We can finally see the face behind the letters

Since we started this blog in 2008, we feel we have got to know Oliver quite well, from the letters home we have shared here. One thing that frustrated us though was not having an image of Oliver. We really wanted to put a face to the young man.

The Great War saw an explosion in photography, with every proud soldier and sailor having a studio photograph taken of themselves in uniform, and made into multiple postcards to send on to family and friends. And less common than the studio portraiture, not helped by strict censorship in force, were pocket cameras and amateur photographers. Oliver himself mentions his camera several times ...

"Talking of photographs I am sorry you will have no studio ones of me because while I was at home and at Birmingham I had no clothes fit to wear and while at the C.F.S. had no opportunity but I do promise that I will have some done here when and as soon as it is possible for me. It should not be difficult. Keep all the letters from me that are interesting for they should make a fair record of my day here and events as well."

Well, good fortune has smiled on us.We have just been emailed two studio photographs, probably those referred to above.

Alison Glazebrook, from Oliver's village of Lowdham, contacted us earlier this year through the blog as she was looking for reference on a book she was writing on the local men listed on the village war memorial.
Alison attended the Lowdham Local History Society WWI Archives Day recently and by chance met Steve Smith. In the 1980's Steve bought the house that used to belong to Oliver's Brother Aubrey (Referred to as 'Jim' in the letters). When they bought it the 'box room' was still full of family effects. Tucked away in a corner were photos of Oliver along with a box made out of a wooden aeroplane propeller, an ammunition shell, and Oliver's records about his egg collection from when he was a child, along with copies of the letters home.
Steve had bought the photos along to the WW1 Archive Day, and Alison kindly made copies to send to us.

It's strange finally being able to see Oliver. Sharing publicly his personal letters home to his family was never a decision we took lightly, but we felt they were an important record of the time. They were nearly 100 years old, there were no relatives alive who knew Oliver personally. As we went through the letters though, we got to know Oliver better. These letters are open and unguarded, there is little 'front' to them, we see the real Oliver through them. I think we actually have a better 'picture' of Oliver now through his words than through his photograph.
I'm looking at his colourised photo right now as I type this, wondering if he would approve of our blog today. He is looking back at me rather intensely from 97 years ago, and I can see he is made from far sterner stuff than me. I don't think he would approve, and I like him all the more for it.



"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."


Lt. O. C. Pearson

Lt. O. C. Pearson

Continue reading We can finally see the face behind the letters...

The letters are reunited with the Pearson family

Apologies from your rather scatty bloggers on this long overdue update!

In March this year we managed to reunite Olivers letters to the Pearson Family.
Francis and his wife Hilary were such gracious hosts for the afternoon and couldn't have made us more welcome. I can't say how happy Dan and I were to finally hand over the letters back to the family, where they belong, and also that they were so pleased to have them back. It was a perfect end to this story for us.

Hilary treated us to one of the best Sunday roasts I've had for a very long time, and afterward we got to see Oliver's effects that had been passed down to Francis from his father Aubrey. Oliver's wallet, a short diary, some family photos, a map of North Belgium, and his medals and 'Death Penny' Memorial Plaque.



Your humble blog authors with Francis
Me, Francis and Dan

Francis with Olivers letters, while I am holding an 1897 bottle of Madeira, from Francis's own collection, which he opened especially to honour the occasion. The date is significant - the year Oliver was born.
(The bottle now proudly sits on my bookshelf)
Francis and I with Olivers Great War letters


Oliver's diary
Oliver's Dairy

Olivers diary

Oliver's wallet, containing cards and addresses, a few family photos, and his last R.F.C. pay cheque
Oliver's wallet

Olivers wallet

Nell, June 1917, sitting on the tail of a Naval Avro
Nell

Dog ticket

RFC cheque
Olivers last pay cheque

Oliver's 'Death Penny', and his British War Medal, and Victory Medal, often refered to as 'Mutt and Jeff'
The Death Penny, or Memorial Plaque, was issued to the Next of Kin of every British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.
Olivers Death Penny and medals Continue reading The letters are reunited with the Pearson family...

Oliver's letters are going home ...

Well, it's been a few years since Dan and I started this blog in 2008, in an attempt to stop these precious and personal little snapshots from being lost to history. We didn't have a grand plan when we started this blog, we just wanted to share a view into the life of a young pilot in training.

While we painstakingly scanned and transcribed the letters, put them in their correct order, and posted them here, in the background we were trying to decide what to do with them. We were very aware they were not ours, we were merely fortunate custodians chosen purely by fate.

I looked into the Grosvenor School, and was very pleased to see they were still going well. They were very interested in the letters, and gave us more information to fill in the gaps in Olivers early life there. If we couldn't trace any family, we thought they may be good future custodians of the letters. It with sadness that we recently found out that the school is to close at the end of this academic year, after 138 years.

http://www.grosvenorschool.co.uk/

Dan looked into tracing the Pearson family, and we had a few leads, but they needed a certain amount of detective work! We found that Oliver's brother Aubrey had a son called Francis. The trail went cold from here though, although I did find an association of someone with the same name with the Bath Philharmonia ... (Francis was actually a director!)  Through this we were finally able to contact with the Pearson family, although contact was broken for a couple of years while the blog was completed, then I foolishly lost Francis' contact details!

Recent contact though this blog with a lady researching the Lowdham War Memorial stirred us into action again, and we luckily managed to get in touch with Francis again. I am very happy to say that very shortly Dan and I will be returning these letters to the Pearson family, where they belong. It wasn't planned that we hand them over in this Centenary year, but it seems very fitting.


Mike.

Continue reading Oliver's letters are going home ......

Welcome to 'An Airmans Lost Letters' 1915-1917


These long forgotten letters penned by a young R.F.C. pilot, 2nd Lt. Oliver Charles Pearson to his Mother during the Great War, were discovered and liberated from a skip filled with the remnants of a roof clearance at a property in Southampton, UK during the mid 1990s. Within the past year they were rediscovered (again) having sat in a box in a loft for the last 10-15 years and were kindly passed to this sites authors, both of whom share an interest in social and military history from this period.

Any links the letters had with the Pearson family have been long forgotten. We, the creators of this website, believe these documents are important social records of great interest to many, truly deserving preservation and a wider audience.

When the letters came into our possession, via the nephew of the original finder, we deliberated over what we should do with them - perhaps donate them to a war museum? Oliver Pearsons old school? or return them to any living descendants, should we discover any. All of these options are still open but before a final decision is made we present them here for all to read.

All the letters have now been painstakingly hand typed and catalogued by Mike, during tea breaks and quiet evenings at home. This took several months, but once completed, we decided to begin this very blog you are reading now, and post each letter chronologically as a permanent online record for anyone interested in the history of the Great War.

We hope people more knowledgeable than us will add their input and assist in providing further details about this young mans life and the family history associated with it. All we have are these letters and some small details gleaned from them on-line, such as the whereabouts of his family home, his school and references to his disappearance in 1917 at the hands of a renowned German fighter pilot.

We plan to post one or two letters per week and intersperse them with further information and related history that we have discovered. The first letter will be posted on Nov 11th 2008. Bookmark us to keep up to date with new posts and please share this site with anyone you believe will be interested.

(Please note: all spelling and grammar is presented exactly as found in the letters.)

If you are a new visitor to this site we suggest that you scroll to the bottom of this page to read the letters sequentially. 

Thank you for reading.

Dan Little & Mike Johnson - Editors.

Continue reading Welcome to 'An Airmans Lost Letters' 1915-1917...

Lt Werner Voss claims his 44th victim

On the 10th of September 1917 two young pilots met over the Flanders battlefield. One was nineteen year old 2nd Lt Oliver Charles Pearson, the other was  twenty year old Leutnant Werner Voss, flying a prototype of one of the brand new Fokker Triplanes ...

Oliver had left the 70 Sqn airfield near Poperinge at 4.45pm in Sopwith Camel B3787, on an offensive patrol to nearby Houlhulst Wood.  Lt Werner Voss was by then commander of 10 Jasta. One of Germanys top fighter aces, he was a natural pilot and aggressive fighter with 43 kills to his credit so far, second only to his friend and competitor Baron Manfred Von Richthofen.  Werner had been chosen to test fly Anthony Fokkers prototype only a few days before at the end of August. With aero engines in short supply his was fitted with a 110 hp LeRhône engine engine from a captured RFC Nieuport 17 fighter.


Voss with Anthony Fokker





Voss and his Triplane with his distinctive Japanese kite face painted on the Nacelle.


