Letter 9 - Oliver arrives in France!

A note from the Editors:

An undated letter from Oliver, describing his journey to France. Interesting that he is the second officer ever to go over officially listed as a 'Camel Pilot'. I wonder who was the first?

No 1 AD Pool Pilots BEF

Dear Mother,
The above is my present abode. I crossed on Friday 26.7.17 from Folkstone to Boulogne. We had a very quiet crossing really only with a nasty beam wind which made the boat roll nastily but not enough to make me feel seedy. The crossing was too absorbingly interesting anyway. There were four boats & 3 destroyers. I had only about an hour in Boulogne so had only time to smell the awful stenches of the place & to get some food at the officers club there.

I then boarded a train which took four hours to go twenty miles! It stopped twice in open county away from a station because I suppose it was getting ahead of schedule. It stopped so long at most stations (save the name in most cases) that we (I & 3 others & a French Officers) got out and walked about on the platform & at one we went & had our first drink of French beer with the engine driver at the pub over the road from the station!!

Having got here we got a tender through the town (St Omer) & had a good feed here we don’t fly only wait to be sent to our various squadrons. I am the 2nd Camel pilot to report in France as such. We get the most wonderful machines of all sorts at this place including Bosche machines that are unhurt or have been mended up. I have met lots of men I know including the pilot who taught me to fly first off. I am about the senior pilot amongst the pilots over here & am much envied for having been in England so long.

French money bothers me just now but wont long, as its as well to know all about it because the French think we are here to be cheated if possible. Their system seems to be to ask double & to be beaten down to half. This is an awfully pretty spot with funny old chateaus round about. In the train coming up the French officer afformentioned wanted to talk badly but had no English & the 3 others had no French although befor he got in they had all said they knew it well & it came down to me having to do the talking. It was very funny, but we got on with the help of a pencil & paper & much gesticulation.

Last night we had an alarm that the Huns were coming over bombing but they didn’t come I’ve had to go to bed without lights mais c’est la guerre. If my French improves always at the rate it did when talking to the French officer I shall be quite good by the time I get back at talking patois.
With much love to both
From Oliver.

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