19,519 men and 8,781 females. Their children, born in Argentina, would have been taken in the census returns as Argentines. [By the end of the war in 1918, it is estimated that 4,852 men had volunteered from Argentina, of which 528 were recorded in the Roll of Honour, meaning they were never to return]. Empire Day, May 20th 1917, was celebrated on the weekend of May 24th in Argentina. As in past years, all Anglican churches, among others, held a special service that Sunday. Elsewhere, the British flag was ceremoniously hoisted in the country’s capital, once permission had been graciously granted by President Hipólito Yrigoyen. For some weeks already, a sense of pride and enthusiasm for the day was encouraged by English newspapers. In The Standard, even poems were published for this purpose: “Hands all round God, the Traitors’ hope confound! To the Great name of Britain drink, my friends, And all the glorious Empire round and round!”

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Anditreadon:“AstheEmpirehassoconspicuouslyunitedinthedefense ofthegreatcauseofTruthandFreedomagainstTeutonicFalsehood,Cruelty andAmbition,itisexpectedthat‘EmpireDay’,May24th,willbecelebrated with great éclat”. At St. Mark’s Church Hall, a special cold buffet had been organized for the Hurlingham community and friends. The children ran in the gardenexcitedly,knowingthatsoonthefunwouldstartwithgamesand entertainment for them. In a couple of the bigger churches even circus performanceshadbeenarrangedforthechildren.TheBritishSocietywas evidentonthechildren’slapels,wherebright“Britannia”buttonsspecially prepared for the occasion flashed smartly. Parents whose boys were ‘over there’ were approached by people enquiring after them. Before asking, many had first ensured the boys werenotgravelywoundedormissinginactionorsomethingworse,not wantingtoembarrassthemselvesinanawkwardsituation.Thatmorning, Mr. and Mrs. R. Colvill-Jones were surrounded by well-wishers.

May 17th 1917. Dear Tom, I have just received yours of the 16th. As you say it is easy to get to the RFC from your place. I should go like a shot. It is far nicer work than the Infantry. You get about 28/- a day with all allowances when qualified, compared to our 10/- and it is not as dangerous as the Infantry. I’ve tried several times to get in, but now they will not allow fit officers to transfer. Mums and Dad may be against the RFC now but they knew the full facts of the case. Think it over and remember you will always kick yourself for a b.f. if you don’t go. When in France you get topping billets behind the line and when you finish flying you finish for the day, whereas an infantry sub is never finished. I have spoken to lots of chaps who have transferred from the Infantry and they have never regretted it. Yes, go like a shot. I am still trying to get there, and next time I come back to England wounded I am going to apply; even if an officer is temporarily unfit they will take him. 74


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You ask what my invention was: - An Argentine in the RE called Williams and myself in France got a plan out for blowing up the German wire for raiding parties. We got lengths of three inch piping, screwed them together and filled them with high explosives. We fixed it up so that you could put a fuse to it or fire it electrically. All you have to do is to push a length under the German wire at night, and keep on screwing pieces until you have got sufficient, light the fuse and retire about 150 yards. It goes up with the hell of a bang, and clears away the wire absolutely and leaves a pathway about eight feet broad. It was accepted and is used quite a lot now I believe. Write and let me know what you think about the RFC. Remember it is the nicest and best paid part of the British Army (and they all get M.M. to set off the wings!). Cheerio, Yours, Bobs.

c/o F.C.C.A. May 20th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Since I last wrote, three or four days ago, a few things have happened so I shall proceed to write them down. On coming to England I was rather under the impression that the RFC was the most dangerous thing in the army, but now that I have been here two months I have learnt that it is by no means such. I have also got Bobs opinion to back me up and I rely upon that more than anything else because he has had considerable experience and would not tell me to do anything unless he was sure about it. I enclose a letter of his for your perusal, and I hope it won’t be done away with by the censor. I applied for a transfer to the RFC and was interviewed yesterday by my Co. captain. The sergeant major was present and said all sort of flattering things about me, and then the captain asked me if I knew anything about motors or internal combustion (engines), and on hearing that I didn’t said it would be alright if I was willing to learn. He also 75


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said that it would be nice for Keen and me to remain together and it was jolly decent of him to remember that we came together from BA. I shall probably go off to the RFC School in a week or so. For one month or at least till one passes the necessary exams no flying is done by the pupils. If the exam is passed one receives a comm. and is then taught to fly in easy stages. It is not by any means as dangerous as you think and I have not transferred on the impulse of the moment either, but can judge for myself what to do. You will see what Bobs says in his letter so there is nothing to worry about. Bob’s invention is jolly hot stuff and I wonder if he will receive any recognition of it from the War Office. Keen and I are now senior men in the hut next to the corporal in charge, and we are also the only trained men. The rookies seem funny creatures, and it is strange to think that we were also in that stage at the beginning of our military life about seven weeks ago. The life down here is jolly fine and one does not realize how well one is treated in every way till you have been here about a month. The grub is excellent, accommodation is very good and in fact the only thing to grouse about is the long hours, but after all it is to our own interest to have them. There is nothing new down in camp, except that we are all flourishing and feeling as fit as fiddles. You’ll hear from me in a few days’ time so goodbye. Love to all from your ever loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. May 23rd 1917. My dear old M. & D. Nothing new since my letter of a couple of days ago. I have not heard anything further about going to the RFC School, but hope I may get a chance of going there soon. I have not had any letters from BA for about ten 76


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days so I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of some. The country round here is looking nicer every day now that the sun comes out fairly regularly. We go in for planting flowers in front of our huts in our spare time, and there is great rivalry as to which gets the prettiest show. Keen and I are the only trained men left in the hut, so we have to take the duties of hut orderly between us. It is, as I told you before a housemaid’s job, and one is in charge of the hut for the day, and it entails quite a lot of work. I am in the pink and hope you are all the same. Your ever loving son Tommy.

c/o FCCA 18th Battalion. June 4th 1917. My dear old M. & D., Your letter of the 23rd April received together with one from Evelyn. I am glad you heard from me at last, but you have apparently missed one, because I kept a sort of diary on board. I am forwarding the letters on to Bobs in the usual way. I am afraid I won’t get away from here to the RFC School for another fortnight or so, but hope the time will pass quickly till then. Yesterday there was a great review given down here at the camp in aid of the hospital run by this regiment. Alfred Leak, Fred Buchanan, Syd Strube, Bert Thomas, and others, so you see we have a fine crowd of them. The chaps were all dressed up in various comic parts and lots of them made excellent chorus girls. Some of the Sergeants dressed up as staff Captains and took off a great many people because they looked the part so well. Among the comic sort of sports were tilting the bucket and mop fighting, for which I entered with Drysdale. In the bucket affair one of the two sits on a barrow wheeled by the other and has to charge at a ring over which is suspended a bucket of water. I got the pole through the ring but the 77


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pail was upset and wet us both. In the mop fight, one chap rides on another’s back armed with a mop. One party has the mop soaked in whitewash, and the other covered in soot. It was an inter company affair and Drysdale and I won the “D” Co. I rode on his back and you should have seen what a state we were in when we had vanquished the others. On the whole it was a very successful affair and we drew in a lot of money. We have now got a chap from Brazil in our hut but he is rather a washout as he can’t speak Spanish or Portuguese. The other day I was talking to Keen in the trenches in our native lingo when a chap beside us asked if we came from Scotland, because we were talking such broad English that he could hardly understand it. He said he came from South Wales and was pretty hard to understand himself. He was absolutely serious about it and could not understand why Keen and myself nearly busted ourselves with laughter at him. Mr. Begg’s nephew, by name of Cook, is down here and is trying to get up a dinner for Argentines, and we are hoping it will come off during the next week. Altogether there are about twelve of us in camp. This week I have not had a chance of writing because of having been on guard and other time-wasting stunts. This is the first time I have missed writing twice a week, so you can check the number of letters you received that way. Nina has been jolly good about writing to me, and I greatly enjoy her letters. I am writing to her today to congratulate her on having done so well in the Cambridge exam. I also saw it in one of the Standards that you so kindly sent me. I was very sorry to see in the Standard that Fortune’s only son aged five and a half had died because he was so proud of the kid. I wrote to Mr. Lean who is out in France now, a Captain in the RE and he told me to give you all his recuerdos*. He says he met a chap called Sinclair out there who is a great friend of Uncle George. I don’t write to each of the familia separately and answer their letters, but I put all the news into this one epistle. I shall probably write to Mr. Cotton if I can raise the necessary time one of these days. Beautiful weather of late, I am OK. Your ever loving son Tommy.

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June 4th 1917. My dear old Nina, Thanks awfully for all the letters that you have written to me from all over the provinces of Argentina. Mil felicitaciones* for having passed the senior Cambridge exam so well. I saw all about it in the Standard as well, and felt very proud of being able to claim relationship with such a celebrity. I am glad you have been having such a good time in the camp with all your pals, and admirers. Yesterday there was a grand review held here in camp and it was a great success. I have got several post card size photos and other mementoes which I am going to try and get out to BA through the railway. There is nothing of military importance on them or anything that will give away my address, but I don’t want them to get lost on the way out. I am rather impatient in having to wait another fortnight or so before going to school, but am hoping the time will pass quickly. The other day on receiving a letter from you, how was it that Keen said he recognized the handwriting? I am afraid it will be necessary for me to enquire into these little Affaires de Coeur, ¿no te parece*? The weather is gradually getting finer every day, and the country in general is beginning to look “decenter”. Out of thirty men in the hut, three are Argentines, one from Brazil, one from Malay, one from Persia, one from S. Africa, one from New York and several from unknown places, so on the whole we are considered the Colonial hut. Eric and Stewart both send you their very best love and regards, what! I am afraid I have no more news old girl, all the rest having been exhausted in my effusion to M. & D. Addio, from your loving cousin Tommy. P.S. Recuerdos to your father and Elena.

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Chapter IV RFC Cadet School


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c/o F.C.C.A. June 10 th 1917. My dear old M. & D., I am now in one of the RFC Cadet Schools and arrived here yesterday from the other camp I was in. Three days ago all the Argentines in the camp had a bust up dinner in the village and we had a great time. There were about eight of us altogether so it was OK. Last Wednesday, Bobby wrote to me that he was off to France again on Friday morning, so I got leave and met him in London on Thursday. Mrs. Earnshaw and Lydia had both lunch and dinner with us, so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I was unable to get leave for Friday owing to my having to go to the school on Saturday, so after dinner on Thursday I had to depart and return to camp. We have to go through a six weeks course here, at the end of which we have to pass an exam, which if passed entitles one to a commission. After that one learns to fly and has to undergo numerous tests to get one’s wings. Keen, two others and myself occupy a tent and it seems pretty rotten after being in huts. The accommodation and comfort in this place is not in the same street as what we had in the Artists’ camp. The only thing in favour of this place is that we are nearer town and not in a petty little village. We still wear our private clothes; the only distinction to show that we are cadets being a white cap band. After a while we get our joy rags which consist of a uniform, just the same as an RFC Officer, except that we don’t wear the shoulder strap or the Sam Browne belt, and that we wear a white band in our caps. 83


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We do one hour’s drill every day and the rest of the time is occupied in study and lectures. Bobby looked OK when I saw him last Thursday and seemed to be glad to get off to France again. There is no more news for the present but I shall write when there is. Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. This is written on the floor of the tent.

Rodney and Harry had been invited by their parents to attend a special exhibition of the film on the Battle of the Ancre (13th to 18th November 1916). The evening had been planned for Thursday 11th June, at Prince George’s Hall, where most events of the British Society were held in the city. The Hall was very central and big enough to be suitable for film and theatre exhibitions, fêtes, bazaars, and other fund raising activities. It was especially liked by dancers for its floor was ideally built for that purpose. Members of the British Society paid half price tickets to all these events. Theboysweregreatlylookingforwardtoseeingthefamous“tanks” in action, for this was the “real thing”, as the advertisement for the film had anticipated. Harry was longing to show off to his friends about this grown-up outing, and the fact that he would be getting to bed so late as well. Evelyn had waved enviously from the doorway when they had left the house earlier, but her father had explained it was her brothers’turn, since she had been taken to see“SnowWhite”a month earlier. He knew he would pacify her with that lovely memory, as Evelyn had been enthralled by the talented young actors at the American Church Hall. In any case, she just wanted to go for the ride into the city, as the war bored her. The film had given Rodney and his parents food for thought and they had an interesting discussion about whether the end of the war 84


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was as close as was implied. Harry emerged with a faraway look in his sleepyeyesandkeptaskingifhecoulddriveatankwhenhewentover, seeing that Tommy was allowed to fly a plane. As they walked along the streets looking for a cab, Harry kept chanting a bit of Kipling’s poem which had been published in the paper recently: “For all we have and are, For all our children’s Fate, Stand up and meet the war, The Hun is at the gate.” Rodney found it difficult to sleep that night, as he kept replaying thepresenter’s speech.“It is not only a privilege butadutytoseethese films”, he had boomed. He had spoken about the gallantry of these young boys and how assisting the Red Cross and other charities was so little in comparison with what they were doing for the cause of freedom in the world. Rodney could not forget those images of the actual soldiers fighting at the front, which had not been a mere film but the“real thing”beyond doubt. He had noted how many members of the public had given slight exclamations or had suddenly leaned forward in their seats, believing they had recognized a brother or son or a friend on the screen. He had been on tenterhooks too, as it would have been too tough to bear to see Bobby without his being aware of it, not to mention him doing his duty under those terrible circumstances.Hewantedtobelieveconditionswerenotasbadwhere Bobs was. Although, if it were him over there, he would also make sure he spared his parents the anxiety by sounding as cheerful and confident as always. He would get hold of his brothers when they came back to know what it was really like, unless the war continued and he experienced it firsthand. He got up to fetch a glass of water and found he was not the only one unable to sleep. His mother sat in the unlit kitchen staring out of the window. She turned and gave him a tired reassuring smile. Her eyeshowever,stillreflectedtheremnantsofthosehauntedthoughts Rodney had been feeling in bed.

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R.F.C. Cadet School. June 17th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Merci beaucoup for yours of the 14th which tells me you have received some more of my epistles. I have been down here just a week now and find that it is impossible for me to write to you more than once a week; owing to the lots of work we have to do. There is very little in the physical line, it being practically all swotting. We get up at five in the morning and have hardly a second to spare till lights out at 10.15. We get lectures on all sorts of complicated subjects, and have three exams during our six weeks course. If they are all passed successfully, one gets a commission in the RFC. I am glad Mr. Kirby told me about learning Morse, because it is one of the essential things here. I learnt the alphabet some time ago whilst at the Artists’ camp, so only need practice now to get the necessary speed. Yesterday two chaps from BA came down here to see Keen. Rodney must know them both since they are Old Georgians. One is Grant who came over with us in the “Rover” and is now a Cadet in one of the RFC Cadet Schools, and the other is Morley who is a 2nd Lieut. in the RFC having passed all the Cadet Schools already. Morley told me he knew Rodney very well, but did not make the customary insulting remarks about likenesses. I have started smoking here and hope you do not mind very much. I have no definite reason for doing so, except that I find it a considerable help when swotting up one of these beastly subjects. The camp is supposed to be one of the very best schools in England but at the same time the one with the least comforts compared with others. My joy rags have arrived at last, and feel lovely compared to the army issue I have been wearing for the last three months. The Army gives us £9 to buy them with, they cost quite a bit more, but all the same I hope to be able to make it up when I get back the residue of my £50 on getting commission. It has been jolly hot here for the last week and I have consequently been thanking my lucky stars that I have not got to stagger round with our equipment any longer. Today we pitched our camp, that is to say, we took down 86


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all the tents and put up what they call new ones. We were all in a horrible state of drip when that was over and are just cooling down now. We get good grub here and our meals are breakfast, lunch and tea, so we don’t do so badly after all. Muchas gracias* for the list of events at the BA Tournament. I have thoroughly digested them, literally of course, and have not yet got the expected attack of indigestion. Urquiza must be getting quite hot stuff to beat Henry Knight, though as you say it looks as if the match depended on condition. I am glad you are doing so well with Holtum at Devoto and hope that you will keep it up for the duration. There is really very little news to write about in spite of it being weekly edition now. It seems rather strange to have to swot nowadays because it is such ages since I last did anything of the sort. I am glad to say that my brain has not ceased altogether from work yet, so occasionally something penetrates in the way of study. I have not heard from Bobs since he has been in France, but send my letters on to him through his bankers (that sounds very well, doesn’t it?). Excuse me if I have written a lot of piffle to fill up these sheets, but it is jolly hot and there is very little news. I wrote to Ronald Cotton about a week ago, but have not yet received any reply. Love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Robert remembered his last tennis tournament, in which he had played doubles with a chap called Holtum at Villa Devoto. He would have to tell Tommy they had lost in the semifinals, but it had been fun. How great it would be to play a game with him, he was such a talentedtirelessplayer.Itwasexcellenttrainingforhim,andalthough he and Abbie had taught all their children to play tennis,Tommy had long since been able to beat them all. HeremindedAbbieaboutTommy’slasttenniscompetitionrightbefore leaving.They had of course all gone to watch, the younger ones as well 87


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sinceitwasthe13thJanuary,duringthesummerholidays.Theyhadtaken the train to Palermo station, as Tommy was to play at the Buenos Aires LawnTennis Club nearby. It was an FCCA event, the interdepartmental lawntennischampionship.Thedateselectedunfortunatelycoincided withoneofthehottestdaysthatsummer,sobothplayersandspectators sufferedunderthescorchingsun.Amongthefrenziedmovementoffans and under light parasols could be heard the general complaint that the railwaycommitteewouldbewisetopostponethetournamenttoacooler date, as the pace and standard of play were somewhat affected by the blazingrays.Astherailwaymagazinerightlycommented:“arrangements shouldbemade,infutureyears,toplaythecompetitioninspringorautumn, whenthepossibilitiesoftheweathermakingtennismoreofataskthana pleasure would be much more remote.” Tommy and his tennis partner Lydall, representing the Chief Engineers, won all their matches. However, as a consequence of the final result being a tie on matches, the number of sets won became thedecidingfactor,soAdministrationwasdeclaredthevictor,muchto Tommy’sfrustration.Tommyhadaquickshowerandchangedclothes sincehislongwhitetrousersandtennisshirtwereplasteredtohisbody. After taking some light refreshments with his family and work pals on the verandah, Tommy got ready to play a mixed doubles. It was his partner’s, Miss Buchanan’s, debut so she had been paired with one of the top players on purpose. She played fairly well but Tommy was exhaustedafterplayingtwomatchesearlierintheworstoftheheat,so he did not excel as usual. They lost even though the match had been highly entertaining. Aftertheeventconcludedandthesunnolongerseemedtomeltthe chairsintothefloor,peoplesataroundsippingcocktailsanddiscussing the day’s excitement. It was a good opportunity for Tommy’s head of departmenttosayafewwordsabouthimleavingforthefrontsosoon. He expressed the hearty wishes of all the FCCA in his new career in the Army, and wished him a speedy and safe return once Europe was liberatedagain.AbbieandRobertweremovedandproudoftheirson, asalways,sincetheydetectedthesincerityinpeople’seyesastheylifted their glasses to drink their son’s health. Fivemonthshadalreadygonebysincethatday.Itfeltlikeyesterday. Their pride in their sons was only slightly marred by the thought of 88


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losing one of them in the war, but Abbie was sure they would live for they had so much to offer the world yet. The thought of never laying eyesonthemagainseemedasremoteasthewartohersometimesdown in Argentina.

c/o F.C.C.A. June 24th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I was hugely bucked to receive a long letter from you a couple of days ago, together with an enclosure from little Evil-eye. Tell her to continue that practice of drawing things from nature as I can get fabulous sums of money for them at the pawnbrokers. As you see by the above crest I am still at the RFC Cadet School, and have not yet been sent back to the Artists’. Yesterday I had my first fortnightly exam, and from what I can judge, I think your son must have passed alright; if I pass the next two I shall be all right, but if not -??? Yesterday I also got a reply from Ronald Cotton who says he has not heard from you for the devil of a long time. He is still in France and is apparently busy strafing the Hun. He says he does not realize that he is spliced, but no doubt I expect he will realize it later on alright. The weather has been hot for some time and has suited me fine, but at night seems to be getting colder again. Keen and I went down to town yesterday and were shot by a photographer, so don’t be scared if you ever receive any bird’s eye view of your second son. Every week is practically the same here, so you must not get ratty if there is no news in this effusion. The last I heard from Bobs was that he was expecting to go up the line with his old Battalion any day. I am sorry to hear poor old tío Bicho is having such a rotten time with his old complaints, but hope he will soon be well again. Nina must be horribly staid now that she has her back hair up, and you no doubt have to be very careful what you say to her. She seems to have been having a gay old time in the camp with all her pals. Is Rodney manager of that insurance place now or junior stamp licker? Kindly forward on to me a chart with his progress marked 89


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on it. Evelyn and Harry have now finished their education according to the latest accounts in the paper, is that correct? Il n’a pas news, so Goodbye with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. July 1st 1917. My dear old M. & D. Tons of thanks for your letter of May 25th and Nina’s of the 28th. I also got a letter from Uncle George dated June 1st. On the whole, I did quite well. Merci also for about a dozen Standards that arrived all in a bunch. A couple of days ago it rained cats and dogs here and consequently the H2O flowed through the leaky old tent. It rained all night and we all had nice little pools of water round our beds when we woke up next morning. Life in tents is not extra pleasant when it chooses to rain hard. This fortnight of our course has been occupied in swotting up Engines and that is a subject in which most of the candidates fail. Today Keen, Ross and I went out on the river which is a couple of miles from here, and we had a fine time. We have all come back with blisters on our hands as the result of a hard afternoon’s work, but nevertheless thoroughly satisfied with ourselves. I got a letter from Jack who is now in Baghdad and seems rather tired of military life, because he says he has been there nearly two years and has not seen a shot fired. The weather has been on the cold side since the storm here the other day. I hear regularly from Bobs and we exchange our correspondence from BA on all possible occasions. I am glad you got hold of a decent slavey again and are settling in to the old house. From what I hear of the thrilling and bloodthirsty tennis matches that are played on our court, I should think you 90


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ought to be able to draw a large crowd and charge them an exit fee. I must have just missed John Bowden at the Artists’, because he was certainly not there before I came away. You ask why they took Stuart into the Artists’. The principal reason is because he came from abroad and in any case he is quite a decent looking kid. He is trying for the Coldstream Guards and has already been accepted for their school, so you see he is getting on quite OK. No hay más novedades*. Love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

The lights of the impressive Colón Theatre on the 9 de Julio Avenue, claimed to be the widest avenue in the world, gave the buildinganenchantedauradifferentfromthesoberrose-greyhueone sawinthedaytime.Theneobaroquestyleofarchitecturesocommon at the beginning of the XX century had turned the Colón Theatre into a charming blend of Italian Renaissance with arched windows, balconiesandtheexquisitemoldingsofaFrenchoperahouse.Elegant women in furs and hats clung tightly to men in dark evening suits as they climbed the white Carrara marble stairway in the main foyer, so hazardous to tackle in high heels. That wintry evening of July 6th 1917, the Gala Performance had been organized by the BritishWomen’s Patriotic Association with the assistance of H.M. Minister in Argentina Sir Reginald Tower. Despite the cold, the Colón was packed as people had been lured by the idea of supporting a charity event while benefiting from a first class opera. The proceeds were being collected for the Charing Cross Hospital in London,whiletheoperainquestionwasnoneotherthan“TheBarber of Seville” with María Barrientos in the main role she excelled in. Young Rodney, having donned his gala outfit, looked striking beside his boss, not a hard feat to achieve considering one had the benefits of age, good looks and health which the other seemed to lack. Although this was not his first visit to the Colón, as they moved inside he was dazed by the marvellous cupola painted by 91


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Jambon. He nodded and smiled at many acquaintances, as the British community was well represented there tonight.There were several Old Georgians and people from Hurlingham and Villa Devoto. Rodney would have rather shared a booth with some of his pals, but he had not wanted to refuse the invitation from his boss at the insurance company he worked for. He admired the old man and was learning a lot from him, so the evening out would not be a letdown, especially with Miss Barrientos as lead singer. Earning his own money was an advantage he had never experienced before and he felt very important being the eldest son at home for a couple of months or for whatever was left of the war. He had not yet decided what he would do when the time came for him to volunteer, he would cross that bridge later. He guessed that war was not as glamorousaspeoplethought,especiallyafterreadingBobby’sletters entreating Tommy not to enlist, or watching war films which he knew were somewhat censored. He missed his older brothers dearly however much he enjoyed teasing and ordering around his younger siblings,whichhadbecomehisprerogativenowalthoughheseldom used this privilege.They all avoided hurting or upsetting each other, ever since Tommy had left. Their parents needed no added strain, and they all understood it. After a brief speech given by the Minister in halting Spanish and a not so brief one delivered by someone or other from the Colón Theatre, the lights dimmed and the war was magically forgotten. The following day Abbie lived the event as if she had been present. Rodney’s description of it also made her forget about the war, if only momentarily.

R.F.C. Cadet School July 7th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Have not received any letters from you this week, but am looking forward to doing so soon. Today we had our exam on Engines, for which we have been swotting for a fortnight. It was much easier than I had anticipated, 92


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and I think I have managed to pass alright. The camp is being much improved now by the addition of tablecloths and deck chairs, and a few other minor details (all the outcome of Cadets who have left here as officers and spoken about the awful way the chaps get treated here in comparison to other cadet schools). The weather has been quite decent of late since the last rain storm we had. 8th.I had to leave off yesterday in the middle of my letter and now have to beg leave to correct the last sentence. I wrote before having to shut up shop. It commenced to rain last night and it is still going strong. The water is doing the same as last time and coming in fine. Today is Sunday and on account of the rain we have been excused church parade, especially as we have to march two miles to get to church. Another bunch of Artists’ came down yesterday but none from the company I was in. I am writing this sitting in my tent wrapped up in my nice army overcoat and watching the drops come down close every minute. Luckily this camp is situated at the top of a hill, while the town is down in the valley, so the water soon drains off here. Bobby wrote to me a couple of days ago and is back with his old battalion in Belgium. He seems to have met all his old friends again. I am glad his photos arrived alright after you were waiting for them for so long. I never saw them but saw the original which was a d---- sight better. Goodbye with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

July 15th 1917. My dear old M. & D., Thanks awfully for your long letter of June 3rd, together with one from Nina, Rodney and Evelyn of the same date. Give them all my kindest regards and best wishes, etc. I have since forwarded them all on to Bobs and hope he will enjoy them as much as I have. 93


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Day before yesterday our course had its final exam at Reading and as far as your family was concerned everything was alright. Out of twenty-five two are absolute failures, and about five others failed on one subject only, and on that account have to stay behind for extra instruction. The ones who have passed everything successfully were told to get themselves ready to go to their squadrons on the morrow as officers, so we rushed down town to buy our pips, as we call our insignias of rank. Practically all the Cadets have come to the same training squadron so I am still with Keen. The officers’ mess is absolutely OK here and we are very well fed and beautifully treated, seems just like Heaven after Reading where we were treated like privates. It is nice not to be chivvied around any more by sergeants, as it is now our job to chivvy them about. Some of the chaps are in tents while others are in huts; I have a room in a hut with another chap as I could not get one with Keen, but I am next door to him instead. I sleep on a folding bed now, and it is glorious after the downy board I have been used to for some time. I am in the county of Lincoln and that is about all I can tell you. This place is a long way from any town and worst of all a long way from that little village on the Thames that the Huns are always strafing. However, the principal advantage of this place is that it is an ideal place for flying. The chaps down here seem an awfully decent lot though I have not had much to do with them yet. I have already come across a couple of Artists’ that I knew in that little hole in Essex. I am jolly bucked having got my commission at last though I expect the exhilaration of wearing a pip soon wears off. Goodbye, with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Harry’s thirteenth birthday was celebrated on Sunday 22nd July with an early lunch at the Hurlingham house first. Everyone was there, including Uncle George and Nina, although Rodney was away in Montevideo with some friends. When asked what he wanted as a 94


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present,Harrykeptaskingforanaeroplane.Hehadbecomeobsessed by the idea of flying after reading that his brother was to become a pilot. He tried building flying contraptions made of wood, paper, leaves, and any other material that he could lay his hands on. He even had a‘war wound’, as he referred to his broken arm, to show his friends at Bective College. He had fractured his left arm while trying out one of his sturdier flying devices himself. Full of optimism and audacity he had jumped from a branch of the oak tree where the tree housewas,holdingontoahome-made‘parachute’.Asaconsequence, he lay groaning on the ground while Evelyn, who had been watching skeptically, ran in to get help by hollering:“Harry’s plane has fallen. He needs medical attention, bring a stretcher, quick.” His parents were not very amused by the whole episode, so Harry was getting a book instead of the aeroplane he had asked for. Robert had visited Mitchell’s English Bookstore on Cangallo, which was only a block away from his office, where he had purchased Rudyard Kipling’s new book “Diversity of Creatures”. Harry did not complain for he knew he was lucky to be getting even that. Although he was not a very constant letter writer, he was enthralled by his brothers’ war stories and awaited the post as eagerly as the rest of the family. Especially now that he could boast at school about his brother the fighter pilot. After lunch, the whole family walked to the Hurlingham station from their house which was on the same street, where they took the train to Villa Devoto. In a little less than half an hour, they were leaving the platform and heading for the nearby Lawn Tennis Club. Today was the grand Devoto tennis tournament, and although Tommy would not participate this year, the Colvill Jones’ were still very much part of the community there so they were expected.They had lived in Quinta Las Rosas in Devoto for some years, neighbours of the Frasers on one side and an Argentine family on the other. Abbie looked out for Mrs. Fraser to tell her Tommy had met her boy in London. She immediately left the others who went off to watch the men’s singles final, for she had promised Mrs.Theo MacDonald some help with the tea arrangements.The latter, being the Club President’s wife, had very kindly offered to provide tea for all comers at a charge of fifty cents, the intake being added to the sum donated by the Club 95


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to the Red Cross. Abbie and other ladies set about laying the tables and decorating the verandah, seeing that fortunately the weather conditions were pleasant enough to host the tea outside the club house; it was a perfect spring day even though it was the middle of July, but that was typical of an Argentine winter. After a brief address by her husband, acknowledging the kind presence of members of other clubs in the district, Mrs. MacDonald proceeded to hand out the cups and other insignia of victory to the participants. It was a successful afternoon since the useful sum of $150 was collected, the competitors felt fulfilled even those who had not won, and the public had benefited from a pleasant day outdoors. A few groups here and there discussed the headlines in the morning paperwhichclaimed“GermansdefeatedinviolentcombatSouthEast of Czerny�. Many preferred not to spoil the day with any serious talk. Those who did, spoke with an air of detachment and indifference. Bombs, deaths, far away lands no one had ever heard of before today, seemed distant and bizarre on this splendid day with children gambolling about and men and women sipping tea.

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R.F.C. Training Squadron July 24th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you since my last letter to you. I have fallen head over heels in love with flying and have taken to it like a duck to water or Evelyn to sweets. I have done about an hour and a half flying up to the present all dual control, viz., an instructor goes up with me to show me how to manipulate the controls. Very shortly I shall be doing my solo and I think it is hardly necessary to explain the meaning of the word. It is the finest sport on earth and it is nothing like as dangerous as some people imagine it to be. Everybody ought to be taught to fly, for once you have got the idea it makes it the simplest thing out. Of course when it comes to aero scrapping it is quite another matter, as that means a lot of stunting to get the best position. There was a beautiful fighting machine here yesterday afternoon and it is the sort of stuff to send up after stinking Huns as it will give them something to think about. The grub and accommodation here is absolutely top hole and I have struck a peach of a place. The county town is a few miles away and I often ride down there in a push bike, but there is nothing to see there as it is a one horse show and worse than Reading. The roads down this way are jolly good like almost all roads in England and the country resembles Jersey in a way because of the hills. We fly both in the early morning and fairly late at night, but never round about midday for instruction purposes as the air gets too bumpy. We get up about three to fly and after our flight generally go back to bed to stay there till lunch time. It is pretty cold up near Heaven 99


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at that early hour in the morning, but we are well wrapped up in flying kit which is made of beautiful material. You wouldn’t recognize me in flying togs because all you would see would be the point of my nose, pointing skywards in its usual fashion. I hope all the familia is keeping well, especially you, Mums. Give my love to all the kids and tell them to behave as they used to when I ruled them with a rod of iron. Love to all from Your ever loving son, Tommy.