The inexperienced Oliver, on one of his first offensive patrols, would not have stood a chance against Werner Voss.  Oliver was shot down somewhere over the Front Line near Langemark, and reported Missing in Action. His remains were lost in that shattered Passchendaele battlefield.
(Although Oliver is credited in several books as his 44th victim, this is open to conjecture. See this thread on the Aerodrome forum for a far more detailed analysis of events that took place.)

Werner Voss only survived Oliver by 13 days, before falling in one of the most famous air battles of the  Great War himself.

With much thanks to the Great War Forum for information about Olivers last sortie.


Continue reading Lt Werner Voss claims his 44th victim...

Shuttleworth Uncovered at Old Warden

I made a long overdue visit to the Shuttleworth Collection recently, for their Shuttleworth Uncovered display. The Shuttleworth Collection has been on my radar for many years now, especially since we started this blog of Olivers letters. For this event there was a special Sopwith line up, and although none were flying, we were treated to several engine runs of the Brooklands Camels 130hp Cleget motor. To finally see this stubby little aeroplane close up was an amazing experience, but to smell the castor oil and hear the throaty roar of the motor was even better, and will stay with me for a very long time.

Contact!

Camel engine run

Sopwith Camel

And this is one of the last 10 Pup's built by the Sopwith Factory in 1919. They converted them into a two seaters and called them 'Doves'. Richard Shuttleworth acquired it in 1936 and converted it back into a single seat Pup.

Sopwith Pup

We had a fantastic afternoon at Old Warden, can't recommend a visit highly enough. Now planning my next visit ...

Click here for the rest of my Shuttleworth Uncovered photos. Continue reading Shuttleworth Uncovered at Old Warden...

70 Sqn Camels




An artwork by Mark W Miller, depicting Sopwith Camels of Olivers 70 Squadron.

There are many more images of Camels on his website, including internals and cutaways. Check out his website - the aerodrome, it is well worth a look.
Continue reading 70 Sqn Camels...

Letter 23 presumed missing

A note from the Editors:

When we first read these letters, this one was the only clue we had to Olivers fate... Missing, presumed a Prisoner of War?
It is written by Oliver's Headmaster from his old school in Nottingham, The Rev. Kirsopp. Grosvenor School is a small independant and is still very much alive and thriving, and an excellent history can be found here. The link is well worth a look and mentions both Charles Kirsopp and C.B. Brookes, who is mentioned in this letter.
We have been in contact with the school who were extremely interested in these lost letters from one of their Old Boys. Not only because of their obvious historical importance, but also their potential as teaching aids for the students. What better way to bring the Great War alive to their students?
Headmaster Charles Oldershaw has supplied some interesting information from the school, to help fill in the some of the missing pieces of the jigsaw of Oliver Charles Pearsons life.
Aubrey is Oliver's younger brother, (We think Oliver calls him 'Jim' in his letters) and also attended Grosvenor School. Aubrey is also the father of Francis, the descendant found by Dan, who we hope to return the letters too in the not to distant future.


Grosvenor School,
Waterloo Crescent,
Nottingham.

September 18. 1917

Dear Mrs Pearson :

We are exceedingly sorry to hear the sad news about Oliver. Strangely enough by the same post I got a letter from Aubrey containing the same news. I have an idea that Oliver was in the Flying Corps & if that is so it will be better for him as the tradition is that the Germans treat the flying men much better than other prisoners and certainly Aurther Hallam – another old boy – who has been a prisoner since last October seems to be very well treated if we can judge from his letters.
Mr Brooks was taken prisoner on April 14th. It was seven or eight weeks before we heard from him & then his mother & I both had cards almost the same time. He said he was being made to work hard behind the German lines, but expected he would soon be moved to a camp & gave as his address
C.B.Brookes, 257,
Gerfangenen Lager
Wahn.

I write to him about every three weeks but have had no further card from him. The last time I heard from Mrs Brookes she said she had had another card saying he had written 7 or 8 cards to her, but only two had arrived.
I am awfully sorry for him as he dreaded being made prisoner more than anything else.
He was quite 8 weeks I think before the Hallams heard from Aurther but since then they have heard fairly regularly.
The suspense must be terribly trying for you and we sympathise most deeply with you and Mr Pearsons & hope that you will soon hear from him. Please let me know when you do hear.
With kindest regards,
I am,
Yours sincerely,
Charles Kirsopp.
Continue reading Letter 23 presumed missing...

Letter 22 - I haven’t again been over the lines – yet but it is my turn next

A note from the Editors:
The last letter home we have from Oliver, who appears to be very much enjoying squadron life


Franked 11 SP 17
O.A.S.
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.
Letter 16

70 Squadron RFC BEF France
Sunday 9.9.17 Letter 16

My dear people
I received “the dear enemy” yesterday & thank you very much for it. I haven’t yet finished Pickwick so I shall not start it just yet but I can see its going to be like Daddy Long legs.
I haven’t again been over the lines – yet but it is my turn next & we are to be very busy now. We have been having very cloudy days so have hardly been able to fly at all.
I had rather a go the other night as 19 others formed a party got a tender & went into the ancient city. We had a most jovial little dinner & a good rag afterwards & I for one came home feeling much better for the rag & the good time.
Last night the whole squadron was invited to have dinner with a neighbouring one. They gave us a great feast drinks & cigars etc ad. Lib. & plenty of good cheer. There were several chaps there that I had met at Ternhill.

To Mother : Many happy returns of the 31st. I never can remember your birthday. Please forgive me. Your birthday present must be delayed until I come home on my 1st leave. This place has a hop garden quite close to & reminds me of Kent although the hops are strung up differently. They are very poor hops I fancy, plenty of them but very small. One of my recent batmen was a hop tester from the district near Cannon St Station. The midges are getting a great nuisance but I & my tent mate have found out that if we each smoke a pipe last thing it clears the tent of the little beasts & they don’t find their way in again in any great numbers. I am glad to hear that Dad is feeling so well & fit that he should walk from Nottingham to spite the MR. He couldn’t have done that a bit awhile ago. Well best of love to all of you at home from your loving
Oliver
O.C.Pearson 2nd Lt.
Continue reading Letter 22 - I haven’t again been over the lines – yet but it is my turn next...

Letter 21 - I was a bit surprised you bet but I have had my first trip over hunland.

A note from the Editors:

We are missing a letter which is a pain, as things have moved on a pace since Olivers last letter! He has now been posted back to 70 Squadron and straight back in the saddle, with a description of his first eventful flight over enemy lines - 'Hunland'. It has been just 3 weeks since his crash.


Franked 8 SP 17
O.A.S.
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.
Letter No. 15 II

70 Squadron RFC BEF France
6.9.17
Letter no 15

Dear Mother & Dad.

I have just received two letters from you dated 2 Sept so that they have only taken 4 days to come. I am again with my Squadron. I played my last card and won. I slung my weight about till I must have made everyone fed up with me & so they got a hustle on. I came back yesterday morning & flew in the afternoon for about an hour & a half. This morning at 5.30 I was wakened up to say I was for patrol at six. I was a bit surprised you bet but I have had my first trip over hunland. It was very cloudy indeed & we were above the clouds so that you could only occassionally see the places where the trenches are. I saw a gas attack in progress but that was all the activity I could see besides I was using my eyes too busyly looking round for huns. However we didn’t meet any & I only saw one & he was in the process of being downed by a bunch of our machines.


Five of us set out but we lost three leaving me & the leader to stroll about for an hour alone when we picked up another of the party. The hun honoured me with my first Archie which burst only about 20 yards from me with a loud report & knocked me over sideways & that was his first shot so will give you an idea of how good they are. (I was 16,000 ft up in the bargain.) Of course we had been flying straight for a long time myself in ignorance that we were even over them. The funniest sight was to see the opposing lines of kite balloons facing each other solemnly each side of the lines.

Coming home I followed the leader alright till we had to go through the clouds. He picked a hole & went through & I did ditto but shortly after lost him underneath so as I hadn’t the foggiest notion where I was I flew around at only 400 ft till I saw a good field in which I landed quite successfully & found myself near a Divisional headquarters. I had breakfast & lunch in an ASC mess & a jolly good one they gave me. I rang up the nearest squadron & got more petrol & some mechanics & they sent me off after lunch when with much difficulty I found my way back. Of course I had phoned my squadron to let them know so they weren’t anxious. I was altogether 2 ½ hours in the air & didn’t at all mind my first trip although it was a windy time first trip over & for a time only two of us together. Still “the words which he said & the deeds which he did shall they not be written at full length in the diary of O.C.P.”

