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Last Letters Of A Doomed WW1 Flyer

Discussion in 'Military History' started by The_Historian, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Absolutely horrific.
    "In the TV comedy Blackadder Goes Forth, they were comically nicknamed the 'Twenty Minuters' - and remarkable letters from one early member of the Royal Flying Corps would appear to show why.
    The late Rik Mayall's chauvinistic character in the show, Lord Flashheart, gave his First World War squadron the label because 20 minutes was the average time new pilots spent in the air before they were killed.
    Now the letters home from air ace Lieutenant Edgar Taylor have come to light to reveal the tongue-in-cheek tag used in the BBC series wasn't far from the truth in reality.
    The 21-year-old wrote of the life-or-death sorties he undertook during the four months he spent in the RFC before he was tragically killed.
    Once such mission occurred in June 1918 when a fellow pilot crashed into his Sopwith dolphin biplane at 15,000ft.
    Lt Taylor wrote: 'I have had several narrow escapes recently, the narrowest of all was over Hunland.
    'A fellow did a climbing turn and crashed into me from below, I thought I'd been hit by an Archie [artillery gun] at first but I soon saw the other plane.
    'We separated and I started back to our lines, gliding all the way. The Hun Archies saw I was crippled and tried to finish me off - however they did not hit me.'
    He added that he crash-landed in No Man's Land and had to stay there for the night with German shells firing at him.
    He added matter-of-factly: 'It was all rather interesting.'
    Lt Taylor was almost killed again in horrific circumstances days later when he crashed his plane while covered head-to-toe in aviation fuel.
    He wrote: 'The next machine I took up, the engine failed me. When I started for home, a petrol pipe burst, it was a wonder it didn't catch fire.
    'I was covered in petrol and I was unable to find a place to land, I crashed into a hedge wrecking my machine completely. Beyond a few bruises I wasn't hurt.'
    His third brush with death came in August 1918 when his biplane was riddled with German machine-gun fire while attacking an observation balloon.
    He wrote: 'I went as fast as my engine could carry me and immediately attacked the first balloon.
    'The defending machine guns opened up in me something awful but I shook their accuracy by dropping a couple of bombs which I put aboard for that purpose.
    'The bombs did the trick, the Huns fired wildly in all directions, I then returned and attacked the balloons.
    'At last I closed in and put a long burst of machine gun fire into it at close range. It commenced to smoke and burst into flames, needless to say I was wild with delight.
    'I looked above to see if all was clear but was startled to see a bunch of machines. They followed me back to the line and you can imagine my joy when I saw they were my pals.
    'They came over close and waved congratulations. I landed at once and was congratulated by my C.O. He was very pleased.'
    Lt Taylor also wrote of the death of a colleague he had trained with.
    He stated: 'One of the fellows who was at Stackbridge with me was killed. He was a splendid fellow. He went down in a spin over Hunland after a fight.'
    Lt Taylor's luck finally ran out on August 24, 1918 when his biplane was shot down by ground fire during another attack by him on a German balloon."
    WWI airman letters reveal his brushes with death | Daily Mail Online
     
    lwd likes this.

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