Between the publication of ‘Arras South’ and the final edit of ‘Arras Memorials’ I had a little time to re-read an old favourite of mine: “War Letters to a Wife” by Lieutenant-Colonel Rowland Fielding, which I refer to on page 140 of ‘Arras South’ in connection with Croisilles Railway Cemetery. So frequent are the letters that they really amount to a diary and make for a truly fascinating and informative read.
Whenever I read diaries and memoirs I’ll often jot down people or events mentioned in them with a view to further research. When I came to Fielding’s letter dated the 10th May 1915, written from the Brickstacks near Cuinchy, there was an account of an incident that took place that afternoon at around 3.30 pm. He witnessed a British aeroplane coming under heavy rifle fire from the enemy as it flew low over our lines, eventually crashing between the opposing lines, but rather closer to the German trenches than ours. He describes how, immediately after the crash, the enemy began cheering and throwing bombs at the wrecked machine, which then burst into flames burning the two occupants whom Fielding believed were probably already dead.
Ever curious, I ran a quick search of Royal Flying Corps dead using the CWGC database. The result was conclusive and identified the two British flyers as Lieutenant Denys CORBETT-WILSON and his observer 2nd Lieutenant Isaac Newton WOODIWISS. Both men are now buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery and feature in ‘Arras North’ (Page 89) As I mention in the introduction to each of the three books, this kind of curiosity frequently pays dividends. Although the account given by Fielding doesn’t add a huge amount to what I already knew, the additional information is always welcome, in this case the enemy’s response after the aircraft came down.
During the research and writing of “Visiting the Fallen” the one thing I really missed was reading a book from cover to cover. I was constantly dipping into books, as well as other sources, but never managed an entire read. Now that the books are finished I’m looking forward to re-reading many of the ‘old classics’ on the Great War, as well as some of the more recent acquisitions on my shelves.