I have bought a topping little book for a diary which I am filling up as I go along. I have received your parcel. Thank you very much for the contents. The pen I am using now but the knib is a bit broad for me & the flask is a topper & thank you very much indeed for them. Please pay the enclosed bill by the first post & I enclose my address. I am writing to slang them well as they deserve it. Fancy requiring me to pay a bill befor they send my goggles as if I don’t want them & as if I can get English money here the blighters & I am left with no goggles. The crash hasn’t upset my nerve much I don’t think : during my fly to-day I felt quite alright & happy.

Aunt Mary seems to be giving Betty the same sort of worrying time as she detailed at length to me in her letter. Now I am back at the Squadron I am hoping for happier times. There is a pretty heavy thunderstorm going on at the present, & the the weather doesn’t seem to be going to change. I saw two kestrals here yesterday & around where I had my forced landing magpies were as thick as sparrows. With love to all & best wishes from

Your loving Son
Oliver xxx
O.C.Pearson 2nd LT
R.F.C.
Continue reading Letter 21 - I was a bit surprised you bet but I have had my first trip over hunland....

Letter 20 - We went to see the “Crumps” concert party. They are jolly good & very famous.

A note from the Editors:

Oliver gets passed as fit, but is still waiting to be posted back to a Squadron. Also very difficult to read his review of the concert party without 'Blackadder' in the back of my mind.

Franked 3 SP 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.
Letter No. 13

70 Squadron RFC BEF France
1 Sept 1917
Letter no 13

Dear Mother
Isn’t it rotten I haven’t been posted back yet but live in hope as other fellows are being posted to other squadrons flying the same machines but none go to 70.
I had a jolly fine time last night. I was mooning around in ----------- when I was hailed in a loud voice from a tender & there was my pal Smith Grant & lots of other 70 fellows all going to a concert so of course away I went with them. We went to see the “Crumps” concert party. They are jolly good & very famous. They have a chap who dresses as a girl who is simply fine. His (her) picture apeared in the Tatler or the Sketch for last week. Her name is Private Purkiss. (S)he is very swish & has nice ankles & a pretty face & not too muscley arms & a voice like that of many girls on the stage.


The whole show was jolly good & I met several old friends among the audience. I have also seen the Follies out here & they gave a show much much superior to any you would see at a variety theatre in London. One fellow had been on leave & heard a song in one of the latest revues & then heard a man, dressed as a girl again, sing it here & he said there was no doubt as to who was best there was no comparison at all. The latter fellow was dressed in evening dress & came onto the stage in the same way as an amature lady singer of repute would do. He also made up as some swish girl I can tell you.

After the concert last night we went back into ////// & I fixed up with Madame at the main Hotel, who is a great pal of mine, to give us a cheery supper as we had had no dinner so we had a most cheery supper & swapped yarns & reminiscences to a late hour when they motored me back here & then went home leaving me wishing I could be with them.

Partridge shooting begines to-day & there are fifty rounds of the best on top of the book case in the dining room. How I wish I were home to use them. The beastly Major person passed me fit without any trouble. He was a most cheery person. He laughed like anything when I told him that the only other two times I had been knocked out were boxing & falling out of a tree. He thought I must be some boy. Best love to all & many xxxx’s from

Your loving son.
Oliver Pearson.
Continue reading Letter 20 - We went to see the “Crumps” concert party. They are jolly good & very famous....

Short clip of a replica Sopwith Camel.

A note from the Editors:

A short BBC news clip of a Sopwith Camel.

Continue reading Short clip of a replica Sopwith Camel....

Letter 19 - I am an awful rotter at putting things nicely & I am awfully sorry.

A note from the Editors:

Still recovering in hospital. Also interesting to note, in our modern lifestyles where so much is disposable, especially if broken, that Oliver's goggles that were smashed in his crash have been sent away to be repaired!


Franked 1 SP 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.
Letter No. 12

70 Squadron RFC BEF France
29.8.17

Dear Mother
I have just had a letter from you dated 19.8.17 & as it’s the first I have had for a fortnight you bet I was pleased. I have also had the first instalment of papers which are very welcome indeed as I am very short of literature. I have just finished the Tale of Two Cities & am now reading Pickwick which I have often tried to read befor but never got beyond the first chapter. I am enjoying it immensely.

I don’t know how Jim would recognise a Camel as I more than suspect he has never seen one as there is only one aerodrome in England where there are any. What you saw was most probably a DH5 as there are some at Grantham. A Camel goes up just about half as fast again as a DH5 so you can guess it goes up some. That’s how we beat the Bosche. Poor old Vick’s engine cut out over Hunland & he just managed to get his machine behind our front line but of course crash landing badly; on account of shell holes etc; & is now in hospital somewhere I am not sure where but I will transmit your message in my next to him.


My dear Mother I am awfully sorry about the cigs. I am an awful rotter at putting things nicely & I am awfully sorry. Even Jim comments on it so it must have been awful bad. But what am I to do. It’s no good my letting you go on sending me cigs I don’t appreciate as much as others & which I can get free here as an issue so letting you waste money on them & postage & so I had to tell you. They issue cigs & pipe bacca to all troops here just so much a week, very little, & we pinch a lot if we want the,. All smokes here are quite 1/3rd cheaper than in England. I can get cigars here for 4d that in England are 7d or8d apiece & here they are most beautifully packed in leadfoil to boot!

I have had my teeth stopped by an excellent army dentist for nothing (Not the two missing ones of course worse luck) Tell Goodie I shall be delighted to have her helmet : it would be better to have it I am sure it would please her & it’s sure to be a good one & it would come in useful later when it gets colder. I had time to invest the £5 Grandpa gave me last thing befor I left England & bought a simply topping helmet face mask & pair of goggles which last were broken in my crash & are now in England being repaired.

You have settled the matter. I have thought about those field boots : take them back to Manfields & get the money for them (full price of course) if you can. They fit my feet but are too loose about the tops & ankles which of course could be remedied but what use are they to me after all after the war or even now?
If my cheque hasn’t arrived tell Cox’s to cancel cheque no “RFCX250183”
I am still at I.AD but that is I suppose on account of the awful weather during which there cannot possibly be any flying so of course no casualtys in No 70. I haven’t seen that beastly Major yet either. I am having my photo taken here if I can. I went to-day but they said the light was too bad so it was na poo.

I am feeling alright again now but at first I had an awful bout of headaches lasting all one day. Quite the worst I have ever had. It does annoy me so to have to eat even a pear with a knife & not be able to take a decent bite out of anything harder than a jelly. Thank you ever so much for the photo its just fine. When I get to my squadron I shall have a frame made to hold all the lot. I love that one of you & Dad though ever so much. Give my love to Dad & Ena & Bettey & Jim & much love to you from your loving Son
Oliver XXXXXXX
Continue reading Letter 19 - I am an awful rotter at putting things nicely & I am awfully sorry....

Great War aircraft reconstructions

For an insight into the aircraft being flown by the RFC at the time the excellent Vintage Aviator website is well worth a look.

They haven't recreated a Sopwith Camel yet, but you really get a feel for the machines that took to the air back then.

Click here to visit the site: Vintage Aviator 
Continue reading Great War aircraft reconstructions...

Letter 18 - He is a persistant fellow always around & dropping eggs as he goes.

A note from the Editors:

Recovering well in hospital, but suffering aerial attacks from mosquitoes and Huns. Hopes of rejoining 70 Sqn. don't look good either after a chat with the adjutant...


Franked 25 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

39 Stationary Hospital France
Address to 70 Squadron BEF France
25.8.17
Letter no 11

My dear Mother
I am still in hospital although now I am up & about & yesterday went out for a walk up the town. The stitch on the outside of my mouth has been taken out & that cut is quite healed but the one inside is not taken out yet although I expect it will be to day. All swelling has gone down practically & my eye has now only rings and contours round it & no swelling. I shall leave here I suppose in two days at most & where I shall go I don’t know. I hope to get back to my squadron & shall swing like mad to do so but one cannot be sure that’s what’s worrying me a lot just now.


My watch has arrived safely & is going well. This hospital is a French prison or once was. I am not in the prison but in a hut in the garden of same. A man named Dreifus was kept here for 10 years & then let go. It is a strange place to look at with all the windows barred & all the walls & doors so think & a 12 foot wall of immense thickness round the whole. The great nuisance here are the mosquitoes & knats which give one a terrible time at night. I am bitten all over my face & arms & itch terribly. We cover our pillows with Eau de Cologne & Eucalyptus which does keep them at bay but doesn’t last all night. I sleep with my sheet over my head but I always seem to toss it off & so I get bitten. The beasts are the terror of my life.

