Volume 12 Number 1
March 31, 1996
History In The Attic

Our publication of excerpts from the wartime journal of B-17 Radio Operator Paul Jones (“I’m learning to curse the Wright brothers...”, TIGHAR Tracks Vol. 11 No. 4) not only brought many favorable comments from the TIGHAR membership but also brought to light another diary kept by the Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner on the same crew. Richard Lawrence bunked with Paul Jones during their combat tour with the Eighth Air Force’s 447th Bomb Group, 708th Squadron based at Rattlesden, England. Each kept a written record of his experiences and would often check his recollections of the day’s events with his buddy. Lawrence’s diary is far more extensive and detailed, with an entry for virtually every day he was in Britain, while Jones’ journal is more a record of significant events. Together they provide a rare and personal perspective on how the war looked to two members of the same aircrew.

It is interesting to note that, in later years, neither diary was apparently regarded as an historical record which might be of interest to anyone but its author. Paul Jones’ journal was found by his wife after his death, and Richard Lawrence only mentioned his after learning that Jones’ had come to light and was considered important. How many other priceless glimpses into the past lie tucked away in attic trunks? Old papers are just old papers until and unless somebody starts calling them historical papers, and we all know what eventually happens to old papers. Any old papers in your attic?

Correction – Absolutely.

In the last TIGHAR Tracks (“Correction – Maybe,” Vol. 11 No. 4) we acknowledged the possibility that our statement in the previous TIGHAR Tracks (“Aviation In American History: A Preservation Perspective,” Vol. 11 No. 3) that “No American-designed aircraft saw action in World War One” may have been in error. The question hinged on the word “action” and we wondered, specifically, if any of the Curtiss flying boats used by the Royal Naval Air Service ever fired shots in anger or were ever on the receiving end of same. Our mailbox was soon blessed with letters and documentation not only from our original critic, Robert Taylor of the Antique Airplane Association, but also from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, and TIGHAR members Francis G. Cain, Jr. (#1961) and Robert E. Gillespie (#0009).

No question about it. We were wrong. As penance we offer Mr. Cain’s letter:

TIGHAR! TIGHAR! burning bright, hope that this will make it right! The following from The Sky Their Battlefield, compiled by Trevor Henshaw, lists the combat record of Curtiss planes in WWI.

  • RNAS Curtiss H12 #8677 shot Zeppelin L.43 down in flames off Vlieland on 14 June, 1917.
  • RNAS Curtiss H12 #8693 on sub patrol. Engines failed, forced to land on water, rescued by Dutch and interned (plane burned by crew). 24 October 1917.
  • RNAS Curtiss H12 #8677 in combat with 7 enemy planes over North Hinder; was shot down and crew killed (3 Brits and 1 American) 24 April 1917.
  • RNAS Curtiss H12 #8660 on recon. Had engine trouble, landed on sea. Was then shot up by 3 enemy seaplanes. Part of crew, including 1 American, killed, others captured. 30 May 1918.
  • RNAS Curtiss H12 #8689 on Zeppelin patrol. Was shot down and crew, including 1 American, interned in Holland. 4 June 1918.
  • RNAS Curtiss H12B #N4345 was in combat with 4 enemy seaplanes and was shot down. 6 June, 1918.
  • RNAS Curtiss F (civilian, was requisitioned by Brits in Africa, and its pilot commissioned in the RNAS). Found the German cruiser Künigsberg in November 1914. Engine trouble, forced to land, pilot captured 10 December 1915.
  • Re H-16s sent to Brits: Peter Bower notes in Curtiss Aircraft 1907 - 1947 that 60 (RAF serials N4890 through N4949), not 69, were delivered with no engines, and that 345 hp Rolls-Royce Eagles were installed in them in the U.K.

Francis G. Cain, Jr.,
TIGHAR #1961.

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