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A Pilot shot down in No Man’s Land – November 1917

Fig. 1 Egypt House to Houthulst Forest, Poelcapelle, North East of Ypres

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Fig. 2 A plane shot down on the edge of Houthulst Forest.

(This action takes place north of Poelcappelle as the British approach Houthulst Forest. The attack began at 5.35am. It is Monday 22nd October. The Essex took Nobles Farm. The Broembeck was flooded and something of a barrier. After various advances were made there was a strong counter-attack that forced a retirement to east of Egypt House). (McCarthy, 1995:120)

There was this RE 8 Artillery Observation Plane hit with incendiary bullets. The wing caught fire.

The pilot tried to slew the plane over to keep the flames away from the fuselage.

He crashed in front of Egypt House, half a mile from Poelcapelle.

We buried the pilot just outside this dugout in an isolated grave in No Man’s Land and a cross put up.

We then crawled back into No Man’s Land to take the magneto out of the engine.

You’d give this 6mm magneto a spin and it made sparks.

If you held the wires it gave you an electric shock – we had some fun with that one.

There was another time an attack had been made and something went wrong.

They lost a gun team. As a rule Jerry would follow up the attack. They had put up a fight and taken a prisoner – this Sergeant Bates. The entire team was missing. Years after, when I was with Duker’s, 1933 or 34 … I was at the bottom of Westgate Road, Newcastle. This was when the trams were running. This tram inspector was Sergeant Bates. So I asked him what had happened. He’d been told to go forward and was badly hurt. Jerry took him prisoner. A bit later he was repatriated by the Red Cross, as he was so badly hurt. He ended up in Newcastle. He said he had to sign a declaration that he’d take no further part in the war. He married one of his nurses who lived in Walker.

There was another one, I came across after the war.

Sergeant Bushmell from Birmingham. It was on St Andrews Street. He worked for Fife Bananas. He survived and had been demobbed. He’d tried to find me. Apparently I’d been very popular with the company. It was the top of Northumberland Street, Ridley Place, outside a Jewish tailors. I got a tap on the back.

“Hello Jack. I’ve tried my damndest to find you …” He said. ” I’ve asked managers in Green Market, Whitley Bay, Leadgate … I’d said I was looking for Jack Wilson.”

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Fig. 2 Poelcapelle to Houthulst Forest, 22nd October 1917 p122 Passchendaele: the day by day account. Chris McCarthy

Jack Wilson refers to Egypt House and Colombo House in this memoir.

REFERENCE

McCarthy, C (1995) The Third Ypres. Passchendaele. The day-by-day account.

Did Jack go in to relieve the position on Tuesday and find the gun team dead or dying? As a machine gunner did he serve more than one division?

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