I have started to play chess here. All I know are the moves which Jim taught me but I can manage to beat one fellow & give two others a long run for their money. We have in this ward a chap from my squadron who got two huns on his first trip over the lines & got bits of bullet in his leg doing it. He didn’t know he had got them but the squadron have claimed them for him. We also have a baby in the place. It comes from Armentiers & was gassed. It’s only 8 weeks old now & has been here sometime so it must have been fearful young when it was gassed.

It’s mother never comes near it & it’s looked after entirely by the sisters it’s the smallest thing I have seen as it cannot be more than 15 ins long when stretched out. One of the night sisters brought it in here and made one of the chaps nurse it and feed it while she did her work in other places. I have been having a chat to the adjutant of 70 & my hopes of getting back have gone down to zero but keep smiling we’ll soon be dead as the saying is. Just lately we have had alarms of the hun every night. He is a persistant fellow always around & dropping eggs as he goes. The only consolation is that we drop 2 or 3 times as much as he does always. Please give my love to all & much to yourself & Dad from
Your loving son
Oliver XXXX
Continue reading Letter 18 - He is a persistant fellow always around & dropping eggs as he goes....

Letter 17 - "My greatest sorrow is the loss of my two teeth."

A note from the Editors:

A couple of days after the crash and Oliver is recovering, and news about the accident from a fellow squadron mate shows he was lucky to escape so lightly.


Franked 24 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

39 Stationary Hospital France } BEF France
70 Squadron
Letter no 10

My dear people
The above are my two addresses but address my letters to the second as I hope not to be here much longer. My cuts have healed very rapidly although I haven’t had the stitches out yet & my eye is practically unbunged up. My greatest sorrow is the loss of my two teeth which I cannot get over. It’s so awkward amongst other things to eat. I even have to eat pears with a spoon! & I think that is the outside edge. The two teeth I have lost were also the two I invariably held my pipe with & it feels so awkward holding it in the other side.

One tooth, one of my tombstones, has gone completely & the one next door is all cracked up what there is of it & is broken off level with the gum & is very sensitive. My ankle is better & I am now allowed to walk about where I like dressed in a dressing gown. They have sent my kit here from the Squadron & with it my goggles that I was wearing at the time. They are smashed up 30/- gone west with a rush. I am sending them back to be mended with all haste. My cap has a little of my gore on.


Another fellow from the Squadron has joined me here. He was fighting a Bosch & got a lot of little splinters of bullets in his leg but got back to the aerodrome alright. He is to have them cut out to-day. He thanks me like anything for smashing up the bus I did as it was his & he did not like it (neither did I). A fellow came to see me yesterday & said I was well out of the smash so lightly as the buss was a total wreck.
I am picking up chess & beat a fellow here two of three games. Otherwise we spend out time chatting reading & strolling round.

My wrist watch has arrived safely & it is going finely I hope my cheque arrived too.
Last night there was a big migration of swallows here thousands of them wheeling round in the dusk of evening & twittering as they do. The worst here are the mosquitoes or “skitters” which torment one at night. They not only raise a lump but the lump also has a yellow head to it full of poison I suppose. I got bitten badly last night.

From here I can see our boys setting out over the line & how I wish I were with them. Yesterday a Bosch plane came over in broad daylight but rumour has it that he didn’t get back home. Archie made the usual pretty patterns in the sky without getting anywhere near the Bosch. Aunt May (TW) wrote me a letter telling me news of people I had never befor heard of and all about her troubles so that I should write to her from France I suppose. Anyway, now is a good chance & I have got it over. With much love to all from
Yours as always
Oliver XXXX
Continue reading Letter 17 - "My greatest sorrow is the loss of my two teeth."...

Letter 16 - The Sister is a nice girl & has a medal of a military character.

A note from the Editors:

After only being in the Squadron a couple of days, Oliver is involved in a bad crash, writing off his Sopwith Camel and putting him in hospital, luckily with only superficial wounds.


Franked 22 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

39 Stationary Hospital France
21.8.17
Letter No 9

Dear Mother
This is only a very temporary address & I am writing with all haste so that you may not be alarmed if you see my name in the casualty lists. I am here as the result of an aeroplane accident. The aerodrome I was on was fairly big but on one side you took off over a valley & in doing so yesterday my engine conked & I of course had to turn round which is a fatal thing to do & anyway after turning I remember no more.


I came down about 200 feet & smashed the machine to atoms so I am told but all that is the matter with me is a sprained ankle a cut lip a cut eye my jaw somewhat cut about & worst of all two teeth knocked out at least one of my two tombstones is right out & one next door is broken off flat with the gum. I am otherwise alright & am thanking my lucky stars I’m alright as it must have been a great escape but I know nothing of it as I fainted after the turn back I made & was still unconscious till just befor I arrived at the hospital when I woke up wondering where I was and what had happened. I have had a stitch put in two of the cuts but have been left alone otherwise.

I am in a nice ward made of a hut there are five others in all as well as me all infantry chaps with very little wrong with them. The Sister is a nice girl & has a medal of a military character. I was having a fine time at the squadron & am awfully mad this has happened. I was actually setting out on my first rip over the lines when I had the accident. Till then I had been flying round practicing.

I had been given the most beautiful machine & was as pleased as punch with it. I also had a fight in the air with one of our best scrappers & I surprised him pretty well as he was loud in my praises when he got down so I had a good prospect. I am a bit afraid now that I may not get back to my old squadron but shall work like mad to do so. One of the Ternhill boys is missing poor fellow. Keep on addressing my letters except the answer to this to 70 Squadron remember that I might have been in a boxing match & shall soon be alright. Also if I go though the casualty lists I shall be entitled to wear a gold stripe although I shant of course. With much love to all from
Oliver.
Continue reading Letter 16 - The Sister is a nice girl & has a medal of a military character....

Letter 15 - Oliver falls on his feet, a posting to 70 Squadron!

A note from the Editors:

Oliver finally gets posted! He moves to 70 Squadron, based in Liettres, the first R.F.C. squadron to be issued with the new Sopwith Camel, only a month or so before.


Franked 18 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

70 Squadron : BEF : France
18.8.17
Letter No 8

My Dear Mother
I shifted here yesterday I am jolly glad to at last have the chance of some flying. I kicked up a row at the Pool because I was there so long & found that headquarters had lost my name!! & yet they say there’s a war on. The day befor I left we had a hun plane over the town. He was an awful height up at least 15,000 & our Archie made pretty patterns in the sky with smoke puffs but didn’t even make the hun turn. Our fellows went up but were years late & so I expect he got home again safely. He did no damage & it was thought he had lost his way as huns don’t generally come so far back without laying eggs.


As far as I can see I have fairly fallen on my feet here. There are two chaps who were also at Ternhill here. The Major is reported by all to be one of the best. The Mess is good so far as I have seen. The other fellows are good sorts as far as one can judge at first sight. The Aerodrome is good but of course small & very crowded. We live in tents which is a drawback but one cannot have all jam. This is I suppose one of the two best scout squadrons in France & we fly what I was flying befor I left England (Poor old Censor that phrase has diddled him) I am hoping to get a flip to-day & shall get over the lines during next week I hope. It’s just fine to have got at last to the haven of ones ambition for the past two years & I have been in Khaki now nearly two years next 26th Sept I shall have been. It’s jolly pretty country round here with funny little churches marred by two great slag heaps where coal pits are & by the signs of the war troops etc I mean of course not shell holes or the like.
With very much love to all from Oliver xxx

Jim

Thanks very much for your letter. You made a good find with the elephant. I have sent home various bug messages for you & keep my eyes open for catapillara of the swallow tails & this is a likely enough spot give me a list of their food plants. I am just as pleased as punch getting here just the squadron I wanted to get to. I saw a migration of swifts last week several hundred going south about 5 in the evening.

Aunt Mary has written a piffling letter without offering me anything only & simply to get an answer back & that I guess she will have to wait for. Thank Betty very much indeed for her socks & tell her I can do with any amount of that sort. They are just fine & come high up my legs nearly to my knees. I have got a beautiful pair of flying boots coming right up to my thighs made of sheep skin & the finest Colt revolver you could wish for. Well cheerio & best of all good luck for your holiday.

Oliver.
Continue reading Letter 15 - Oliver falls on his feet, a posting to 70 Squadron!...

Letter 14 - still not posted, but having a bon time

A note from the Editors:

Oliver is still stuck at the Pilots Pool 3 weeks after arriving, but seems to have cheered up a little after a night out in town with two fellows from 34 Sqn.


Franked 17 AUG 17
7.
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

France 14.8.17
Address as usual letter no 7

My dear Mother
I am again writing to-day although I only wrote yesterday but this is to be quite a business letter.

