Foolhardy fliers?

100 years ago today the Royal Air Force officially came into being, combining the resources of the  royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

What better day to carry on the A-Z of my genealogy with F for fliers?

The experiences of the men who served in those early days must have been incomparable to what we now understand of aircraft and air travel. No parachutes in the early days, these young men had to be brave, and probably more than a little foolhardy!

So far I have found only one airman in WW1 in my family tree. It was sufficiently unusual a job that he featured in the local newspaper in February 1918:

Cadet Tom Lamb, eldest son of Mr & Mrs Lamb, Gowthorpe, who voluntarily joined the Royal flying Corps at the end of last November at the age of 17 years and nine months, as a junior cadet in the OTTW, Royal Flying Corps, in his flight examination scored an average of 92% a few days ago. He was successful in passing the various Air Board tests etc., being classified as a First Class Flying Pilot. He will now join the senior cadets for his final training.

Two months later there was an update on his progress:

Cadet T Lamb, RAF, son of Mr A Lamb, Gowthorpe, who ran in a 10 mile cross country race, for which he had been selected to represent the brigade, secured 9th position. His team was placed with a win of 8 points. In a 3½ mile cross country race run last week for the wing, Cadet Lamb ran first home, his nearest opponent finishing three minutes later. His time for the distance was just over 19 minutes.

By July he had been promoted to Lieutenant,

Another Selby airman injured

Lieut Lamb, son of Mr A Lamb, Selby, who is in the Royal Flying Corps, met with a slight accident while flying in the midlands last week. Owing to engine trouble he planed down into a park, and in avoiding a number of children ran his machine into a bank, and was thrown out. He was picked up unconscious, but has since recovered.

though this wasn’t made official until August:

A soldier’s promotion

Flight Cadet Tom Lamb, son of Mr & Mrs A Lamb, of Gowthorpe, has this week been gazetted and received his commission as an Officer Pilot in the RAF. The O C commanding recommended him ‘as a keen and reliable pilot.’ And he was congratulated on parade by his colonel, on establishing promotion so rapidly. He is the first flight cadet, to be commissioned who joined the Cadet School when he did at the end of November last. He was employed as a junior clerk with Messrs Bailey and Haigh, solicitors, when he joined up, prior to which he was with Mr J H Bantoft, solicitor, It is rather a coincidence that both master Lieut James J Haigh, and junior in the same firm should receive commission in His Majesty’s forces.

The following week the paper reported that he was the first Flight Cadet to obtain his commission under the new RAF order.

war pics 1914-1918 (76)

By November, at the end of the war, the paper reported another promotion:

2nd Lieut Tom Lamb, RAF, son of Mr & Mrs A Lamb, Gowthorpe, Selby, has been promoted to 1st Lieut in the flying corps, and Temporary Flight Commanded. He has not yet been a year in the service, and has had some very exciting experiences recently. On one occasion his machine came down in the sea, on which he floated several hours before being rescued by a torpedo boat; his machine going down soon after he was taken off. He had crawled out of his seat on to the tail plane and was sitting coolly smoking his last cigarette when the patrol boat arrived and took him from his perilous situation.

When I read this last clipping I always get a picture in my head of this daring young man sitting atop his machine on the open sea, calmly puffing away on his last cigarette…..

war pics 1914-1918 (80)

Remembering each and every one of those early (and more recent) pilots who strove to preserve peace.

(With thanks to Mick Bailey for permission to use his images)

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