Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The last of the original flying aces died today.

The only surviving pilot from the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War has died at the age of 106. Flying ace Hubert Williams was the last of a breed of pilots who risked their lives every time they flew their biplanes into combat. They were in danger both from the enemy and from the flimsiness of their own aircraft.

Hubert cheated death when he was 22 years of age - he was shot down over Macedonia in Northern Greece in his Sopwith Camel biplane. He was pulled unconscious from the wreckage by villagers before being taken to a hospital in Malta where his life hung by a thread. It took him nine months to recover before he was able to return home to Britain.

One of the highlights of his long life came when he took the controls of Concorde on a flight to New York to mark his 100th birthday.

When he received the Legion D'Honneur award from the French Government four years ago (they waited long enough) he spoke aboout flying over the Battle of Somme.

He was stationed first at Avignon and then saw his first action flying over the trenches during the Battle of Somme in July 1916.

He said at the time of his French award, "I can remember the bombing, the shrapnel, shells going off all around, the guns flashing. It was terrible. There was smoke everywhere. I could hear people screaming and there was masses of blood. I lost a lot of my friends. I can remember waving to one colleague as we were flying and the next second he was a ball of flames. He had been shot down by a German plane and I expected the same thing to happen to me at any second."

Hubert was flying a Sopwith 2F1 Camel which was equipped with two bombs suspended by wire and two machine guns.The plane was made of wood and could fly at only 65mph at an altitude of 5,000ft but only for an hour at a time before its fuel ran out.

If the plane's wings were damaged by gunfire it would be patched up using a mixture of Irish linen and cellulose.

< email | 9/21/2002 09:42:00 AM | link

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