Enclosed please find
Cheque for £20 (twenty pounds)
2 photographs
2 postcards
The cheque is for you to pay my bills with. There are not many the two biggest being with Stones in Nottm & Allports in Brum.


The photos one is of me with not much clothing on & will hardly bear publication. (Give it to Jim) It was taken by another fellow & given me here. The other is of Lt Roberts MC : DCM & Scottie Brown & my Pup doing his favourite trick of chewing the rubber end of Robert’s stick behind is an Aero with a Cleget engine. The waving things on the left outside struts are streamers to distinguish one machine from another.
The postcards speak for themselves & are included to keep the photos from bending.

Please write to the
Coventry Lever Co Ltd
41B New St
Birmingham

& ask them for my wrist watch. I have written but if they answered I have not had the answer. If they do not send it strafe them like anything. Write in my name as if it was me writing. Let me have the watch & know of the result.
Its better for the watch to be sent to you because you know my address or will know it when I get to a squadron & don’t send the watch till I do get posted. This posting business is a fag I wait about & wait about & nothing happens & yet I have always to live in hope.

I am awfully pleased to hear so much good news of Jim & all his bugs etc. Tell him I have had a swallow tail fluttering against my hand in an attempt to catch it for him & that I could easily have caught a scarlet underwing moth if catching it could have been any use. Silver washed & the large brown sort of fritillary are common as well as a smaller sort whose name I dont know & which I cannot get a good view of. Green hair streaks & a small sort of skipper I have also seen as well as three other sorts I have no means of identifying.

I am feeling much better to-day as two of the 34 crowd have turned up. One of them gave me the photo taken at the C.F.S. We had a bon time in /////// last night & I got through some francs. Madame faisait laudation avec ma chere Mere et Dieu vous benissez avec beaucoup de sentiment et d’amour a tous mon chere famille de votre fil amoureuse.
Oliver xxxx

The last line sounds a bit groggy

Je vous brasses dans le spitit au travers les leagues de distance que nous “sepparons”?

Continue reading Letter 14 - still not posted, but having a bon time...

Timewatch - WW1 Aces Falling - on iplayer now

A note from the Editors:

Recommended viewing for anyone following this blog -Timewatch, WWI Aces Falling.

Continue reading Timewatch - WW1 Aces Falling - on iplayer now...

Letter 13 - expecting to be posted soon...

A note from the Editors:

Oliver still waiting to be posted, and feeling dejected as all his fellow pilots have already gone to squadrons.


Franked 11 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

No1AD Officers Pool Mess
France
8.8.17
Letter No 5

My dear Mother
I got your first letter yesterday & was so pleased to have the photos. I thought that particular film had gone west with two others that have been lost. Arent the photos good as such considering the light in which they were taken. Ena is awful serious in hers isn’t she about the only second she looked serious that day – of course.

I shall have them mounted & hang them near my bed when I get a bed of my own. I haven’t been posted yet as you see but expect to be to-night. I am very desolate as all my real friends who have been with me now on 3 moves (4 of them) have been posted. The last went to-night. He has been with me all through since Turnhouse & was a very white friend. He was an Australian named Vick & comes from Sidney. He was the best fellow I have yet met to have an enjoyable night out with as he never went beyond a certain point or let you & yet you always had a very pleasant time. Its one of the drawbacks of greatness that you get parted from your pals: he only flies Pups, but was an excellent but not dashing pilot. I feel deserted.


Donald was sort of expectant & suppressed excitement. He will have a bad time till he gets used to things in general but he wont go wrong I should think with all his home training.
Send that silly ass Archer his bob & a stinker of a letter to wake him up. He always was a fool & always will be now I suppose but if you go for him enough he wakes up with a start for about five minutes. He was of course my batman. I will write to Stephenson.
Don’t pay for Kodaks they are all prepaid.

I should very much like you to send me a few papers say The Observer, Punch & the Royal. We only get papers 2 days old & hear all the news from hearsay & know of the “lively bombardments” & the “Drum fire” by hearing it. Once it was so intense as to make the hut vibrate although 26 miles away & yet there wasn’t much sound only dull booms. The newsagent in Exchange Walks would do the whole job & I will pay for it. Keep an account of what I owe you most carefully.
I am awfully pleased to hear of Bettys success. Isn’t it great. Please congratulate her like anything for me & tell her how pleased I am.

Fren Hollands letter would be posted in Boulogne & mine was in --------. I know Leslie had won an MC but didn’t know what for till you told me. Poor old Buster Johnson as he was known in the ICOTC.

There has just been another of the funny sudden thunderstorms that seem to be general nowadays. The last one caused an apalling loss of valuable machines & pilots.
Last night I and a Canadian Captain walked into -------- to see the cathedral. It is truly a beautiful place but has been much renovated. A most beautiful Reubens hangs in there. It is of Christ being lowered from the cross & is an original but a duplicate as Reubens painted two like each other. In all the little side chapels hang most lovely old pictures but the chapels are so small you cannot see the pictures hardly at all the light in most cases making them shiny in some part. It is a great shame. The place is 13th centuary. The original floor now decorates the walls & the bases of pillars. Funny old pictures on large tiles or stones. There is an old statue of Christ making him look like a Buddha with short legs & sitting on the cathedral in miniture. Lots of the funny old carved & painted groups in stone are also very grotesque & old.

I went for about a ten mile walk last night the first part through fields & the second along an interminiable straight road with trees on one side at regular intervals & in a line.
There were vast stretches of barbed wire in places were it had been put during the first advance of the Huns.
Give my love to Dad & everyone & heaps for you
From your loving son
Oliver xxx

Most chaps have their girls photos but I havent got one so must have some of my very best friends. The photo of you and Ena together is awfully good. I like it very much. Send me one of “The smiling couple” that Biddy took please to hang up.

Continue reading Letter 13 - expecting to be posted soon......

Letter 12 - Oliver still awaiting a Posting...

A note from the Editors:

In this letter Oliver Oliver explains the letter numbering system he has started using.  A wise move for such a prolific writer sending mail regularly home from France, it has made putting the later letters in chronological order much easier for us!

(We will keep up our numbering system in the post titles, which start from the first letter we have, not from when Oliver is posted to France.)


Franked 9 AUG 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

No1AD Officers Pool Mess
B.E.F. France
8.8.17
Letter No 4

Dear Mother
I have not as yet been shifted from here & am very sore because they have sent away three junior pilots to me. I hope to be sent away almost anytime to-day or to-morrow but cannot tell.

I am in future always going to number my letters as above & then you will know if any don’t arrive. I got the tip from one of the men whose letter I censored his was 178 but I hope not to get so far before I begin again after some leave.


Concerning censoring letters I had a hard mornings work at it two days ago. It was a dry job as a whole but some of them were very amuseing indeed. All conditions of men were revealed in their letters. The anxious father the love sick youth the devil may care, & the gentleman of education in the ranks. The love sick were of course the funnyest. I never read a love letter before but I know if I were the girl & had such bilge sent me I should have serious doubts as to the fellows sanity & should think twice befor marrying him. Some were quite poetic. One at some length, about a sheet, described his candle being blown out by the draft at night & how her image hung in the shimmering light etc etc

Yesterday being Sunday & a fine day there was a military band in the town gardens down below here. I & my pals still left went down to see the people. The band was very good & you really did see the people of ------------- which you don’t on any other day. They were very funny to watch with their funny manner & much kissing.

There were very few pretty ones though not even the same proportion as there would be in the same crowd of English girls. The mess is very overcrowded at present as the flow of pilots has not ceased because of the bad weather but the from here has ----- because of it. It has cleared up now & was sunny & nice. Yesterday I went for a stroll over a bit of waste ground & never saw so many peacock butterflies befor also many other sorts two not known to me & above all I saw my first swallow tail on the wing. He didn’t stay long but I could see him well. How I wished I had had a net or better still that Jim could be here. On good days the place must be swarmed out with bugs of all sorts including above all flys & smells.

I hope you are all well & happy. Pass my letters round for all as I shall not be able to write to everyone. I shall have quite a coin collection for Betty soon as we get allsorts. Belgian Swiss Portuguese as well as French but they clutch at English it being the most valuable. With much love from
Oliver xxx

Continue reading Letter 12 - Oliver still awaiting a Posting......

Letter 11 - Still badly need socks and pyjamas!

A note from the Editors:

An undated letter, but one we think was probably written on Sunday the 5th August.
The domed huts Oliver describes are the famous Nissen Huts http://www.nissens.co.uk/default.htm


(letter 2)
No1AD Officers Pool Mess
France
(Tues)

Dear Mother,
Just a little note as it’s Sunday to say that I haven’t been posted yet & don’t know when I shall be. Here we do no flying only loaf around waiting to be posted. We work all morning & afternoon on various jobs such as the construction of a tennis lawn on the side of a hill needing a lot of levelling & pumping water up to the main reservoir tank from the well at the bottom of the hill.