Abbie pored over a map of England, trying to find the precise place whereTommy was posted. She felt a little frustrated not being informedofhisexactwhereabouts.Sheshouldbeaccustomedtoitby

ElysĂŠe, the house in Jersey with the whole family posing in front of it. (Colvill Jones family)

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now with Bobby’s letters from Belgium, which was even worse: not knowing if he was far from the deadly battles which she read about in the papers. At least she believed that Bobby was safely waiting to recover from his leg wound on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. She could tell from the map that Sheerness was on the island's north coast, and it was probably more than an hour from London. Tommy she was not so sure about, but at least now she could picture the countryside which he had said was similar to Jersey. She remembered the view from her bedroom balcony at Elysée, their former home on Trinity Hill in St. Helier, Jersey. The old white mansion, with its three stories and balconies on all four of its symmetrical sides, offered an incredible view of the islandfrom every window.The grounds were paradise for small children to play in, with tall trees to climb and hundreds of bushes to hide in.There had even beenanenormouscorktreeunderwhoseoutstretchedbranchesthey had had tea in summer. According to legend, the cork tree brought fortune and good luck to those that touched it. They had certainly enjoyed plenty of both at that time. They had lived at Elysée from January 1911 to December 1912, some of the happiest months of Abbie’s life, since the children were small and she had few worries. Bobby, Tommy and Rodney had attended Victoria College, the beautiful school built in honour of QueenVictoria’s three-day visit to the island. It had a strong military tradition and in 1908 the Victoria College Cadet Corps also became an officer training corps, and there were annual shooting competitions. Robert had decided to take his family back to the safety of Argentina in 1912 due to the rumours of conflict in Europe. Ironically, now his two sons had travelled back to fight in the war he had tried to get away from. While in Jersey, Abbie had missed her family and friends back in Argentina, although having Nina with her had been a great solace. Abbie was the eldest daughter in theWeston family. Her father James By the end of 1918, 636 Old Victorians had fought in the war, and one in four of the Victorians who actually took the field lost their lives.They were honoured with a monument showing Sir Galahad and a brief quotation from Tennyson’s Holy Grail, suggesting the symbolic nature of the figure:‘And come thou too, For thou shalt see the vision when I go.’Surnames and initials of their name is the only information given, no rank, medals, or other particulars are mentioned on the pedestal, as ‘in their sacrifice all men are equal’.

1

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had migrated from Ireland, and her mother Ana Maria Romana Clark had moved with her whole family from Mexico. They had buried their first two infants, before Abbie was born. In 1865, John Joseph had died after only 7 days, the following year Lillian Guadalupe had died after 6 months. Abbie had survived, even though she suffered severely from asthma, and so had Annie born three years later. Their third, a little boy named Gilbert, became the pet of the family. He loved playing outdoors and anything concerned with nature, so he was affectionately called Bicho, owing to all the bugs he kept collecting.AbbieandAnnieSophiawereveryclose;theyhadactedas witnesses at each other’s wedding. In 1897 Annie, married by then to an Irishman by the name of George Pickering Newell, was expecting a baby for almost the same date as Abbie, and the strong bond of affectionbetweenthesistershadsomehowbeentransmittedtotheir unborn infants. Annie’s was a honeymoon child and at the age of twenty-two, on 7th September, she gave birth to a pretty girl called Nina.On1stNovemberAbbie,agedtwenty-five,deliveredhersecond healthy boy, Thomas. Nina was left motherless at the age of two, much to her father and aunt’s woe, so now lived with the Colvill-Jones family most of the time, more a daughter and sister to them than niece and cousin. Annie had died on the 4th February at the turn of the new century, duetohemorrhageduringchildbirth.Fortunately,herinfantsonhad beensaved,andnamedGeorgeinhonourofhisfather.Ninahadbeen namedafter her auntinaway. AlthoughAbbie’sfullnamewas Abigail JaneWeston, she figured in her Argentine birth certificate as Avelina JuanaWeston, the Spanish version of it.Those closest to her teasingly nicknamed her Nina, and the name had stuck. Annie had named her first born Nina as she considered the name charming. The close bond forged between these two infants had never wavered, so Nina was one of the most heart-broken to seeTom go off to war. She wrote assiduously every week, sounding cheerful and full of life despite the despondency she felt at times. She was a popular girl and received many invitations to farms and outings, from friends and suitors, which she accordingly accepted.Yet wherever she went, she took her writing supplies and always found a quiet moment and place to write to both her cousins. She even wrote newsy epistles to 102


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other young volunteers she knew from the club or who were friends of the family, to cheer them up and make them feel closer to home. But none of those other letters received as much thought and care as those written to Tommy. Their feelings for each other had changed throughout their short lifetime.Duringtheirchildhoodtheywerebestfriendsandplaymates. Astheirbodiesandinterestsstartedchanging,theybecameslightlyselfconsciousandembarrassed,especiallybeforeothers,combinedwitha feelingofcuriosityandstudiedindifferencetothosechanges.Asthey matured, so did their rapport.They understood each look, word and silencecompletely,andenjoyedanunreservedcompanionship.They went out regularly with the same group of friends, and many of Nina’s friends and Tom’s were a couple already. Whenever they entered a room, everyone glowed in anticipation as both were so entertaining and witty, yet kindhearted too. Ninamissedhavinghersportychaperoneatherside,moresowhen she remembered the way they would tease each other the next day about the attentions they had respectively received from interested partners. She keptTommy up-to-date on her soirées and lunches, so he wouldn’t miss out on the gossip. Still, things were not the same withTommy gone and so many others before and after him. An air of impending disaster hung over the young crowd, as they had suffered enoughdearlossesamongtheirbelovedfriendstofeeluncomfortable abouthavingtoomuchofajoyfultimewhileotherswereawayfighting. Occasionally,thisfeelingofdoomgavewaytoanunfathomableneed to behave wildly, for an air of vulnerability uncommon in people so young now assailed their generation. Nina felt aversion towards this forced elation and wondered if things would go back to the way they had been, if it would all be worth it in the end. If Tommy and so many others believed it, then so would she. Abbie looked up from her map as Nina walked in, and the youngster’stroubledcountenancemadeherfoldthemap.Theytalked about the war and their fears until it was time to prepare for dinner. By then they had cheered each other up with stories of Jersey and the boys.

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A spluttering start became the mighty roar of engines, which coupled with the bumpy trip down the runway made Tommy’s heart hammer hard in his chest and ears. All his senses were tuned toeverychangeinnoiseandmotion,asthejoltingsuddenlyturned into a smooth rise when the wheels lifted off the ground. The aircraft seemed to hover immobile in the air as he lost all sense of speed. As he climbed sunward, the turning wings slanted towards earthaffordingglimpsesofthefadingformsbelow,roads,hedges, roofs,andlittleant-likemovements,whichvanishedfromsightand reappeared,thoughsmaller,onthetipoftheotherwing.Hecircled once over the aerodrome, feeling rather than seeing eyes intently tailing him.The world below was left behind, already forgotten, as wispywhitetendrilsbeganenvelopingthemachine.Soonawallof cloudsmadevisibilityimpossible,butTommyknewitwouldnotbe longbeforehecouldseeagain.Heburstfromthestranglingmistas a drowning man gulping for air. He had reached paradise. And it was his to enjoy, alone. The sun shone on the table of clouds, turning them orange and golden and silvery. They reminded him of the summer sun playing on the surface of the water at the club pool. His exhilaration was so completethathelaughedaloudandgave a whoopingyell.Hewas flying unaided for the first time, alone in this vast endless blue sea, remoteanduntouchable.Ifthiswasheaven,thenhewouldnotfear death. How right he had been in choosing the Air Force! He would never stop flying since it was the best sport any man could take up. He had loved it the first time up, but now that he was commanding the machine he felt an almighty power and passion. Maybe he would exchange railways for aeroplanes when he got back to Argentina. He remembered the first aeroplane he had touched back in Buenos Aires in 1915. The employees of the Central Argentine Railway had subscribed a fund sufficient for the purchase of one machine, a B.E. 2c built by Daimler, which was presented to the H. M. British government.Tommyrecalledhowhisfingershaditchedtohandlethe controls. To think he was flying one on his own only two years later. It was time to start the descent. It was time to play, as Tommy putthemachineintoanosedive.Theroaringenginebeganahigh104


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pitched whine which escalated in volume and acuteness as it fell spinningfasterandfasterthroughtheclouds.Thegroundloomed towardthetwirlingmachineatanalarmingspeed,butTommywas enjoyinghimselftremendously.Hedeftlyhadthemachinegliding overthetreetopslongbeforetheaerodromeandhisinstructorscame into sight. As the wheels jolted over the irregular ground to a stop, Tommyalreadylongedfortheserenesolitudeoffloatingabovethe clouds.

AircraftpresentedbyemployeesoftheCentralArgentineRailwaytoH.M. government in 1915.

R.F.C. Squadron Waddington, Lincoln. July 30th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Thanks awfully for Pa’s of June the 19th, Ma’s and Nina’s of the same date, all of which arrived yesterday amidst great rejoicing from yours truly. 105


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I am sorry you are to be disappointed over my not getting into the RE’s, but for my part I shall never regret going into the RFC as it is easily the premier corps and the best possible job in the Army. Since I last wrote to you I have been up on my first solo, which means I had to take a machine up, fly her and bring her down again. I was up for about half an hour and managed to do quite well and land her alright. Yesterday, Sunday, was a general holiday and we get every other Sunday off. This morning I had to get up at 3.45 to fly, but as the weather was pretty rotten I got back into bed and stayed there till called at 8 o’clock. I have met an awfully nice family here in Lincoln by the name of Evans and they have been jolly good to me. I go round there almost every evening as it is a mere couple of squares from the camp. The Mater reminds me of my old Ma, and the Pater of Pa, though of course if you were here there would be no comparison at all. The rest of the fly consists of a boy of eighteen, a flapper of fourteen and a son of the devil of about eleven. They are awfully good to me and I am sure you would like them if you knew them. Mrs. E. insists on being my Ma whilst I am in England. They are making a couple of brick dust courts down here at the mess, but I am afraid I shall have gone somewhere else before they are finished. It was too good of WSM to give up the Devoto pot merely because I am not there to be beaten by him. Give him my love next time you see him and tell him not to do such a silly thing again. No more news for the present, so goodbye With love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

August 4th 1917 marked the third anniversary of Britain’s entry into the war. As had become customary on this anniversary, a United War Service was held in the city of Buenos Aires, a joint effort of the Presbyterian, Anglican and American Methodist Churches. The 106


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service, the grandest up to the moment, took place in Prince George’s Hall, and there were many more participants than in previous years. This could be attributed to the fact that some people believed this to be the last year of the conflict, thus the last commemoration of this sort.AnotherimportantreasonwasdoubtlesstheUSA’sentryintothe war, as the American community was strongly represented this time. Abbie read about the service in The Standard, as she tended to avoid these crowded events. She would much rather commemorate the occasion at their local village church, with the people she knew and the vicar she had grown fond of. She had truly thought the war would be over in a year, that it would be a short-lived noble adventure for Bobby. Yet, there he was still, squandering the best years of his youth in the mud.Three years ago. Almost three years without seeing Bobby, and it would soon be six months since Tommy’s departure. She longed to see their faces again, to touch them and listen to their voices. Their letters were a great solace to her, as they wrote in the same enthusiastic and humorous way they spoke, so she could well imagine them sitting by her and telling her these stories in person. Still,itwas a poor substitute. Shehopedthewarwouldindeedbeover by this Christmas as some predicted.

R.F.C. Training Squadron August 5th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Thanks very much for yours of the 26th June together with one from dear old Nina. There is very little to write about this week, but I shall do my best to fill up this letter. It has been raining steadily for a whole week so of course there has been no flying at all. The only thing to do is to eat, sleep and attend the various classes. I don’t need to attend the classes any more whilst in this squadron as during this week I got through all the necessary exams. I only have to finish my solo now before going on to a higher instruction squadron. Keen was lucky enough to get his solo done before the wet weather came on, so is at present at a squadron five miles from here. At 107


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the same time, I am glad I have been here during this wet week as the mess is so comfortable and we are all so well treated. I had to get up early this morning to go down to the aerodrome and flying was washed out after I had waited there about an hour and a half so went back to bed again and slept till called for breakfast. Bobs seems very bucked at pushing the Hun around in Flanders and I hope he gets his promotion soon, as he told me he would very probably get it if he went over the top soon. He deserves it after all his scrapping and besides Captain R.C.J. sounds d--- good, doesn’t it? I am in the best of health and spirits and living on the fat of the land and sleeping in a lovely camp bed. There is no more news so cheerio with love to all the familia from Tommy. P.S. Bad luck that the carbonero* is not going to get spliced to your lady pal because you won’t get the 10% reduction now. Cheer up and see if you can palm her off on the butcher or the baker. T.

Abbie’s laughter rang out through the house as she readTommy’s post script. She was sure her “lady pal”, as Tommy referred to her maid María, would not be so amused. It was all a great drama and the household had had to put up with the tears and misery of the young girl for the past month. The coalman had shown an avid interest in theirmaidandshemadeitapointtobenearthebackdoorofthehouse on Thursdays to see him, for that was the day the coal was delivered. One day his young assistant started coming in his stead. Abbie finally managed to extract the information from María when she found her crying in the kitchen one day. Apparently the frightful man had now set his sights on the girl who attended the local Panadería*. It might be a good idea to ‘palm her off’ on some other man, as the quality of her work had deteriorated considerably. Added to this, Abbiehadsomesuspicionsaboutarticlesofclothingandmoneywhich weredisappearingmysteriously.Shetrustedalltheotherhelpshehad, 108


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but couldn’t vouch for María entirely, especially of late. However, she had other things to worry about just now. She was having a small tea party for some of her friends whom she had not seen for months. Mrs. Lacroze and Talena, her friends from when she was still single and living in Belgrano, Mrs. Mendl who was an old family friend, and a coupleofHurlinghamladieshadbeeninvited.Sheseldomcelebrated her birthday as it was in the middle of the summer holidays and too hot to expect people to travel for a tea party, so she had invited them nowwiththeexcuseofsharingthelatestphotosshehadreceivedfrom the boys. She was grateful to her friends because they sent things and wrote to Tommy and Bobby regularly. Apart from the photographs and letters, she was also cutting out articles or notices she found in The Standard’s society section, the Telephonia, which referred to her sons. She would keep everything for her boys since they were becoming quite the heroes, what with Captain RCJ’s M.C. and Tommy’s wings. She finished cutting out the small Telephonia notice about Tommy: “Mr. T. Colvill Jones, son of Mr. & Mrs. R. Colvill Jones of Hurlingham, F.C.P., has been gazetted aSecondLieutenantintheRoyalFlyingCorps,afterhavingpassedthe preliminaryexaminations.”Shethencarefullyplaceditinanenvelope marked Tommy, among his letters.

c/o F.C.C.A. R.F.C. Training Squadron Lincoln. August 12th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not had any letters at all from you since I last wrote, but I received a bundle of Standards for which muchísimas gracias. I have not had any letters from anyone this week and that coupled with the fact that it has rained nearly all the week leaves me no news to write to you about. I have only flown twice this week, but have not yet finished my five hours solo with fifteen landings. I have not heard from Bobs for about a week, but hope he is alright and still going strong. 109


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The earwigs in my room still flourish in spite of the nightly strafing they get. One always has to shake one’s clothes before putting them on; otherwise you will be given a nasty shock when earwigs play some of their funny games on your back. There is no more news so, Cheerio, Mums and Dads and co. Your loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. R.F.C. Training Squadron Lincoln. August 17th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Since I last wrote I have been shifted to another squadron for further instruction in aviation, as it is termed. This place is a godforsaken hole compared to the place I was at first. It is the same county and the same distance from Lincoln on the other side. The mess is pretty rotten and in fact the only decent thing about the place is the topping aerodrome and the lovely machines. I heard from Ronald Cotton and he is expecting to get some leave. I also heard from Mr. Lean and he is going to be made a major in a very short time. I hear regularly from Bobs who seems to be getting on alright and having a great time with his old pals. We still have plenty of earwigs in the huts here, and the first night I was here I was very surprised to see one sitting on my pyjamas with a winsome expression on his little dial. I soon made it smile round the other side of its face, by smacking it with the sole of my number 12 beetle crusher. Every night before getting into bed I chase around with a gym shoe and give them their nightly strafe which I am sure they enjoy as much as I do. At least they make out they do, by the dozens that come out at the funerals of the lucky ones. We have to work much harder here than in a less advanced 110


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squadron and I am rather glad of it as it distracts my thoughts from this rotten hole. With good weather I ought to be soon through with this squadron and then I shall probably have to go to Brooklands for a course of artillery observation, and I have heard that it is jolly fine down there. We fly Sundays the same as other days, the only difference being that there are no lectures. That is the only way that we know that the end of the week has come because all the other days it is exactly the same except that we don’t fly when it rains. There is no more news at present, so shall shut off the gas. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon. Cheerio, from your loving son Tommy.

c/o F.C.C.A. August 24th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I was hugely bucked on receiving letters from you all today after not having received letters for about a fortnight. Thanks for your long one, also ta muchly to Rodney, Nina and Evelyn for their newsy effusions. I am jolly glad to hear you have gone up so much in weight and hope you will go on increasing at that rate till you reach a hundred or so. Do you get letters every week or is there a big gap between them? I write every week and have never missed, so you ought to hear plenty about me to keep you going, don’t you? I have done very little this last week on account of the weather and as soon as it gets fine I shall get ahead once more. I think I told you in my last epistle that you have to put in eight hours a day at lectures and things, so we are kept pretty busy. I have never been out of the camp for the last ten days I’ve been here except for an occasional bike ride down one of these roads. I hear regularly from Bobs and he sent me on some letters from you dated June 26th, while mine were dated July 9th. I did not send you any copies of that photo taken with Eric and Stewart because I thought 111


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they would not get through, and we sent that one to Tobbie on spec. As soon as I get a decent sized envelope I shall send you out some of them I have got. I am glad to hear you have got a jewel of a maid now, and I only hope she will not turn out a piece of coloured glass like your old pal, light fingered María. I quite agree with you that Nina is leading far too dissipated a life for a child of her age, and tell her that if she does not cease forthwith, I shall have to write to W. de B. about it and wouldn’t she get it in the neck then? All the family seem to be doing brilliantly at Tennis and I hope they will continue with their victories, like their old Ma who is supposed to have beaten Pa in his infancy (it is not known whether it was with a slipper or a tennis racquet). I am sorry to hear poor old Pa now considers himself a skeleton, and I don’t wonder because he always said his sole ambition in life was to be like Mullaly. The trickiest bit of play I have heard of is how Nina wangled a new racquet from her admirer Mr. Boadle, but I hope she didn’t spoil it by giving back the racquet to him, when the rotten old one turned up again like a bad penny. I hope Evelyn will no longer have anything to do with that unpatriotic little creature that has got German measles. As a matter of fact I pity the poor kid, as she will now be marked for the rest of her natural as a traitor. Please put the wind up Harry C.J. for me, because the young blighter has not yet written to me, while all the other dutiful members of the familia have done so lots of times. Evelyn’s letter consists of what she had to eat at a twelve course banquet in Retiro Station, and it fairly made my mouth water. Please tell them all that I don’t answer them separately, because it would only be repeating this news, and in any case if I write only one letter to everyone it can be made so much longer. I have only just received my cheque book from Cox’s after having had my commission five weeks, so in the meantime I have had to pay for my stuff out of the cash I brought over with me. However, it is plenty for me and my financial situation is quite OK though the FCCA has not yet started to pay me £5 per month. At present I get the ordinary subs pay of 7/6 per day, but when I get my wings I get 15/6, so I ought to do 112


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pretty well on that, ¿no te parece? There are lots of chaps at this place from the Canadian Army, and I think they must be Yanks for most of them speak with an accent that could be cut with a knife and they have horrible table manners. Of course they are by no means all of them like that, some being d--- nice chaps, but the thing is one is apt to get a bad opinion of the lot owing to a few being bad eggs. Keen is at a squadron about two miles from here and I have seen him two or three times. He was very worried about not having heard from home for such a long time, but cheered up when I told him I hadn’t had mail either, for he knows that you all write to me as regularly as clockwork. I am going to buy a small camera, because there are lots of interesting things to be taken in the aviation line, and I shall be able to show you them. Rodney seems to be quite hot stuff at the typewriter and by this time is manager or sub-manager at the Lancashire. There is nothing more to write about today, so I shall add to this tomorrow as the mail has already gone. 25th.I hope by the time this reaches you, tío* will be quite OK again and trotting round with a big tummy on him. I am jolly glad I put off posting this till today, for this morning I received another letter from you together with one from Nina dated July 15th. I also received another one from Bobs enclosing some more he had received from you, only his were dated June 29th. There has been no flying today as it has been drizzling so I have been pretty busy trying to pass my ground tests, and I am glad to have got some of them off my chest. I can’t think of anything more to write about for the present, and in any case the post goes in a few minutes. Love to all the familia and all branches, etc. From your ever loving son Tommy.

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The Hurlingham Club, founded by local members of the British community led by Mr. John Ravenscroft in 1888, had given its name first to the Station, and then to the town that gradually grew up around it. Mr. Ravenscroft had wished to produce a replica of the original Hurlingham Club in London. He had said on arriving in Buenos Aires “We must have a Hurlingham�. The end result was nothing like the original, although many stated it exceeded their expectations. Who would have thought that a beautiful club would be built in the middle of nowhere, 15 miles from the city centre?Were these Englishmen being foolish and idealistic? Far from it. Having receivedencouragementfromtheDirectorofthePacificRailwayline, Mr. Ravenscroft went ahead with his dream. In the early days, Club membersstoodbytherailtracksandwhenatrainwentbytheywould wavetotheenginedrivertohalt.Asthemajorityofrailwayemployees were British born, they had no problem with this arrangement. The ride to Retiro Terminal took no more than half an hour. Eventually, many English families formally requested a stop be made near the Club and so in 1890 Hurlingham Station was established. These familiesbuiltbeautifulweekendhomeswithextensivegardensaround the Club. Churches, schools and shops soon followed.

The Club House of the Hurlingham Club at the turn of the century. (Hurlingham Club archives)

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The Club House and gardens were like a little corner of England with the brick building surrounded by lush green vegetation, the ninth hole of the golf course right in front of the bar entrance, and the brick tennis courts to one side. Further away were the cricket pitch, the swimming pool, lawn tennis courts and polo fields. Many members travelled on the train and spent the weekend at the Club, as it provided rooms above the restaurant and billiard room for those who lived in the city. By 1917, many of the members were locals as Hurlingham had grown into a large town. The Polo Tournament was one of the big sporting events held at the Club, and it was played in 1917 despite the war. Although manychampionshipswerepostponedowingtothelossofimportant participants it was not the case with Polo, as many of the players were older than the generation which had volunteered, and many Argentines represented the Club, not only Anglos. On 30th August at 2:30 pm the match between Hurlingham “B” and the military of Campo de Mayo took place on the second ground. The Hurlingham team was composed of Dr. Basavilbaso, Dr. Pedro Díaz, Dr. de Nevares and Mr. Rodríguez Egaña. The Colvill Joneses sat in the seats near the paddocks, as the younger ones were kept amused by the frisky polo ponies more than the actual match. They were not exactly big Polo fans, tennis was their sport of preference, but it was an agreeable social event and the matcheswereplayedbymenwiththehighesthandicapsintheworld. Abbie wanted to stay till the end, so she could congratulate the family doctor, Dr. Díaz, who seemed to be on familiar terms with the whole of Hurlingham. They would then stay on for tea, having already rung the Club Mayordomo* to make reservations, as a band was in attendance that day in the dining-room. Teatime was an elegant affair, as was the Polo. The Club House shone proudly in the early evening. Electric light had only been installed a few months earlier, so people now tended to stay on later playing snooker or bridge, or just chatting in the bar. Robert and Abbie had tea with their friends the Boadles, whose two sons Alan and Scott were also ‘over there’, while the children were served in the smaller dining-room at the side, as they were not allowed in the grown-up restaurant. Summer would be a treat this year as two 115


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overhead fans had been installed, one in the dining-room and the other in the lounge. As Robert entered the bar after tea, he made it a point to walk over to the list of members who had volunteered which was prominently displayed by the fireplace. Bobby was one of the first in the register and beside his name was the following information: 13th Battalion Rifle Brigade- 34th Division. Tommy was one of the newer names on the list, and beside his name were the initials RFC only, as they did not know which squadron he would be appointed to yet. The list had already reached the hundreds by that August, an amazing accomplishment for a Club with just about 750 members. Robert performedthissamesuperstitiousritualofreadingthelisteverytime hesteppedintothebarandhewouldnotorderadrinkbeforepeeking at his sons’ names. The impact the war had on this institution was not only economic, forvolunteerswerenotexpectedtopaythefees,butemotionalaswell. The enthusiasm the Club had engendered since its beginnings was now replaced by melancholy. Of the total number of 158 members who nobly volunteered between 1914 and 1918, the Club would sadly lose 23 of its young men by the end of the war. Abbie watched her husband’s little habit with great sadness, for she knew he found it hard to express his feelings about the boys. She quickly looked away as Robert turned round; she did not want to intrude in his private moment.

c/o F.C.C.A. 37th Training Squadron Lincolnshire. September 4th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I was jolly glad to receive a letter from you two days ago and also one from Nina which I shall answer in a few days time. As you can imagine I was horribly bucked to receive a letter from Bobs a few days ago and to hear that he has won the M.C. and been made a temporary captain. Like a silly young chump he is, he wrote me 116


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a long letter but did not say a word about the great news till the last few lines, in which he very briefly explained that he had got the M.C. and was now a captain. In case you don’t know I may as well tell you that the M.C. is the most coveted distinction next to the V.C. to an officer in active service. I know how bucked you will be over it, but you can’t be more than I am. It is practically impossible to get anything out of old Bobs by letter of his doings, so I shall drag all the necessary information from him next time I see him. Today was our squadron’s holiday, so I went and spent the day with the Evans family in Waddington, and they gave me an awfully decent time. When I got back to camp I felt just as though I had had 48 hours leave because it was so nice to get away from the every day routine. We have had two or three jolly days of late so I have been getting on rapidly with my flying. I have already done about ten hours solo on the machines and shall probably go on to some further advanced machines and I am looking forward to flying them. I fly at all hours now and not as in the early stages only in the mornings and evenings. I am now supposed to be impervious to any bumps that come my way. I don’t think that I shall ever regret having taken up flying because it is undoubtedly the finest sport in the world, and not by any means as dangerous as most people imagine. You would be convinced of what I say if you saw some of these training aerodromes and the hundreds of buses up and how rarely it is that there is a fatal accident. I don’t know if I told you in my last that I had invested in a vest pocket Kodak to take interesting snaps. Most of them very probably would not pass the censor, so I shall get someone to take them out to you one of these days. Lots of love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

The Plaza Hotel was one of the greatest hotels of the country at that time, Buenos Aires' first great hotel according to many, as it 117


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hosted royalty and dignitaries from all over the world. Located on Plaza San MartĂ­n, a few blocks from Retiro Station, it was ideal for visitors as well as celebrations. A series of dances had been organized by the Committee of Ladies in aid of the Red Cross to be held at the Plaza. That venue had been chosen, not only for the suitability and beauty of the premises but also for its proximity to the railway lines, as a special train service would run at the conclusion of the dances, leaving Retiro at 11:30pm. The third of these dinner-dances, held on 7th September, was already in full swing by the time Nina arrived at 9 p.m., looking fabulous in a cream coloured dress. She still felt her brown hair and eyes made her ordinary and plain, but she had lost the chubbiness of her schooldays and looked stylish and graceful at all times. Her ready smiletransformedherfaceinto oneofinterestingbeauty. Shelooked on as the band played background music while guests mingled and picked crystal champagne glasses from silver trays which seemed to glide past at the right moment. Every detail had been meticulously considered, as the music and menu and decoration were carried out in the style that set the Plaza apart from the rest of the hotels in the city. The dinner concert ended at 10pm, immediately followed by an animated dance which took place in the ballroom. There were inevitablymorewomenthanmen,butsomekindheartedfellowsmade surenoneofthefemalesremainedseatedforthewholeevening.Nina was never still for a moment as she was a popular partner. Although shereceivedacoupleofinvitationsfromgood-lookingdancepartners to take a breath of fresh air on the nearly empty terrace, she kept smoothly refusing. She had not indulged in the‘carpe diem’attitude so common at the time. Her mind was elsewhere, however much fun she was having at the moment. She preferred to wait until the war finished. Thedancingwaskeptupenthusiasticallybytheyoungergeneration untiljustbeforemidnight,whentheleisurelypaceofthemusichinted it was time to leave. By that time, Nina was already sitting in the train with her companions, on her way home. Abbie got a full report of food, dresses and dancing at the breakfast table, but Nina chose to omit her last thoughts as she rode on the train. She had been twenty 118


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years old that day, and the future had never seemed so uncertain. Without being told, her aunt knew exactly what she was feeling for Nina’s eyes were always too revealing. Despite her superior years, Abbie shared her uncertainty.

82nd Training Squadron*. September 17th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Merci beaucoup for your long and interesting letter of July the 27th. Since my last letter I have been transferred back to Waddington again, although this time it is to the advanced squadron. I am jolly glad to be back here and to be in a decent mess once more. I have done a lot of flying since I arrived, and yesterday was very bucked when I did my first solo on one of the crack fighting machines. After doing five hours on these machines I shall be able to put on my wings, and then have my photo taken with them on. I am looking forward to going to France soon before the bad weather sets in out there. Our buses can’t ride in rainy or misty weather as we are so liable to get lost. I was in a tent here all last week, but I am now in a hut as I applied for the first vacancy they had. I have a jolly comfy little room with two other chaps in the same squad as myself. Yesterday the clock was put back an hour and I forgot all about the fact till I saw my name down for flying at 5am, and it is quite dark at that time, so then I made inquiries and found out the cause of my trouble. The last I heard from Bobs was that he had got the post of Adjutant, but I don’t know whether he means that it is a temporary job with him till he gets a company or not. I got a letter from Talena and she told me all the latest news from Belgrano. I won’t answer her letter this week because there is hardly anything to write about. The weather has been quite decent for a long time but we can feel it getting colder every day. The other day I ran across a chap here called ……. from Valparaiso, and I discovered the fact that he could speak Spanish when he called somebody a “gringo”, so of course I could not resist clipping in. He is 119


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not a bad sort though he has been swinging the lead in the RFC for about six months and is only just going out to France now. I am sorry there is no more news but I shall see if I can rake enough to write you a long letter next week. Love to all from your ever loving son Tommy.

Twenty-one years old. Her eldest son was twenty-one, a veteran of the trenches by now, winner of a Military Cross for some obscure reason which he would not share, a son who was spending his third birthdayawayfromhome.Whathadhappenedtothewarthatwould be over in a few months? A war that had enticed two sons away from home across the ocean. A war that had already seriously maimed Bobby’s right leg for many months, and given him a wound that would probably bother him the rest of his life plus other injuries and scars that might never heal. A war that seemed useless, remote and irrelevant in faraway Buenos Aires.

