We are the last to experience an interlude when there were no existential threats to our homeland. We came of age in the late 40s and early 50s. The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, climate change, technological upheaval
both. We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better not worse. We are the ‘last ones’.
Cecil Robert Tidswell - Royals and RFC
ying in an isolated grave located on a hillside 600 metres south-west of Etricourt-Manancourt Communal Cemetery, Northern France is a Royal Flying Corps Officer who was killed in October 1916 whilst flying over enemy lines and was buried by the Germans beside his aircraft. That Officer was Flight Commander Cecil Robert Tidswell, formerly of the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. It is thought that he was a victim of Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen known as the ‘Red Baron’. Cecil Robert Tidswell was born on 22nd November 1880 at Bosmere Hall in the parish of Creeting St Mary near Needham Market, Suffolk, son of Robert Henry Tidswell, a barrister and his wife Helen Maud Tidswell formerly Brooke. Young Robert was educated at Harrow between 1894 and 1898 and joined the Militia on 18th September 1899. In 1901 he was attending a course at the School of Musketry in Hythe, Kent and was described as 20 years of age and a Lieutenant in the 7th (Militia) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Having had some family connection to the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, Lieutenant Tidswell was commissioned in the Royals on 11th September 1901. His papers held at the Household Cavalry Archive at Windsor state that he was 5 feet 6 inches in height. After attending a regimental riding class and a musketry course at Hythe he embarked for active service in South Africa on 11th December 1901 and joined his Regiment on 7th January 1902. He returned home to England on 25th September 1902 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 27th January 1904, which was the same day in which the Royal Dragoons embarked on their first tour of service in India. Having served in Lucknow and Muttra, he returned home to England and whilst attending an officer’s course at the Cavalry School at Netheravon he was promoted to Captain on 1st April 1909. He returned to the Regiment in India and later accompanied them to South Africa on 25nd November 1911. After war was declared in August 1914, the 1st (Royal) Dragoons returned home to England sailing from Cape Town on 27th August and arriving back on 19th
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and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with insistent unease. Only we can remember both a time of apocalyptic war and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty. We experienced
September. After refitting, the Regiment finally joined the British Expeditionary Force on 8th October 1914, with Captain Tidswell being a member of ‘A’ Squadron being temporally in command until Major McNeile returned to the Regiment on 13th October 1914, when he became 2nd in command later moving to ‘B’ Squadron. Throughout his service Tidswell wrote extensively to his parents and after the war his father had all the letters from France printed and bound into a hardback volume of which one was given to each of Robert Tidswell’s six sisters. The Household Cavalry Museum is fortunate in a having a copy of these letters the first being dated 11th October 1914 in which he writes ‘The weather is lovely and warm, and so far, we’re having quite a good time; most nights we’ve billeted, which is very comfortable when one’s settled in, but till you’re used to it, takes a long time finding accommodation for such a number of horses and men, though their being used to it here it’s not such a job as it would be at home, most of the inhabitants having had soldiers quartered on them dozens of time before and knowing exactly what’s wanted. It’s all very interesting, with aeroplanes flying round all day and armoured motors buzzing about the roads. The inhabitants are frightfully enthusiastic, and line the streets shouting “Vive l’Angleterre” and handing up apples, pears, cigarettes, etc, as you go past; even the poorest give away all sorts of things like that, and won’t hear of being paid for them.’ On 17th July 1915 Tidswell was evacuated home to England and joined the 5th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at York on 20th July 1915. It is during this time that Tidswell saw no future for the cavalry on the Western Front so on 15th September 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an Observer and on 1st April 1916 he obtained his pilot’s certificate (No. 2670) at the Military School Farnborough, flying a Maurice Farman biplane. On 2nd June 1916 he was appointed a Flying Officer and on 10th June 1916 he was appointed a Flight Commander and joined 19th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps stationed at St Omer, France On 12th August 1916 Tidswell was flying a BE12 fighter aircraft (No.
6540) of 19th Squadron on an offensive patrol over Bapaume and at 6.45 a.m. he found himself being attacked by a hostile aircraft. Fortunately, he survived the dogfight although his aircraft was damaged but repairable. This was noted as being the first aerial combat involving this particular fighter aircraft which was apparently an ill-fated attempt to develop a single-seater from the BE2c. On 6th September 1916 Tidswell was again flying aircraft number 6540 this time on a bombing raid over Le Transloy and at 3.30 p.m. whilst at a height of 1200 feet he was again in action with an enemy aircraft. He once again survived the encounter and later wrote the following report: Was escort to bomb raid in Le Transloy. Was following the leader after he had dropped his bombs, when I heard a machine gun and saw hostile biplane about 200 yards off my right front. I immediately turned on him and dived after him firing about 20-30 shots before my gun jammed. When I had rectified this jam the hostile machine was some way down, being pursued by two of our machines until he dropped into the clouds. On 16th October 1916 Tidswell, in escort with Lieutenant J Thompson, was flying aircraft number 6620 on another bombing operation. He was again in combat with an enemy aircraft but this time his luck ran out and he was shot down. He was originally reported missing but it was later discovered that he had been killed in action. Lieutenant Thompson was also killed. On the same day it is known that 7 BE12s from 19 Squadron bombed Hermies Station and aerodrome, as well as Royaulcourt in the afternoon. The Royal Flying Corps Casualty Report dated 17th October 1916 states the following details: No 19 Squadron No 9 Wing. Type and No. of Machine: B.E.12 6620. Engine No.: 140HP R.A.F.4a No.25216/W.D.5717. Pilot: Captain C.R. Tidswell. Observer: Nil. Duty: Bomb Raid. Locality: [not completed] Lewis guns carried, with gun Nos.: 10106 Vickers Gun No.: L6911. Camera (Yes or No): No. Wireless (Yes or No): No. Other appliances (bomb racks, etc.): Two 20lb Bomb Carriers, Verys Pistol, Colt Automatic, Bomb Sight, R.A.F. Lighting Set, Combination Set. Where brought