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My papers went in to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps – August 1916

We were always interested in aeroplanes and that as kids.

We used to send to Gamages for parts and make them Billy and I. When we broke a part we tried and made it up again from the old parts. We also got to making propellers out of pieces of rectangular wood.

WWI Pilot, Bristol Fighter, RAF Crail, Scotland 1919

(Jack’s kid brother, Flight Lieutenant William Nixon Wilson. A Bomber pilot at 18)

I reckoned I was an ideal person for the RFC being mechanically minded with aero engines and that a machine gunner. So I showed our C.O. Williams the letter.

“Well Wilson, why the hell didn’t you go straight into the Air Corps?”

“Well.” I told him. “I’d volunteered for Kitchener’s Army and there you are. No choice in the matter.”

I asked if he would put my papers through for a transfer.

“Certainly. We’ll put your papers through, by all means.”

I was sent for a few days later.

Apparently before an application as a fighter pilot could be accepted you had to be an officer so Williams immediately made me a Corporal and sent the form in again.

When we got up to Poelcapelle I had an interview with the Brigadier at Boesinge in a Nissan hut. There were two of us interviewed, a Sergeant Major and me.

Such a nice fellow, Brigadier Sandilands. He talked away. I told him I wanted to transfer. I remember him getting up and leaning across the table to shake hands and he wished me all the luck in the world.

I went back to the line again; It was murder there.

Obviously I was hoping my papers would come through. Eventually I had medicals, very strict.

I was sent to Cassel two miles away from the front line where they had all the big wigs, like Plumer and Haig. I was taken by Company car. I was there for an eye test. This man was an American.

I was taken again to another lot of specialists before I was allowed to transfer.

I passed all of those OK and I waited again in and out of the line. Two days in, two or three days out.

Ordering toy planes from Gamages c1912

Toy Planes from Gamages


We used to send off to A.W. Gamages for these model aeroplanes made from balsa wood.

They were made with three-ply tea-chest wood and had a propeller with a bit of an elastic band. Gamages were at 116-128 Holborn, London. They sent you a 900 page catalogue every Christmas. Billy and I got paid lugging this equipment around for Lubbock, making deliveries to the big houses, which is how we got to know everyone, and fixing the cars. We knew what made the things tick and with no mechanics about we learnt to do the job. I could drive at 13; I’d manoeuvre them about the yard and from time to time father would take one of the cars saying he had to run it in or check the new tyres or something. There was no traffic to speak of, mostly gigs and tub traps. You had to watch out for startling horses and upsetting old ladies who liked to carry their loads down the middle of the road.

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