RobertColvillJoneswearinghisuniform. (Colvill Jones family)

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Abbie did not have it in her to be pessimistic or cynical, but it was onspecialdateslikeChristmasandbirthdaysthatshemissedhersons the most, when she grew fearful thinking of the changed boys that would return to her. She would never dwell on the possibility that they would not return at all.Their letters kept them so alive and close that it was impossible and futile to imagine such a horrifying fate. It was hard to think of Bobby wearing the MC on his uniform and Tommy his wings, flying an aeroplane for the Royal Flying Corps. None of her acquaintances in Buenos Aires had ever been up in an aircraft,soitseemedalmostdreamlikethathersonwasgoingtofighta war in the sky. Robert and Abbie were incredibly proud of them both. Theyhadslowlybecomeawareofconditionsinthetrenchesassoldiers began returning to England on leave during the first few months and yearsofwar,andherheartwasfilledwithhorrorandpityforthatyoung generation who would never again see the world in the same light. Lately she had been finding out about the RFC so she would know moreconcretelywhatTommywasexperiencing,forcensorshipmade it impossible for him to be specific. Abbie accepted the fact that censors had to be strict but the most difficult part was not knowing. She was acquainted with many appalling facts, which is why she and her husband had entreatedTom to reconsider before joining the Air Force. For instance, in April that year – which became known as ‘Bloody April’ – the RFC had lost 75 aircraft in action only in the first week. By the end of April, the RFC had lost 316 of its crew. She knewtheGermanshadsufferedmanymorelossesthatmonth,yetshe found little comfort in that thought.They had grieving mothers too. What sickened her was the fact that average life expectancy of a pilot in France was only two months during that time. However much Bobby and Tommy insisted an RFC pilot was safer than the infantry inthetrenches,itseemedalmostunnaturaltobeairborne.Thesewere among the first pilots the world had known of, the pioneers of this new discipline, and it was hard to reconcile this fact with the thrill and importanceofthedailystruggle.Whatmadeitevenmoreimplausible wasthatthesemodernalienmachineswereskillfullyhandledbymere boys. Tommy was still nineteen. Abbie had been fairly consoled by the fact that he was still training in safety in Essex, yet after reading the newspaper this month she was 121


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not so sure of his security anymore, not even in old Blighty. On the 2nd ofSeptemberbombshadbeendroppedonDoverinthemoonlightby a hostile aeroplane, one man dying as a result.The following evening the Kent district had suffered an air raid. Scarborough had been shelled by enemy submarines on the 4th. Two days ago she had read aboutanothermoonlightaeroplaneraidintheLondondistrict,Essex and Kent, in which fifteen had been killed and seventy wounded. Last night, Zeppelins had raided the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire coasts. Not only was the enemy varied in its methods of bombing England, but persistent as well. She was troubled by the news, constantly, yet she would really start losing sleep once he was posted overseas.

Strand Palace Hotel London. September 28th 1917. My dear old M. & D. You will no doubt be surprised to see the above address but I shall explain below. Yesterday morning I finished off my time on Bristols and then in the afternoon was called for by my Squadron Commander, who told me that I had to come to London today to report to the Air Board, and to go overseas on Saturday morning. I was very bucked at the idea of getting over to France but at the same time I would have liked some leave. I leave by the 7.30 train from Victoria tomorrow morning for France and as soon as I get to my squadron will write and let you know how I am getting on. I wanted to go and see old Smithers today, but was unable to do so because all my afternoon was taken up with going from one RFC HQs to another. I have not yet had my photo taken, but will probably do so one of these fine days. Bobs doesn’t know that I am going over yet and it’ll be a surprise to him, as he expected to be able to spend a couple of days with me in London before I went there. The official announcement of his M.C. came out in the Times yesterday and it was rather a coincidence that he was also 21 yesterday. 122


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I am sorry not to have been able to write on the 26th to wish you many happy returns of the day, but I have hardly had time to breathe these last few days. I am now the proud possessor of wings and you will see them if I have my phizz taken one of these fine wet days. Please excuse scrawl but all the tables are taken up in the writing room except this one and it boasts a putrid nib. I think it must be the one Rodney always used to complain of in Quilmes. I will ask old Smithers to add something about my departure on the next cable to BA. Cheerio, with love to all from Your loving son Tommy.

R.F.C. B.E.F. France. October 1st 1917. My dear old M. & D. As you see by the above address I am now in France. I don’t mean the above address to be used as I always give the FCCA notice of my latest address and in that way get my letters quickly. I left England on the 29th and arrived at this place on the morning of the 30th. We are behind the lines at Pilot’s Pool waiting to be posted to some squadron or other; one never knows how long we may have to stop here as it entirely depends on the casualties of the RFC squadron. We are in tents which are none too comfy in this weather. The weather is most peculiar because both yesterday and today have been very hot all day long and freezing cold at night. The Huns come over this way and strafe us every night, so we get lively and dive into dugouts when we hear the bombs dropping. I had my photo taken at Folkestone before coming over, as we had to wait there a few hours, so I expect that I will get the proof one of these fine days and you will eventually get the photos one day. I wrote 123


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to Bobs from here and asked him if he would have time to come over and see me, but I have not had time to receive any answer from him. I met a jolly nice Australian chap at the Strand Palace Hotel, and he is now in the same tent as myself but I expect we will soon be parted as he is flying different buses to what I am. We had a very funny experience on landing at ---- because the porter who took our kits from the boat to the station wanted to rush us about ten francs for doing so but we had carefully studied the exchange while coming over and in the end we beat him down to three francs. Our French was something marvellous, and we were bucked to see he was able to understand us, but when he spoke we were both up a gum tree, and were convinced of the fact that he could not talk his own lingo. School French comes in jolly handy here because if anyone stops you in the street to ask you the time all you have to answer is “No, but my brother is in the garden with the pen of my aunt.� Excuse the scrawl, but I am writing it on my camp bed as there are no such luxuries as writing tables in this place. We don’t do any flying at this Pool but are supposed to put in six hours a day working on dugouts or some other bally stunt of that sort for the sake of exercise more than anything else. It is jolly hard to get a wash in this country, and a bath is a thing unheard of, so you can see that I am in my element at last. We can hear the guns as plain as daylight from here, and I am looking forward to going to a squadron soon to see what old Fritz is like. Goodbye with love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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Chapter VI 20 squadron: Facta Non Verba*


Lorraine Colvill Jones

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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th October 6 1917. My dear old M. & D. It seems ages since I have heard from you, probably due to the fact that I have been moving about from one place to another and the letters are still chasing me around. I have been with this squadron for two or three days now and am very bucked at myself for having struck such a decent place. The C.O.* is a very decent chap and as wild as the rest of us except when it comes to business. He treats us all like pals and never tries to make his position felt like the squadron commanders do in England. The squadron consists of three flights, each of which has a separate mess in addition to which there is a HQs mess where all the staff people feed. It is the custom here for new chaps to dine in the HQs mess for the first week or so in order to become properly acquainted with the C.O. We are living in queer little huts that hold six officers each, and they are very nice and comfy, especially now that the winter is setting in. It is dreadful to be under canvas now as it is cold and wet at nights. The rotten weather is just beginning to set in, and it has been raining off and on for the last three days, and at night it’s as cold as Hades! We have to fly in all sorts of weather and lots of chaps get frostbitten as it is very cold up at any decent sort of height. We have to work hard while we are at it, but once our job is done we can have a very cushy time, and that is more than the poor devil in the infantry 127


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can have. They have a hell of a time in this sort of weather and I am jolly grateful to be where I am in such a nice place. I have run across several chaps I have met in training in England and it is extraordinary how many fellows you meet. I have not heard from Bobs yet though I have written to him twice since arriving in this country; once I hear from him I hope to be able to arrange to meet him somewhere or other. On the whole we get a much better time out here than in England, besides having practically no expenses with the exception of messing. No hay mas novedades así que hasta luego*, with love to all the budding family from Your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. October 13th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I was awfully bucked to receive some letters from you yesterday, especially as it is over a fortnight since I had heard from you. In each of them there was one from you, Nina and Evelyn and in the last one there was one from Rodney, very crisp and to the point. I was sorry to hear that you were seedy when you wrote, but hope that you will be OK again soon. I am very sorry to hear about Mr. Kirby’s boy as I know how fond he was of him, and I want you to tell him how sorry I am. I have not got much news for you except that I am OK and going strong. The weather has been very rotten the whole of last week, but we have had to fly all the same, as the army is busy pushing the Hun around in a very rude manner. I heard from Bobs also and as soon as he comes out of the line for a rest, he is going to try and get over here to see me. I can’t go 128


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to see him because we are not allowed out of camp at present, being supposed to be prepared to aviate at a moment’s notice. The conditions of flying are vastly different here to what they are at training squadrons in England, as you can easily imagine, but I would sooner be out here every time because we are not treated like a lot of babes just in long rags. I heard from Ronald Cotton a few days ago, his letter having taken a whole month to reach me, as it had been chasing me to all the various squadrons in England. He said he was going to write to you to congratulate you on Bob’s M.C. I have been trying to wring out of Bobs what he did to get it, but the only thing I have got is to the effect that he can’t invent any lies about the cheap medal or they will take it away from him. Don’t believe the blighter when he tries to make out that it is nothing, because it is a much coveted decoration in the Army. The only person that I have met in France that I know was a chap from the Artists’ in the same hut as myself, and he landed in this aerodrome the other day after getting lost in a storm. Some ingenious person has started a cinema here and it has turned out a great success, as we all patronize it and it pays quite well on the whole. The films are hired from some town or other in the district. When we are not flying we have a jolly good time as we are free to do whatever we like except go out of camp. It is very cold now up at any decent height, especially now that the winter is coming on. In order to prevent frostbite we have to rub some scented grease on to those parts of our face not covered by the flying helmets. Merci beaucoup for sending me cigarettes which have not yet arrived. Cheerio, love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Evelyn’s birthday fell on the 19th, but they were celebrating it a fewdaysearliersoeveryonecouldbethere.Manyimpeccablydressed 129


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young girls were sitting round the dining room table behaving prim and properly under the supervision of their mothers. Harry loved all the attention he was getting though he had claimed earlier he would be utterly bored by the whole affair. Rodney stood to one side beside his father, both of them enjoying little Evie’s face of delighted as the cake was carried in by Abbie with eleven lighted candles. As they finished singing, Evelyn took a few seconds to make a wish before blowing out the candles. Right before she did so, she looked at her mother and Abbie immediately knew what she had wished for. To have her brothers back for her twelfth birthday, or something along those lines. Later on, while one of the girls took charge of the piano, the rest putonaveryprofessionaldisplayofsongs.Mostwerefromtheschool play that year, HMS Pinafore. Evelyn had taken one of the leading roles, and of course she had no qualms about dancing around as she sang in her own living room surrounded by people who loved her. Her two brothers joined in as well, Harry self-consciously owing to the number of girls so close to his own age. Abbie thought that if Tommy had been there, he would have been leading together with Evelyn, enjoying himself more than the younger ones. All the little girls would have fallen in love with him by the evening.

October 16th 1917. Dearest Evelina, This is to wish you many happy returns of the day and a happy Xmas. Thanks muchly for the paper you have used up in writing to me, and it has been duly appreciated by your loving little brother. I hope you “extinguished*” yourself at the plays at your school in which you took the parts of the hero, heroine and villain. You also seem to be the leading light in the Society world according to what I have read in the Telephonia of the Standards I receive. Have you put up your hair yet or let down your petticoats? Don’t forget to write and let me know when you do. You must continue practising on the piano as I intend taking lessons from you when I get back. Ask that young brother of yours when he is going to give up trying to wipe 130


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the floor with all the inmates of Bective and write me a note after the style of his pal, President Wilson. Ask him also if he will be an “old Bectivity” when he leaves that place or an “old Cavendishtudinarian”. Write again soon kiddie (I beg your pardon, Miss Evelyn Anna Colvill-Jones) darlingest with plenty of love from Your loving brother Tommy.

ItwasjustovertwoweekssinceTommyhadjoined20Squadron, flying Bristol Fighters for real. The Squadron had earlier been flying pusher FE2b and FE2d machines, but had now gone over to the Bristol F2b fighters. The raw weather conditions were not a deterrent now as they had been in England. This was war and they had to go out on offensive patrols whether visibility and circumstanceswerefavourableornot.Flyinghadbecomemoreof achallenge,butTommyenjoyedfeelinghewasacceptedasapilot and not treated as a mere trainee who could not handle rain and fog. He was not scared for he knew he was in good hands, his own asregardshisaircraft,andhisflightcommanderwhowasincharge of his formation. Lieutenant Harry Luchford was only a few years older thanTommy but had already more than twenty victories to his name, plus an MC with a bar to it, so he was highly respected and trusted among his team.Yesterday morning he had brought down an Albatros DV, and that morning he had destroyed two moreenemyaircraftinacomplicateddog-fight.Tommyhadbeen involved in many skirmishes of the sort already, and although he had still not broken his duck he was satisfied to have kept a cool head. A pilot was taken even more seriously after he had driven down or destroyed an enemy aircraft, and Tommy was anxious to pass that threshold to prove himself. Every time he went up he alertly scanned the horizon, usually looking into the sun until his eyes watered. He knew that if he were spotted first, that was the direction from which the Huns would attack him. This was 131


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the classic form of attack by all airmen, and flying west to east in the afternoons, meant having the sun behind him. He depended mostly on his observer to warn him of danger from that quarter. Itgavetheattackersmanyadvantages,amongwhichwereaclearly illuminated target and more importantly a partially blinded one. The noise was deafening as the formation of four Bristol Fightersflewclosetogetherjustaftertwointheafternoonthat18th of October. Lieutenant L. H. Phelps* had beenTommy’s observer for the past weeks and they made a good team, although they could only communicate using signals up in the air. At least the observer would, using either a tap on the head or on either of the shoulders to give the pilot an immediate signal to do something. Theaeroplanesweretryingtokeeptogetherwhichwassometimes difficult due to the fog and clouds. After two hours of patrolling, when they were over flying the area of Gheluvelt, some black dots were suddenly distinguished in the distance. As they grew closer,Tommy’sheartacceleratedashecountedsixorsevenenemy aircraft diving straight towards them from the sun. He panicked for a moment as they all seemed to be falling on his machine, but then he realized only one was firing at them. This was it, what he had been hoping for every time he left the ground. A loud regular beat sounded near him, andTommy recognized the steady staccato of the Spandau machine guns firing at them. Phelps was busy manning the Lewis gun trying to hit their attacker. Tommy concentrated on maneuvering away from the firing machine.With much effort, he managed to position himself behind the enemy, while firing the Vickers machine gun which had synchronized forward firing. All the theory he had learnt about enemy aircraft rushed into his mind as he dived in pursuit of one of the Huns, who had broken away from the pack. He saw his Bristol Fighter was up against a formation of Albatros DVs, which were lighter planes yet could not fly as high as he could. As the aircraft steered past, all the time spitting bullets, the pilots could see each other clearly. They were outnumbered, but had the advantage of having a crew of two while the Albatros carried only one who had to worry about flying and shooting at the same time. 132


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Tommy made signs to his observer when he realized they were being tailed by a Hun. At a sign from Phelps, they began firing at close range into the enemy aircraft that was stalling just behind them. Suddenly, the hostile machine turned over several times in the air utterly out of control, and disappeared into the clouds and haze below them. The rest of the formation had been broken up, and Tommy could see that the number of Albatri was down to two. He climbed from his height of 14,000 ft in order to aid one of the Bristols, but by the time he got near, the enemy had headed away and the pursuit was over. The Bristols circled the area for a few more minutes before they signaled to each other it was time to head back, as their aircrafts’three hour endurance was almost up.Their leader, Luchford, had broken his trigger-bar and had turned back earlier, though fortunately otherwise unharmed. This northern offensive patrol or NOP had been successful in one of its aims, that of clearing the skies of enemy aircraft in the vicinity of the ongoing British offensive. Their second aim, reporting on the German Army’s activities as it tried to resist the offensive, was made difficult due to the heavy haze that afternoon. Tommy’s exhilaration lasted several hours after returning to base.Theyallheadedto themessto getwarmandregaletheother pilots with accounts of their skirmish. Tommy was toasted by his newly appointed Commanding Officer, Major E H Johnston, an officer admired by the whole squadron. The previous Major, W H C Mansfield DSO, had also commanded their full respect. They were sad to see him leave the squadron on 15th October, yet their new C.O. seemed a fair man too. They all lifted their glasses and drank a toast becauseTommy now had a victory to his name.This was later confirmed by anti-aircraft battery “H” which had been witness to the combat from the ground and had seen the Albatros destroyed as it reached the earth. Once the excitement had died away, Tommy found it difficult to write home immediately and tell his family about his victory. They would be proud of him, especially his brothers and father, but he was not so sure about his mother and Nina. He was there to fight the enemy and he was considered a hero for volunteering, 133


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yet actually admitting he had probably killed a man, maybe a boy like himself, felt weird. It was something he had thought he would never do in his life before the war. Bobby’s surprise visit to the base two days later was fortuitous, as he helped Tommy come to terms with what he had done. Bobby had a lot more experience on that account, although he did not write home about it either. It would take Tommy many days to mention the aeroplane he had destroyed, and then only in passing without giving it much importance; and many more days to acknowledge that that was what he had been trained for. The danger of this close air combat made him aware that he was in mortal danger every day. But he had accepted that fact some months earlier, so he was not apprehensive. He did not believe he was brave and fearless now, every time he boarded his aircraft; his most courageous act, one which had almost bent his will, had takenplacethe dayheleftBuenosAiresbehind.Thathadbeenthe point of no return.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, October 20th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Merci beaucoup for your letters, the dates of which I forgot as I sent them to Bobs. You can imagine how bucked I was yesterday when I was strolling round the aerodrome and I espied old Bobs coming over. He came after tea and he managed to stop till after dinner. As the Adjutant is an old Alleynian I managed to get a mo-bike side car to take Bobs back after dinner, since he could not stop the night. He came out of the line a few days ago and had quite a lot of trouble before he could find out where my squadron was stationed. He is stopping at a small place some distance from here, but is not sure how long he will be there but is hoping that the battalion will go still 134


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further back for a rest. The Adjutant and he had a long talk over old times at Dulwich and then the Adjutant told him that whenever he wanted to come to ring up for a side car, which was very decent of him. He is looking very well and is just the same as when I saw him last about seven months ago in London. Everyone here said that they could see at once that he was my brother, so I suppose it is the family resemblance cropping up once more. I am afraid I won’t get any chance of going to see him, as I am on duty all day and am not allowed out of camp in the daytime. He has promised to come over again shortly, so I am looking forward to his next visit. I referred to the cigarettes you are sending me and he said he had never received any parcel from you, not even those things you sent him for his birthday last year. The weather has been quite decent of late, though it seems to get several degrees colder every day. Bobs greatly admired the mess and our quarters here and is now keener than ever on joining the RFC. He looks very well with three pips on his shoulder - captain- and the MC ribbon on his tunic. Merci beaucoup for the many Standards you send me. Could you please send me a few Naciones instead, so as to polish up my native lingo a bit since I get so few opportunities of speaking it now. Bobs brought along some letters from you yesterday. I gave him the Dulwich year book which I received a few days ago, and which contains a roll of all old Alleynians in the war, so he is going to read through it, having already met many of the chaps he knew. I enclose a letter for Evil-eye which I wrote a few days ago, but which I forgot to post. She seems to be doing great things in the Society world. Tell that young brother of mine named Enrique that it is about time he wrote to tell me how he is getting on at Bective College. No hay mås novedades. Love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th October 28 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you at all this week, but am in hopes of hearing from you soon. I have been expecting Bobs to come around here again but up to the present he has not been. He has either not had time or has gone back into the line again. As it takes a letter five days to reach me from him and vice versa it is not very easy to make appointments. The weather has been bad the whole of this week, but we have had to fly the same as usual as there is a push going on. The infantry get a rotten time of it in this sort of weather especially now that it is getting colder every day. On my evening walk yesterday, I met a chap who was in the same class with me at Reading and we had a long talk about the chaps we knew there and what had become of them since. Apparently, he and I are the only chaps who have come out to France yet of the whole of the course we were with. The proofs of the photos I had taken in Folkestone arrived the other day and I sent them back and gave instructions to send them out to you. They are very flattering, but even so, I am afraid you will have to give a kilo of tea, perhaps a case, away with each one, to get rid of them. There is nothing in this letter, but I am afraid there is no news at all just for the present. Love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Robert sat in his study with the door closed, writing Tommy his birthday letter. He hoped it would get there in time, one never knew with the post being so unreliable since the war had begun. He thought of his son, almost twenty now, and remembered that first of November he was born. He had been so nervous, pacing up 136


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and down the house trying to shut out the noise coming from the bedroom. At least this time he had had little one-year-old Bobby to care for and occupy his mind and time while Abbie was in labour. He had suffered equally with each of his five children’s birth, always expecting the worst and trying not to show his pessimism in front of his pregnant wife.

Thomas Colvill Jones in his pilot’s uniform. (Colvill Jones family)

Tommy was so young in his father’s eyes, yet Robert allowed himself to remember himself at that age, something he seldom did. He had been married by the age of twenty, feeling sufficiently mature and prepared to support a family. He had married Ada Spring on June 1st 1888 in Canada. He recalled how ecstatic he had been to learn he was going to be a father so soon after their marriage, and felt himself to be invincible at the time. Ada passed 137


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awaythefollowingApril,afteracomplicatedpregnancywhichproved fatal in the end. DespitethesupportofbothhismotherElizabethandhiseldersister Louise, Robert was unable to bear the pain and memories. His father, Captain Thomas Edward Jones, had been town major of St. John’s and later of Toronto, but had passed away when Robert was eight years old. Eventually, Robert had made the decision to move away for a time, hence his arrival in Buenos Aires. He had chosen that specific destination for the renowned Pampas, which would surely offer him good business. He had put all his energies into his job as consignee, his mind already set on marrying young Abbie Weston, one of the first women he had spoken to after disembarking in Buenos Aires. On arrival, he had asked the name of a boarding house of repute where English was spoken, and that is how he had landed at Mrs. Weston’s boarding house. Abbie and her sister helped their mother to run it. Abbie was like a breath of pure air revitalizing his existence, and suddenly he found that life held new interests other than farms. After a short courtship they both realized they were meant for each other, and were duly married on 12th November 1895 at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in the city centre. St. John’s, built in 1831, always caught the attention of passersby as it was the first example of Grecian architecture in the city as well as the oldest Anglican Church in the country. Robert was continually awed bythebeautyofthesixteenstainedglasswindowsofthenaveandthe impressiveorgan;herememberedlookingaroundtheChurchduring the wedding ceremony amused by how naïve he had been to assume Argentinawasarusticandunsophisticatedcountry.Manystreetsand buildingsinthecity,aswellasentertainmentandrestaurants,couldhave easily competed with those in European capitals. Thus, he had made Argentina his permanent home, as Abbie’s family all lived there; with the exception of the few years they had moved to Jersey and England. Enough time since his first wife Ada’s death had elapsed for Robert to be able to love another woman wholeheartedly, and his devotion to Abbie was apparent even to a casual observer. However, what he had not got over was the petrifying impotence of having his wife endure childbirth. Yet, it had all been more than worth the anxiety, he thought fondly as he finished off his letter to Tom. He smiled as 138


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Abbie walked in and he showed her his letter. They recognized their son was now a man, and had been for some time without their even realizing it.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. November 1st 1917. My dear old M. & D. It was a lovely surprise for me today when I got a whole bunch of letters from you when I had not had any for about a fortnight. Thanks very much for the birthday present of five quid and it was a coincidence that it arrived together with all the letters on my birthday. I have not seen Bobs again since that visit he paid me, so I am going to send him these letters in case he can’t come round to see me for a while. I am twenty now so I ought to be feeling old, but so far I do not feel the effects of age. A couple of days ago I got a letter from Mr. Fox so I answered him with a long effusion. The Evans family very kindly sent me some chocs and cigarettes. Mrs. E. sent me some papers, so on the whole I have celebrated my birthday in great style. The weather has been exceedingly rotten just of late, but we have had to fly just the same as there are various pushes going on in this part of the line. I brought down my first Hun a few days ago, and we had a fine scrap over the Hun side of the lines. I am jolly glad I have broken my duck as that is what counts most out here. My flight commander is a young blighter of about 23 who has brought down 26 Huns up to date and won the M.C. with a bar to it, which is jolly good. He is now very keen on winning the DSO as that is what they give in the RFC after the M.C. has been won. The Naps seem to be copping it in the neck just now and I hope they won’t give in altogether as they are people that very easily get disheartened and throw up the sponge. 139


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We are giving Fritz a bad time of it on this front but the war is a long way from the end yet though all the critics in England gas about it being over by Xmas. They don’t say which Xmas…! There is no more news for the present so I shall stop right now. Merci beaucoup again for presents. Love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. November 11th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Amidst all the rotten weather we have been having lately we had three fairly respectable days, though very cloudy so we had to put in a lot of flying those few days. I have not heard from Bobs at all of late, but he will either come round to see me or write soon. Yesterday afternoon I went into the town 30 miles away, and strangely enough ran across that chap Ross that I told you about before. I met him at the Artists’ HQs in London and we joined up on the same day together with Keen. We also went to Reading together and from there we were separated. He came out here about a fortnight after I did and is somewhere on this front flying a different sort of bus. I was very pleased to see him and we had quite a lot to talk about. It is not often we get a chance of going into the town, so when anyone goes he has all sort of purchases to make for all the other chaps in the mess. After buying all sort of weird articles from a gramophone to a hair-cut (very necessary article) I wended my way home in a tender, it pouring with rain in the meantime. The swanky envelope this letter is enclosed in is the result of buying notepaper for one bloke. I hope you won’t mind this letter being so short but there is nothing at all to write about. 140


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Give my love to all the familia and tell then to write soon. Beaucoup love from your loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, November 13th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I got a letter from Bobs last night enclosing several letters from you. He is OK and has been too busy in and out of the line to write to me, or come and pay me a visit. He is in hopes of getting leave soon as he is now second on the list. I had quite an exciting time yesterday and I am going to proceed to tell you about it forthwith. When over the lines yesterday, well over the Hun land, my engine cinched out having been shot through by Archie (anti-aircraft guns). It scared my Observer who thought we would have to land over on the Hun side, but as we had plenty of height I managed to bring the machine right back to the Aerodrome or at least just to the edge of it, and there much to my disgust the engine became out of my control and crashed from about 50 ft. up because it was so badly shot about. The machine was absolutely wrecked but my Observer and I were pretty dazed by the shock. I am quite OK today again, so there is nothing at all for you to worry about. The Major was very decent about it when I went to see him, and complimented me on bringing it all the way back, and said he didn’t mind what happened to the machine as long as the Observer and myself were not hurt. I felt a BF for having crashed, but it could not be helped as the bus was out of control. My Observer got more bruises than I did and is stopping in bed today but I am quite alright and ready for business again. I am now beginning to wonder what is going to happen about my conscription, as it won’t be so long before the time comes. I 141


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am getting an aviator certificate* from the Aero Club as I have an idea that it will help me considerably when I get out to Argentina. It contains a paragraph in half a dozen languages to the effect that the civil and military authorities are requested to give all possible aid to the bearer. I don’t suppose I need to worry about it till I get the official notification and then I shall go to the Consul in London and fix it up with him. It is about time I wished you all a Merry Xmas, etc, since letters take such a long time nowadays. Buy up all the castor oil in the Botica* a week before the event, so then you will be prepared for Boxing Day when all the little kids have pains in their Mary’s. The censor still opens all the letters you write to me, but so far has not erased anything. It is jolly fine out today with the sun out and birds twittering, guns booming, etc, and it is a nice change after the spell of bad weather which does not tend to improve these Flanders roads, or the aerodrome which is like a pantano* already. There is no more news for the present so, Hasta luego with love to all the babes from Your ever loving son Tommy.

