Stanley William Tinham was my Dad. He was 17 at the commencement of the First World War working with his father who had a Watchmakers & Jewellers establishment in Sydenham. He volunteered to join up as soon as he was eligible and such were the vagaries of the Army that he was deemed suitable to be a motor cycle despatch rider – he had not previously ridden a motorbike!

I know not how it came about, but by the age of 20 he was in training to become a Pilot. I have his training Transfer Card to the R.F.C. (Royal Flying Corps) still then part of the British Army, dated March 1918. After some months of intensive training, flying Avro and Sopwith Camel fighter planes, firstly dual then solo, he became qualified for service overseas and classed as a Service pilot and eligible to wear the much coveted wings. The Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force.

I also have his Pilot’s Flying Log Book from which it states that he was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force to Number 3 Squadron stationed at Arras in August 1918. Copied here is a page from that Book which details his flying sorties over just a couple of weeks which I think illustrates just how tenuous it was flying machines primarily made of canvas and wood and, as he was fond of saying ‘tied together with bits of string’. At the time the average life of a pilot was just six weeks. He was always immensely thankful that he was flying over the trenches and not fighting in them.

He was fortunate to survive the Great War (later to be known as The First World War) and when the Second World War broke out he immediately volunteered for service. He joined the Royal Air Force as a Volunteer Reserve, eventually being demobbed with the rank of Squadron Leader.

John S Tinham

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