This is a very small camp just a few huts clustered together round a mess hut. They are very different huts to those in England only holding about 8 beds & are more like a barrel cut in halves no sides just a rounded dome of corrugated iron lined with wood. They have a door at the end & four windows also at the ends & all fall to pieces like a pack of cards if you undo a few bolts & are then ready to transport.


This is a lovely spot all wooded with chateaux or -eaus all around with funny gables & towers. The cottages are like the “Cuckoos Nest” old Fosters place or very little better. Dirt & filth are everywhere & the smells awful but we are not near any houses. Sunday here was a very gay day. All the French in their gay dresses walking about & the bells all round making you think of home. You can hear the guns very well when there is a bombardment on although we are 30 miles from the nearest point of the lines & a lot more from where there is a strafe going on. I have not yet been into the town near here yet & I don’t I shall either as I here very poor reports of it as a place of amusement.

I should very much like a fountain pen. Get me one of the ‘Blackbird’ type with a fairly broad nib. Also I badly want that washing* which should be sent on to you from from the C.F.S. If it doesn’t come write one letter to Sgt Collins c/o the Officers Mess at Tern hill & another to the Corpl in charge of the Officers Mess at the C.F.S. & request a reply from both. If it doesn’t act tell me. I have ordered all my letters to be sent to you that you may forward all those that concern me. The photographs of course keep.

Talking of photographs I am sorry you will have no studio ones of me because while I was at home & at Birmingham I had no clothes fit to wear & while at the C.F.S. had no opportunity but I do promise that I will have some done here when & as soon as it is possible for me. It should not be difficult. Keep all the letters from me that are intresting for they should make a fair record of my day here & events as well. My type of machine has done very well out here so far very few indeed being lost. One alone got away from six huns having brought 3 down there were 9 huns originally.
With best love to all from
Oliver

Pass my letters round I shall have no time to write to everyone individually.
*I am especially short of socks & pyjamas.

Continue reading Letter 11 - Still badly need socks and pyjamas!...

Letter 10 - Badly need socks and pyjamas

A note from the Editors:

Oliver is now at the Officers Pool Mess, waiting to be posted to a Squadron.


Franked 5 AUG 17
O.A.S.
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts,
England.

No1AD Officers Pool Mess
France
Frid Aug 3

Dear Mother,
I am writing because at the moment I do not have anything better to do and I am in a comfortable office. I am Relieving Orderly Officer which means I have to sit here & wait for a telephone bell to ring while the real Orderly Officer has his lunch. I hope to get mine but am uncertain. I haven't been posted yet as the weather being so vile there is no flying & therefore no one is killed or injured. The above weather is phenominal.


It started with a most peculiar wind storm. From a flat calm & clear sky suddenly within 5 minutes arose a violent wind with racing black clouds & thunder & lightning of great violence which all lasted about half an hour & then passed off as it started leaving all serene & calm with no wind to speak of. But since then it has rained almost incessantly & for the last 72 hours without a break at all just a steady downpour all the time. It’s lucky we are in huts again & not under canvas as at the A.F.S.

I have now been twice into the town near here but am not struck with it. The main portion of the place isn’t bad & it has two fine squares & a beautiful old cathedral but get away from those & you get narrow streets filled with garbage & smelling like nothing else on earth. The program is to walk in (about 1 ½ miles) & arrange with Madame to have dinner. Then we walk around & buy things we want then have dinner and after talk with other officers & yarn around & walk back. The dinner is not so good one quite expected & you feel somewhat disappointed when the piece de resistance is only something made of egg of which you only took a very little thinking something else was to follow.

Everybody who is not making money out of the soldiers & who can have moved farther south away from the war so the place is really pretty empty & it look so dilapidated only the Cathedral looks really solid & I want t go round it as soon as I can. My Glibness at French is rapidly improving as I am remembering my vocabulary that I had forgotten & learning more. I do as much talking as I can to learn as much as possible before I come away. Here very few can talk more than a word or two of English but nearer the Line I believe more can speak it.

I badly want some more socks & pyjamas. Has dad got a spare flask that he can lend me. Such a one I mean that carries Brandy in. Everyone here carries one & say they wouldn’t be without it so I had better have one too & I cannot buy one here. One of my teeth has been giving me trouble & I am going to have it pulled free gratis & for nothing. Gambling is the chief game here & I am sick of hearing the Roulette wheel spinning round but you don’t catch me playing those silly games. One fellow is 52 francs to the good now but will possibly go down a 100 to-day. With much love from Oliver. Xxxx

Continue reading Letter 10 - Badly need socks and pyjamas...

Letter 9 - Oliver arrives in France!

A note from the Editors:

An undated letter from Oliver, describing his journey to France. Interesting that he is the second officer ever to go over officially listed as a 'Camel Pilot'. I wonder who was the first?


No 1 AD Pool Pilots BEF
France

Dear Mother,
The above is my present abode. I crossed on Friday 26.7.17 from Folkstone to Boulogne. We had a very quiet crossing really only with a nasty beam wind which made the boat roll nastily but not enough to make me feel seedy. The crossing was too absorbingly interesting anyway. There were four boats & 3 destroyers. I had only about an hour in Boulogne so had only time to smell the awful stenches of the place & to get some food at the officers club there.

I then boarded a train which took four hours to go twenty miles! It stopped twice in open county away from a station because I suppose it was getting ahead of schedule. It stopped so long at most stations (save the name in most cases) that we (I & 3 others & a French Officers) got out and walked about on the platform & at one we went & had our first drink of French beer with the engine driver at the pub over the road from the station!!


Having got here we got a tender through the town (St Omer) & had a good feed here we don’t fly only wait to be sent to our various squadrons. I am the 2nd Camel pilot to report in France as such. We get the most wonderful machines of all sorts at this place including Bosche machines that are unhurt or have been mended up. I have met lots of men I know including the pilot who taught me to fly first off. I am about the senior pilot amongst the pilots over here & am much envied for having been in England so long.

French money bothers me just now but wont long, as its as well to know all about it because the French think we are here to be cheated if possible. Their system seems to be to ask double & to be beaten down to half. This is an awfully pretty spot with funny old chateaus round about. In the train coming up the French officer afformentioned wanted to talk badly but had no English & the 3 others had no French although befor he got in they had all said they knew it well & it came down to me having to do the talking. It was very funny, but we got on with the help of a pencil & paper & much gesticulation.

Last night we had an alarm that the Huns were coming over bombing but they didn’t come I’ve had to go to bed without lights mais c’est la guerre. If my French improves always at the rate it did when talking to the French officer I shall be quite good by the time I get back at talking patois.
With much love to both
From Oliver.

Continue reading Letter 9 - Oliver arrives in France!...

Telegram enclosed in letter 8

A note from the Editors:

This telegram was enclosed in the last letter we posted. Soon Oliver will no longer be training...


Telegram - handed in at 6.21, received 9.48 - 26 JUL 17

TO {Pearson Hill Crest LowdhamAm going out France Friday morning early letter follows Oliver


Continue reading Telegram enclosed in letter 8...

Letter 8 - Pups and Camels and Ardent Spiritualists.

A note from the Editors:

Oliver is getting stuck into the final stages of his training at Uphaven now, putting hours in on several Sopwith machines.


Franked 25 JUL 17
Mrs Chas. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts

Central Flying School, Uphaven, Wilts.

24.7.17

Dear Mother
I am very sorry my last letter should have had the note of sadness in it it was not meant to convey also that this one is so late for a Sunday Epistle. You I am sure read into my letters far more than is meant to be there. I don’t withdraw any of my statements this is a dismal hole & the mess is awful so awful that we “the Nine” as we call ourselves have permanently bagged the end of a table, from which at meal times there arises howls of laughter & loud jokes to the horror of the rest of the fellows.

A bicycle is impossible as I could hardly use it in the time I have left if I could get one even. Aprs la guerre Maman je explainera tout les photographses till then you must be content with the pencil notes on the back. I am enclosing two more lots (if I don’t forget.)


I have done well in the flying line. I only had to do 45 mins on Sopwith 2 seaters while most chaps had to do at least 2 hours. I went off then on Sopwith Pups : a dear little single seater scout, about the handiest bus made : I did 2 hours 45 mins on on those & then to my huge delight I have been picked to go on the Sopwith Camel I have now done nearly 2 hours on them & shall do some more tonight. The last is one of our best single seater scouts. It has a wonderful performance & will do 130 easily & more when wanted. It has a wonderful climb too & its only drawback is it’s a bit hard to fly as it spins at once if you make a mistake of any sort not that spinning matters except near the ground.