In 1916, for the first time in their history, the Argentine people elected a president democratically. The choice of the majority was Hipólito Irigoyen, the majority in this case being the poorer middle classes. They were attracted by his simplicity and nationalist ideas, althoughhebeganhistermofofficewithaconfusedandvaguepolicy. He avoided public appearances and speeches; some maliciously believedowingtohisinabilitytoexpresshimselforeventhinkclearly, thus becoming somewhat of a mystic figure. On one topic he was firm though: to preserve Argentina’s neutrality during the GreatWar, whichturnedouttobeawisedecision.Thecountry’sprimary exports of meat and cereal opened up to new markets, and the prosperity in this sector was the reason for Argentina to be known as the‘barn of the world’. Its gross domestic product placed it among the wealthiest nations in the world. In 1917, the Argentine Peso was quoted above 142


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every other currency in the world. Neutrality had been economically beneficial,althoughallwasnotsuccessassalariesdecreasedwhilethe cost of living rose alarmingly. ThePresidentgavealotofthoughttosocialreform,buttheinterest he took in workers’welfare backfired as labourers decided to hasten the process of reform by means of numerous strikes. Newspapers wroteconstantlyabouttheseevents,especiallyaspeoples’liveswere affected daily by the situation. Robert put down the paper with an exclamation of disgust, and told Abbie about his concerns. They worried about the situation in the country, but also about their sons’ future on their return. The SáenzPeñaLawwhichwaspassedin1912,namedafterthepresident who created it, not only provided for universal and obligatory male suffrage,butalsorequiredallmentoregisterforoneyear’scompulsory militaryserviceonreachingtheageofeighteen.Manypostersaround the city showed the words “No al Militarismo*”, as the population responded disapprovingly to this new obligation. The last thing Abbie wanted, or her sons for that matter, was to have to comply with conscription in Argentina after fighting in Europe for God knew how long. Both were filling in the necessary“solicitud”or application form with the Consul in London, in order to have their papers ready by the time the war finished. She hoped the government would not expect them to observe the law regardless. She felt enough of their young lives would already have been spent in military pursuits.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, November 18 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you since I last wrote but Bobs sent me on some letters that he had received. The past week has been very uneventful because we have had little flying on account of the weather. I enclose a small photo of myself in front of my bus (not the wrecked one). It is an enlargement taken from 143


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a small camera- something after the style of the one I bought in England. We are not allowed to use them here, but occasionally someone brings his out and takes a few snaps. I am attired in my oldest togs in the enclosed snap and appear to be very weary judging by the way I am leaning against the prop. Please excuse the spots, but some wild person has been throwing water around, thus giving me the benefit of some of it. We are always fooling around in the messes here with the result that out of about 30 panes in the windows, only two glass ones are left, the rest being patched up with celluloid cardboard etc., giving the place a very picturesque aspect. This place is quite famous for its dogs because we have at least a battalion of them and are always receiving new recruits. I don’t know how they exist because we never go to the extent of feeding them all. Would you like me to take a few back as souvenirs, or shall I take back a bunch of tails instead? I am in the pink and hope all of you are idem. Love to all from your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, November 24 1917. My dear old M. & D. Merci beaucoup for yours and Rodney’s of the 9th October. I am glad you got the cable that I asked Mr. Smithers to send you as I thought you would like to know about my coming out here. It is not hard to stop in England training and there are lots of chaps who swing the lead over there and drag it out to last a year or more. I was very fed up this morning when the C.O. handed me a letter returned by the Base Censor that I wrote to you last week; it was sent back because I had enclosed a small snap of myself in front of my 144


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machine. I sent it because I know you are very keen on getting anything of that sort; one would think that you or I were bally spies the way they treat us in that respect and I think the person that censored that letter might have used a little discrimination because the photo is absolutely of no military importance or of interest to anyone except ourselves. I was under the impression that unmounted photos could always be sent and so I suppose it means now that as long as I remain out here I shall not be able to send you any photos. I wonder what is going to happen to the photos I had taken at Folkestone and if they will ever get to you? I am enclosing the returned letter though there is nothing of interest in it. It has not rained at all since last week but the weather has been pretty rotten for flying on account of low clouds and mist. The other day I went into the Officers’ Club at ---- and signed the Visitors’ Book and then looked through to see if there was anyone there that I know; I saw the name G H Whyte* RFC from Temperley, BA, and he had been there a couple of days before - do you happen to know him? I think that I have heard of him in golf or cricket or something of that sort. I sent your letters on to Bobs; the last I heard from him was that he was OK and looking forward to leave in the near future. There is no more news so Cheerio with much love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Thewindswhistleddowntherunwayruthlessly.Theaerodrome was situated immediately to the southeast of the village of Sainte Marie-Cappel, in a field which afforded no protection except for a scant row of trees on one side. If the cold was bitter on the ground, thousands of feet above it would be unforgiving. Major E H Johnston was giving last minute instructions toTommy’s patrol leaders, Captains Knight andWornum, on the windswept airstrip. Tommy had to admit that the Major was as just and competent as he could wish for. He remembered his humiliation at crashing his aeroplane fifteen days earlier, and the Major’s kindness when 145


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he reported his loss. He had also felt awful about poor Phelps who hadbeenhurtinthecrashmorethanhehad,buttheobserverkept insisting that they had been forced to drop out of the NOP due to engine trouble, something for whichTommy was not to blame. Phelps was more than thankful to his pilot for having crashed on their side of the line thus avoiding being taken as prisoners of war, which was what he had feared at the time. Tommy quickened his pace as a glacial gust of air stopped his recollections short. He meticulously rubbed grease onto his face, paying careful attention to his nose. He had more than enough experienceonthataccountastheweatherherehadbeeninclement of late. Being late November, the 27th to be precise, it was more common to get frostbite than not after spending hours in the icy skies. His body was warmly covered in the finest flying gear, and thick leather gloves and helmet would protect the rest. His hands trembled slightly as he screwed on the top on the grease jar, and he quickly hid them from view. The last thing his Observer, Captain L R Speakman*, needed to see was a jittery pilot. The source of the trembling was not merely coldness and apprehension, but also anticipation. Tommy had felt this way beforetoalesserdegreebeforeatennisfinal.Itwasafeelingwhich competitive sportsmen were accustomed to, and which they thrived on. It was 2:40pm, time to get the machine in the air and begin the offensive patrol. Tommy’s was the second aircraft to lift off the ground out of the six Bristol Fighters which were part of that day’s formation. Seconds after they were airborne the men on the aerodrome lost sight of them due to the low clouds and drizzle. Today’s patrol would not be a pleasant affair and probably quite fruitless due to the poor visibility. After almost an hour of trying to spot something of interest on the ground as well as in the sky, both pilot and observer had grown numb with monotony and cold.Their luck changed while flying over the area of Westroosebeke when Tommy suddenly spotted two Enemy Aircraft coming straight at them from above. As he veered off to the right in order to get out of their firing range and get a good position, he could clearly see that they were 146


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two German Albatros D. IIIs, one with its tail painted blue and the other green and white. Captain Speakman was already firing furiouslyemptyingawholedrumatoneoftheGermanmachines, while Tommy followed the other one out of the corner of his eye as it began climbing. For a few seconds Tommy and his Observer watchedthefirstaeroplanefallcompletelyoutofcontrol.Although it seemed they had successfully driven it down, they knew that manyenemyaircraftpretendedtolosecontrolandastheyneared thegroundtheysuddenlyrightedthemselvesandflewsafelyback to base. That was not the case today. Bristol Fighter B1122 was already climbing after the second enemy aeroplane as the Pilot continued to fire ahead.When they exceeded the 2,000 feet mark Tommy lost sight of the Hun as it entered the thick clouds without being seriously damaged. He steadied his aeroplane and both men began looking out for new enemy aircraft and then for the rest of their formation, which had been driven apart during their jaunt in the air. Although both pilot and observer were unscathed, the same could not be said for their machine. During the combat the aileron controls had been shot through, so Tommy fought a challengingbattleagainsttheprevailingwestwindwhichallAllied aircraft usually faced on their return. The light craft pressed on, quiveringintheheadwinds.Hislandingcouldbedeemedperfect considering the state their“bus”was in. His spirits soared; he had redeemed himself after that silly crash. As he climbed out of the cockpit,Tommy’s legs buckled under him momentarily, as he had been sitting for almost three hours in freezing conditions and relief had suddenly made him feel weak. Speakman clapped him heartily on the back whilst they were both surrounded by their friends. Before heading for the shelter of the nearby hut to look for a fortifying beverage, Tommy looked back at his old bus and whispered a thank you as he always did after a close encounter. He stared at the torn canvas and wings and did not even bother to count the bullet holes as he knew they were far too many and far too close.

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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, December 3rd 1917. My dear old M. & D. These last few days I have been getting tons of letters from you and I am awfully bucked about it as it accounts for all those gaps without any news from you at all. The last two days it has been bitingly cold on the ground and simply freezing up in the air, up at 10,000 ft our compasses freeze and one can feel the cold through several inches of clothing. Yesterday while over the Hun lines a Hun got on my leader’s tail and I dived on the brute but my gun jammed at the critical moment, so he got away somewhat scared. Today I had to go over to the depot to get a new bus for the Squadron and got a jolly fine surprise on meeting my instructor who was also over there to get a machine for his Squadron. Bobs wrote to me the other day from London and gave me a shock as I did not know he was on leave. My leave is due in another week so I am disappointed at just missing him as we would have had a great time together: he seems very fed up at the people in England and says they take no interest at all in the war as it bores them and all they think of is the latest price of sugar and what a narrow escape Mr. Smith had in the latest air raid. I got a letter from Jack also, he is wounded and in hospital in Baghdad. He says that after waiting nearly two years for a scrap, he got into one with the Turks and got a bit of shrapnel into his leg within the first five minutes; it is nothing serious but enough to keep him in hospital for a couple of months. I wrote to Gran and Aunt Louise in Canada once only while I was in England and have not written since because they have not written to me at all. Bobs is so bally ashamed of his M.C. that he won’t talk about it at all, though I managed to drag most of the story out of him; I saw in the Times that he was decorated by old George Rex a few days ago. Amongst the other letters I got from you this week I got an envelope “opened by 148


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Censor” with nothing in it, so I am wondering whether it was a mistake on your part or whether the Censor did the dirty on me. I can’t understand what on earth the Censor could have cut out of my letter to Nina as I am pretty careful of what I have said since in the Army. The Russians and Italians are letting us down so I suppose that means that the war will last a few minutes or so longer. Tell Mrs. Mendl that I don’t write to her because I put all my news in my letters to you and at present I have not got very much time for writing because we are kept pretty busy. I asked the people in Folkestone who took my photo to send it out to you direct, and so when I go on leave next week I shall enquire what has happened and if they went through. While in London I shall go to see the Argentine Consul as you advised me to, and shall see what I can fix up with the aid of Mr. Figheira from the FCCA. Since you want my clothes for Rodney I shall probably send you out my trunk and all since practically all the contents will be useless to me; I shall let you know what I intend doing when I have had a look through my belongings. I was very sorry to hear of John Brown’s death as he was a very decent old chap. I am about half an inch under six feet now, that is approximately measured with a piece of string the other day; one day I shall get measured properly and let you know the result. I am in the best of health and looking forward to a fortnight’s leave in the near future. Merci beaucoup for the many Standards you have sent me as they are tres welcome. There is no more news for the present, so Goodbye with tons of love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Robert and Abbie sat on the terrace one evening, enjoying the warm nightfall on their own. They had recently acquired one of the new victrolas, which was now filling the air with their favourite music.The advertisements in the papers encouraged people to buy 149


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a victrola by appealing to their sensibility to the heat rather than to theirhearing:“breezymusictohelpyoukeepcool,keepyourmindoff theheat,saythedoctors.Withavictrolaonyourporchandsomehappyhearted,light-footedmusicplaying,itisquitepossibletoforgetallabout theheat.”Robertwasbelatedlyreadingtheweek’spapers,whileAbbie hummed the tune leaning on his shoulder, as her eyes followed the erratic flight of moths attracted by the porch light. She absently read wordsfromthepaper,untilsomethingofinterestwouldmakeherask her husband to read the article aloud to her. “ImmediatecessationofhostilitiesorderedonentireRussianfront”, were the words which made her sit up. She had been following the activities in Russia for the past months with growing trepidation, and her fears had not been unfounded.The proclamation of the new Russiangovernmentearlierthatmonthmeanttheyhadnowlostthat lumbering,unconquerableally.WhatalosstotheAllies!Theproffered RussianarmisticehadbeenacceptedbyGermany,muchtotheirrelief shewassure.Eventhehopeofasuccessfulcounter-revolutionhaddied whenshehadreadsubsequentlyaboutthedefeatoftheRussianforces loyal to Tsar Nicholas. She imagined those figures which comprised the new Maximalist government, such as that awful Lenin orTrotsky, could not be as terrible as the papers depicted them, or so she hoped for the sake of the Russian people and the Royal family. “The Pope asks Teutons not to bombard Venice”was another title which she asked her husband to read. Apparently the Germans had succeededincrossingtheupperTagliamento,andhadtakenUdine.She trusted this news was truthful as it was describing a German success. ShelovedreadingherEnglishnewspapersandmagazines,butshewas awarethatthearticlesusuallyspokeoftheAllies’accomplishmentsand the Germans’barbarism and defeats, rather than giving an objective view of the situation. Some of the articles made her blush, for she had some acquaintances of German extraction whom she thought highly of, and she could just imagine their feelings if they read such statements. Robert read one such article to her at that moment, and theywerebothamusedbytheblinkerednamesgiventotheleadersof the Central or “Evil” Powers: Kaiser Wilhelm II was referred to as the “HangmanofBerlin”,the“ButcherofBelgium”,andthe“Assassinofthe Argentinepeople”,whilehisAllieswere“CharlestheSimpleofAustria”, 150


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“Ferdinand the Liar of Bulgaria”, and “Doddering Mahomet V of the Unbelievers”. It was all too much. The Argentine papers did not dedicate as many pages to the war and were not so one-sided, although there was a general tendency among the population to defend the Allied cause. This was evident in the preferential sale of goods such as cereals, meat and wool to the Allies. People referred to this government policy as“benevolent neutrality”, and many already hoped for an end to the Argentine Republic’s refusal to take a definite stand.This had recently occurred in the Latin American countries of Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay among others. Robert had had enough of disheartening news for the week, so he threw the papers on the floor and stood up stretching. He bowed to his wife and extended his hand to her. It seemed ages since they had danced,andAbbiesighedblissfullyastheirfeetfollowedthemelody. Herheadonhisshoulder,shegazedsidewaystowardsthedarkgarden and beyond into the idyllic night. She wished moments like these could last forever.

Hotel Folkestone, Boulogne- Sur- Mer. December 9th 1917. My dear old M. & D. As you see by the address I have started on my leave though do not go over the herring pond till some time tomorrow. I left my Squadron today and have got to spend the night here; it is raining out so I hope that means I will have a good sleep. I intend spending most of the time with the Evans family who are at present stopping in Nottingham as the military took possession of their house in Lincoln. The rest of my time will be spent doing various jobs in London, such as seeing the Consul, fixing up my trunk full of clothes and other little stunts of that sort. I heard from Bobs the other day (on a piece of this notepaper) when he had just returned from leave. His description of the investiture is jolly good and I hope he gives it as vividly to you as he gives it to me. 151


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I have not heard from you since I last wrote, but hope to find some letters awaiting me at the FCCA offices in London when I get there to see old Smithers. Excuse the shakiness of the writing, but my hands are rather cold after having travelled most of the day in these top hole French trains; they are very similar to the State trains in C贸rdoba. The first two things I shall do on getting to London will be: first to have a good hair cut as I resemble a poet at present and secondly a nice hot bath to see if I can find a couple of shirts I lost some time ago. I have to return to France on Xmas Eve so I shall have my Xmas dinner out here with all my pals in the Squadron and we are looking forward to it as we are going to have a great time. I shall write again from Blighty so Cheerio for the present with the usual tons of love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Strand Palace Hotel Strand, London WC2. December 12th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you for some time, but was awfully bucked today to get a huge bunch of letters from Bobs who had found them awaiting him on returning from leave. As you can see by the address I am at present in London and am having a gay old time. I arrived here from France on the 10th about mid-day and after having had a good square meal (as far as regulations permit) I set out for this hotel. After that I wandered around for a while till I ran up against another RFC fellow who had nobody to talk to, so we went and had dinner early together at the Motor Club and after that 152


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went to a show; we saw “Pamela” at the Palace and it was jolly good; we laughed right through the whole performance, tragic parts and all. On the 11th I tried to imagine I was one of the idle rich by stopping in bed till 11 o’clock. I went to see Mr. Smithers then and he took me out to lunch and told me all the latest news about the FCCA. When I parted from him I went down to the Artists’ Rifles HQ as I had my trunk stored there or at a place quite close by. I looked through all my possessions and repacked them, keeping a few things for myself such as hankies, socks and a sweater. I got the man in charge to make enquiries as to how it could be sent out to you and he told me he would be able to fix it up OK, so I addressed umpteen labels for him and I shall let you know in due course what has happened to the things; I gave the Hurlingham address as I thought that would be more convenient for you. After that I went and looked up the same chap I had been with before and we had a spread at the Criterion and then went to see “Bubbly” which was on at the Globe; I enjoyed that even more than “Pamela” and it was top hole. Today I went to the FCCA to find out where the Argentine Consul hung out, and I had to wait till 11.30 before being able to see him. I explained the whole case to him and he said I would have to make out a solicitud and he would send it through and everything would be OK. He showed me one written by Drysdale who was at the Artists’ with me and told me what I ought to put so I am going to write it out as soon as possible. Since then I have been doing shopping for myself and odd jobs for other chaps in the Squadron. Tonight old Smithers is taking me out to his home in Sutton and going to put me up for the night. Tomorrow I shall go up to Nottingham to spend a week with the Evans family as that is where they are at present. The first things I did on getting to London were first of all to have a jolly good hair cut and then a hot bath, and when I looked in the glass afterwards I could not recognize myself. London seems to be absolutely packed with people making merry and I expect it is because they are getting ready for Xmas; anyhow I am jolly glad I shall be back with my squad for Xmas as we are sure to have a jolly good time. 153


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Harry seems to have done very well at the Bective College sports and I expect is rather looking forward to going to St. George’s except that he will be separated from you. It is a bally shame that Bobs and I just missed one another’s leave by a few days because we would have had a great time together. I shall write to you again soon to let you know how the rest of my precious fourteen days has been spent. I suppose you think me very reckless for going to all these swell places for grub and shows, but one can’t help it while on leave from France. There is nothing more for the present so Cheerio with the usual tons of love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

December 15th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I am at present stopping with the Evans family up in Nottingham and am having a great time. Before leaving London Mr. Smithers took me out to his home to dinner and put me up for the night. He has a nice wife, nice kid, and nice little house. The dinner was O.K. and they gave me a jolly pleasant evening. The next day I came up here to spend a few days and so far have had a gay time. They are not stopping in their own house, as it has been taken over by the authorities for billeting officers from the aerodrome. Last night I went to one of the theatres here and saw some sort of variety performance. It was quite good, but of course not in the same street as any of the London theatres. On Xmas Eve I have to return to France, and in fact I am rather looking forward to spending Xmas at the Squadron, with all the chaps that I have got to know so well by now. On my return journey I shall look up the photographers at Folkestone to see if they sent the photos out to you alright. I had some sent here to the Evans family and from what I have seen of them they 154


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seem very good though very flattering. I am writing to Nina also today but it is really meant for you, as you will see when she gets the letter. The weather is not up to much at the present, but that does not matter very much when one is on leave and having such a good time. There is no more news for the present, so I shall shut up shop. I am in the pink and hope all of you are the same. Love to all the family from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Belgrave Mansions Hotel Grosvenor Gardens, London S.W. December 23rd 1917. My dear old M. & D. As you see by the address I am back in London again after having spent about ten days in Nottingham with the Evans family. I have to return to France tomorrow by the beastly early train and that accounts for my stopping at this hotel as it is just outside Victoria station, so that tomorrow I can crawl out of bed into the train. It is not a bad place, but in any case I see very little of it as I am out most of the day. In all I saw three shows up in Nottingham and they were very good, but of course were not in the same street as the London ones. Yesterday afternoon I went round to see Mr. Smithers to inquire if there was any correspondence for me, but to my disgust found that the place was shut up for Xmas holidays, so shall have to wait till I get back to my Squadron before hearing from you. I also went to see the people who have charge of my trunk; I gave them the key as they said it is required by the Customs; they are insuring it for ÂŁ100 and say they cannot do it for less as the trunk contains about four suits and other things. They are fixing it all up for me and are going to send you out the key by the same boat as they send the trunk by. 155


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Ronald Cotton was in the last list of those mentioned in dispatches so I must write and congratulate him as it is some time since I last heard from him. I have been very lazy while I have been on leave and don’t believe I have got up a single day before nine thirty or ten. These springy beds with sheets are quite a treat for a change, but I think I shall be glad to get back to my old army blankets and camp bed as I have got so used to them by now. These hotels close to Victoria are always packed with chaps returning from leave because taxis are impossible to get early in the morning, or for that matter at any time of the day. Things seem to be in a devil of a state out in B.A. what with all these bally strikes and that rotter of a president, whom I hope will get the daylight let into him soon. However, I hope everything will settle down soon and go on decently. You would never think that there was a war on by looking at London, except for the soldiers knocking about. Everything goes on just the same as before and the traffic is as great as ever. I will write to you again when I arrive back at my Squadron which will very probably be on Xmas day. I forgot to tell you that while up in Notts. it snowed for two days and made everything look very pretty. The weather is jolly cold and I expect that there will be plenty of more snow later on. I have not heard from Bobs since that letter I found waiting for me at the FCCA office, with a huge bunch of letters that he had received from you. I expect to find some letters from him on my return to France. We are doing our best to arrange another meeting soon though as you can easily understand it is pretty hard to arrange by correspondence, especially as his movements are so uncertain and they are never given dates or anything of the sort to go by in the Infantry. Give my love to all the familia as usual. From your ever loving son Tommy.

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Folkestone. December 24th 1917. Dear Dad, Enclosed £20 for you to put to my credit at Bank or invest as you think fit. Cox’s was closed yesterday and day before so was unable to deposit it and don’t want to take it over to France. I cross this afternoon. Excuse paper and scrawl, but have not got much time to spare. Love, Yours, Tom.

Her sons would be spending a real White Christmas this year. Christmas in Argentina seemed very unusual and not at all like Christmastoforeigners fromupNorth. Robert hadgrownusedtoitby now,andAbbiehadreallyonlyspentonecoldChristmasherself,while in Jersey. However, British families still industriously prepared plum pudding,mincepies,turkeyinthehotoven,andsprinkledcottonwool on their Christmas trees trying to make it look like snow, even if in somecasestheywerealreadysecondgenerationArgentines.Themen who dressed up as Saint Nicholas in the December heat found it hard not to keel over, but it was all part of the tradition to be passed on to their young ones. AbbiehadhopedhersonswouldatleastspendChristmastogether butunfortunatelythatwouldnotbepossibleaccordingtotheirletters. She had not received any letters for about three weeks, so she was not sure where they would be. Second best would be with their friends in England, Ada Earnshaw and family. She knew she should not worry, forthementheyfoughtwithbecameascloseasbrothers.Theyworked underextremepressureandtrustedtheirlivestooneanother,andthe many tedious hours of leisure were spent talking about home, ideas, girls,sotheygottoknowoneanotherprofoundly,moresothanunder normalcircumstances. She thought regretfully, they wouldbesureto 157


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misstheturkey,puddingandcrackers,Tommyespeciallysincehehad ahugeappetiteforsweetthingsanditwashisfirstChristmasaway.She felt a little guilty worrying about such inconsequential things as her son’s Christmas meal during a war, but he was her son after all and that waswhatmotherswerefor.Tommyhaddonealotofgrowingupsince leaving Buenos Aires; Abbie could tell from his letters. Well, maybe something positive would come out of this entire situation after all. Blissfully unaware, she would have been upset to find out that on arrivingbackathisSquadrononChristmasday,Tommyhadbeengiven no respite as he had to fly yet another patrol with his flight. Private Matthewswashisobserverthatafternoonandtheywerebothdelighted to get back in time for a bath before the festivities began. The delay in thepostwassometimesunendurableforAbbieyetinsomecasessuch as this, ignorance was healthier.

Y.M.C.A. On Active Service British Expeditionary Force December 25th 1917. My dear old M. & D. Merry Xmas for all of you and the best of luck for 1918. I am at present at the Officers’ Club at ---- while waiting for the tender to come up from the Squadron for me. I have not had any sleep since leaving London, so I am looking forward to getting back to the squadron in order to have a shave, wash and sleep, and then be ready for a bust up tonight. Most of last night and this morning was spent travelling in a French train and if you had ever seen one you would soon understand why I haven’t slept. Before leaving Folkestone I sent you £20.- by registered letter, because I was unable to deposit it at Cox’s, they being closed on Xmas Eve, and I did not fancy the idea of bringing it out here with me, so I did the next best thing and decided to send it to you. The crossing was jolly smooth so nobody was sea sick. I went 158


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to look up Mrs. Learody in Folkestone from the address that Mrs. Boadle gave me and when I eventually found the place I found that the lady in question had gone up to Scotland. I would rather have liked to have seen her in order to find out what Scott and Alan were doing. I am in the best of health as usual and looking forward to finding a huge bunch of letters from you awaiting me on my return to the squadron. There is no more to write about for the present, so Cheerio with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, December 27th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I arrived back at the squadron shortly after noon on Xmas day in time to get ready for our Xmas dinner. The dinner was top hole and our mess president was a marvel the way he organized it. We had a turkey that was secured from a French farm for some fabulous sum and it was fine. After dinner we went out and had a battle in the snow against the other squadron on the aerodrome, and when we got tired of that we came in and had some sort of concert, which went on till misty morn. Yesterday it snowed practically all day, but as soon as it stopped we were sent out on patrol and were thankful to get a peaceful time over the lines, since none of us were feeling very war like. There were only three of ours up and no Huns at all. Archie’s shooting was very rotten so we came to the conclusion that he was still suffering from the effects of his Xmas dinner. The country looks quite pretty under snow, though from a flying point of view it is rotten, as we can’t distinguish the country when it is all white, rivers and all. Ada sent me out a cake for Xmas and it was greatly appreciated, judging by the way it vanished. The Railway sent me out some cigs. and 159


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also some tinned things which came in very handy. It was very decent of them, don’t you think so? Bobs sent me a Xmas card but has not written to me for some time because I expect he is kept pretty busy as he is Adjt (Adjutant). It is starting to snow again today so I expect we shall get another easy day of it. Some big bug is coming round later on to have a look round, so we shall have to get dressed in our Sunday best for his benefit. I am O.K. as usual and hope all of you are the same. I am looking forward to getting a big bunch of letters from you soon as it seems ages since I heard. Cheerio with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, December 30th 1917. My dear old M. & D. I was jolly glad to hear from you at last, as it seemed such ages since I had got any letters from you. Two from you dated Nov. 12th and 17th, Nina’s of the 11th, Rodney’s of the 16th, Evie’s of the 16th and a Standard. It has been snowing practically every day since Xmas, so there is at least a foot of snow upon the ground. It makes the country look quite decent, but it is “no bon” while up in the air because it makes it so hard to distinguish the landmarks down below, and besides that it prevents one from making good landings. A couple of days ago the Committee for the River Plate Contingent sent me a pair of woollen mittens, and today I received some Reina Victoria cigarettes from the same people, so I wrote and thanked them in my best English. The mittens came in jolly useful to wear under flying gloves because they keep one’s wrists warm and that seems to 160


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be a nasty place to feel the cold. My circulation must be pretty good as I am about the only one up to the present in the Squad who has not got frostbitten in the face; it is rather an uncomfortable thing to get and one can’t fly for a week or so, but it leaves no marks behind (not like when a kid has been caned). Yesterday the squadron had its photo taken; at least all the officers did and they say it is going to be published in some of the illustrated papers, and if it does I shall let you know; I doubt if it will be possible to send you out any proofs of the photo, but I shall see what can be done when we get them. I expect we shall have a bust up tomorrow night or the one after in celebration of the New Year; we are looking forward to a great time as our mess president has promised to secure another fowl of sorts for us no matter what the price is. I have not heard from Bobs yet since arriving back here but expect to do so soon. He is no doubt pretty busy as Adjt. There is nothing more to write about for the present so I shall shut up with the usual messages to all the familia and tell them to write soon. Love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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Chapter VII 1918


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The 1918 New Year celebrations were not a very festive occasion inBuenosAires.Manyfamilieswerebeingdeniedtruehappinessand relief by the ongoing war, as their loved ones were still away fighting. Manyotherswerealreadysufferingthedesolationcausedbythedeath of a young soul. Celebrations, greetings, toasts, all sounded insincere and weary. Abbie imagined the situation in Britain was even more austere, as she had read in the papers last week that rationing had increased,andonemeatlessdayweeklywastobeobservedfromnow on throughout Great Britain. One could not forget at a time like this all those lives which had been sacrificed the previous year, and all the ones that would be lost this new one, as an end in the hostilities seemed distant. The confusion and disorderly revolution in Russia and the reverse in Italy made the prospects for the Allies seem bleak, especially since the news stated that Germans on the west had been heavily reinforced by Russian troops. Even the flying corps seemed to be suffering more than before at the hands of the enemy. Africa and the Middle East were areas where the Allies seemed to be succeeding, though. And the papers had reported that on 30th October the US Army had fired its first shell in France. There was great interest in the debut of the American air force that year and it was predicted that the Allies would be enormously strengthened in this department. Abbie felt this was probably good news for Tommy, for he might get more rest if there were more aviators. The NewYear resolutions were accompanied by the offering of all kinds of bargains to God if only he would put an end to war, if only a son were returned alive, if only another did not volunteer, if only, if only‌ Abbie made all of these pleas. 165


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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, January 6 1918. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you this week, but I got a letter from Nina dated the 26th of November and another from Rodney dated the 28th. The River Plate Contingent Committee sent me some Argentine papers in return for my letter thanking them for the cigarettes. It was quite a treat to see all those rags like “Fray Mocho” “Mundo Argentino” after not having seen these magazines for centuries. Another chap, a South African by the name of Jooste*, and I have now taken up our abode in a small hut that we found empty on the premises having been left by some medical officer or somebody of that description. After getting the C.O.’s permission we started to fix it up as the roof was nearly off and the walls which are made of canvas were all torn; we have been working on it for several days and it looks quite respectable now that we have shifted our belongings into it. We bought some cheap coloured rag from a French shop and chopped it up for curtains, so the place has quite a cheerful appearance enhanced by some Harrison Fisher pictures. I have not heard from Bob lately because I expect he is kept pretty busy nowadays. It has not snowed very much this week and the worst is yet to come when the snow melts and turns into slush; as you can imagine it is pretty cold, but we always manage to keep warm in some way or other. Mrs. Earnshaw sent me some papers for which I must not forget to thank her. I was very sorry to hear about Jack Brown having been killed as he was such a sporty chap. I saw in the papers that Gerdom had been wounded, but did not know that it was the same one. I wonder if there is any truth in that rumour about Eric W…… getting home owing to his being discharged. A few weeks ago I wrote to Ronald Cotton, but so far have received no answer from him. The mail has just come in and there were two letters for me, one from you dated Nov. 28th and one from Bobs and also a pile of Standards. You seem to be pretty busy at present with all the kids preparing for concerts and plays. Don’t go rushing round to all these 166


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places just because somebody wants you to. John Roberts must have done well to get an M.C. on his Majority. Bobs says he hopes to get across soon to see me when he comes out for a rest. In his letter he tells me all about the beano they had at Xmas time. There is no more news for the present so, Cheerio with love to all from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Jooste in his pilot’s uniform. (Lowell Jooste- South Africa)

Tommy was drinking half a cup of hot tea, getting ready to face the cold wind outside. He was teasing his observer Lt Hal Crowe* on his Irish accent, while Hal teased him for being South American. They were both barely twenty, tall and slim, but that was where the similarities ended. Hal’s face was raw and chapped in several places from frostbite, which made him look older and tougher.Tommy’sslightlydarkercomplexionhadbeensparedby the cold so far, he was still as smooth skinned as he’d been back at home. They waited till the last minute to go to the toilet as they knew that would be impossible for the next three hours. In the 167


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air, the cold and the tension did not help either. Their bantering wentonallthewayacrosstheaerodromeuntiltheywereseatedand talkingbecamedifficult;impossibleoncetheengineswerestarted. NineBristolFighterstookoffinquicksuccessiononanoffensive patrolthatcoldafternoon.ItwasafewminutesbeforeTommyfound theywereflyingalone,astheheavycloudshadmadeitimpossibleto keeptogether.Onlytwentyminuteslater,havinglongcrossedover enemy lines,Tommy and Crowe spotted under them a two-seater German aircraft which was flying low at 5,000 ft. Making sure there were no skulking Huns in the vicinity,Tommy dived from the cover ofacloudontothetailoftheunsuspectingaeroplanesimultaneously firing 150 rounds into it at close range. The two men observed as themachinefellverticallywithfrequentburstsofflameissuingfrom itsfuselageandemittingvolumesofblacksmoke.Itcrashedtoearth nose first to the north of Moorslede. Tommyhadbeenalmostsureofbeingsuccessfulashehadmany of the advantages necessary for an attack, such as height, superior speed and the surprise factor. The best form of attack was always firingattheenemybeforetheoppositionhadevenpreparedtoreturn fire.Thepilotwiththefastestmachinehadcontroloverthecombat, sincehecouldmakecomplicatedspinseasily,andchoosewhetherto put an end to the fight or continue it. A conscientious pilot was one who took all these factors and more into account before engaging the enemy in combat, and one who would ultimately survive long enoughtobecomeanace.Agoodpilotwasonewholettheenemy fly away if he could not secure the advantage. Although it had been an easy victory, one which they could not boastmuchabout,thereturnhomewasatoughordeal.Archie,the enemy anti-aircraft artillery, had been alerted of their presence by the dark smoke billowing from one of their own aircraft. Bullets followedtheBristolFighterrelentlesslyallthewayuntiltheycrossed theirownlineagain,andalthoughbothoccupantswereunharmed, theygladlydescendedfromtheirshreddedplanewithasighofrelief astheyknewtheyhadhadacloseshave.Howclosewasmoreeasily discernible from the ground, as Tommy whistled softly to see the wingsandfuselageperforatedinmorethan30places.Fortunately, the aeroplanes could fly just as well with any amount of superficial 168


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damage. Nevertheless, one large bit of shrapnel in the wrong place‌ The sight could be discouraging for a pilot, yet their youth and courage and even their blithe spirits made them feel invincible, especiallywhentheiraircraftwassoruined.Howcouldtheypossibly have failed when God was on their side?

