Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Your Country Needs You!
At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, the famous poster of Lord Kitchener, bearing these words, was to be found all over Britain.
A generation of young men joined the call for 'The War to End all Wars'.
One of those young men was a lad from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, called Alfred Skeggs, a trained motor mechanic, when there weren't that many cars on the road, he like his contemporaries considered volunteering as a way of seeking adventure and advancement.
'It will be over by Christmas', was the common cry.
Being mechanically minded he signed up for the new service, The Royal Flying Corp, a division, at that time of the army.
Though not officer material, he nevertheless qualified as a Sergeant Pilot, after eleven hours flight training and one hour solo.
Alfred was then shipped to France to begin his war.
He flew two seater aircraft which were used in the main on reconnaissance missions over enemy territory.
In the early days, his rear gunner consisted of a chap with a rifle and a bag of hand grenades, which were liberally tossed over the side when a likely target was spotted.
As with all army units they were supplied with tin helmets, but the air crews sat on theirs, since the threat came from the ground.
Having survived two years at the front unscathed, he was re-assigned to new recruit flight training duties, where he witnessed far more fatalities than ever over enemy territory.
Alfred was mentioned in despatches, signed by Winston Churchill and was demobbed in 1919.
He was my grandfather.