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ARCHIVED - Oral Histories of the First World War:
Veterans 1914-1918

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Graphical element: Rendering first aid to a wounded Canadian soldier

War in the Air

In this section:

Interview with Robert Dodds: Royal Flying Corps
Transcript Excerpt, 3 minutes, 32 seconds

A. And these Morris-Farnham, they were very unstable and we would only fly when the air was calm, dead calm, or maybe not more than three or four miles an hour breeze, and I recall that there were times when there might be seven or eight aircraft, or flying machines as we used to call them in those days pretty much, would be in the air, when a strong breeze would come up, spring up, maybe off the water or something like that, spring up because we were right down on the waterfront and I've seen five and six of these Grumpties all standing on their nose on the airport, just coming in to land and the wind would be too strong for them, and they were so unstable. I think that maybe one of the toughest fights that we had, it is mentioned here, we were sent over to sort of act as bait over Gestell aerodrome, the… to bring the enemy aircraft up so our fellows with these single seaters and or forth, go over and shoot them down I suppose. So we went over to Gestell aerodrome and we got there - I think all the enemy aircraft were in the air - we got mixed up with about twenty some odd. And we had a pretty rough time and there was… the formation shot two or three down, but we were pretty badly shot up too. But we had done a lot of shooting but I couldn't say that I could claim any, because there were so many enemy aircraft and so much action that you just couldn't stop to see what happened. You were just lucky to get out alive and get back across the line. Because when a formation, we were only six, one of them had already turned dud, and gone back home, that only left five. And when you run into over twenty enemy aircraft, you haven't got much time to look around to see what happened. It was a pretty grim fight. But… and some of our boys got pretty badly shot up too. We were very lucky, though, but as I say, you stick pretty close to Baker. You felt pretty safe by sticking close to Baker. He was very wonderful flight commander.

Q. Eventually of course, you would have shot down your first plane, a sure one, that you knew about. How did that happen, do you remember the story of it?

A. Well, it is pretty hard to say your first one, because sometimes, at least at that time, they would say there were so many driven down and so many shot down out of control and so forth.

Q. Well, you have at one stage of the war - eleven credits. You must have had a number one of those eleven that you heard about.

A. Well, one was coming at me, I remember so well, it was coming straight at me, and I just in the spur of that moment made up my mind that I wasn't going to pour it right into him, you see. And then, as he slipped off under my left wing and the smoke belched, I felt that he was going down.