1918 2 Sqn RFC Pilot



2nd Lt. Seton Montgomerie

Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force

The story of his pilot training and subsequent operational flying with No 2 Squadron in France from December 1917 to April 1918

2nd Lieutenant 

Born at Wanganui, New Zealand 25 June 1898. Arrived in England 16 August 1916.

Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Sherwood Foresters, Notts and Derby Regiment. Commenced training as an officer at Queens College, Cambridge University 5 December 1916.

2nd Lt. Montgomerie took his flying certificate [RAC certificate No.5405] on a Caudron Biplane at Ruffy-Bauman School, Acton, 23 September 1917 [one of the civilian flying schools providing basic pilot training].

Ruffy-Bauman School, Acton
Caudron G3 in foreground also known as the "skewing banana"

Caudron G3 of the type flown by Montgomerie in his initial pilot training.

During 2nd Lt. Montgomerie's training he wrote to his father describing the experience of flying as follows:-

School of Instruction
Royal Flying Corps
London Aerodrome
Acton W 3

18 Sept 1917

Dear Dad,

You ask me to tell you what it is like up in the air, but before I start I want you to understand that the 50 h.p. machines here will climb to only 300 ft with 2 passengers, and the 60 h.p. will climb to only 3000 with two in them, and we can't use them solo (i.e. the '60 hps). The 50 are used for teaching "taking off" and landing, and one does not go higher than 50 ft for this.  They are used for solo and will then climb over 2000 (the 60s are too precious for soloists).  I have been up in the 60 to 3000 only twice and right at the beginning so I did not feel then as I do now.  I have done 3 1/2 hrs and of this about 40 minutes above 300ft., so I want more high work. They are about 1909 model and very unstable so that we must fly them [carefully], so that the sensations of an aeroplane have yet to come.

The difficulty when starting is to know and realise when the ground has been left.  One has the sensation of a very strong wind on top of a ridge in NZ and this is continuous.  After the first flight this wind does not trouble you at all.  When up at about 3000 you can imagine yourself on a high hill, so I have not lost myself yet.  After a thousand feet the differences in the size of things is hard to [notice], and the same coming down, although you can see how small they do look. You have a look at the [wires] and the [planes] and smile to yourself and feel as safe as a house until the instructor lets go and then, at the beginning as I was  [then]  you are frightened to move the controls enough and the old buss is rather cranky, and you feel worse than it looks. If one wing goes down only slightly, you feel it and for a start you don't like the feeling at all, but one soon gets over that.  It is the same when banking, and your one desire is to level her out.

You can feel the nose go down, and then the engine is switched off and the wind pressure seems to  increase.  The ground comes slowly closer, and the air gets warmer all the way down. Landing is not such a bad sensation as I imagined it would be, and it feels impossible to hit hard as the [denser] air feels as if it is holding you back.

It is quite surprising how safe you feel up there, with the instructor, and I believe solo is a different matter entirely.

The weather last few days has been windy and we have no flying at all, and I must say I don't mind as this place is too close to town to [leave] in a hurry.

What I said about the Huns was that I thought they would be kind and gentler to the Russians and try to get a separate peace that way, but they have taken the other method.

I had better stop now or write a book. 

Your loving son


HSM left with fellow students Holmes, Culver and Melville at Acton

Montgomerie went on to the Central Flying School Upavon, and graduated on 30 October 1917 having completed a course at the Military Wing and being deemed "qualified for service in the R F C". His certificate (No 8554) was signed by Lt. Col. (Louis) Strange, Assistant Commandant.

He was subsequently posted to No 2 Squadron RFC in France in December 1917. He travelled to France on Wednesday 12 December 1917 via Folkestone. The following pages are taken from his diary (reproduced by kind permission of his daughter Susanna Norris).

Additional contributions by the Editor, www.airwar1.org.uk 

Extracts from the RFC and RAF communiqués are from three books published by Christopher Cole (2) and Chaz Bowyer (1) covering 1915-18.


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