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, January 15th 1918. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you since last week, but I am looking forward to getting a mail from you soon. For the last few days we have trudged about in the mud as the snow had all melted, but it snowed again last night, so we have about six inches of it on the ground once more. Yesterday I bagged my third Hun, so I am feeling rather bucked over it, though it was rather tough on Fritz. I was all on my own some way over their side of the lines, so Archie gave me a very hot time on my way home. I heard from Bobs a couple of days ago, and he hoped to come out for a rest soon, and then be able to pay me a visit. When he comes we are going to discuss the question of spending our next leave together somewhere, though it looks very much like counting chickens before they are hatched to look so far ahead. The little hut that the South African and I have fixed up is now looking quite decent, and we invested in a small oil stove to keep the place warm, since canvas walls don’t keep out the cold very much. I am sorry there is so little news, but I shall write again as soon as I get letters from you, or if there is any news. Give my love to all the familia as usual from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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The‘GreatestShowinSouthAmerica’,astheNorthAmericanvisiting circus described itself, had been a very successful outing. Evelyn, Nina and Abbie had attended the special matinee for ladies and children; Harry had gone along as well even though he made it quite clear he didnotfitintoeitherofthosecategories.Theentertainmenthadbeen clean,wholesomeandof the highest class, as the advertisementshad claimed. After some refreshments in the big Retiro restaurant, the Hurlingham party headed to the old pavilion made of wood and iron from which their train would depart. They had to put up with the tin roof and small waiting room for the moment, but there were plans to buildamagnificentneoclassicalstationsuchastheonenexttoitwhere the FCCA train service started its run. Architecture from the industrial revolutionhadfounditswaytotheArgentinecapitalandwasapparent in the palatial station, with its abundant use of iron and lofty ceilings. The young ones chattered excitedly all the way back on the train. Beforeembarkingontheirexcursiontheyhadcheckedwhetherthetrains wererunningregularly,sincetherailwaystrikesweregettingworse.Abbie interrogated the ticket collector, and was surprised to learn he did not know what they were striking for. It only went to prove how far political eventshadcarriedthecountrytowardsanarchyandchaos.Shethought indignantlythatthesestrikeswerestrengthenednotsomuchbyrecent successesbutbytheknowledgethananeverreadyearwasextendedto theprotestersbythosewhosatinauthority.TheFCCA,forexample,was oneofthelargestcorncarryingcompaniesinthecountry,andthestrikes meant that sales to Europe were hampered. She was irritated that the AllieswouldbegettingfewerArgentineproducts,butwhatangeredher mostwasthathercountrywasnotexploitingthisgoldenopportunityto the utmost.The war in Europe meant little competition from European countries,plusanincreaseddemandforproductswhichArgentinahad inabundance.Thesituationwasincomprehensibletoher,asitwastothe press, the public, and the railway officials. Her thoughts were cut short by their arrival at Hurlingham station, where Robert was waiting for them. Abbie looked into his eyes, and was relieved to see his wide smile, which meant he had no bad news todeliver.Shehatedthewayshekeptexpectingtheworstlatelywhen Robertcamehomeearly,ormetherwithoutpriornotice.Shedetested her pessimism yet could not thwart it. 170


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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, January 20th 1918. My dear old M. & D. It seems ages and ages since I had any news from you and I wonder what has happened to the mails. The weather is getting comparatively warm now, but we expect to get some more snow shortly as there is a stormy look in the air. Yesterday I brought down my fourth Hun, though it has not yet been confirmed; we can’t count Huns brought down unless they have been confirmed by “Archie” (our anti-aircraft batteries) or anyone witnessing the action so I am counting my chicken before it has been hatched. Mr. and Mrs. Pettit sent me a parcel of cigarettes- they sent it off Dec. 13th and the parcel only arrived here yesterday, so if the letters from you are taking that long in comparison I can understand what the matter is. I know you write every week or more so I am living in hopes. Ada sent me some papers, amongst them being some Argentine ones which were very welcome. The course of aerial gunnery that I spoke of in my last has been washed out on account of the weather having made the roads too bad to be able to transport the mechanics and other people down here that don’t go by air. I am off on a show in about half an hour so I shall shut up now in order to go and get ready and get some grub. I shall write soon when I get any newsCheerio with love to all as usual from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. Have just heard that my trunk was sent off by the “Highland Rover”. Shall let you have the particulars later.

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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, January 27th 1918. My dear old M. & D. Have not heard from you for centuries, but am in hopes that a big bunch of stuff will arrive for me soon. I have some jolly good news for you and that is that Bobs came round here day before yesterday; I was rather surprised as I didn’t expect him to be able to come here so soon. He arrived when I was up on a show so had to wait about an hour and a half before I came down. After lunch we gassed a lot and then I took him up for a flip in my bus “Dominica”, and he enjoyed it very much. He stopped here to dinner and then went away after in a side car; he is stopping at a place some distance away from here and is out at rest for awhile. He expects to come round again in four days’ time and is bringing his Colonel with him as the latter is very keen on having a flip in the air. He gave me a letter that he had just received from you dated November 30th and I hope it means my last lot will come soon. He is looking O.K. and was very bucked when I gave him an atado* of Reina Victoria cigarettes; he says the River Plate Contingent people often send him papers so the ones I had were of no use to him. Everybody here seemed to think we were very much alike and when he put on a flying helmet to come up with me all the mechanics mistook him for me. I am looking forward to seeing him around here in a few days time again and one of these days when the weather is too bad for flying I am going to try and get the C.O.’s permission to go down and pay him a visit. I got an answer from Ronald Cotton yesterday and he says he is out of his part of the line now and has got to a quieter spot. He says he had just got a letter from you and was about to answer it. Dicky Reeves has been working with him for a few days and the result was that Dicky took note of my address and I heard from him also yesterday; like a silly young chump he didn’t put any address at all on his letter so I shall have to answer him via Ronald. Yesterday I went together with a couple of other chaps on a visit to one of our “Archie” batteries and we spent a top-hole afternoon 172


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down there tho’ we all wished it had been a fine day so we could have seen some shooting at Fritz up in the air. Our Archie is not half as good as the Huns because our chaps never get any Fritzes over this side of the line to fire at except on very few occasions. Bobs told me that he had applied for the RFC but his Colonel would not let him go as he needs him too much just at present. I don’t think there is any more news for the present so, Goodbye with the usual love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Tommy walked across the aerodrome towards his aeroplane, which had the name Dominica painted on its side in white which contrasted with the rest of it which was khaki-green, except for the beigeunderside.Infrontofthefuselagecockadewaspaintedawhite verticalbarwhichwasthecurrent20Squadronmarking.Exposure totheelementswassteadilyturningthegreenshifttoadarkbrown already.HehadbeenflyingtheDominicaalmostsincehisfirstweek at the squadron, so he greeted her each day as affectionately as he wouldagirlfriend.Themachinemeantevenmoretohimnow,since it was the one his previous flight commander, Luchford, had flown before Tommy’s arrival at the 20. Harry Luchford* had been killed in action on 2nd December, so itwasadailyremindertoTommythateventhebestacesweremere mortals. He kept reliving that day with a mixture of frustration, guilt and disgust, for his gun had jammed at the critical moment. HehadplacedhimselfbehindtheHunwhichwas tailing Luchford andwasreadytofirewhenherealizedhisgunwasnotresponding. Thisgavetheenemyenoughtimetogetaway,butnotbeforeithad damagedhisflightcommander’saircraft,causinghissubsequent death.They had received confirmation of his death only recently, thoughfortunatelyhisobserverCaptainJohnsonhadsurvivedand been taken prisoner.Tommy did not talk about it, even though he remembered every time he saw his old bus. 173


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After exchanging a few words with his observer, Tommy got ready for take off. He was pleased to be flying again with 2/Lt. L. Phelps, who had fought with him more than any other observer in the squadron. Only nine days earlier they had both driven another Albatros D.V. out of control like Tommy’s first, so he was confidenttodaytheywouldbeluckyagain.Unfortunately,thatday was remembered with bitterness byTommy, for two of his friends had been killed in action, flying F2b serial number A7193. One had been the south African 2/Lt. B. Starfield, and the other Lt. A. Hutchinson*, and Englishman. 19th January was remembered with a feeling of loss and sadness by 20 Squadron. They set off in the direction of Westroosebeke over enemy lines at around midday, thankful to be able to see quite clearly for a change. At around quarter to one they spotted an enemy formation of four Albatros scouts directly below them at 4,000 ft. Tommy dived on the rear machine of the formation firing 150 rounds into it at close range with his pilot’s gun. It was seen to go down completely out of control. He wanted to make sure it was destroyed but could not afford to watch it hit the ground as he was alone and the other enemy machines were threatening to attack. The enemy formation had been broken soTommy went in hot pursuitoftheclosestaircraft,andtheyclimbedsteadilywhilethey fired at each other. He knew his machine had a higher ceiling than theAlbatrossothepilotwouldhavetochangedirectionbeforehe did at some point if he did not want his machine to stall. However, Phelps madeTommy aware of an enemy aircraft which was tailing them, so with its strong Rolls Royce engine at full throttle the Bristol Fighter managed to outstrip the Hun coming from behind, while allowing the one in front to get away. From above, they both scrutinized the skies looking out for the enemy, but found they had been driven off. Tommy and his friends celebrated his fifth victory by going into the nearby town. He could now be deemed a flying ace, as he had brought down five enemy aircraft in the short time he had been in 20 Squadron. No doubt his achievements could probably be attributed to his faultless eyesight, quick judgement and natural talent. Before heading for a bar,Tommy left his friends to take care 174


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of a much needed haircut. He could not feel totally clean until his hair was neatly trimmed, and it had been a while. As he emerged from the barber’s, he now felt respectable enough to practise his school French with the ladies of the town.

There was double cause for celebration at the Hurlingham house on that sultry 30th January: it was Abbie’s forty-fifth birthday and Rodney’s seventeenth, for Abbie had given birth to her third boy at the age of twenty-eight. There was not much one felt like doing on such an airless day as this, except drink fresh lemonade in the cool interior of the house. At least the two younger ones were away at a seaside resort in Colonia, Uruguay, having been kindly included in their Uncle George’s family holiday. George had invited Harry and Evelyn, as well as his children Nina and Georgie with his Argentine wife, Elena Lacroze, whom he had recently married. George junior was enlisting soon, so this would probably be his last family holiday for some time. He would be eighteen in five days’ time. Abbie was more than grateful to have Harry and Evelyn away for a weekastheywouldhavegrumbledabouttheheat,alreadyabitbored with their long summer break. So, it would only be Robert, Rodney and herself this year. She recalled her thirty-fourth birthday in 1907 and how she had felt her life was perfect then. They had baptized baby Evelyn at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church that day, and she had known true happiness at the time. She had also recognized that it could not possibly last forever, and how right she had been. With any luck, by next year they might all be together again.That evening, the three of them had planned a ride in their brand new carriage and pair, and she knew Rodney was looking forward to trying his hand at driving it around the local Hurlingham plaza and the residential area of the town. Before setting off, Rodney crept outside for a quick cigarette making sure he was not caught. Bobby and Tommy were of age, far away and fighting a war, so they were excused; he was still living at home and did not want to displease his mother. As she suffered from asthma attacks she found it hard to understand how people could 175


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smoke,eventhoughherownhusbandsmokedapipeintheevenings. Rodney had acquired the habit at St. George’s, where the older boys wouldsneakoutandsmokebehindthetuckshopatnight.Hesmoked Reina Victoria cigarettes, as did his brothers; the cigarettes for‘chic’ people according to the ads. Abbie saw him sneaking out; she knew perfectly well what he was up to. She had come across a used pack while tidying his room. Well, if Rodney did join up next year (God forbid) at least he would not miss his cigarettes she thought wryly. In London, his brothers were provided with home comforts such as cigarettes by the River Plate Contingent Committee, set up the previous year to deal with all matters appertaining to the welfare of the volunteers from Argentina. Whilst on leave, they could go to the Anglo-South American Central Depot and Club. Although both organizationsprovidednewspapers,magazines,cigarettesandother productsofinsignificantmaterialvalueforthoseyoungmenfighting in foreign countries, it meant the world to them as it made them feel closer to home and that a friend was thinking of them. Letters of gratitude by the thousand proved that this gave men precious moral support, and some kept up a regular correspondence with these associations. At the ASA Central Depot and Club, soldiers were provided with rooms, and many made the Depot their headquarters whiletheconflictlasted.Lightrefreshments,tea,newspapers,etcwere provided free of charge, and the men could sit around in the lounge, or the Library, or start a conversation with fellow South Americans in the native Spanish they missed so much, all the while being made to feel at home. She thought about all this while staring vacantly into the garden. While Rodney walked back to the house rubbing his fingers on some mint leaves, he saw his mother watching him from one of the windows. She had not intended to allow Rodney to see her, but her attention had strayed. She never mentioned the occasion to him. Rodneywasnotawareyetofhowtheinterminablewarwaschanging her. Her list of priorities had been radically altered, and suddenly smoking did not seem so terrible.

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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, January 30th 1918. My dear old M. & D. Many happy returns of the day and I hope that for your next anniversary there won’t be any need to write. Bobby has not come round again since I last wrote but I expect him round again at any moment. I am going to try and get off one afternoon to go down and see him. I bagged my fifth a few days ago so am feeling rather bucked about it. I heard from Douglas Garrod a few days ago and he apparently has also joined the RFC but has not yet started to learn to fly. Today we are having a rest from flying at least for this morning as it is a very dud day; the last week we have been doing a lot of work so we are grateful for a rest. A few days ago I got into the town for the evening and got a much needed haircut as such luxuries are hard to get in the vicinity. In the barber’s shop I met a Rifle Brigade chap who looked at me for a few minutes and then asked me if I was the brother of Capt. C.J. - some family resemblance! On the 9th of next month I am due to go to a place in Kent for a week’s course on some subject or other, everybody in the Squadron goes in turn and I think it is intended for a rest more than anything else. While I am on the course I shall see if I can get off one evening to go and see Ada as she has been so kind to me since I have been out here. Jooste goes on leave next week so I am going to get him to try and send you a couple of RFC collar badges that I have been wearing for the last six months on my tunic. To my birthday present I shall try to include a cap badge if I can secure one to replace the one I will send you (compres?). I am sending you ones I have worn as they look a bit better than new ones, at least I think so. There is no more news for the present so Cheerio with love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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The last letter they had received from Tommy was when he was still on leave in London, but that had been in December. He must be back at the front by now. His letters were usually so cheerful, describing the minutiae of his life in the Front and referring to theirs back in Buenos Aires, and hardly a word about the dangerous hours he spent up in the air. They knew he was not allowed to talk about his job there, but they also guessed he preferred not to worry them with unnecessary facts. Abbie put away his last letter, and started cutting out a page from the Central Argentine Railway Magazine. Ever since Tommy had begun working at the FCCA at the age of fifteen, right after leaving school, they had subscribed to the Magazine. It contained general articles and information about employees and railway news. Now Tommy was away, they still bought it every month as there was a special section on Volunteers. In January’s edition, one of Tommy’s letters to the Magazine had been published, so Abbie was keeping it for him on his return. She had decided to keep every letter, article and photo of the boys as they would surely like to show their children and grandchildren all their memorabilia from the GreatWar. She read the bit on Tommy again before putting everything away: “Lieut.T. Colvill Jones, Royal Flying Corps, writes to say that he is at presentattachedtoasquadroninFrance,nearYpres,andhasthethrilling experienceofgoingoverthe“Hun”lineseveryday.Hesaysthatasfaras hispartofthelineisconcerned,theBritishflyingmenare“top-dog.”The weatherisprettybadattimes,buttheair-menhavetheadvantageover theinfantryinrespectofthefactthatwhentheformerhavefinishedtheir work,theycanretiretocomfortablequarters;whilethelatterarerelegated todug-outsintrenchesunderconstantshellfire.Hefurthersaysthathis squadronisafightingone,andranksamongthefirstthreesquadronsin the R.F.C. for the number of “Huns” brought down. Mr. Colvill Jones has himself had the excitement of bringing down hisfirst“duck”intheshapeofanenemymachine,thoughweregretthat heissomodestlyreticentaboutdetails.Headds,however,thathedoesn’t intend it to be the last. He continues: ‘Theanti-aircraftbatteriesaretermed“Archies”,andtheygiveusthe dickensofawarmreceptioneverytimewegoovertostrafeFritz;whenwe 178


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areflyinglow,weoftendiveonthemandfireatthemwithourmachine guns, and that puts what is called a ‘vertical gust’ up them. ‘Iwasverybuckedwhenmybrotherturnedupheretoseemetheother day;hewasoutofthelineforarest,andlookedO.K.withCaptain’spips on his shoulders and the M.C. ribbon on his tunic. ‘Thisparthasbeenveryactivelately,whatwiththe‘pushes’andother events,asyouwillseebythepapers.WheneverIgooverthelinesandsee thestatethegroundbelowisin,IfeelthankfulIdidn’tchoosetheinfantry, althoughatthesametime,oneveryoftenhearsthemsaythesamething about us.’ Well, he certainly was more thorough in his descriptions here than in his letters to her. She knew what a pilot was expected to do, the conditions of flying and more through articles and a couple of documentaries she had seen. Nevertheless, after receivingTommy’s letters which were so lacking in detail, she found it difficult at times to imagine her boy flying low and shooting at running men below, or trying to stay alive while being shot at from the ground. She read all the articles on flying in order to understand her son’s activities better, such as “How our airmen work”, or “Aerial operations”. Some described the difficult task of taking photographs before actually bombinganarea,theclevercamouflagingofstoresorhangarswhich were covered with trees and turf.Tommy had said his squadron was a fightingonesosheguessedhecarriedoutraids.Shereadaboutthisin theStandard:“RaidsarecarriedoutinSquadronformation,somachines approachtheirtargettogether.Ourairmendonothesitatetodescendinto severegunfire,andhavebecomeremarkablygoodshots,astheHunshave reasontoknow.Oneairmandescribeditasbeing“hellmultipliedbysix”. Fogsandmistshidethings,andaircurrentsandcrosswindsoftenspoila successful aim.With a craft travelling over 100 m/h great skill and care are necessary to hit an objective”. Her only consolation was that he did seem to be having a better timethanpoor Bobbywas. AlthoughBobbynevercomplained, lifein thetrenchesseemedtougherastheywerepersistentlyuncomfortable, wallowing in mud, and in danger of attack in the front line, while Tommy had to be on the alert only when he went on patrol during the day, or during the occasional bomb raid. Maybe Tommy was in 179


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less danger in the air than being on the ground, but the idea of flying thoseflimsycontraptionsatthosespeedsstillmadehershiver.Atleast hepossessedwhatthepapersdescribedas“thequalitiesofenterprise and daring necessary to the creation of a successful airman”.

Picadilly Hotel London W.1 February 2nd 1918. My dear old M. & D. What do you think of the address? I have just had grub here and am now writing a few lines to you before going to Victoria to take the train back to Bromley. I went to see “Cheep” the other night and paid a visit to old Hutchings, my former Dulwich house master; we talked such a lot about the chaps that had been in the house that I didn’t get away from there till quite late. Last night I went to see Douglas Garrod in Wimbledon as he had written to me while in France asking me to go and see him when I could; he has got a comm. in the RFC and is waiting to be sent to some training squadron. Garrod told me that he had seen Eric W…………… several times in mufti* at the Argentine Club so presumed that he had been discharged from the Army. On Sunday night I am going to the Palladium with another chap from the “20” and we are hoping there will be something decent on as we return to France the next morning. I got a postcard from Ada today to inform me that Maurice had got the measles after all in spite of the precaution of having taken him away from school when the plague broke out; I am going round to see her on Sunday as there won’t be time on Monday, my train going at 7.30am. They have started a new stunt now in the Army, awarding chevrons to wear at the bottom of the right sleeve for service overseas and I think it is quite a good idea in a way; for 1914 a red stripe is awarded and each year after that a blue stripe so Bobs ought to get three blue ones which is d--- good. This hotel seems to be a swagger place and no doubt costs 180


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people something to live here; all officers are luckily protected from being robbed at meals at these places by the War Office fixing a maximum price for them, for instance dinner 5/6, lunch 3/6 and so on, ¿no te parece buena la idea*? There is no more news for the present so Cheerio with much love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

The Great Southern Railway provided a night time express service to the coast every night, Sundays excepted, at ten o’clock from Plaza Constitución. The “Argentine Brighton”, as Mar del Plata was aptly dubbed,hadbecomesopopularthattheseextraservicesranallsummer long.The bookings for the evening Robert and family travelled were so considerable that three trains had to run at ten o’clock, and there were thirty-five sleeping cars for Mar del Plata alone. The family was stiff from the long journey, but they now felt it had been worth it after all.They stood near the breaking waves, enjoying the feel of the sandandthetasteofsaltintheair.Fortunately,theseabreezelessened the heat of the day, so they could go for a stroll without feeling faint under the afternoon sun. It was so lovely to get away in February from stifling Buenos Aires. Rodney and Nina had also been able to get away, so the family occupied the whole pavement as they walked up one of the steep streets of Mar del Plata towards their hotel. Harry and Evelyn raced each other to the top, although Harry allowed her to finish first. He was already losing interest in winning that kind of silly contest against his baby sister. Mar del Plata, Argentina’s favourite seaside resort, is situated 400 km from Buenos Aires and it was easily reached by the British built railway. Mar del Plata was rapidly becoming the fashionable resort for the important English 'colony' in the Argentine capital and the provinces. Many people at that time considered a sojourn at Mar del Platasuggestedanairofdistinctionandwealthwhichwouldimpress acquaintances.Socialetiquettedemandedthatfashionableclothesbe changedmanytimesadayfortheappropriateoccasion,andgenerous 181


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tipping, made the holiday more stressful than relaxing for those intent on being accepted by the closed set of the aristocracy. Others believed the place was harmful and pernicious to family life, as the attractionsoftheroulettewheelandcardgames,thetangoandother immoral dances at the Ocean Club, together with the mixed bathing arrangements were too tempting to resist.The new fashion for short bathingdresses,andthedisplayofpartsofthebodythatwereusually hidden, including the feet, was something that Abbie had not been witness to that day at the beach. Probably the more daring ladies preferred other beaches which did not have so many families. The mixed bathing arrangements suited Abbie and her family very well. Their hotel, Playa Chica, was in close proximity to the golf links, andhadasplendidbeachalmostexclusivelyforcustomers.Itcatered specially for English families, so they were not surprised to find many acquaintances stayingthereaswell. RobertandRodney wereinvited to play a round of golf by some friends, while the rest retired for a short siesta. They would then meet the others at the Bristol tea house, after which they would walk around on the rambla*.The four adults had the idea of paying a visit to the famous Mar del Plata Casino after dinner at the hotel. They had no intention of joining the roulette-playing adventurers, for decent people did not do that, but they thought viewing such a show would be a novelty. Aweekofrefreshingbeachweatherandleavingones’worriesbehind was just what Abbie and Robert needed.They had enjoyed a relaxing time, unlike those visitors who had aspired to be included in the right circles. The children were now ready to start school soon, especially Harry who was finally joining St. George’s as a boarder. Both parents were eager to get back and find some letters awaiting them.They had of course kept up with the latest news through the papers, so they knew all about Russia rejecting the absurdly impossible preliminary German peace terms in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, followed by the former’s declaration that the state of war was terminated, and their complete demobilization on all fronts. They read about all these setbacks to the Allies, but they chose not to discuss their implications whileonholiday.Theireldestboyshadnotbeenforgotten,theycould not be, but at least the change in surroundings had made the end seem nearer, the situation more hopeful. 182


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20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, February 3rd 1918. My dear old M. & D. Today I got two packets of papers from you for which muchas gracias and also a calendar from the Nelson’s with a postscript from you on the back. I hope the calendar means I am going to receive a mail soon because it was in your writing and I made a jump for it only to discover that it was a chunk of trash. I wrote the old things a very gushing epistle as requested. In a couple of days Bobs said he was coming round again to spend the day here and is bringing his Col. with him for a flip. I met his C.O. at the dinner I told you about in my last three days ago and he is a very decent chap and more like a 2nd Lieut. than a Col. I am all alone in my little hut just at present as Jooste has gone on leave today; I got him to take the badges I promised you and he is going to send them out to you by the registered post. In a week’s time I am due to go on this course in Kent for a week, but I can’t say I am very keen on going as I would sooner be out here with all these chaps I know; it is quite different of course for those chaps who have got homes there as they can always get over to see their people. I have been with this Squadron four months now and my time here ought to be up soon as nobody is supposed to do more than six months out here at a stretch and I am not looking forward to leaving here for a while in England. The FCCA sent me a number of their special magazines. And I found it quite interesting as I know plenty of chaps that they refer to; it also had the photo of Glasgow, my old boss who was killed. I have now got an Aviator’s Certificate which I managed to procure from the RAC for the price of one guinea; it is something after the style of a small libreta* and gives all one’s particulars and on the next page it bears the following inscription: “The Civil, Naval, and Military Authorities including the Police are respectfully requested to aid and assist the holder of this certificate” in six different languages among them being the good old lingo Castellano*; it may be useful to me when I get back as a proof that I 183


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can fly when they want me for conscription. That reminds me that I have heard nothing further about the solicitud I sent in to the Argentine Consul, but I expect it is alright. Bobs told me that he also got a parcel of cigarettes from Mrs. Pettit and I am giving him the address you gave me as hers, since he doesn’t know it. I hope that you are not wearing yourself out going to these bally fetes and other things of that description. There is no more news for the present; in my next effort I shall let you know about Bob’s visit. Goodbye with tons of love to all the familia From your ever loving son Tommy.

What a day! Perfect flying weather enticed men and their aeroplanes into the skies, after almost a week of rain and mist. Tommy and his observer Captain John Herbert Hedley* took off that morning with the buoyant feeling one gets when the sun shines on the world making it beautiful and peaceful all around. Not far over the German line a massive form darkened a huge area of the countryside below. A Kite- balloon! Never did they expect to see the perfectly cylindrical shape that hung in the air right below them. The formation made signs to each other and Tommy made a wide circle far above it. It was important not to be spotted, he knew, as the observation balloon could be pulled down in under a minute as it was tethered to a motorized winch. Tommy’s heart beat fast with the excitement as he swiftly studied the situation before acting, for he knew the‘sausage’, as the British so aptly called them, was never alone.They were always guarded by powerful artillery guns and heavy machine guns. From their current position it would be hard to be seen from the ground, and as the wicker basket containing the observers was under the sausage,theycouldnotbespottedbythemeither.Thewirelessset in their basket could be used immediately if they were seen. Getting near the kite balloon was quite straightforward; there 184


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they were flying above it as yet unobserved. Shooting it down was complicated,yetthetrickiestpartwasgettingaway.Apilotneeded to fly his aircraft near enough to the balloon to shoot at it, steer clearoftheartilleryandmachinegunfire,andmakesuretheywere well away from the balloon in case it burst into flames once the hydrogen interior was set on fire.Tommy assessed such things as altitude,windandpositionbeforedecidingtheyhadafairchance. He calculated the balloon was above 1,000 feet which meant they were in danger of being shot from the ground. They would have to act quickly after making their presence known in order to get at the balloon before it was pulled down. Although it seemed longer to Tommy, less than a minute had gonebybetweentheactualtimetheyhadspottedthesausageand when the British aeroplanes began their nose dive.This was it.The rhythmic staccato sounds coming from their guns barely audible with the sound of the wind rushing past them, the trembling of the whole aircraft as its engine was doing almost 200 km/h, the sudden swerve to the left and up as the balloon suddenly loomed on them, the constant beating sounds of other guns coming from somewhere else, a great ball of fire which burst next to them, the blindinglightandheatsocloseitseemedtheyhadreachedthesun. Tommy,onlymomentarilydisoriented,realizeditmusthavebeen a string of‘flaming onions’* fired by a German anti-aircraft battery below. One last try and they had to leave the area, it had become toohotforthemalready.Firingincessantlyintothesausagewhich was rapidly losing height, they felt it rather than saw it. As they rapidly moved up and away, they craned their necks to watch.The tight balloon shape becoming less taut and suddenly the flames bursting forth. Mesmerized, they gazed at the flames floating in the sky which started falling as in slow motion.Tommy wondered if the observers had made use of the parachutes in their baskets, but they had no time to stay and watch the ensuing destruction. HefeltJohnHedley’shandsqueezinghisshoulder,bothofthem bursting to talk about it all, yet unable to at that height. They decidedtoheadbackalthoughtheystillhadfuelleft,becausethey were not sure about the state of their bus after all the shooting theyhadenduredfromtheground.Itcouldhavebeenworse,they 185


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sawastheydescended.Oncetheyreachedbase,theybothstayed by their old bus while the sailmaker patched up the holes with squares of Irish linen and brushfuls of dope*, recounting their triumph to the other men who had gathered round to listen. After half an hour their aeroplane was as good as new, and ready to be used that same afternoon. After a light lunch and forty winks, Tommy and John Hedley were ready once more for takeoff. They were heading over the German line on an offensive patrol with other Bristol Fighters. Tommy’s mind was elsewhere, reliving the morning’s adventures and the sad news of his friend 2/Lt. Fred Miller’s* death from wounds received in action that same midday. Suddenly, a tap on his right shoulder made him look to his right. He looked down andspottedagroupofenemyaircraft.Fromabovehecouldclearly distinguish the black German cross painted on each wing. They weresingle-seaters,probablyAlbatros.Hehadneverencountered the enemy twice in a day before and he was not sure whether to take this as something lucky or a bad omen. His thoughts were pushed aside as instinct and adrenaline took over his brain. After a messy yet orderly ‘dog-fight’, in which each aeroplane knew what its target was and where the danger lay, Tommy’s aircraft separated from the melée to chase away a lone Albatros. The heavier Bristol Fighter had a stronger engine, so Rolls Royce overcame Mercedes, and the rounds of ammunition finally found theirtarget.Bothpilotandobserverwatchedtheaircraftplummet to the ground, and later overflew the area to find it lying in a heap of destroyed canvas, wood and metal. What a day! Perfect flying weather combined with perfect flying skills to make it unforgettable. Little did Tommy imagine at that time as he flew exultantly home that this would be his last victory flying the Dominica as a pilot of 20 Squadron for the RFC.

