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Source 3: Almost crashed, August 1915

The image shows WWI pilots training in a seaplane in the south of England (National Records of Scotland reference: GD486/206)As Douglas’s training progressed, he came top of his class with 85 per cent in his engineering exam and returned to flying practice.

In his letter to his mother, he describes one of his training flights in a Curtiss biplane, his rapid descent and fear of a crash landing.

You can print the image and transcript below as a Word document (Rich Text Format, 1MB, new window).

You can print a transcript of the complete letter as a Word document (Rich Text Format, 11KB, new window).

View the timeline for an outline of John Douglas Hume's life.

Pages from a letter written by John Douglas Hume to his mother describing how he almost crashed, August 1915. National Records of Scotland reference: GD486/62


Page 2

[on Friday back to flying -]
...three cheers. It may
not be to Hendon
as that place is rather
crowded with newcomers. I rather hope it
is as we are not supposed to turn up till
Monday morning. If it's Hendon I can
go there on Friday, but if it is any
other place I shall have to spend the
weekend in town which as Enclitt says
'is absurd' as I have nowhere to go. I
might manage Newport-Pagnell but
it's rather far away. However it isn't
Friday yet. That joy ride at Hendon
last weekend was very fine. The
exhaust gases from the engine were
coming back to me & though it was
a bit difficult to breathe it was very
warm and comfortable. At 3000 ft we
went into a cloud & at once it got
very cold. Then coming through it
& above it we saw Hendon through a
gap and we – came – down.
down in about 1½ minutes something
like the line across on the other page.

[The line on the other page shows a biplane following a steep spiral descent.]

Page 3

It was gorgeous, no other word
can describe it. I had a touch of
cold feet at the bottom as Com
Groves is notorious for his landings
having smash
[ed] innumerable
machines. I thought we were
going to crash straight into the
ground but he flattened out
perfectly touching the ground
about 10 yds after flattening
out. The machine, a
Curtiss biplane, is a rather
good flyer but has a weak
landing-chassis. It looks
something like this.

[hand-drawn image of a biplane showing the all-important bolt beneath the wings, captioned]
One bolt to take all
the strain

My billiard playing is very
erratic: sometimes it is pretty
good helped on by most frightful
flukes: at other times I am

[absolutely no use whatever.]

(National Records of Scotland reference GD486/62)



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