We have rather a nice program here. Flying for everyone starts at 8 oclock & goes on to 12 oclock during which time you do an hours machine guns. You have the afternoon off till five & flying goes on from then till dark.

During the afternoon one is supposed to exercise oneself & go either bathing or walking but there are tennis courts & fives courts & a golf course as well as cricket pitch & a Rugger ground so if one knew how long you were to be here you could get some kit up & have a fine time. We bathe in the river Avon which stream is about the size of the Dover beck only it has a larger volume of water & is perhaps a little wider. It is pretty muddy but has a fair bottom.

Last week end I spent in Salisbury with Mrs Hinkly. She looks a lot better but has gone from bad to worse being now an ardent spiritualist. Its awful isn’t it; letting a matter like that prey on ones mind so much.

Never suggest the Flying Corps for Donald. He would have an awful time & in the end I should very much doubt if he would ever make a pilot. A Private in the HAC is just his book believe me.

With best love to all & I will write to Dad from Oliver

Continue reading Letter 8 - Pups and Camels and Ardent Spiritualists....

Letter 7 - Oliver gets trained on Scouts

A note from the Editors:

A rather confusing letter, as Oliver describes the canoes they have been using as 'single seater scouts'. He must obviously have fighters on the brain as he has just received the news that at the Central Flying School he will be taught to fly the famous Sopwith Camel, regarded by many as one of the best fighter aircraft produced during the Great War. A reputation for being very difficult to fly, it was also incredibaly manouverble and well armed with two Vickers guns firing through the propeller. It started service in the RFC about the same time as this letter, with 70 Squadron. The Avroes Oliver refers to are the venerable Avro 504 the RFC used as trainer aircraft.


34 RS RFC Ternhill (‘Royal Flying Corps, Market Drayton‘ on headed paper)
Monday

Franked 14 JY 17
Mrs Chas E Pearson
5 Madeira park
Tonbridge Wells

Central Flying School, Uphaven, Wilts.

13.7.17

Dear Mother
I am writing to announce a change of address. I came here today starting yesterday at 1 o’clock with 2 hours notice. We spent (9 of us make the party) last night in Reading & after dinner spent the remainder of the time on the river in Rob Roy canoes which are topping little single seater scouts.


We have been sent down here for a course on single seater scouts. We are to fly Sopwith Camels a peculiar bus to look at as its name implies but it has a grand performance. The rumour about the defence of London gets more substantial. We are in great spirits as they have put us back onto Avroes as if we had never in our lives seen a bus before. We’ll show ‘em is our determination. Much love from Oliver.
Continue reading Letter 7 - Oliver gets trained on Scouts...

Letter 6 - Giving joyrides to officers, and supper with a local farmers family

A note from the Editors:

Since posting the last letter, we have found out, via the Great War forum, that '34 RS', was in fact No34 Reserve Squadron, where Oliver would have received his advanced flying training.

This letter is undated, but is very near the end of Oliver's training at Ternhill. By this stage he must have been a proficient pilot, not only to be doing long cross country flights but also giving Officers joyrides!


34 RS RFC Ternhill (‘Royal Flying Corps, Market Drayton‘ on headed paper)

Monday

Dear Mother

Since last writing very little has happened to speak of. I have been doing about an hour a day flying but little else. The rest of my time I spend lazing round & going for walks but the latter seem to have lost their interest since I lost my pup. On Friday I took up two officers who had never been up befor, & it was really quite funny to see the way in which they went on when they came down. They got as far as having heated arguments as to which of them I did most stunts with & as I did none to speak of with either it was rather funny to hear. As for their thanks they went on like never ending streams till they were out of sight down the road pretty well. That’s the best of taking new fellows up, they appreciate it so.


On Sunday afternoon I & another fellow went to see a farmer near here who had been so good as to drive us home one night from M.D. We had a fine time. He is a good fellow & he has an awfully nice wife & an awfully sweet little daughter aged about two. Two other local people dropped in after tea so when we came back we were quite a party for a part of the way. I am to go to these latter peoples house whenever I please. The farmer person makes farmhouse Cheshire cheese which we ate at supper it was great stuff the real goods. No news as yet, although two men have gone out, about my next move but the air is thick with rumour.
With best love to all
From Oliver xx

Continue reading Letter 6 - Giving joyrides to officers, and supper with a local farmers family...

Letter 5 - Found within letter 4's envelope

Franked 3 JY 17
Mrs Chas E Pearson
5 Madeira park
Tonbridge Wells
Kent

34 RS RFC
Ternhill
Nr Market Drayton (‘Royal Flying Corps, Market Drayton‘ headed paper)

5.7.17

Dear Mother

I well deserve a good strafeing for not writing sooner & my excuse should have been no excuse although it was the cause as it put writing clean out of my head till lait one night as I lay in bed thinking so I wrote first off next day. Nothing has been heard or seen of the missing photos so bang goes sixpence & a lot of pleasure. To-day I loaned a motor bike & went rouring round till I ran into a lot of wounded officers painting a church porch.


One of them had been on the aerodrome that morning so I stopped & had tea & a rag with them & came away a bit cheered up but life does hang heavily on ones hands now; nothing to do all day exept bite ones nails & hang around. Bettys parcel seems to have arrived safely & she seems fearfully pleased with it. I don’t think I’m going over yet as no one has gone & I believe they are keeping us for the scouts so 3 cheers by jove.

With much love to you both from Oliver xxx
Continue reading Letter 5 - Found within letter 4's envelope...

Letter 4 - The mystery of the missing photos and cross country flying

A note from the Editors:

The first letter from Oliver while training at Ternhill, Shopshire. We are unsure what '34 RS' is. Some sort of school or squadron? We can also sympathise with Oliver on the loss of his photographs... What we'd give to see a few snapshots of his life in the RFC!


Franked 3 JY 17
Mrs Chas E Pearson
5 Madeira park
Tonbridge Wells
Kent

34 RS RFC
Ternhill
Nr Market Drayton (‘Royal Flying Corps, Market Drayton‘ headed paper)

Dear Mother.

I am sorry to have been so long in writing to assure you I arrived safely, I have done so, but I have been very upset indeed. I went into the Mess on arriving to get my mail & found among others a bill from Kodaks for 10/6 for my last four films. I expected them to arrive next morning but was opening my other letters when one of my friends came up & said “Lets look at your photos” & I told him they hadn’t arrived & he said of course they have they arrived two days ago.


It seems that they had been taken by someone between 5 oclock that day and 10 when I came for them. Since I have posted notices enquired everywhere & raised cain generally to no effect & so I have lost about 40 prints & 18 films of no value to anyone but myself you would think. I have flown over to the aerodrome to which one of the squadrons here moved & made all enquiries with still no luck exept to find that 3 fellows there had seen them in our letter rack. I am very wild about it as it is a loss of money as well as good work.

On Sunday I did the longest cross country flight I have ever done as I flew about 90 miles to Harlaxton & back in all about 180 miles taking 3 hours 15 minutes to cover the journey. I twice passed over home but did not stay to show them how I could fly as I only had a bare margin of a few pints of petrol to see me through the journey & there was none of you to see. Home looks very cosy from the air with all the trees growing up and nestling around. I never missed my way at all although I was over the edge of my map after Long Eaton.

With love from Oliver.

Continue reading Letter 4 - The mystery of the missing photos and cross country flying...

Letter 3

A note from the Editors:

Because this letter is undated, we cannot be absolutely sure of its position amongst the others but believe this is about the right place in the sequence.


UNDATED LETTER

34 R S RFC
Tuesday

(‘Royal Flying Corps, Market Drayton' headed paper)

Dear Mother

I arrived back safely at the time I expected. With a little difficulty I got the train stopped at Ternhill & so was saved the trouble of carrying a heavy bag 3 miles from Drayton. My camera has not arrived as they haven’t one in stock but I am trying other places. To-day is hot enough to fry potatoes.


My leave did not come through for some reason & I am going to apply again. It’s a beastly nuisance & I cannot account for it at all. I am very fed up about it & think that my CO did not put in a good word for me. There is as yet no news, but you had better tell Auntie not to expect me till she gets a Telegram from me.

I enjoyed those few days at home immensely they were such a relief from routine beastly routine all day. I miss my pup very much & hope you are not making suet of her by feeding her too much. I at any rate have done better than some of my friends one of whome got through £27-10-0 in 4 ½ days not bad going was it?

With much love from
Oliver xxx

Ought I write & thank Auntie?