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Royal Bell Hotel Bromley, Kent. February 11th 1918. My dear old M. & D. I am at present in Blighty on the Course I told you about and billeted at the above address. I arrived in London on the 10th at 9pm and having nowhere to go went to Ada’s and luckily found them in; they were very surprised to see me and insisted on putting me up for the night in a bed with sheets and a hot water bottle. The next day I came down here to report and am still here; I return to the Squadron next Sunday or Monday so shall see Ada again before then. I have not advised the FCCA that I am here so on my return I hope to find a nice bunch of letters awaiting me from Hurlingham. This is not a bad place, though we have to go six miles in a tender to the place we work (?) at. It is not hard work at all and as a matter of fact they treat us very decently there and we can lounge around during lectures, there being no discipline whatsoever. Occasionally, we get into town so I have arranged with another chap from my Squadron to go and see a show tomorrow evening. There is no news here as we do nothing except get up at 7.30, have breakfast, go to the lectures, return for lunch, go back in the afternoon for further instruction, return for dinner, talk a lot after that meal and then go to bed. I shall let you know all about my trip to town tomorrow evening as we are hoping to have a gay time. Cheerio with love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

The Belgrano district was witness to the end of the Carnival festivities,whichtookplacewithgreatéclatontheeveningofSunday the 17th. Evelyn’s eyes looked enormous as she took in all the bright corsos* driving past, alive with people dancing rhythmically atop. Much to Abbie’s relief the pomo, or common squirt, and the water 187


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buckettowetbystanderswithwereconspicuouslyabsent.Abbiehad made the effort to attend the celebration this year for Evelyn’s sake, andasshewatchedherdaughter’sdelightsheknewithadbeenworth thetrip.Thereallywell-conceiveddressesattractedEvelyn’sattention as did the more weird costumes. A lady in pantalones* whose get up and colouring suggested she was a huevo frito*, earned the most laughs. Evelyn’s favourites were the Pierrots, or Pierettes, who in their sober black and white stood out among the more dazzling outfits. Some of the gauchos were exceedingly good and in one case a large cart had beenfittedupwitharealisticlittlerancho*uponit, overhung withsaucesorweepingwillowsandsurroundedbyamerrycompany ofgauchos*and‘gauchettes’.Evelynthoughtthegauchosshouldwin the prize for the most attractive corso*. The best part of the whole evening was that she was allowed to stay and watch it all, because she was older now and because order was maintained and the crowds’ behaviour was admirable. All the way back home, Evelyn talked about the Juvenile Fancy DressBallwhichwasnextSunday,andwhatcostumeshewouldwear. Certainly not a huevo frito. She asked her mother if she would be able to make a Pierrot outfit for her in a week. Of course she would get her own way, especially since Abbie knew how much she would miss her when she started school as a boarder at Cricklewood in a few days’ time.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. France, February 20th 1918. My dear old M. & D. Cheerio! I got some letters at last; one from Nina dated 27th Dec. enclosing a photo of herself and another of Evie’s. I was very bucked to find it awaiting me on my return to the Squadron last night. The photos are jolly good and Nina looks about fifty years older with her hair up, but in spite of that it looks “tres beans”. I went to see Ada again before coming over, but could not 188


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stop the night there as the kid had got measles. I heard the other day that Keen is out here but his Squadron is a good long way from here so there is not much likelihood of my seeing him. You people must be fearful nuts now that you drive round Hurlingham in a carriage and pair. Sorry to hear about poor old Bicho being ill, but hope he is O.K. again by now. I have not heard from Bobs since I went to Blighty on this course, so I don’t know if he is still out at rest or back in the line again. The weather is turning colder once more, worse luck, and we are expecting more snow soon. Shall write again in a few days time when there is some news. Goodbye with tons of love to all the familia From your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, February 24 1918. My dear old M. & D. I have received quite a bunch of letters from you for which muchas gracias; one from Dad (sent it to Bobs so forgot date), one from Mums dated Dec. 27th, Nina 8/1/18 and Evie Dec. 28th. Bobs also got some letters as he sent them on to me yesterday; he hopes to come round again in about three weeks time so I am looking forward to his visit. I am glad to hear that the photos arrived after all and apparently you are having difficulty in disposing of them in spite of the present of a kilo of tea with each copy. We had a concert here last night called “The Types” and I think I mentioned them about a month ago; anyhow it was a different programme last night and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Apart from that performance there has been nothing much doing here except flying. 189


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I heard from Dicky Reeves again and it took me an awful time to decipher his epistle as his calligraphy is not of the best. (D--- good words those) You asked if my flight commander’s score of 27 Huns was a record; it is a good way off as the record is claimed by a Hun called Richthofen who claims 62 machines, next come Ball and Bishop with 45, both British and then a chap called McCudden who has about the same and is still going strong. My flight commander’s score (Luchford) remained at 27 as he went “west” last December which was jolly hard luck on him as he was due for six months in England at the time. The best score in the Squadron at present is 11 and I come next with 8. Evelyn and Harry must have had a great time at Colonia and consider themselves vastly superior to all the rest of you now. I have not yet seen the FCCA Magazine that Nina speaks about in which they have dared to draw a caricature of my noble self- base valets! How are the people behaving that are in our house now? By the way, when is Evie putting her hair up and Harry getting into long trousers? I suppose those are both events in the very near future. The Earnshaws sent me some papers the other day, so in return I bought some butter from one of those farms and sent it to them by one of the chaps going on leave; I have not heard how it arrived, but expect even if it was bad it would be rather welcome. There is napoo news for the present so Goodbye with tons of love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Harry had already been sent off with his trunk from Hurlingham Station the day before. His eyes shone excitedly as he waved from the window, and Abbie’s also glistened with unshed tears.They were all so big now; Harry was no longer her baby boy. She would not see him until the first visiting day at St. George’s, and it seemed ages from now. Evelyn was leaving for Quilmes next week, but her parents would accompany her since she was starting at a new school. 190


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Cartoon of Tommy published in the FCCA magazine. (FCCA magazine1918-Railway Museum, Buenos Aires)

Evelyn skipped all the way back home, while her parents strolled arm in arm behind her. Once they got to the garden, they all went in different directions. Evelyn ran to get her tennis things, for she was meeting some friends at the Hurlingham Club, Robert ambled around the garden, nipping off dead heads, for he knew Abbie was feeling a little sensitive and would appreciate being left alone for a while. This was true, for she headed directly for the drawing room, picking up the mail on her way. There was a bulky letter from her friend, Ada Earnshaw. She was such a godsend to Abbie in a time like this. She knew she could rely on Ada to help her boys immediately if they needed anything material, advice, or even a warm meal and memories of home. Theletterwasquiteshort,butshehadaddednewspaperclippings that Abbie would find interesting, plus a page from the supplement of the London Gazette dated 9th January. It was Bobby’s MC citation. 191


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She read it eagerly, longing to know the full details which Bobby had been so vague about: T./2nd Lt. Robert Colvill-Jones, Rif. Brig. “Forconspicuousgallantryanddevotiontoduty.Withgreatskilland initiative he pushed forward his outpost line in daylight in full view of theenemy,andestablishedtheminshellholes,afterwardstakingouta strongpatrolbynightandestablishinganadvancedpostwithinforty yardsoftheenemy.Althoughseveralcasualtiesweresustained,hisobject wasattained,whichwasthatofobservation,andduringthewholeofthis periodhemadeseveraldaringreconnaissancesbydaylightinfrontofthe line, displaying great coolness and absolute disregard of danger.” She would naturally cut it out and keep it for Bobby. She reread it several times, feeling proud yet dazed by three things in particular. ‘In full view of the enemy’,‘several casualties’and‘absolute disregard of danger’were not statements she could associate with Bobby. His lettershomewereusuallysocheery,describinghislifeasbeingmildly risky, that she kept forgetting or choosing to disregard all she knew about the fighting. Evidently he was in peril every day, how could she forget? Her sadness over Harry leaving for boarding school was mitigated by Ada’s packet. She walked outside into the glaring sun and called Robert to share the news with him. He would be so proud, so she would not burden him with her trepidations.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. March 2nd 1918. My dear old M. & D. How do you like my latest style in handwriting? Tres bon. The reason for it all is that I scratched my right paw and the bally old doc. insisted on swathing the beastly thing up in bandages so this is the best I can do for the present; it is nothing to worry about as it will be OK in a few days. I have not heard from you since my last effusion but I am in hopes of getting a mail soon. A bloke called Masding* has addressed the envelope for me 192


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so I have promised not to say anything uncomplimentary about him even though it would very probably be true (he can’t hit me because of the bandage). There has been no flying today as it is snowing hard and looking like winter once more. I have not heard from Bobs for a few days but I expect he will come round shortly. Enclosed is a specimen of a French handkerchief which I hope you will receive alright. I am sorry this is such an uninteresting letter but there is absolutely napoo news here. How are all the kids getting on in their various spheres of industry? This has only taken me an hour to write, so it makes me think of copy book days at Mrs. Kealing’s. Love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, March 11 1918. My dear old M. & D. Merci very much for yours on your double birthday and for Evie’s of the 29th. You will be surprised to hear that I am due for leave on the 13th so leave the squadron for Blighty tomorrow; it has come as a surprise to me as I did not expect it for quite three weeks. One of the best chaps in our flight, a Canadian named McGoun*, as the senior pilot of the squadron has gone away to be flight commander in another British Fighter Squadron; he was one of the finest chaps here and we are great pals so I am jolly sorry he has gone, but at the same time glad he has got promotion; his going leaves me as senior pilot in the Squadron. I am going on leave with my flight commander who is a Canadian Major of about 26 years of age and one of the finest sports 193


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you ever met; he behaves just like a 2nd. Lieut. and we all rag him like anything. My going tomorrow has knocked on the head all ideas I had of going with old Bobs and I am very fed up with that; it isn’t possible to put off the leave to wait for him, because it is such an uncertain business that one has to take it when it comes round. I got a letter from Talena and another from Mrs. Lacroze; when you see them next, please thank them all and I shall answer them when there is some news to write about. The last couple of days have been quite fine so we all have basked in the sun (while it was out) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves till some blighters started throwing mud at us. I am going to shut up now as I am due for a show in a few minutes, but shall write again soon from Blighty. Cheerio with love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. Merci beaus for the Standards you have sent me lately.

20 Squadron R.F.C. B.E.F. th France, March 16 1918. My dear old M. & D. I have not heard from you for a few days but have received several Standards for which muchas gracias. As you observe my leave did not materialize after all, and the reasons are stated below. I am very sorry today that I am leaving this good old Squadron tomorrow and have been transferred to another squadron in quite a different part of the line as flight commander. That means that I have been promoted to Captain and I am very bucked over that part of it as I did not expect it so soon; the C.O. 194


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wanted to keep me here as I would have got a flight here in a few weeks but I have to go, y se acabó*. The chaps here are jolly fine and that is why I don’t want to leave, especially as it is the best Squadron in France. My new squadron is No. 48. They are standing me a feed tonight up in the village about three miles away so we ought to have a gay old time. I don’t expect I shall see old Bobs for some time now that I am shifting, but we may be able to manage leave together some day. I shall write again at length when I get to the 48 as at present they are keeping me busy filling in umpteen forms, etc, and after that I shall have to pack. Cheerio with love to all as usual from Your ever loving son Tommy.

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The rain poured down relentlessly, and had been doing so the wholeday.Tommywatcheddismallyfromhishut,bracinghimself tocrosstheaerodrometoboardhisplane.Everyoneranacrossitto their aircraft, which was really rather pointless, seeing they would getsoakedoncetheywereactuallyflying.Thatafternoon’soffensive patrol took off at three, Tommy in the F2b serial C4864. At 4,000 feet, the wind and speed blew the rain across the cockpit,makinggogglesblurryandfacesslimywithwater,snotand grease.Itwasnotapleasantexperience.Despitethepoorvisibility a German squadron of Albatros Scout was spotted at about 3,000 feet, and Tommy watched from the cover of the clouds to assess the situation. It was four in the afternoon and they were flying over the area of Croix, when the confrontation began. He dived on one of the enemy planes firing several long bursts from his gun at close range, while his observer, Second Lieutenant J. A. Galbraith*, fired a whole drum. After this surprise onslaught, the enemy aircraft was seen to turn over several times in the air and crash in a field about one mile south east of Monchy- Lagache. It was highly improbable that the pilot survived such a crash.There were other enemy aircrafts in the vicinity and the sky was a tangle of machines that crossed each other at top speed. Tommy saw two Bristols fall from the sky, and another German aeroplane. He could not identify which of his friends were in the fallen aircraft, but he prayed in desperation for their salvation when he saw they were his. They were on the Allied side of the lines, so once they managedtodispersetheGermanJasta,Tommyoverflewthefield to make sure the aeroplane he had shot at was indeed destroyed. The mangled remains looked out of place in the peaceful field, 199


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and Tommy preferred not to dwell on it too much as the sight below made him uncomfortable. It had been a tough dog-fight for Tommy, one of the worst in his career, especially when he got back and found out about his losses. 48 Squadron had lost three aeroplanes that afternoon, and the Germans two, maybe three*. This was his first victory as Captain in 48 squadron. His last one had been with the 20, at the beginning of February, so he had started to worry that his luck had changed. Obviously it had not, and he hoped to have as many victories in this new squadron as in the last. He also hoped to make as many good friends, since he missed his old band of pilots and crew dearly. They had become his substitute family for the duration of the war. Captain David McGoun from Montreal had been one of his best friends in the 20, but he had left for 22 Squadron as flight commander a few weeks earlier. They had arrived and left the Squadron at almost the same time, and still kept in touch. Tommy seemed to have a special affinity towards Canadians, maybe due to his father’s origin, for he had also been great pals with one of his flight commanders, Major Jim Dennistoun*, whom he was planning on going on leave to London with recently. 2nd Lt Stanley Masding, neither Canadian nor one of Tommy’s observers while at the 20, had nonetheless been a good friend as had been Danford Jooste. This South African had been very close to Tommy, since they had sharedahutas wellasmanystoriesfromtheirsoutherly countries. Danford had also attended Dulwich College for a time, although he was older thanTommy and his memories were not as positive. How he missed joking about the wine business Jooste had left behind; or the way they would reverently stare in awe at Jooste’s dentedsilver cigarettecase, whichhadsavedhisheartfrom being perforated during a‘dog-fight’, while they conversed late into the night.Tommypromisedhimselftovisitthemallsoonwhenthings calmed down a bit. The weather improved slightly, meaning the rain relented for a few days, and so did Tommy’s disposition towards his new Squadron. His new Commanding Officer, Major H S Shield*, earned his full respect and the young pilots welcomed Tommy like a long lost friend. He was even acquainted with a handful of 200


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young men who had also been transferred from the 20 to the 48, a common occurrence since both squadrons flew Bristol Fighters. Only two days later, while on another offensive patrol of four Bristols, Tommy and his observer for the day, Lt. D Wishart-Orr*, happened upon some German machines east of Ham. This time they were LVG*, which a Bristol Fighter could outdistance easily. This type of German aircraft flew with the Flieger Abteilung (FA), therefore the combat was not with a German Jasta but with a bomber, reconnaissance or photographing squadron for the artillery. His aircraft positioned into a dive while his observer fired half a drum, Tommy then fired 150 rounds into one of the LVGs at close range as they gained upon it rapidly. It was a sure hit as the aeroplane before them fell into a vertical dive and crashed to earth nose first just east of Ham. The victory was decisive, for one of the other pilots on the same patrol, Lt. J E Drummond, reported having seen the machine crash. Jack Drummond was a twenty-one yearoldpilotwho also camefromabroad, aCanadian from Ontario. This second victory in 48 squadron would certainly quell any doubtsastoTommy’slackofageandexperienceasflightcommander. He had nine confirmed victories to his name at the moment in five months’active service only, some of which he had spent on leave in England. He was speedily becoming a young hero, and would probably be awarded a well-earned medal at this rate. As he headed back to his hut, he thought longingly of all the comforts he had left behind at his old squadron. He had made his humble abode feel like home, whilst in the 48 he had not had the chance to do so yet for the squadron had moved repeatedly sinceTommy’s arrival.The Germans had begun a major offensive on the Western Front on March 21st, and by nightfall 17 RFC squadrons were forced to evacuate airfields in danger of being overrun by oncoming enemy forces. Tommy had been driven to his new squadron in Flez on 17th March, and early on the 22nd they had moved to a new location in Champien. That same afternoon Tommy had destroyed his first enemy aircraft in 48 Squadron. Now, two days later, they had moved again to an aerodrome in Bertangles, and again Tommy had destroyed another German 201


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aeroplane in the afternoon. He began to see a pattern here, although he wished to be settled in one place rather than being shifted around and living out of his bag. He rather hoped to stay at Bertangles,since theaerodromewasintopconditionandso were the living quarters. His life seemed doomed to uncertainty the following week as the squadron saw two more moves and a change in leadership to boot. On the 28th they had moved to Conteville which lay further from the front line, but much to Tommy’s delight they returned to the aerodrome near the village of Bertangles on the 3rd April. Apparently, the squadron was there to stay, save for their Commanding Officer. He had been granted an extended rest in England, so the men were warily waiting for their new leader to make an appearance. Tommy and his two room-mates were assiduously making the most of scraps and bits left lying around the aerodrome to equip their hut as comfortably as they could. They knew their nomadic days were over for some time. When the German offensive had opened a few weeks ago, 48 Squadron had been detailed to carry out low flying patrols and to bomb and shoot up enemy troops and transport.This work had been accomplished all the time the squad was retiring, and not a single patrol was missed on account of the moves. The air force insisted each day on this low flying patternastheGermansweregettingdiscouragedbythecontinued pressurefromabove.Theresoluteattackscarriedoutbynumerous squadronswereultimatelyrewarding,astheGermanadvancehad waned, proving for the first time that large-scale use of air power was a deciding factor in the outcome of a conflict. He might not beascosilyensconcedasbefore,butknowingthevalueofhisdaily exertions carried great weight with Tommy.

Easter Sunday fell on March 31st. After attending the children’s service at eleven, the whole family walked back home. It was lovely to be together again, including Nina and the younger ones who had been let out of school that long weekend. Abbie felt more optimistic thanshehadinweeks;sheevenforgotforawhileabouttheimportant 202


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German push which kept appearing in the news. She was sure her boys were involved in it one way or the other, since it was such a massive affair. Whenever she was alone she fell prey to her misgivings, but not when she was surrounded by chatter and activity. After a boisterous lunch, they all made the most of the beautiful autumn day. While she sat on a blanket, the remaining members of her family played a game of croquet on the back lawn. In her role of observer, her thoughts unwillingly turned to the latest stories on the German offensive initiated ten days earlier. Apparently General Hindenburg had at last decided to launch his big attack, which was carried out on a formidable scale with numerous artillery and great masses of men. The attack per se did not surprise the Allies but its enormity did. Germany was counting on their superior numbers in the Western Front, plus the mobilization of troops from the East to the West to inflict a devastating blow on their enemy. They felt they must act before the United States troops were ready to perform en masse, so that meant before the summer of 1918. Thedailyreportsontheincreasingviolenceofthe“GreatestBattlein theWorld”always left Abbie feeling distracted the rest of the day.The previous day, aerial squadrons had launched 900 bombs, destroyed 16 enemy aircraft and put 6 others out of action. During the night, BritishaviatorshadbombardedtheBrugesdocksandtheareawestof Tournai. Only three of their own aeroplanes were missing. Only three they said when one was enough. She was so tired of the monstrous battles with her boys described as“fighting tigers”. She would much rather have them playing some harmlesscroquetinsteadofknowingthemtobeindanger.Shewould never admit to such an unpatriotic idea, and she had not thought this way a few years ago, but it had been too long. The destruction, the “victories”, even King George’s congratulations were no longer appealing.AbbiethoughtofthepoorinhabitantsofBrugesandother bombedcitiesandtheirdireEastercelebrations,iftheyhadhadanyat all. Making an effort to shake off her gloom, she stood up and joined the others, for that was the only way to escape her dismal musings. Sheremindedherselfhowfortunateshewastohavemostofherloved ones far from that raging hell, in that land of plenty. 203


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48 Squadron Royal Flying Corps B.E.F. France, April 5th 1918. My dear old M. & D. Merci beaucoup for the bunch of letters I recd. day before yesterday from you- Dad’s of Feb 4; Nina’s of Dec. 17; Harry’s of Dec 20. Nina’s letter as you see only took 3½ months to get here! We have shifted again since I last wrote and though we are closer to the line this time, we are in a more comfortable place; here we are three of us in one hut and we are making the place a little gin palace; we pinched a stove from the sergeant major when he was out looking after the troops and we are now getting electric light fitted in and we hope to have it going strong tonight. Yesterday afternoon I managed to get another Hun, which crashed this side of the lines. Our C.O. has gone to Blighty for a rest, so we are expecting somebody soon to take over the Squadron and wonder if he will be as decent as our late Major. The weather is still pretty dud but we have plenty of flying to do just the same; yesterday it was raining the whole time we were up and it is no bon flying in rain. Napoo news for the present so Cheerio with tons of love to all the familia from Your ever loving son Tommy. P.S. Enclosed a letter from Bob. T.

Tommy addressed the envelope absentmindedly, while he recalledyesterday’sexcitingdog-fight.SecondLieutenantWHart* and Tommy had flown together among a group of five Bristol Fighters cruising approximately at 3,000 ft. Suddenly, while in 204


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the vicinity of Villers-Brettoneaux on their side of the line, Hart perceived a German patrol of ten Albatros DVs below them so he tapped Tommy on the head. Tommy calculated the number of enemyaircraft,theiraltitude, typeandspeed, theangleof thesun, and in a split second knew what to do. Like any good predator, he singled out his prey from the pack. He dived on one out of the ten machines and fired two long bursts into it from his front gun. The hostile aeroplane was hit because it immediately nose dived towardsthesouthemittinghugequantitiesofdarksmoke.Tommy then lost sight of it, but it was seen to crash by one of the other pilots. A general scuffle followed. He almost collided in mid-air withanotheraircraft,whenherealizedthatanAlbatroswasdiving onto his tail. This machine was driven off by a Bristol Fighter, which was then attacked in the rear, and forced to abandon the combat before more damage was done to it. A hostile machine was hit by Tommy’s observer and spun round several times, but apparentlyflattenedoutandescapedbeforereachingtheground. Finally,theenemymachinesweredrivenawayandtheirformation broken. British pilots knew that LVGs* were widely used for reconnaissance and light bombing missions, so they were quite content with simply ousting them from their territory, so they could do no more harm on their side of the line. It was early and they still had many hours of endurance left, so thepatrolwentonwiththeirworkofharassingtheGermantroops below. This job proved to be of considerable help to the Allied infantry, and the airmen knew the casualties inflicted plus the moral effect of such an assault on the enemy were all they could wish for. Given that Tommy’s aircraft had hardly been harmed he also kept on with the offensive mission. Any close encounter with the enemy left both pilot and observer with raw nerves, so after two more hours of icy rain which felt like hailstones on his cheeks, Tommy was thankful to head westwards back to the place he now called home.

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48 Squadron Royal Air Force B.E.F. France, April 8th 1918. My dear old M. & D. Today I received another packet of letters from you for which muchísimas gracias; Dad’s of Feb. 20 & 26, Nina’s of Feb. 19th and a couple of Standards. Thanks very much for the duplicate of the solicitud you sent me; it is very similar to the one I presented to the Consul in December. I shall wait till I go on leave in order to get the London Consul to witness my signature. It is jolly kind of Uncle George to think of giving me anything at all and I don’t know that I can thank him enough for such a huge present. I am writing to him by the same mail as this, at least it ought to go at the same time. I am jolly glad to hear that you went down to Mar del Plata after all and hope you had a good time down there. The war is still going on down here and we are still on the troop strafing job. The weather has taken a turn for the better which is some consolation after the seedy stuff we have had of late. Thank Nina, Rodney and Harry very much for their birthday presents and wish them many happy returns of the day. If I can borrow a pen I shall write out that letter to the manager of the Banco Británico* and enclose it with this letter. Excuse the pencil, but the chap that I lent my pen to the other day went west with it on him. The RFC and the RNAS Service have now been combined and we go under the name of the RAF as you will notice in my address. Our uniform is to change also, but it is not to be compulsory till we have worn out our present togs, as nobody likes the idea of being the RAF instead of the RFC. I hear that my recommendation has gone in for the M.C. but it may never come through. In one of your letters you said that Georgie was leaving the next day to come and join the RAF, so I am wondering if he is in London now and if I shall get my leave in time to see him. The electric light in this little room is now working fine and we have made a marvellous contraption by means of which we can put 206


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the light out when we get into bed. We don’t get our mails very regularly out here as things are all upset owing to the war. There are no villages or towns to go and feed in round here, for though we are close to a big town there is nobody left there to give us a meal. Where is Rodney going to get a job now that he has left the London & Lancashire? Somebody told me that they knew a chap from BA called Rosenberg who was killed out here and the description sounds very much like your Hun pal; did he come over here after all? I have not heard from Bobs again since the letter I sent you, but hope to hear soon. Nina seems to be working away jolly hard in this Wheat Comm. and the things she likes best are the paper weights and calendars. There is no more news for the present except that I am in the pink as usual. Cheerio with love to all the growing familia from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Strand Palace Hotel London W.C. 2 April 13th 1918. My dear old M. & D. I expect you will be rather surprised to get this letter from London, but the reason is that the wonderful happened and I got my leave after all. I was suddenly called to the orderly room and the C.O. asked me if I would like my leave though instead of being the usual fourteen days clear in England it would be a week away from the Squadron, which means only four clear days over this side of the pond. I jumped at the chance as leave is so hard to get nowadays and it may be stopped again at any time. Today is my third day here and tomorrow the last so I am making the best of my time. I went round to the FCCA and asked old Smithers if he had heard anything about Georgie having arrived and his answer was in the negative; he then rang up the Nelson Line for me to ask them if G. had 207


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arrived on the Rover and to our surprise they said it had been in a week and G. had been a passenger on board. The address he left with them was c/o Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation so I trotted round there only to find that he had gone off the day before to Malvern without leaving any address. I sent a wire to him at the College and wonder if it will ever reach him; I told him to come down and see me before I return, so I am now awaiting results. The chap I came over with from the squadron is quite a decent sort of bloke by the name of Beales and we have had an amusing old time together so far. We have seen three shows (one matinee yesterday) all of which have been absolutely OK; the three are “The Bing Boys on Broadway”, “Arlette” and “Nothing but the Truth”; they are all funny pieces in which you can laugh all the way through. We have grubbed at most of the swell places and in going round the town I have seen quite a lot of the chaps in the RAF that I have met over in France before. I have not been to see the Earnshaw family nor intend to this time as my days are far too short for that. My rank came through the Gazette a few days ago so I am no longer an Acting Captain, but a temporary one for the duration. I am not actually stopping at this hotel, but at another place quite close by as all the decent large hotels in London seem to be full up just at the present time. I hope there will be some letters at the FCCA from you when I go along there today. There is no more news for the present so I shall now finish with the usual tons of love to all the familia From your ever loving son Tommy.

The date of the Annual Sports Day held at St. George’s College was immovable. It took place every year on St. George’s day, 23rd April, which fell on a Tuesday that year. The train left Plaza Constitución at 12:15, arriving in Quilmes shortly afterwards. Robert and Abbie were the only ones of the family able to attend; they would not have missed it for anything. Robert believed sports to be an integral part of 208


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ayoungperson’seducation;Abbieagreed,butshewasmainlythereto see her son whom she missed so much. The grounds covered five hectares so there was ample room for games.Thecollegewaslocatedontheedgeofahighlandoverlooking the River Plate which was just over a mile away. The murky river had made parents express their concern as to the cleanliness of the water, buttheschoolassuredthemthewatersupplywaspure.Thebuildings, which included a chapel, pavilion, big school, and laundry among others, were now full of visitors walking in and out, few of whom spoke Spanish. Harry conversed rapidly as he dragged his parents past the swimming bath and the two gravel tennis courts, wanting to showthemthechangessinceRodney’stime,beforethesportsactually started.Theydidnotspeaktohimagaintillthreewhenteawasserved, and at half past five when it was time to leave. Harry seemed well and at home with the demands of the school by now. His parents could tell they were sadder than he was when he saw them off, for he quickly joined a group of his classmates who were capering about on their way to the dorm. Well, at least that was one child less to worry about, thought Abbie. She had been worried sick about the two eldest with all this news about the German assault thesepastweeks.WheneversheheardaboutthenewsfromtheFront, especially the statistics given in the papers, she shuddered to think one of those numbers could be Bobby or Tommy. In the twelve days of German attack, 1,250,000 shots had been fired. Had any of those million bullets found their mark in the body of her sons? 192 enemy aircrafthadbeendestroyed,95wereconsideredoutofcontroland78 Allied machines had been lost. Was Tommy “lost” among them? Her husband’s comforting hand gave hers a squeeze as he helped her board the train. She smiled reassuringly as he told her they would be back soon to see Harry. It was not Harry she was upset about. She dared not correct him about the real cause for her preoccupied demeanour. There was little he could say to soothe her on that account.

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He had arrived back from England ten days ago, renewed with the rest and the change of scene. Tommy was amazed at how quickly he adapted to civilian life once he was in London, almostforgettingthewar.Andduringtheweekshewasfightingin France all he could think of was the weather, scores, coordinates, take off, landing. The numerous letters and newspapers from Argentina provided brief interludes in his life as an aviator. Then he remembered who he was, where he came from, and most importantly what he was sacrificing a first-rate life for. When thehardshipand homesicknessbecamehardto endure, eventhe noblest of hearts faltered in their determination. At least the hardship up in the air was lessening, as the spring sun was becoming stronger. It was still a far cry from spring back athome,butconditionswereimproving.TheairfieldatBertangles was very comfortably set up, despite its proximity to the front line, soTommywasnotcomplainingasregardsaccommodation.Itwas sadtoseethelittlevillagealmostdevoidoflifeowingtothenearby fighting, especially on an overcast day. The afternoon of the 23rd April was cloudy but at least it was dry. Second Lt. J M J Moore* and Tommy boarded their machine at five minutes to two. Their mission was the same as it had been lately, to perform low level attacks against enemy targets causing chaos and disruption. To guaranteetheirvictorytheAlliedforceshadkeptupthedestructive attacksuponGermanlines,evenaftertheenemy’sfutilefinaleffort at Villiers-Bretonneux on April 11th. Abouttwohoursaftertakeoff,BristolFighterB1126encountered the enemy west of Bray. Tommy saw it was not an Albatros this time, but he was not sure which aircraft it was. Then he realized it was a Pfalz D.III, which had added many victories to the German Air Service score. Compared to his plane, the Pfalz D.III was not a grand fighter, but it was very fast in a dive so he knew he had to keep hidden until the last moment. They opened fire on the unsuspectingmachineatcloserangeuntiltheGermanwasdriven down out of control. Although the enemy aircraft in this case had not been completely destroyed, making a machine lose control in this way was also credited as a score to the person responsible for it. They stopped firing at it the moment it started spinning, 210


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foritwasconsideredunsportingandungentlemanlybehaviourto continueshootingatafallingenemy,evenifsometimesthismeant they got away in the end. On his return, Tommy jumped down from his old bus and took off his goggles and helmet, which had left his hair moist with perspirationdespitethechillintheair.Ashewashedandchanged, he became conscious of the frayed condition of his uniform but pretended not to notice. He did not feel like wearing the new uniforms being issued, as he would feel unfaithful to the old RFC. Now that they all formed part of the Royal Air Force since April 1st, the spirit of loyalty towards the RFC had grown stronger, and pilots regarded the new arrangements with suspicion. Nothing much had changed for them except their name; however they did not want to relinquish their old clothes so as to preserve their identity and distinguish themselves from the RNAS. He whistled a war tune on his way to the mess. He felt pleased with another victory to his name yet he had an unshakable feeling that things couldchangeatanymoment.Theluckierhisfortune,thestronger the feeling; more so after what had happened at the village the previous day. Two days earlier rumours had reached the aerodrome thatVon Richthofen, known as the Red Baron owing to the colour of his Fokker triplane, had been shot down near Peronne not far from theirairbase.Thoserumourswerelaterconfirmed,althoughthere were controversial discussions about who was to be credited for the victory. Captain Arthur Brown, leading a patrol of British RE 8s and Camels, had indeed been involved in a dogfight with the Red Baron. But at the same time, the Australian Lewis gunners of the 14th Artillery Brigade also claimed the victory. The fact was that he was dead. He could no longer wreak havoc among the British and French forces; he could no longer add more and more victories, or lives, to his list. According to some, he claimed around 80 victories, one of whom Tommy knew was a volunteer from Argentina like himself. While in 20 Squadron he had been told about Norman McNaughton*, an employee at an estancia in the province of Entre RĂ­os, who had been killed in action by Von Richthofen. The aviator from Argentina had been an observer in 211


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the 20, and Tommy felt a sense of loss at not having met him, as everyone at the aerodrome spoke highly of him. He would have enjoyed having a volunteer from his country flying as his observer. Yesterday, 22nd April, Von Richthofen had been buried with military honours, with British pallbearers and an Australian honourguardintheBertanglesCemetery.Tommyhadbeenflying at the time, but he had been told about the funeral by some of his companions. The Royal Australian Flying Corps had prepared a cortege which carried the coffin in a car to the Cemetery. There, Reverend George H Marshall from the 101 Squadron RAF led the service. As the body was interred, the guard presented arms and gave the deceased his final salute. After a minute’s silence thewreathbearersplacedthebeautifullypreparedflowersonthe coffin. Tommy walked quickly towards the Cemetery gates, the dry mud crunching under his boots. It was located very near the aerodrome. He recognized the grave immediately, for the freshly turned earth was piled high with wreaths, the flowers sprinkled with frost. They were still beautiful. He read the name on the cross, and said a short prayer for this young man who had lost his life. Von Richthofen the invincible lay beneath the earth; it could very well be him one day, lying alone under foreign soil. Or would he become the bane in the life of German airmen, such as this man had been to them? He walked away feeling surprisingly sad. He had always talked disparagingly about the‘Huns’as they all did, yet he realized he felt no hatred towards this man. The visit to his wrecked aircraft did not help to lift his spirits. His crimson triplane was being held in custody at 3 Squadron AFC’s airfield. Souvenir hunters had virtually stripped it bare by this time. A group of men casually chatting and smoking around the ruined machine, forgetting a man had died in it, made Tommy feel low and callous.This death was not his fault, but he had been responsible for others. He lit a cigarette as he headed back in the fading light, thinking that writing a letter home would make him feel better. He would not write about the Red Baron, maybe some otherday.Alreadycomfortedbythethoughtofhome,hesprinted 212


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thelasthundredmetrestotheaerodrometryingtoescapethechill and darkness enveloping him.

