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Fun in the sun in World War One

By tboullemier, Aug 1 2017 09:28PM

WE ARE all shuddering as the horrors of the Battle of Passchendaele are replayed for us on its 100th anniversary.

Could any serviceman ever have had anything to smile about during The Great War?

Well I seem to have found one. And it’s none other than my dear old dad.

He actually seems to have enjoyed life during the war and he was clearly amazingly lucky.

Dad enlisted aged 18 and joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. I have no idea whether this was easy to do. But that’s what he did.

Dad was a highly-skilled artist and won a scholarship to study in Italy. But the only time he went near it, was when he passed it in a troop train en route to Salonika in northern Greece.

We sent an army there to fight Germany’s allies, the Bulgarians. And two RFC squadrons went with it.

His role was as a motorcycle dispatch rider and the picture of him in his natty RFC uniform, jodhpurs and all, gives an impression of someone having a lovely time.

He ferried despatches and officers backwards and forwards in his sidecar from the aircraft park near the coast to the forward airfields. And in the evenings he would be in big demand to play the piano back in the NAAFI.

He reached the rank of corporal and even enjoyed a few flights in the back seat of a pal’s bi-plane.

And that was where he witnessed the beginning of the end of WWl.

Late in 1918, the Bulgarians abandoned the massive hillside bunkers which our troops had been unable to overcome and simply marched home.

Not long afterwards Turkey, Austria and Germany surrendered too.

When I visited Salonika a few years ago, on a Major Holt’s Battlefield Tour, I climbed up to those bunkers and imagined the terrible time our troops must have had, trying to fight their way up steep, thorn-covered hills, through clouds of mosquitoes and with temperatures approaching 40 degrees.

When I told our guide about my dad, his opinion was that no-one had ever had 'a better war.’

Out of range of the enemy, he spent his entire time in the RFC riding a motorbike around in the sunshine. If he hadn’t been so lucky, I most probably wouldn’t be here.

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