Continue reading Letter 3...

The Wishes of O.C. Pearson, Supposing he be killed

A note from the Editors:

Recent research by Dan shows Oliver being 3 in the 1901 census, making him just 19 when he made this Will...


NOTE: We do not know his date of birth yet, but he joined the OTC in Sept '15, and we assume that was when he turned 17. )

The Wishes of O.C. Pearson Supposing he be killed

"This has been made out not because I have any intention or thought of dying but because “In the midst of life we are in death” & because accidents will happen & because an aimans death is such a sudden one & may happen anytime."

13.3.17

1. That the letter enclosed herewith be delivered to his father & mother.

2. That all the following be subject to his father & mothers own wishes.

3. That his father and mother keep anything they may wish to as a momento of him.

4. That if possible he be buried in Gonalstone churchyard by the Rev Canon Ferris.
The service to be an entirely family one. His headstone to be a rough granite boulder untrimmed exept where his name etc is put on it. This to be an elblem of what he tried to be but often failed. This grave he wishes to be kept as bright as possible with growing flowers all the year round with nothing imitation on it & with a plant of ivy to grow up the headstone.


5. He would like a momento out of his very own belongings, however trivial, to be sent to all his friends who would care to have one, & and would value it.

6. His eggs & butterflies & all to do with them go to his brother.
His stamps go to his cousin Donald Pearson.
Betty & Carina can have anything they like but he does not know what to allot to them now as he does not know what they value amoung his stuff.
His flying gloves go to his father.
He cannot give his mother anything definitely for the same reason as his sisters.

7. No mourning (Black dresses etc) are to be bought on purpose. He consideres this a waste of money expressing nothing & doing him no good so if his relations have no black he would like them to wear white or any other colour as wearing black is simply a fashion & expresses nothing.

8. His pipes are to go to Holland.

9. He would like the following people to be told of his death

Mrs Veronica Hinkley

Edward Brown
(address) c/o R Hampton Clucas Esq
Lindene
Lingfield Avenue
Kingston on Thames

Miss B Gibson

All of the above he considers as his 4 best friends & would like them to remember him.

10. The money that stands to my credit at Coxs to be used to defray the expenses of my burial. Anything over goes to the Lowdham District Nursing Assoc. or some such institution of which mother is Sec &Treasurer.

11. My coffin is to be taken to church on a J.R.P. dray : (anything not in a hearse). The dray to be drawn by a J.R.P. horse.

This has been made out not because I have any intention or thought of dying but because “In the midst of life we are in death” & because accidents will happen & because an aimans death is such a sudden one & may happen anytime.

This is very incomplete & will be ammended as I think of things by notes on the back of the sheets.

Signed

O.C. Pearson 2nd Lt R.F.C.

Continue reading The Wishes of O.C. Pearson, Supposing he be killed...

Letter 2

A note from the Editors:

Two months into his flying training, here is the first letter we have from Oliver on Royal Flying Corps headed note paper, with the RFC wings and latin moto PER ADUA AD ASTRA underneath - 'Through adversity to the Stars'.


Franked 25 NOV 16 OXFORD
Mrs C. E. Pearson,
Hillcrest,
Lowdham,
Notts.

Royal Flying Corps,
Christchurch,
Oxford.
25.11.16

My dear Mother,

I hope my note arrived safely. Life here now is one eternal bore as we have nothing to do to speak of & plenty of time to do it in & we might all just as well be on leave.

I shall not write a decent letter as I have just spilled 3 or 4 blobs of ink onto my new cord breeches & it has made me very angry. I hope to remove whats left of the stain to-morrow.


The first day on the higher instruction course has been typical so I will let you have it. Loaf around with nothing to do till 11 oclock when we do an hours lamp signalling to which no one plays the least attention as it is fearfully painfully slow & boring to read. Go home to lunch at 12. At about 3 oclock think it would be fun to go for a joy ride in the lorry down to the rigging sheds so go & assist about 30 others to place in posistion about 10 spars in a field service aeroplane hanger being erected for instructional purposes.

The who would have taken 5 men 10 minutes to do we take 1 hour & a ¼. Joy ride back & dismiss ourselves outside a tea shop in the Cornmarket at four (usually don’t get off till 6.) & so ends a strenuous day & so it will always be until we a posted! Oh my stars I don’t know how I shall survive. I have given my name to all the team captains & bought a large bottle of Enos so perhaps between the two I shall be kept running.

There is no news so till next week or when some happens aureviour.

With love to all at home
From
Oliver
Please give enclosed chit to dad

Continue reading Letter 2...

Oliver transfers into the R.F.C.

Olivers discharge papers from the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, just over a year after joining up.





Rest of documentation (larger copies of all documents and letters posted to date)



Continue reading Oliver transfers into the R.F.C....

Letter 1

A note from the Editor:

The first letter we have from Oliver describes life in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. This is the only letter we have from his year in the O.T.C. in Berkhampsted. He joined on the 23rd of September 1915, and was discharged on the 25th September 1916, 'in consequence of being appointed to a commission in the General List for the Royal Flying Corps'.


Mrs Chas E Pearson
Hillcrest
Lowdham
Notts

Reply to No5 Company 1st Bat. I.o.C. O.T.C.
Stationed at Birkhamsted, Herts.
10.10.15

Dear Mother

As you see I have arrived here & am now in a billet & doing soldiering properly. The date may be wrong but to-day is Sunday & I have just come off church parade. We paraded & were marched to the parish ch. which we more than entirely filled. Some chaps having to be dismissed as there was no room for them. I can tell you the hymns went well. Westminster choir weren’t in it at all for volume & deep bass voices. We were only given a days notice before we quitted London & I had to make my dispositions in a great hurry. My dirty clothes I bundled together into an old kit bag & asked Miss Hill to send it off to you. You might send some clean clothes back in it when I want some. My portmanteau I asked them to send, to Aunt Laura’s where I knew it would be handy for Dad to fetch. I put all my mufti into it. I could not very well do anything else as it has no lock.


I was placed straight away into a billet which was extremely lucky as most were billeted in sheds in a wood yard, a place anything but desirable. I am very comfortable having a big double bed to myself & everything is very clean if rather primitive. My co billeter who sleeps in the same room was senior sergeant in his regiment & I am afraid his former power has not yet worn off & he is rather stand off-ish but is all-right otherwise.

Page - II

I am writing this in Les Johnson’s billet (“Buster” Johnson they all call him to distinguish him from “Langton” Johnson & “Girly” Johnson all of his section) he has a very nice sitting room for which he pays 3/- a wk & I propose to do the same in my billet as they have a room & are willing to let it for that money. Les & I are billeted about ¼ mis from each other so I cannot always be using his room even if I wanted to.

On Sat we (the recruits) were paraded befor the batt. Sergt. Major who is a man greatly to be feared as he carries the scales of life & death as it were. He made a minute inspection of our faces for signs of growing beards & our hair for shortness. I had had the tip so I was well shaven washed and cut & passed without comment. He made extremely personal, caustic & very humerous remarks on some of the chaps appearance.

The week Les Johnson came up he told off a file of 4 men to see that another one washed his neck which was dirty. He got me taped unfortunately for moving my head when at ‘shion and enquired if I was looking down the line for my long lost friend or what. Up till now parades have been very slack & I am getting on alright.

On Sat afternoon I played in a scratch game of rugger & got about crocked up for my pains by an awful hack on the shin. On oct. so Leslie & I are going up to London for the weekend to see Aunt Laura & have a bust round.

Page III

All the “Fair Virgins” as Leslie calls them were extremely sorry at my having to leave Woburn Place as they declare that now there will no excitement or fun at all. Three of them have been extremely kind in doing odd mending jobs for me & seeing after my luggage I left behind so I gave them some chocolates, cigarettes, & flowers respectively with which they were very pleased. Old Mrs Hill gave me a pair of her own knitted socks & wished me all luck all though I did turn her lodging house upside down sometimes.

Last night Les Johnson had some of his pals into his billet and we had a sing song & boosing & smoking match in which as you can very well imagine I felt very much out of it. By the way do you put cyder under the ban as they sell a lot down here of very good stuff & very cheap. I believe it is manufactured not far away. At present I am down on ginger beer which is the only temperance drink they serve to us, not even water. I am often thinking of you & your doings & wished I could see you again but it is impossible. Please let me have plenty of letters to;

Pte O.C. Pearson (letters only)
24 Victoria Rd
Birkhamsted

& anything important & parcels to
Pte OCP (No6405)
No5 Coy
Inns of Court OTC
Birkhamsted

With much love
Oliver

Continue reading Letter 1...