It was Thursday, April 25th. Abbie was pruning the flowerbeds, humming to herself. Her carefree feelings had become infectious throughoutthehouse,asboththemaidandherhusbandthegardener went about their jobs singing their own cheerful tunes. She had reason to be in high spirits. She had received a bunch of letters from both her boys, she had finally recovered from a nasty cold, Rodney seemed to be doing well at work, and her other children had adapted quickly to boarding school.The newspapers spoke about the end of the German offensive, and the superiority of the Allies in theWestern Front. She should probably also be glad about the death of the most famous German aviator Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, but she did not have that kind of heartlessness in her. She knew the Germans deemed him the incarnation of the invincible German war machine, but they knew better now that their hero had fought his last battle. It was too bad that such a worthy warrior had been on the opposing side. She was pleased to learn from the paper that he had died an instantaneousdeath,andthathehadbeenburiedwithhonours.That kind of courteous behaviour among enemies made her feel more benevolently towards the war. While she pruned the rose bushes she said a little prayer for this particular young man’s soul and family.They must be devastated. As soon as she thought that, she cried out in pain. As in a trance, she stared at the dark drop of blood which formed on her finger and fell onto her white apron. Time stood still, and it was not until several drops had marred the pure cloth that she reacted. She licked the wound, disliking the tinny taste of blood. She sat down heavily on the grass, she felt faint.The sight of blood had never done that to her before. Today she could not bear it. Her cheerfulness was gone, her singing was silenced.

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48 Squadron Royal Air Force B.E.F. France, April 25th 1918. My dear old M. & D. It seems like centuries since I last heard from you, but I am looking forward to some mail soon. I heard from Bobs a couple of days ago and he is O.K. tho’ feeling very fed up over the death of the Col. who was a jolly fine chap; Bobs is somewhere down this way now so I am looking forward to running across him one of these days like we did when we were in another part of the line. His leave ought to materialize pretty soon as he has been expecting it for some time now. We have been very busy round here lately, in spite of the dud weather, as this bally push is still going on. I shot down another Hun day before yesterday so my score is now double figures at last. We are quite comfortable in this place and getting settled down, so we are all hoping that they won’t shift us away in a hurry. I heard from Keen a short while ago and he is getting on OK and not so very far away from here. There is a chap in this Squadron who comes from Bahía Blanca, by the name of Muirden, and so I am getting a chance of rubbing up my native lingo. Did I tell you that I saw the Argentine Consul whilst on leave and he told me that it was quite unnecessary to put in another solicitud as the one I put in some time ago in December will do quite alright; he told me Bobby’s solicitud was granted alright with that of Eric Withington. There is no more news for the present so Cheerio with love to all the familia From your ever loving son Tommy.

The letter was left in a tray to be posted that day, minutes beforeTommy headed for his aeroplane. It was already four in the afternoon, and Air Mechanic 1st Class Fred Finney, his observer, 214


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was eagerly waiting for him. Fred felt great admiration for all pilots, especially for young Tommy who was a hero to him.Today was Fred’s birthday, and they were planning a special celebration at the aerodrome as soon as their mission was concluded. A celebration which would never take place for they were not to return that evening. That was the last time either would set eyes onthisaerodrome.Theyflewunsuspectinglywiththeirformation into the afternoon sun. Bristol Fighter B1126 was last seen diving down to attack some enemy aircraft at 8,000 feet, overWiencourtl’Equipée.

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It was ages since they had last received a letter from Tommy. They were sure to receive a whole bunch of them together, but that was no comfort. Letters were addressed to Robert’s office in the city, and he wouldbringthemhometothefamily,sometimesreadingthemthere, and other times leaving them unopened so they could read them together as a special treat. She had read in the Herald that letters for Argentina had been lost at sea, sunk by U-boats. Apparently, all mail bags dated 27th March to 4th April had been lost due to enemy action. She could not bear the thought of her sons’letters lying unread on the ocean floor, but that could account for the dearth inTommy’s letters. That evening she received Robert at the door, her eyes asking him if there were any letters from the boys. Yes, one from Europe, but she sawitwasinBobby’shandwriting.Yetagain, nothingtoday from dear old Tom. Her chatter and her heart stopped abruptly as Robert handed the telegram to her in grave silence, guiding her by the elbow into the empty dining room. She had been feeling very restive of late, and the paper in her hand seemed to burn through her skin.This was it.What she had most feared all these years. It had finally happened. Her boy was missing in action. Some days later, she received a short letter from dear Bobby who had heard about the news earlier than they had. Abbie’s anxiousness was eased a little by her eldest son’s words.

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B.E.F May 18th 1918. Dear M & D, I have just heard the rotten news about poor old Tom. I feel quite sure that he is a prisoner and have written to the C.O. of his Squadron and also to the War Office to find out anything they can. We must not expect to hear from him for some time as these things take an awful time to come through. I’ve also written to Ada and asked her to do all she can. I’m so awfully tied down here and feel rather helpless at not being able to do anything. As soon as I hear anything I shall wire to you at once. Don’t forget that there is a very big chance of his being quite safe as a prisoner. Love, Bobs.

A pair of weary dark eyes turned towards the window, trying to forgetthethrobbingpain.Hecouldhearthehumofdistantaircraft from where he lay, a sound which comforted him, as did the heavy breathing of someone sleeping by his bedside.The black sky was slightly tinged with dark blue as the night wore on. He felt the weightofsomeone’sheadmakinganindentationonthemattress nearhisrighthand,andrememberedthedoctormurmuringwords to him during the night whenever he had stirred. The pain began receding as gently as the moon shone down through the trees. He recalled those words by da Vinci which he shared so wholly now: “When you have tasted flight, you will foreverwalktheearthwithyoureyesturnedskyward,forthereyou have been and there you will always long to return.”His eyes were drawn skyward trying to catch sight of an aeroplane, of the action he would not be joining. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift up into the night, as he softly whispered “Per Ardua ad Astra*”.

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Life continued.The children busy at school, Church every Sunday, tennis matches won and lost, daily train rides to and from town, newspapers describing decisive victories which would soon put an endtothewar(thesamenewstheyhadbeenreadingforyears),leaves scatteredalloverthegardenandsweptupthenextday,conversations about corruption in the government over tea and scones. But it had stopped, suspended in mid-air, in Abbie’s heart. She floated through the house, automatically tending to the garden, her family and her chores. She carried on gracefully receiving any gifts of antiques or curios for the stall at the British Red Cross Bazaar which was next month. She knitted, cooked, wrote letters for the cause.Yet hereyesandearswereelsewhere.Shedreadedhearingthefrontdoor being opened by Robert each evening for he might be the bearer of black rimmed letters or short final telegrams. She kept reading over Bobby’s encouraging words “I am absolutely sure that he is alright and that he is a prisoner”, or “I only wish that I could be with you to tell you how sure I feel about it.” What made it all more real was seeing the articles in the Standard and the Herald and the railway magazine.The magazine had written some sweet words aboutTommy, but what had frozen her heart was the use of the past tense! “In former days Captain Colvill Jones was wellknowntoandjustlyesteemedbyahostoffriendsinBuenosAires, especiallyinlawntenniscircles,ofwhichgamehewasanardentexponent, andwearesurethatallwilljoinintheheartfelthopethattheanxietyand suspensewhichclingabouttheambiguousword‘Missing’willspeedily berelievedbythewelcomenewsthatheissafeandwell,eventhougha prisoner of war.” Oh, she wished Bobby were here as he said in his letter. On the other hand, he might be able to help in some way being over there. As she wascarefullyputtingawaythepileofpapersandmagazines,sheheard Robert calling out her name from the hallway. His tone was different. Was that excitement she heard in his voice? Or was it anxiety? Next, it all happened in a rush. His words, almost unintelligible in their hurry, Bobby’s letter which began with the words“Hurrah!”, her gaspasshesuddenlyrememberedtobreathe,hertearsasshecarried on reading. He was alive, a prisoner of war in Germany, only slightly wounded but very much alive. Hurrah indeed. 221


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Having feared the worst for some time now, learning one’s son was a prisoner of the dreaded enemy seemed like a minor setback. Over thenextfewweekstheyreceivedencouragingreportsabouttreatment ofprisonersinGermany.AdaEarnshawwasalsoreceivingnewsabout Tommy in England, and everyone seemed very positive about his quick recovery and liberation. She reread Bobby’s last letter, as she dreamt of maybe fetchingTommy themselves or nursing him back to health here at home. Bobby had written: “Prisoners in the RFC are treated far better than the ordinary cove so Tom will be alright. I believe that there is an arrangement now that no officer or man is to be kept as a prisoner for longer than eighteen months. At the end of that time, they are sent to a neutral country, Switzerland generally. I haven’t heard from Tom myself yet, but letters from Germany take ages to come through. I know two officers who are prisoners in Germany and they seem to have quite a good time. They’ve sent me a photograph showing me their tennis court; they are allowed to walk about the town with an orderly.”

She was certain they would soon be receiving a letter fromTommy as he was sure to have thought of home first of all. He had sent Ada and Bobby a post card, where he had marked“slightly wounded”and signed in his own writing, so at least his right arm must be unharmed. Thank God, as he would be devastated without his tennis. She hoped he would be able to carry on playing; he might even get the chance to play while a prisoner, if he was in a place similar to the one Bob had described. Bobby was the one who might have trouble running with his wounded leg. Well, they would have to wait and see once the boys were back. She could not help wondering where Tom had been wounded, whether his plane had been shot down or he had been forced to land, if his observer had lived. He must be so lonely and homesick without any news from the family to comfort him. He might have made friends, though.The lack of information was cruel on her nerves. Later, Abbie stared at the white clad garden outside the drawing room window. It had snowed yesterday, a unique event in Buenos Aires. At least this meant her sons were most likely warm.The mantle 222


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of silence outside made the house seem even quieter. The groans from old floor boards and the ticking of the grandfather clock were so familiar by now that they did not interrupt the stillness, they were part of it. She turned away impatiently from the serene garden. The impotence of not knowing was gnawing at her, and at times she resorted to drinking something strong to fortify her. The August supplement of the railway magazine included a few lines about dear Tommy. She kept this cutting for him as well as for herself as the last words were encouraging ones: “we hope that his wounds are not serious and that the day may not be far off when a complete and final reversion of the fortunes of war will restore him to liberty and civilization.” She also found an article which Tommy would find interesting as it was about kind Mr. Smithers, who had taken such good care of him while in London. Regretfully, he had passed away on the 5th of June, after undergoing two operations for acuteappendicitis.Tommywouldbesadtolearnaboutthis,especially as he was only 48 years old. She was sure they would have kept in touch after the war. Tommy would like to read this obituary, so she kept it for him as well. Two days later, Nina and Abbie sat in the drawing room, both of them busy with their letter writing. Nina was writing to her brother George, having just finished a letter to Bobby which she would enclose with Abbie’s letter to him. Abbie was going over Bobby’s last letter written on 5th July, in order to answer it now. They had received it yesterday, so she had been very pleased to find out he was safely back in England again. She was not so pleased to hear about his wounded leg finally leaving him unfit for the infantry. He would now be joining the air force, but had been granted leave for three weeks. He would stay with Ada for a few days, so that would be some comfort to him. At least she now knew the air force had its benefits, thoughshewouldhaveratherhadhimmindingprisonerssafelyaway from the fighting. She began by writing the date, 10th August, below the family crest, a stag with an arrow piercing its heart, imprinted at the top of the writing paper. She had written a whole paragraph about Harry and Evelyn and their performance at school and was about to start on Rodney, when she heard the front door being opened and a man’s 223


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footsteps which stopped in the hall after a few paces.That was odd; it was too early for Rodney or Robert to be back already. The look of dread in Nina’s eyes made her look away quickly. She put her pen down deliberately, laid it gently across the page, and smoothed out her skirt as she stood up. She knew she would not be sending that letter to Bobby after all.

Capt. T. Colvill-Jones R.A.F. Kriegsgefangenen Staamlagen Limburg a Lahn Germany E2. May 18th 1918. My dear old M. & D. This is the first letter I have been able to write to you tho’ I have already sent you two post cards: I have just arrived day before yesterday at the hospital after a long train journey and am now properly in Germany. I am being treated here far better than in the last place. I am no longer in a ward but have a little room all to myself which is jolly nice tho’ rather lonely at times with nobody to talk to. My first letter I wrote to Bobs to let him know how I was getting on and told him to send it to you as in the last place we were only allowed to write two letters and four post cards a month. I am trying to find out if it is the same now that I am in Germany and I am hoping we can write more from here. My wounds are getting on fine and ought soon to be better; the bandages have been taken off my nose now so you can see that it was nothing very much. I hope my leg will soon be healed up so then I can start walking about as I am very fed up with being in bed such a long time- three weeks already. The food we get here is simply splendid and it is seldom I can eat all they bring me for my meal. Everything is very quiet and peaceable here and now that I have not heard a gun for four days I am beginning to forget there is a war on and in any case I have finished with it now. 224


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The doctor here can talk French, but apart from him nobody can talk anything but German. My German is getting on quite well and I can usually make myself understood, but have difficulty in grasping what they say as they talk so quickly. In case you have not already received the letter I wrote to Bobs I shall give you a short summary of what I put in it. On April 25th I happened to get mixed up with a superior number of Huns and was getting away from them OK till a lucky shot got me in my left leg and I had to come down on their side of the lines; before I hit the ground, another shot got me through the nose. Of course the machine was crashed but neither the observer nor I were hurt at all by the fall; during the scrap my score was raised to a dozen as I got one and my observer got one. Whilst we were waiting for a stretcher party a German Artillery officer came up and spoke to me and he was quite decent. My observer is only a private or otherwise known as aerial gunner; he was not wounded at all, but we managed to stick together till day before yesterday. He was a fine chap and a pillar of strength to me and I don’t know what I could have done without him the first few days; he has probably gone to some internment camp now. I want to get well soon and get to a camp as we can receive parcels and letters there but not in the hospitals. I was going to ask Mr. Smithers to take charge of my kit and send me out clothes, but I have changed my mind to Mrs. Earnshaw as S. has done such a lot of things for me already and besides Mrs. Earnshaw will have more time for that sort of thing. All parcels for prisoners have to come through the British Red Cross Society. I shall look an awful tramp till I get some clothes as half my things have been lost and the bloody ones thrown away. I can see the aeroplanes flying round from my window and it makes me long to be up in the air and floating round peaceably. I hope that there was not a long interval between the time I was reported missing and till the news came through that I was wounded and prisoner. This letter will probably take a long time to get to you as it has to go such a roundabout way out of this country. There are no English books here to read so I have to content myself trying to read German. I am perfectly OK here and there is nothing at all to worry yourself about; I am longing to be able to receive letters from you to hear how everything is getting on. 225


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The doctor told me this morning that perhaps I can have my first shot at walking in a fortnight’s time, so I am feeling very bucked with myself and can already see little me chasing round the garden here. I look a lovely sight at present as I have not had a shave for about a week; in the other hospital an English orderly shaved me every few days. Excuse awful writing, but it is rather hard to write in bed. Love to all the familia and tons for yourself from Your ever loving son Tommy.

Capt. T. Colvill-Jones R.A.F. Kriegsgetangenen Staamlagen Limburg a Lahn Germany E2. May 21st 1918. My dear Mrs. Earnshaw: How do you like my new address? I have not written to you for a long time partly owing to the fact that I have been a prisoner or war since April 25th when I was shot down in a scrap. I was wounded in the left leg and nose and both those wounds are getting along fine now. I have only been properly in Germany for five days and I could not possibly wish for better treatment than I am getting in this hospital: the food is fine and the attendance is jolly good, though I am at a disadvantage not being able to speak German better. The doctor can talk French so I get along alright with him. Excuse me writing so close together, but this is my last sheet of paper and I have a lot to say to you; this is a begging letter and you will curse before you have finished reading it. Could you please write to the officer commanding my Squadron and ask him to send you my kit and personal belongings? There are lots of things I want and I have made out a list 226


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of them overleaf in their order of preference. The above address is of the main prison camp where all the letters and parcels have to be sent out here through the British Red Cross Society, so could you please find out from them what articles of clothing can be sent and what size of parcel. It would be fine if all the under mentioned things can be packed into my old suit case, so that I would have something to bring them back in après la guerre. (1)Collars, 2 Khaki knitted ties, collars, pins, studs. (2)Razor, shaving soap, shaving brush, powder looking glass, ordinary soap, nail brush, washing glove, hair brush and comb. (3)Underclothes, socks, shirts. (4)Pyjamas. (5)Two pairs slacks, sock suspenders and belt. (6)Brogue shoes only. (7)Soft pair bedroom slippers (size 8) (8)Tunic. (9)Silk RFC Scarf. (10)Trench coat. (11)1 pr. RFC collar badges and one cap badge. (12)One service cap size 6¾ (not RFC) (13)Supply bachelor buttons. The underlined articles I am afraid will have to be bought, so could you please let Mr. W.H. Smithers, 3a Coleman St. E.C.2, know how much they cost as he has charge of some money of mine. I am sorry to be such an awful nuisance to you but I would not trouble you if I could possibly help it since I know you are always pretty busy. We cannot receive any parcels or letters while in hospital, but by the time you have sent me those things, I hope to be in an internment camp; I have heard from many sources that the prisoners get a splendid time in those camps and I hope it is true. I expect you have moved now from Greencroft Gardens so I have addressed this letter to your brother George as they might not send it on from the other place. We are allowed to write very few letters so of course my first were to Mummy and Bobby; I hope Mums has not been worrying much because it takes such a long time for any news to come through after being reported “missing” by the War Office. 227


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I am afraid I shall not be able to walk for some time yet as the wound in my leg is not a very nice one, the hole in my nose has nearly healed and I don’t think it will show at all later on. I am no longer in a ward but in a little room all to myself and though it is rather lonely I think it is better than being with a lot of other people who kick up a row. From my window I can see the aeroplanes flying around and it makes me long to be up in the air again, but peaceably as I had quite enough excitement in my last flight. By the way, if the rest of my stuff is in your way at all you could dump it at the Tilbury Warehouse Marylebone, as I think that is the place where Bobby has got his things. There is no English literature of any description here so I have to content myself with trying to read German. My efforts in that language are getting on quite well and I can always make myself understood (signs allowed) but I cannot always grasp what they are saying to me as they talk so fast and use long words. The reason I want all those clothes is because a lot of the things I had on when I was wounded have been lost or thrown away so I shall look a fearful tramp till I get something decent to wear. My observer was a private and though he was not wounded he was hurt a bit in the crash. We managed to stick together the whole time in all the various hospitals till five days ago when I came to this place. He is a fine chap and I don’t know what on earth I would have done without him those first days. I think he has now been sent off to some internment camp, but I am not sure. I think that is about all the news I have got so I shall now finish up. I am awfully sorry to bother you like this over my kit and hope you don’t mind my asking you to do so. Please excuse the writing, but it is rather difficult to write stretched out on one’s back in bed. Hope the measles are now a thing of the past with you and that Lydia and all the boys are well and full of life. Goodbye, with love to Mr. Earnshaw and yourself From your affectionate friend Tommy.

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V. Cotton Cornwall. Kriegshefangenenlagen Frankfort on Oder Germany. June 24th 1918. Dear Sir, I am grieved to have to inform you that your son Captain Colvill Jones, of 48 Squadron RAF, died as a result of wounds which he received on the 25th April 1918 when his machine was shot down by the enemy near Amiens. His death occurred at 12.45 am on the 24th May in one of the Hospitals of this town, and the remains were interred on the 27th May in the cemetery of the Prisoners Camp here. None of the British prisoners were able to visit your son while he was in the hospital in Frankfurt, owing to the shortness of his stay there, but the English Censor, who had the opportunity of seeing him several times, informs me that he always expressed great satisfaction at the kind way in which he was treated by both the Doctor and the Nurse who were attending to him- the only things he said he needed were books and English jam; these small items were immediately sent to him by the British Help Committee of this camp. Your son, however, did not live long to enjoy these small luxuries for the same evening the fatal relapse commenced, and the wound which he had received in the left thigh commenced again to bleed profusely. The Doctor was immediately summoned and did all in his power to stop the hemorrhage, but all his efforts were in vain. This did not prevent the Doctor from remaining by his bedside until he expired peaceably in the early hours of the following morning. On Sunday the 26th May 1918, a short memorial service was held in the Camp Church and was attended by the majority of the English prisoners here; the burial ceremony took place the following morning at 11am. This ceremony was attended by the German General commanding the camp, his staff, practically the entire British Company and numerous representatives from the French, Serbian, Italian, Belgian 229


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and Russian nationalities. Wreaths were laid on your son’s grave by all these nationalities and in addition by the German officers. The General, in a speech made by the graveside, stated that he and his officers were present to show their respect for a brave enemy who had given his life for his King and Country. A German aviator flew over the graveside during the interment. The Burial Service was conducted by a German Protestant minister. Before his coffin was lowered into the grave, “Nearer my God to Thee” was sung and at the conclusion of the ceremony “Rock of Ages”. I am sending you some photographs of the funeral and have numbered them in order to explain to you what they represent. No. 1 & 9 show the coffin being lowered into the grave, No. 2 & No. 8 the singing “Nearer my God to Thee”, No. 3 & No. 7 the German clergyman pronouncing the burial service. On the small photos 7 & 8 I have marked the General commanding the camp with a cross (X). Photograph No. 4 gives the general view of the funeral procession, including the German Military Band, which played selections during the march from the Camp to the Cemetery and also at the graveside, when the coffin was being lowered into the grave. No. 5 & 6 will give you a very good idea of the way in which the different nationalities did honour to your son. If you should wish to order any of these photographs, I shall be pleased to convey your orders to the Camp photographer. The large ones cost 75 pfennings and the small ones 30 pfs. You will no doubt wonder why I have not written to you before in order to inform you of this sad event, but, when I give you the facts, you will understand the reason for the delay. The Help Committee here is very short of money owing to the numerous expenses which it had to meet recently and therefore could not find the money to pay the funeral expenses of your son. Five hundred Marks were very kindly lent me immediately by one of the Russian doctors, Dr. Nikolsky, and with this I bought a good strong coffin and a zinc case, so that if you desire, your son’s body may be removed at a later date. Cost of coffin................................................280Marks. Cost of zinc case........................................175Marks. For soldering same.....................................15Marks. Cost of winding sheet...............................25Marks. Total cost........................................................495Marks. 230


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The remaining five marks were added to the subscription for the buying of wreaths. As I did not wish to trouble you with these details, I obtained permission to write to the Officer’s Camp at Beeskow and Blankenburg and have been awaiting a reply from them before I wrote to you. I have now learnt that there are only two Ships Officers who cannot help us at the former place and I have received no reply from the latter. I would therefore be much obliged if you would forward the above mentioned amount as quickly as possible to Dr. Nikolsky at this address. The censor tells me that he still has the last letters written by your son and will send them to you at the same time as this letter is dispatched. I must conclude by apologizing to you for not writing this letter personally, but I am sure you will excuse me when I tell you that I was slightly indisposed. Rest assured that as long as I remain here, I shall be very pleased to carry out any of your wishes or give you any further information you may desire, as far as it lies in my power to do so. Finally, let me express the heartfelt sympathy of the British Company for you and your family in your sad loss. I remain, Yours very sincerely V. Cotton Cornwall. Interpreter British Company Frankfurt (Oder).

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Letter sent from the German hospital of Thomas Colvill Jones´ report of death. (Colvill Jones family)

Now she knew. No more wondering about his aeroplane crashing, his wounds, or his last days. Now she knew, and it gave her some small comfort. He had been cared for, he had had a friend during thoseworstmoments,hehadnotdiedalone,andhehadbeenshown respectevenindeath.Abbieonlywishedshehadreceivedtheseletters earlier, instead of that fatal telegram devoid of details. Abbie only wished Tommy had received letters from them to raise his spirits through his convalescence. She had known all along. Since the moment he went missing, until she heard Robert’s footsteps hesitating in the hallway, trying to spare her a few more seconds from a pain that would last a lifetime. Nina andRodney’smaturityhadbeenagreatcomfortatthattimeandlater EvelynandHarry,whoseyouthfulnessinfusedlifeintothehousehold again. She worried about Bobby, all on his own, not being able to talk about Tom’s loss. She needed him back; he needed her. The condolence letters, the glowing obituaries and articles, the numberofpeoplecallingonthem,madehimaliveagain,aliveforever. She wrote countless letters, organized church services, informed his 232


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oldschools,forbylettingtheworldknow,theirlosssomehowbecame meaningful.Sherereadthelastletters,overandover,carefullykeeping everything in the carved box. His handwriting, his humour, the way in which he saw the world, how she would miss him. But she had a duty to her family, and would start by answering Bobby’s last letter to comfort him from afar. She read his letter again.

R.A.F. Station. Eastchurch. Kent. August 13th 1918. My dearest Mums and Dads, I am sure that by this time you have heard the sad news about poor old Tom’s death from wounds in hospital in Germany. I have never felt more miserable in all my life and it is no use my trying to express my feelings, for you all know exactly what I feel about it. I only heard about it yesterday from Ada and am enclosing typewritten copies of the letters she received from Tom and the interpreter. As you see his letter to Ada is very long and awfully cheerful and he did not seem to be in any sort of pain. I can’t realize that he died three days after having written it. I have asked Ada to write to the interpreter for the photos he speaks about and shall keep them in case the ones he sent to you are not allowed to go through. I haven’t yet received the letter from Tom which he mentions as having written to me and I can only trust that it will turn up eventually. I really can’t write any more and you quite understand, don’t you? You must all try and be very brave about Tommy and try to remember that he died in the best way anyone can possibly die - from wounds received in action. Much love to all from your ever loving son, Bobby.

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Abbie found herself cutting out yet another article from the paper, and folding it neatly to put intoTommy’s envelope.Yet this time it was different. She was keeping this for herself now, not for him. He would nevershowhispapersandletterstohischildrenorgrandchildren.Abbie hadneverimaginedreadingherownson’sobituary,hiswonderfullife summed up in a few lines. Yet the words were beautifully written and she knew she would want to remember them in the future. The Central Argentine Railway Magazine also paid tribute to her boy and two other former employees in the most glowing terms. She did not wish to cut the pages, so instead she kept many copies of the magazine.Inthesection“InMemoriam”,underthephotographsofthe three deceased men, came the following eulogy: “Itisourpainfuldutytorecordonthisandthesucceedingpagesthedeaths whileonactiveserviceofthreeoftheyoungestandmosthighlyesteemedof ourVolunteers-ThomasColvillJones,ArthurDanseyandJamesDudley.Of thethree,twowereofArgentinebirth,buttheydidnotmakethisaccidental circumstancethespeciousexcuseforshelteringthemselvesbehindanignoble neutrality,andtheyrespondedtothecalloftheMotherlandwithasmuch eager loyalty as if they had been born under the British flag. Atsuchtimeswefeelhowutterlyinadequatearemerewordstoexpress howgreatisthelossofsuchmentotheirfriends,tosocietyingeneraland totheirCountryforwhichtheydied.Threeyounglivesofgreatpromise havebeenaddedtothethousandsofotherssacrificedintheGreatCause, cutshortjustwhenlifeinallitsfullnessandsweetnesswasopeningup beforethem.Butweshouldrememberthatthespanofaman’slifeisnot themeasureofhisachievements.Ourlatecomradesdiednoblyindefense ofhumanity,toredeemcivilizationandvindicatepubliclaw,andmany ingloriousyearswouldbeapoorexchangefortheexampleandinspiration whichsuchdeathsleavebehind.Ofsuchmenitmaybetrulysaidthat“their place is in the hall of heroes.” Captain Thomas Colvill Jones- Royal Air Force Death, which always seeks a shining mark, has claimed one of our youngestVolunteers;aprofessionalcareerofrichpromiseandanarmy career,which,thoughbrief,wasverybrilliant,havebeencutshort,and ThomasColvillJonesisnumberedwiththosewhohavegiventheirlivesfor the freedom of the world and the cause of Justice and Right. Itisnotgiventomanymentocrowdintotwentyyearsoflifesomanyvaried 234


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achievementsandaccomplishments,ortowinsuchawealthoffriendship and esteem.The son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Colvill Jones of Hurlingham, the subject of this sketch was born in Buenos Aires on 1st November, 1897, andenteredtheserviceofthisCompanyinNovember1912,shortlyafter attaining his fifteenth year. He spent some time in the Drawing Office, BuenosAires,butwasafterwardstransferredinthecapacityofAssistant Engineer to the San Martín Section, under Mr. J.R.S. Fox. An upright characterandwarm-hearted,buoyantdispositionwonforMr.ColvillJones alegionoffriendsbothinbusinessandsocialcircles,andfewmenhave inspiredamorelastingaffectionamongthosewhowerehonouredwithhis friendship. Hewasanenthusiasticdevoteeofmanykindsofsport,hisfavouritegame beinglawntennis,ofwhichhewasanotableexponent.Hewaschampion ofVilla Devoto, and so high was his reputation that none of the annual tournamentsatBuenosAiresorBelgranoLawnTennisClubswascomplete without an exhibition of his skill. Atthebeginningof1917thecallcametoofferhisservicestotheLand ofhisfathers,andherespondedwithalacrity.Hesailedbythe“Highland Rover”on22ndFebruary1917,andonarrivalinEnglandhejoinedthe28th CountryofLondonBattalion(Artists’Rifles).Hewassubsequentlygazetted 2ndLieutenantintheRoyalEngineers,butthefascinationofairfightingled himtotransfertotheRoyalFlyingCorps.Inthatbranchoftheservicein whicheveryaspirantmustbepossessedofmentalandphysicalpowersabove the average, and where there is no room for weaklings, Captain Colvill Jonesgaineddistinctionwhichsurpassedhisfriends’fondestexpectations. HedistinguishedhimselfinaircombatsaroundYpres,andisrecordedto havedestroyedmorethantenenemymachines-anachievementsufficientto makethefameofaveteran.Hewassubsequentlypromoteddirectlyfrom2nd Lieutenant to Flight-Commander, with the grade of Captain. The first information from the War Office announced that he was postedasmissing,followedbytheintimationthathewaswoundedanda prisonerofwarinGermany,havingbeencapturedinaerialcombat.Buta cablegramreceivedfromtheLondonOfficeon10thAugustconveyedthesad intelligencethatCaptainColvillJonesdiedofhiswoundson,itisbelieved, the 24th of May, while in the hands of the enemy. Wehavehadfrequentandbittercausetorecordmanybraveyounglives cutoffastheresultofthewar,butfewhavebeenmoresincerelymourned, 235


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morewidelymissedandmoreaffectionatelyrememberedthanThomas Colvill Jones.” The obituary in the Standard was very similar to the one in FCCA Magazine, although Abbie especially appreciated the last paragraph which she read over again: “Eveninthesedayswhenmutilationanddeatharethecommonheritage ofourbravestandbest,itisimpossiblethatthelossofsuchamanasColvill Jonescanberegardedasanythingbutatragedyinthemostpoignantsense oftheword,asapartfromhisvaluetotheArmy,aprofessionalcareerof exceptionalpromiseiscutshortbyhisearlydemise.Tohissorrowingparents andotherrelativesweofferoursincerestsympathyintheirgreatbereavement forwhichthetruestassuagementliesintheconsolingknowledgethathis deathintheserviceofKingandCountryisforallofusagreatinspiration and example.”

