Letter to Jack from Cadet D Creighton 5th July 1918

An extra letter included in Harry's bundle.

Cadet D Creighton 176219
"B" Flight
No 2 Cadet Wing
Royal Air Force
Dear Mr Lamin

As my father will no doubt have told you I joined the Air Force as a pilot Cadet nearly two months ago, and should have written to you before, but for the fact that our course here is short and hurried, we have to "swot" in the evening. I am thoroughly enjoying myself here, although it is not nice to be so far from home.
It will be a long time before I forget my first army drumhead service. It was one hot Sunday morning about three weeks ago. An aeroplane was stunting at low level throughout the service, distracting attention from the Padre's sermon. As we were moving off the field, the aeroplane flew low and crashed into the ground within a few yards of us. Luckily the pilot was unhurt, but the machine was considerably damaged.
The Padre, by the way, is Captain Daniels who has seen service at the front in some capacity. As a general rule we have the service in the Holy Trinity Church at Hastings.
From here I shall go in a fortnight or three weeks to a School of Military Aeronautics, probably at Alford. From there for three weeks at a Gunnery School at Uxbridge, and then I shall have some leave. It will be badly needed, as well, I can tell you. After the leave I shall start the real business - flying. England will not be short of pilots to finish off the war as there are 4000 odd of us here.
The weather is, as a rule, fearfully hot and we always spend the day in khaki shorts and bare knees, which have long since turned dark brown.
There has just been a violent outbreak of influenza and pneumonia among the cadets. Two of them died and a quarter of our squadron are in hospital or receiving treatment. Consequently, the medical officers have got alarmed and all theatres, picture halls and pier pavilions are out of bounds for us. Instead of having our lectures in lecture rooms we now have them in the open under trees and spend our time killing the flies. We each kill hundreds in a week. It is a wonder where they come from. I have never before enjoyed such perfect health as I have since I joined the Air Force. We are in the open air absolutely all day and have plenty of exercise and lots of good food.
We shall have an examination in Topography and Morse Signalling next Saturday 13th July, and on the Wednesday following we shall have our grand farewell concert. It is going to be some concert! And on the 19th or 20th July we leave Hastings for good, after having spent a very enjoyable time here. We sincerely hope we shall get our 'joy-rafs' (our slang for officer's uniform) at our next school.
We also have a lot of swimming and bathing here; and sports. The only things I miss are the people at home, although there are several cadets who come from the Grammar School. One of them has been with me all along and sleeps in my room, overlooking the sea. However I expect leave some time in September, and will call and see you if I have enough leave. How are Mr and Mrs Thomas getting on? Has Mr Thomas gone back to France yet? I hope he keeps safe if he has. However, I must close this letter now as it is getting on for tea-time.
Wishing yourself and Mrs Lamin the best of luck always. I remain,
Yours Sincerely

D Creighton

I'm not sure where the letter fits into the grand "Harry" scheme of things. I suspect that this was a letter from one of Jack's parishioners. (I just wonder why he would be addressed as "Mr Lamin" rather than "Reverend".) It's written on Royal Flying Corps notepaper three months after the RFC became the RAF. I suppose it does give quite a good picture of the training that a pilot would have experienced. Does anyone have any other information about Cadet Creighton? BL


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this was the Spanish Influenza which killed so many?

Duncan Booth said...

I'm sure it must have been. According to this article Spanish flu appeared in Britain (in Glasgow) in May 1918 so by July it would have been well established throughout the UK.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps that's 'Mr. Lamin' as a shorter, VERY slightly-casual version of 'the Rev. Mr. Lamin'?(I seem to recall that many of the schoolmasters of the era were men of the cloth.)

Anonymous said...

How strange, how strange it is," I reflected, as I looked, with an indefinable pain stabbing my chest, for Edward's name among those neat rows of oblong stones, "that all my past years-the childhood of which I have no one, now, to share the remembrance, the bright fields at Uppingham, the restless months in Buxton, the hopes and ambitions of Oxford, the losses and long-drawn agonies of the War- should be buried in this grave on the top of a mountain, in the lofty silence, the singing unearthly stillness, of these remote forests ! At every turn of every future road I shall want to ask him questions, to recall to him memories, and he will not be there. Who could have dreamed that the little boy born in such uneventful security to an ordinary provincial family would end his brief days in a battle among the high pine-woods of an unknown Italian plateau?"

Close to the wall, in the midst of a group of privates from the Sherwood Foresters who had all died on June 15th, I found his name "Captain E. H. Brittain, M.C., 11th Notts. and Derby Regt. Killed in action June 15th, 1918. Aged 22" In Venice I had bought some rosebuds and a small asparagus fern in a pot; the shopkeeper had told me that it would last a long time, and I planted it in the rough grass beside the grave.

"How trivial my life has been since the War ! "I thought, as I smoothed the earth over the fern. "How mean they are, these little strivings, these petty ambitions of us who are left, now that all of you are gone! How can the future achieve, through us, the somber majesty of the past? Oh, Edward, you're so lonely up here; why can't I stay for ever and keep your grave company, far from the world and its vain endeavors to rebuild civilization, on this Plateau where alone there is dignity and peace?"

But when at last I came from the cemetery, the child, who had been playing with his father near the car, ran up to me holding out a bunch of scabious and white clover that he had picked by the roadside.

"For the little signorina," he said.

Vera Brittain - Testament of Youth. On her death her ashes were taken to Italy by her daughter, Baroness Shirley Williams, and scattered on her brothers grave. (http://www.worldwar1.com/itafront/vbp.htm)

Anonymous said...

> (I just wonder why he would be addressed as "Mr Lamin" rather than "Reverend".)
In the Church of England, the correct form of address to a member of the clergy is "The Revd J.D.Smith" on the envelope and "Mr Smith" at the top of a letter. See http://www.crockford.org.uk/standard.asp?id=116
In the USA it is more common to write "Rev Smith" and that usage is growing over here now, but 90 years ago it would have been quite incorrect.

Kittybriton said...

Somehow I missed this letter when it was originally posted. It's nice to get the perspective of somebody else who went through the RAF training as my grandfather did.
He was fortunate that shortly before his unit was to be posted to France an officer declared that "these men are all too short to see over the trench parapet!" and sent them instead to peacekeeping duties in Ireland!
I think it was in Ireland that he also had some of his first experiences as a young pilot officer, including a forced landing in a field, which required the assistance of some farm workers to take off again.