Tommy´s obituary published in The Standard in August of 1918. (The Standard- St. Andrew’s University Library, Buenos Aires)

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Extremeexcitementwasperceptiblealloverthecountry,particularly in the city of Buenos Aires. Bulgaria had surrendered on September 28th 1918, followed closely by Turkey on November 1st. The rumours and reports on the continued Allied advance on all fronts made it apparentthattheremainingCentralpowerscouldnotresistformuch longer. By November 8th an unofficial source reported that Germany was considering the Allies’terms, which led to unchecked jubilation in the capital. It was no more than a few hours later that the avenues werelinedandbalconiesdecoratedwithflagsofeveryAlliedcountry, and throngs of people were filling the streets without waiting for an official confirmation of the facts. Although the states involved had denied the rumour, people’s joy could not be quelled for they knew the end was near. On Monday morning, November 11th, the news arrived by cable that the Armistice was signed. Celebrations, which had started to dwindle, were taken up with new fervour all over the Argentine nation. That same evening, as if on cue, a large proportion of the British community took to the streets to join the peaceful demonstrations. The procession included over 100 British and colonial flags, and as many women as men, who were given a rousing welcome from the othermarchersandspectatorsfrombalconiesoverhead.Thesightwas a stirring one, not easily forgotten. Their men were finally coming home. The following Sunday there were thanksgiving services in all Churches. Robert and family attended the service given at their church, which was a moving occasion for all, more so for those who were there to mourn than for those who were giving thanks. Robert squeezed his wife’s hand as they shared a ghost of a smile and intense 239


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look that expressed more than words. There was no need to speak about their loss, speech was superfluous. A touch was enough. The family sat in their pew, grateful for the ceasefire yet also thinking about their sons and brothers.They were part of the victory, all those years of sacrifice and young lives forfeited for freedom. Rodneysatstone-facedandpalebetweenEvelynandHarry.Hehad notmissedthatprivatemomentbetweenhisparents,anddespitebeing comforted by their love he felt like an intruder.These last months had been a strain on all the family, especially on him for, being the eldest child now, he felt responsible for everyone’s welfare, and guilty for being alive while others were not. He should have enlisted, he should have helped his brothers, yet moments later he realized the futility of such thoughts. He was still seventeen; his eighteenth birthday was at the end of January. He vowed then to take care of Harry and Evelyn so they suffered less; instinctively he put his arm protectively round his little sister. Evelyn looked up at him with trusting eyes and quickly put her curly head on his shoulder. She did not want to be the only one to cry in public, and any shows of affection and pity disarmed her completely. Today was Tommy’s day and she missed him so much. Now she wanted him to tease her, and tickle her till she cried, and mock her silly questions. She knew she had been his favourite, and so she would always remain. At school, things were slowly going back to normal.Atfirstshehadbeensingledoutasthegirlwhosebrotherhad died, and consequently many of her friends had not dared to talk to her or were especially nice, which made her want to scream. She had yelled till her throat was sore on two occasions when she was alone and had surprisingly felt much better. Sure thatTommy was laughing at her crazy behaviour from up above, she had started giggling to herself. She had not lost him absolutely, he was still there to share her momentsofloneliness.Herbrothers’photographskepthercompany at school and they were the last thing she looked at before the lights went out. Harry’s eyes kept darting to the carved pulpit in front of him. He read the words engraved there: “In ever living memory of Captain Thomas Colvill-Jones who died of wounds in Germany May 24th 1918. He did his duty.” If he concentrated hard enough on those 240


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words it might make things better. His parents had donated the new pulpit as a tribute to his heroic brother. He thought ofthe generations to come who would read that name without knowing. Without understanding what a great brother he was, the way he brightened a gathering, what a skilful sportsman and pilot he had become. Harry’s straight back spoke of the strain within him. He wanted to be outside, far from people. He wanted to change the fact that he had not written to Tommy or Bobby often. He wanted to wrench that name off the brass plaque and keep it to himself. He looked sideways along the bench and was hit by remorse. His dear family was strong and constructive, and here he was trying to escape his duty. No, he was proud of that name and he would make it proud of him. He was thankful for having such heroic older brothers, and he would do all in his power to be like them. They would live on in him. He would also do his duty. Nina sat right behind the family, her father and his wife Elena at her side.The pain had been unbearable since the day Aunt Abbie had looked at her with such surrender and certainty before walking out of the room to receive the news. She had been immobilized by alarm then. Now she could not stop moving. She had grown so thin she seemed to have shrunk. She put all her energies into her secretarial job, but made it a point to return to Hurlingham often to make sure her family was surviving. Once she was reunited with them after a few days’absence she would feel at ease again and her spirits would lift to some extent. She had come to accept that life did not end with Tommy’s, yet whatever the future had in store for her would be second best after this. She also stared atTommy’s name on the pulpit, andcould notbear the thought of the brass plaquebeing replacedby a new one which would contain Bobby’s name alongside it. News of Bobby’s sudden death on the 4th November* had reached the family a few days after his demise.They had received the telegram onlytwodaysbeforethearmistice,whenpeoplewerealreadyrejoicing over the fact that the end of hostilities was in sight. Whilst the rest of Argentina celebrated around them on the 11th, the Colvill Jones family was staggering under the crushing blow which had struck them. It was unthinkable, so much so that Abbie held on to the hope there had been a mistake. As the week ended, however, her hope 241


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and strength flickered and died within her. It was unthinkable, for whenever she thought about Bobby the pain left her breathless. She could not think, not yet. Bobby’s leg injury had rendered him unable to continue fighting, but instead of accepting the proffered leave, he had insisted on becoming an observer in the RAF. Abbie had the suspicion he had done so because of an erroneous feeling of guilt over his younger brother’s death in the air force which he had been so insistentTommy join. Oh, why hadn’t he simply returned home to them? After the service, they trudged home to resume their lives as best they could.The following weeks were tough on all of them, especially when Christmas came. They received Bobby’s last two letters, lively and jovial as always, in which he entreated the young ones to write to him. His poignant words made them smile and cry simultaneously. Another letter arrived from 57 Squadron written by Captain S M Hawkins, whose kind words made them feel better. Bobby had not suffered as Tommy had, and had been buried by friends. He wrote: “We have just heard that his machine crashed, by a strange coincidence, on the spot where his old regiment was situated, and he wasburiedbythem.Deathappearstohavebeeninstantaneous.”This remarkable,almosteerie,coincidencemadeAbbiefeelitwasdestined to be. Bobby had been shot in the head and so had his pilot, after which the aircraft had apparently flown of its own accord until it had fallen from the sky next to 13th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. She felt as if Bobby had somehow been guiding it towards his friends. Almost as if he had known his mother would be comforted by the fact. Monthsandseasonswentby.Thestilloppressiveheat,followedby autumnwhichbroughtalighteningofspiritalongwithitscoolbreezes. May 1919 had arrived and the family waited for the fateful day with growingapprehension.HowwouldtheyallsurviveTommy’smemorial service? How would Mummy react? How would the children bear the pain all over again? When the 24th in fact arrived, they all woke up to a sunny morning feeling strangely normal. After an unremarkable breakfast, they all went to get ready for the memorial service with a collective sigh of relief and warmth of heart which they had not felt in months. It was like any other day after all. Abbie had been ready for agessoshesatinthedrawingroomsortingthroughthemailwhileshe 242


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waited for the others.There were two letters addressed in unfamiliar handwriting at the bottom of the pile. One looked official and came from Buckingham Palace. She quickly opened it and was filled with emotion as she read it, for someone from the King’s Household had realized the extent of her loss.

From left to right, Harry, Abbie, Rodney and Robert, in front of their house in Hurlingham, just after the war. (Colvill Jones family)

Privy Purse Office* Buckingham Palace S.W. April 15th 1919. R. Colvill-Jones Esq. Dear Sir, The King and Queen have heard with deep regret that the death of your son Captain T. Colvill-Jones in the service of his Country is now presumed to have taken place in 1918. Their Majesties realize that this is the second beloved son

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you have given in your Country’s cause, and I am commanded to convey the sincere sympathy of the King and Queen with you in your sorrow and to assure you that during the long months of uncertainty Their Majesties’ thoughts have been constantly with you and those who have been called upon to endure this exceptional burden of anxiety. Yours very truly, F.E. Ponsonby* Keeper of the Privy Purse.

All the feelings Abbie had managed to contain would be roused again when she opened the second unanticipated letter, addressed specifically to her. A letter about her dear brave Tommy’s last days; a letterthatrevivedtheachebutwhichultimatelycametobeacomfort to her. He would be missed, he would be remembered, and not only by his family. He had taken lives, but he had also saved a life.

Sergt. F. Finney Observer R.A.F. Netheravon Wilts. th April 14 1919. Dear Mrs. Jones, You may guess what a relief it was for me to receive the nice letter you so kindly wrote to me dated Feb. 18th and which I received about three weeks ago. I have been anxious to write to you ever since, but I have been moved about several times since then. From the first day I landed Home from Germany I tried all I could to get in touch with you. The address Tommy gave me was Mr. Smithers, the Secretary of the London Branch of the Central Argentine Railway Ltd., so as soon as I landed Home, naturally enough I wrote to tell him all about our happenings, and also to ask for your address so I could let you know everything I possibly knew. 244


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To my consternation I had a reply to say that Mr. Smithers had passed away and the new Secretary said he would do all in his power to get me in touch with you. He also sent me Mr. Newell’s address and one of the Company’s Magazines, which contained such a splendid account of your dear son’s history both in civil life and his brilliant career in the Army, part of which I am acquainted with. I wrote a long letter to this new Secretary giving every detail I could of your son and asked him if he could not trace you to send it on to the Editor of the magazine for publication, which might be the means of finding you, and also letting his friends and those who knew him in the past know more of his noble character under the most trying of circumstances. I shall always have cause to remember it, because it was on my birthday April 25th* we set out about four o’clock on the offensive patrol with five other machines. After we crossed the Hun lines some short distance, we spotted two Hun machines beneath us. We mutually consented to go down on our own; we dived right down, your son putting one out of action. I tackled the other, my gun responding splendidly, but alas at this moment three more Huns came at us on our left, and still three more from beneath us, making seven altogether for us to combat with. Tommy and I just glanced at each other knowing we were cornered and fought for dear life, at this time the remainder of our patrol had vanished, it being rather cloudy. We fought them off for some time putting one down, but we knew it couldn’t last, there were too many of them. At last it came. We took a terrific dive and commenced to spin on account of Tommy’s left leg being so badly wounded. We both tried our best, but our controls were all shot away. As we got near the ground we were peppered unmercifully by German machine guns attached to their field batteries. I got my goggles shot off my face, which cut me in places and damaged my eyesight but poor Tommy got one right through the nose. All through this the dear fellow kept his head and displayed wonderful coolness. But for this I’m sure we would have both been killed outright. So you see dear friend, what little I was able to do for your dear boy afterwards could never repay one atom of what I owed him or what I feel I owe you as his mother. 245


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I do wish you could be here with me or me with you. I could tell you all about it, so much better than I can write it. I hurt my back in the crash, but I had nothing compared with what Tommy had and yet the big-hearted fellow thought not of his own troubles but was concerned more about me than himself. I don’t wonder dear friend at your loving him so dearly for my heart went out to him with a love that will never die as long as I live, and I would have loved to have suffered all the pain for him. I could scarcely believe it when I got the news he had passed away, it’s the last thing I ever expected and he himself never thought of such a thing I’m sure. He was so cheerful and bright all the time and never complained or murmured a word; we were just like two schoolboys more than anything. Of course, like myself, his first thoughts were of his dear mother and those dear to him at home. How could he let them know and what would they think of him and so on. The German medical man took charge of us and rendered us first aid, and put us in an old ruined chateau, their so called ambulance dressing station. As dusk came on, the British guns opened out a bombardment and I might say we were right in the thick of it. It was too hot for Fritz’s Red Cross men; they all cleared out and left us the two living souls there. It was a terrible experience but we almost prayed that our boys would come over and take the place, and do you know Tommy even had the pluck to ask me to try and escape and leave him all alone. Really, I never came across a fellow with so much grit in all my life. I couldn’t move about very well and even if I could I would rather have died than leave him. We stayed there till the early hours of next morning when they fetched us in an old mule truck and took us to Perronne and laid us in the Church there with some of their own wounded. In the afternoon we got a little watery soup, the first thing of anything since midday the day before. Later on they moved us to Cambrai, where we lay in a Red Cross hut all night. Next day, Saturday, they moved us by tram to Valenciennes, where we landed at a hospital late in the morning and lay in a corridor till the following morning when they took us into various wards. On the Monday morning he was put through an operation by a so called doctor. I think previous to this he had been a butcher. 246


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Tommy seemed quite lively and cheerful after the operation. I was always by his bedside when no one was about and I could sneak out of bed. It was about the 16th of May when we were put in a hospital train to go into Germany. Up to this time, Tommy had got on ever so well and was doing splendidly, but I think this four days train journey with the continual jolting undid all the good that had been done. When we arrived at Frankfort on the Oder, all officers had to be taken off to a Military Hospital there, but Tommy refused to let them move him till they fetched me from another part of the train to see him. I found the journey had upset him a lot, his wounds had given way and he had lost a lot of blood. I cannot explain the feeling at having to part, it was worse than a dagger piercing one’s heart. I wept like a child when he was gone; there seemed nothing worth living for after that. I went on to internment camp at Guben in Brandenburg. It was on October 8th when I learned of his death. A stray chap came into the camp from Frankfort camp and was showing the photographs he had to us, when he came to this one of an officer’s funeral and said he was an R.F.C. Captain; naturally enough I was very anxious to know all about it, as it was impossible for Tommy and I to correspond with each other in Germany, it was strictly forbidden. The fellow that had the photograph said he thought his name was Capt. Jones, so I borrowed a magnifying glass and examined the photo closely and found the name on the cross to be Capt. T. Colvill Jones. It was like a death blow to me. I did not seem like the same fellow after that and scarcely spoke for days. I might say he was not ill-treated, for had anyone touched him I would have killed them, but I must say he wasn’t fed properly and had he received better medical treatment I’m sure he would have lived, but they had nothing to treat a fellow with. I was so sorry to know of your other son’s death and if he was anything like Tommy you have good cause to be proud that you were the mother of such boys. It must be very hard for you indeed, but please accept my best sympathy for I learned to love your son dearly; he had such a brave manly spirit and such a fine noble character. It is a pity we haven’t got more men of his type about today; I’m sure it would be a better world than it is and I’m sure what little I did for him could never have repaid for saving my life and he would have done just the same for me, had our 247


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positions been reversed. Please find enclosed photographs of his funeral and one of the King’s letters to the Air Force. Please reply to 31, Charles St. Hinckley Gloucestershire. Could you please let me have a photograph of Tommy? One like was in his Pilot’s Certificate. In closing, may God comfort you in your great sorrow, for no one could have done more than your Dear Boys in this great cause for justice and freedom. Believe me to be yours very sympathetically and sincerely, Sergt. Fred R. Finney.

ThephotothatFredFinney sent Abbie of himself. (Colvill Jones family)

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AbbiestudiedthephotographFredFinneyhadenclosedofhimself inuniform.Soyoung,sonoble,sokind.Asthecleansingtearsstreamed slowly down her face, she read the words written on the back of the picture which were dedicated to her, and which said it all: Mrs. Colvill Jones, the loving mother of a true and noble Son, who gave his life freely and bravely that others might live in peace, For a greater thing than this Hath no man done That he gave His life For those He loved. In very loving memory of Capt. T. Colvill Jones who died from wounds received in action, on May 24th 1918 while prisoner of war in Frankfort on Oder Germany, from one who saw Him at His best.

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Claimed Victories RFC/RAF Captain Thomas Colvill Jones

• Bristol Fighter (B1139) of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 18/10/1917 - Time: 16.10hs - Location: Gheluvelt • Bristol Fighter (B1122) of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.III Date: 27/11/1917 - Time: 15.25hs - Location: Westroosebeke • Bristol Fighter (B1122) of 20 Squadron vs. ? Date: 13/01/1918 - Time: 14.25hs - Location: N. Moorslede • Bristol Fighter (--------) of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 19/01/1918 - Time: ? - Location: E. Moorslede • Bristol Fighter (B1122) of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.III Date: 28/01/1918 - Time: 13.50hs - Location: NW. Westroosebeke • Bristol Fighter --------- of 20 Squadron vs. Kite Balloon Date: 04/02/1918 - Time: 10.55hs - Location: Position 28K.5C • Bristol Fighter --------- of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 04/02/1918 - Time: 14.15hs - Location: Roulers-Menin road • Bristol Fighter (C4864) of 20 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 22/03/1918 - Time: 16.20hs - Location: SW. Monchy-Legache • Bristol Fighter (C4864) of 48 Squadron vs. LVG Date: 22/03/1918 - Time: 13.40hs - Location: E. Ham

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• Bristol Fighter (C4831) of 48 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 04/04/1918 - Time: 13.30hs - Location: SW. Villers Brettoneaux • Bristol Fighter (B1126) of 48 Squadron vs. Albatros D.V Date: 23/04/1918 - Time: 15.50hs - Location: W. Bray

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Abbreviations

AB’s: able-bodied seamen (slang for sailors) BA: Buenos Aires (Bs. As.) BEF: British Expeditionary Force c/o: care of DSO: Distinguished Service Order FCCA: Ferro Carril Central Argentino (Central Argentine Railway) FCP: Ferro Carril al Pacífico (Pacific Railway) FCS: Ferro Carril Sur (Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway) HM: His Majesty’s MC: Military Cross OTC: Abbr. (in the UK) Officers’ Training Corps RAC: Royal Army Corps RAF: Royal Air Force RB: Royal Battalion RE: Royal Engineers RFC: Royal Flying Corps RNAS: Royal Naval Air Service s.s.: steamship VC: Victoria Cross YMCA: Young Men’s Christian Association

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Bibliography

Bowyer, Chaz. Royal Flying Corps Communiqués 1917- 1918. London, Grub Street. 1998. Cárdenas de Boadle, Betty 1988. La Historia del Hurlingham Club 18881988. pp. 81 Henshaw, Trevor 1995. The Sky Their Battlefield. London, Grub Street. Holder, Arthur L. 1920. Activities of the British Community in Argentina during the Great War 1914- 1918. Printed by The Buenos Aires Herald. pp. 487 Lewis, Cecil. Sagittarius Rising . London: Warner Books, 1997 Luna, Félix. Breve Historia de los Argentinos. Buenos Aires, Planeta, 2005. 296 p. Meunier, Claudio 2004. Wings of Thunder. pp. 576 O’ Connor, Mike. Airfields and Airmen of the Somme. Pen & Sword. 2001. Pendle, George 1961. Argentina. pp. 208 Rogers, Les 2001. British Aviation Squadron Markings of World War I- RFCRAF-RNAS. Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. Shores, Christopher, Franks, Norman, & Guest, Russell 1996. Above the Trenches. London, Grub Street.

Newspapers: The Buenos Aires Herald (cuttings from 1917) The Standard (1917-1918: St.Andrew´s University Special Archives) The Central Argentine Railway Magazine (1917-1918)

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Glossary

ACE: a pilot or observer officially credited with five or more victories. ARCHIE: anti-aircraft fire. BEANS: pain. BLIGHTY: Originally from British India. It comes from a Hindi word bilayati (foreign) which is related to the Arabic wilayat (a kingdom or province). The name was given to several kinds of exotic foreign things, especially those that the British had brought into the country, such as the tomato (bilayati baingan) and especially to soda-water, which was commonly called bilayati pani, or foreign water. The British soldiers’ corruption of it was Blighty. It came into common use as a term for Britain at the beginning of the First World War in France about 1915. It turns up in popular songs like We wish we were in Blighty, and Take me back to dear old Blighty, and in Wilfred Owen’s poems, as well as many other places. In modern Australian usage, Old has been added, as in Old Country, as a sentimental reference to Britain. BUS: aeroplane. CONK: word used to describe an aeroplane engine when it fails. DOGFIGHT: scrap or combat. DOPE: A preparation painted on the wings of an aeroplane in order to render them stretched and taut, reduce the drag and make them weatherproof. The dope used for the upper surface of aircraft on the Western Front produced a dark brown mixture. Cellulose or oil varnish was added to spread it on the fabric, causing the doped area to look greenish under some light conditions (green shift). The green shift was reduced after exposure to the elements and it took on a definite dark brown look. The coloured dope protected the linen fabric from the sun’s actinic rays and assisted in camouflage. The undersides of aircraft 257


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were often doped with a transparent covering, as they did not suffer as much exposure to the sunshine. That is why the undersides were usually light creamy brown. FACTA NON VERBA: Deeds not words: 20 Squadron motto. FLAMING ONIONS: Anti aircraft fire. The shells were called “Flaming Onions” because of the way they looked and came towards soldiers in a string. It was specifically designed for balloon-busters. They threw up great balls of fire, distracting all but the most determined pilots. FORTE ET FIDELE: Strong and faithful: 48 Squadron motto. ‘GONE WEST’: for airmen not expected to return. JASTA: or Jagdstaffeln were "hunting groups" comprised of approximately 12 fighter aircraft. They hunted down and attacked British and French aircraft crossing over the German line. They also provided protection for German two-seaters sent across the lines on reconnaissance and bombing missions MUFTI: Term given for the off-duty civilian clothes of the military man, was originally a joke among officers in the British Indian Army. It’s typically said to come from Mufti, the title of a Muslim legal expert who is empowered to give rulings on religious law. The story is told in Yule and Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson of 1886 that the word was “perhaps originally applied to the attire of dressing-gown, smoking-cap, and slippers, which was like the Oriental dress of the Mufti”. PER ARDUA AD ASTRA: From adversity to the stars: RFC/RAF motto. SAUSAGE: kite balloon YMCA: Young Men's Christian Association - YMCA provided light refreshments (non-alcoholic drinks), writing materials and entertainment. Virtually every hutted camp had a YMCA hut and virtually every tented camp had a YMCA marquee. CRICKLEWOOD: renamed St. Hilda’s College and moved to Hurlingham in 1927. Spanish phrases: Adiós: goodbye. Agua oxigenada: hydrogen peroxide Antecedentes: record, past history. Atado: bunch, in this case referring to a pack of cigarettes Banco Británico: British Bank 258


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Botica: chemist’s (shop), drug store. Carbonero: coal merchant. Casa Rosada: Pink House (Government house in Argentina). Castellano: Castilian, name given to the form of Spanish spoken in Argentina. Corso: “Extinguished”: a family joke: meaning “distinguished”. Gauchos: cowboy, herdsman (South America). Hasta el domingo: see you Sunday, or until Sunday.. Hasta la vista: until I see you next. Hasta luego: till later. Hasta mañana: see you tomorrow, until tomorrow. Hasta otro día con toneladas de amor: until some other day with tons of love. Huevo frito: fried egg. Las Invasiones Inglesas: the English Invasions (1806-1807). Libreta: Argentine identity document. Mayordomo: farm superintendent or administrator. Mil felicitaciones: a thousand congratulations. Muchas gracias: thank you very much. “Muerte a los Alemanes”: “Death to the Germans”. “No al Militarismo”: “No to Militarism”. No hay más novedades: no more news. ¿no les parece?: don’t you think so? ¿no te parece buena la idea?: don’t you think it’s a good idea? Panadería: bakery. Pantalones: trousers. Pantano: marsh, swamp. Quinta: villa, country house. Rambla: boardwalk Rancho: hut, humble dwelling. Recuerdos: farewell message: regards. Solicitud: application form. Tío: uncle. Y se acabó: and that’s it.

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Appendix Aviation

* 82nd Training Squadron formed from nucleus of No.15 Reserve Squadron, which went to Waddington in March 1917. * Commanding Officer of 20 Squadron in October 1917 was Major W H C Mansfield who was about to hand over to Major E H Johnston who had been a Flight Commander with the squadron. 20 Squadron had earlier been flying pusher FE2B and FE2d machines but now had gone over to Bristol F2b fighters. * Tommy’s RAeC Certificate was numbered 5404 and dated 8th September 1917. it is listed under Jones, Thomas Colville, 2/Lt. (General List). * Luchford and Johnson were shot down by German ace Ltn. Walter von Bülow- Bothkamp of Jasta 36, his 28th and last victory. He was killed in action on 6th January 1918 by Captain W M Fry MC of 23 Squadron, assisted by a Camel of 70 Squadron. * 22nd March: At 4 pm in the area of Croix there was a mayor dogfight between 48 Squadron and aircraft from Jasta 53. 48 Squadron lost three aeroplanes, shot down by the German pilots Lt. M. Hänichen, Uffz. K.Waldherr, and Vfw. J.Walter. Jasta 53 lost at least two or three planes, one destroyed by Thomas Colvill-Jones at 4:20pm in which the pilot probably did not make it (pilot unidentified). Two German pilots from Jasta 53 were made prisoners of war (POW) during that event, one was Gefr. Ernst Diehl and the other was Flg. August Schulze. * LVG: two-seater biplane widely used for reconnaissance and light bombing missions by the German Air Service. This victory by Colvill-Jones has been identified. That day the German observer Lt. Heinrich Freinherr von Esebeck and his pilot Ltn. d. R. Hermann Höchtl lost their lives, both belonging to the FA297(A)b, that is Flieger Abteilung 297 Artillerie Bayrisch, flight department 297 of the Bavarian Artillery, East of Ham, over Jussy. The location, time, aircraft 261


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type, and the fact that the crew were KIA all coincide, since Thomas Colvill-Jones reported the machine as destroyed. * 4th February, 2/Lt. Frederick David Miller, 20 Squadron RFC, Died of wounds received in aerial combat, aged 32. Son of Hugh and Emma Henrietta Miller, of “Devonia”, Gordon Rd., Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, England. Late Assistant Engineer, DPW India Irrigation branch, United Provinces. The action took place in the area of Poelkapelle at 12:20pm, and the victory is credited to the German pilot Ltn. K. Menckhoff of Jasta 3, his 20th victory. * 4th November: in the action he was killed, 57 Squadron lost three DH4s, shot down by Jasta 5. The formation had left on a photo reconnaissance sortie at 09:20 am, and all six men were killed. Bobby’s pilot was Lt. Arthur Elridge Bourns and he was buried at Romeries, France, unlike Bobby who went to Ghissignies Cemetery. It is believed Bobby’s DH4 (A7652) was shot down by Ltn. Otto Könnecke- a top ace and Pour le Mérite winner- his 35th and final victory, over Mormal Wood at 11:45 German time (10:45 British). It was also a Jasta 5 pilot who claimed Tommy. * 25th April: Tommy’s last flight: Jasta 5 formation flying Fokker Triplanes, over the area of Marcelcave. Tommy was shot down by Vfw. Kurt Kressner of Jasta 5, his first and only victory. The German pilot was badly injured in a crash on 28/4/18, three days afterwards.

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Appendix Fellow fighters

* Phelps. Leslie Herbert PHELPS, from Glastonbury, Somerset. Lt. Lincoln Regiment attached to the 9th Sherwood Forresters. Joined the RFC in June 1917, and the E/F (Expeditionary Force) 20 Squadron in October 1917. Phelps was wounded 15/11/17, returned to 20 Sqn. but had gone into hospital 22/4/18. He survived the war, and left the RAF in January 1920. * Whyte. George Henry WHYTE, from Temperley, Argentina, aged 26. Address: c/o H. Walter and Co., 263 Calle Florida, Buenos Aires, Arg. Joined G/L Artist’s Rifles OTC, then the RFC in April 1917. He was posted to 49 Sqn. UK, then went over to France with his unit on 7/11/17. He was killed flying on 4/12/17. * Speakman. L Rartcliff SPEAKMAN, from Chelmsford, Essex. A Lt in the ASC, he joined the RFC in August 1917. He arrived in 20 Sqn. in December 1917, and was hospitalized on 26/2/18. He later joined 102 Sqn. in the UK. He survived the war, and left the RAF in March 1919. * Jooste. Gerhard Danford JOOSTE, from Transvaal, South Africa. He became a pilot in the RFC in April 1917 and joined the E/F in 20 Sqn. on 12/9/17. He became Flight Commander on 4/3/18, and was transferred to HE (Home Establishment) on 2/5/18. He survived the war and returned to South Africa. * Crowe. Henry George CROWE, from Donnybrook, Dublin. He was born 11th June 1897. He joined the RFC and was appointed to the 20 Squadron as observer. He obtained 8 victories. Lt. Crowe was shot down on 1st April 1918, but survived the war. * Hedley. John Herbert HEDLEY, England. An observer serving with 20 Squadron, Hedley scored 11 victories before he and pilot Robert Kirkman were captured on 23rd March 1918. Their Bristol F.2b was 263


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shot down by Karl Gallwitz from Jasta Boelcke. Hedley returned to England on 13th December 1918. * Masding. Stanley Henry Percy MASDING, from England. Joined the RFC as observer and fought in units 20 and 62, 5 victories. * McGoun. David McKay McGOUN, from Montreal, Canada. Born 4th December 1892. After serving with the 24th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, McGoun transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in October 1916. Serving first with 20 Squadron and later with 22 Squadron as a flight commander, he scored nine victories flying the Bristol Fighter. Awarded the MC in July 1918. * Galbraith. James Alexander GALBRAITH, from Glasgow, Scotland. Born 10/08/88. He joined the RFC on November 1916, and became observer in the E/F: February 1918. He joined 48 Squadron: 31/03/18, and Home Establishment: July. He left the RAF in September 1919. * Dennistoun. James Alexander DENNISTOUN, Winnipeg, Canada. Formerly of the Canadian infantry, and son of Lt. Col R W Dennistoun. He arrived at 20 Squadron in December 1917 and was wounded in action and struck off the squadron's strength on 12th April 1918. He recovered, but was not posted back to 20 Squadron. * Wishart-Orr. Donald WISHART-ORR, from Airdrie, Scotland. Born 1887. Joined 3rd Wiltshire Rgt., the RFC in October 1917, E/F in December 1917 as observer in 20 Squadron. He was wounded in action on 25th March 1918. He left the RAF in March 1919. * Moore. J M J MOORE MC. Joined the RFC in April 1917; E/F 48 Squadron as Observer in January 1918. He was hospitalized on 27th April and sent to the UK on 29th April. He left the RAF in April 1919. MC L/G 26/7/18. * McNaughton. Norman George McNAUGHTON MC, from South London, England. He was born in May 1890. He went to South America and worked on a cattle ranch in Argentina, and joined the British Latin American volunteers when the war came, returning to the UK. He joined the RFC, 20 Squadron on 14/1/16. He was wounded in action in the leg on 21/4/16. Joined 57 Squadron in 1917 as Captain and Flight Commander. He was shot down by Baron von Richthofen on 24/6/17 (the German ace’s 55th victory) and was killed, as was his observer Lt. A H Means.

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Index

Introduction................................................................................................................5 Acknowledgment...................................................................................................... 7 Prologue........................................................................................................................ 11 Chapter I. ............................................................................................................................................... 13 Departing

Chapter II ............................................................................................................................................ 39 Old Blighty

Chapter III ...........................................................................................................................................53 Training

Chapter IV ...........................................................................................................................................81 RFC Cadet School

Chapter V ........................................................................................................................................... 97 In the air

Chapter VI ........................................................................................................................................ 125 20 Squadron: Facta Non Verba*

Chapter VII .................................................................................................................................... 163 1918

Chapter VIII .................................................................................................................................. 197 48 Squadron: Forte Et Fidele*

Chapter IX ........................................................................................................................................217 Germany

Epilogue....................................................................................................................... 237 List of victories Captain Thomas Colvill Jones...................................... 251 Abbreviations............................................................................................................253 Bibliography............................................................................................................. 255 Glossary....................................................................................................................... 257 Appendix Aviation.............................................................................................................................................261 Fellow fighters............................................................................................................................. 263

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