Transcript of Tape Six (the last) of my interview with Roy Shillinglaw
(Castletown, Isle of Man, Summer 1988)
A best friend killed in a sabotaged aeroplane...
RS: He (Beavan Carleton-Smith) went to Cologne to fly back these the German aeroplanes, He and Hewett took off in this aeroplane, and the controls were reversed, and it crashed and it went on fire...
Me: So the Germans reversed the controls specifically to make it crash?
RS: Yes, and poor old Carlton-Smith died five days as a result of his burns.
Lieut. Beavan Carleton-Smith
RS: His mother writes to me whilst I'm on leave:
I think I have this morning heard through Mr Arthur Lewis that you are at home on leave . Have you heard the diplorable news that my darling boy has been killed? If this is true, you cannot imagine what it means to me. I keep hoping there may be some mistake and what grieves me most of all is that I can get no satisfactory news, though I had a wire from the Air Ministry (at least it was sent to my brother at our old home, Brampton) that he had died of wounds on the 6th at 36 county clearing station. This we never heard until the 11th. We have spent two days in town at different places trying to get some news through, but as yet nothing. I could have crossed to France to find out something from the squadron, but they toldme it may have moved. When you get back, will you find out all particulars for me? I've heard him speak so much of you. I know you will do this thing for me. If they had only let me know in time to have been with him.
There has been, I am concerned, great neglect somewhere and I ought to have heard before. Not even to know how or where it happened. Was it flying in those wretched hun machines do you think? I begged him not to risk those and our dear boys who are so much to us, they shouldn't be allowed to run such risks.
I have been heartbroken and so hurt that I have heard nothing until now. Is major Burge still the Commanding Officer? Why has he not written? Surely he, as the CO, would be notified of the accident in a few hours or at least a day. I have written him, but what is the use now? But I must get to the bottom of this. For all I know I could have been across in time had they let me know months ago. I wrote to the ministry and Cox's (bank) to keep me posted on news of him.
My darling boy he was one of the very best sons to me. The last letter I have just received from him, he says "I'm hoping to get back to get your letters."
I shall be grateful for you to do all you can for me.
My sincere (illegible)
RS: His mother...
Me: What was the date of that letter?
RS: Well, there's no date on it, she's not dated it. I've got 'first war, saturday the fifteenth' but I don't say the month. I say 'I was on leave at this time'. My best friend. So it must have been january 1919. After the war, they'd gone through to bring these German aeroplanes back from Cologne. Well, Hewett, who was in these photographs, he was the pilot, he was killed with Carlton-Smith. In another machine - that took off and on it's way back west to us, that broke up in the air.
Me: For no reason?
RS: A fellow called Woods, who was also an observer in the Hundred Squadron, he was in the machine and he was killed. There were two machines that were sabotaged, you see, by the Germans.
Me: So it was a mistake to fly them back.
RS: Oh aye. Well, I went through to a place called Chalois, south of Brussels within a fortnight of the war finishing, I went through with several others to fly back some Freidrichshafen machines. We got to this this aerodrome, Chalois, and the machines had been out in the open and when we put a pin in under the wing, out came water. You know, the wings were full of water. They'd been standing out, and we refused to fly them, we didn't fly them at all. So what happened to them I don't know at all. But we came back by road, and that was that.
Me: When you get into a plane to fly don't you check all the controls?
RS: Oh yes, you do, you check the controls and this that and the other... I don't know exactly, but they could sort of, half saw through the joystick, you know. You know the joystick, which is a control. It's wood. (gesticulates to show a tall central column in fromt of him)
Joystick on Handley Page
We had it in 100 Squadron...we found one or two cut through - sabotaged by spies. Somehow or other, they got at the machines and cut halfway through. You'd take off, and the joysticks loose in your hand and.... no control.
Me: Did you ever have that happen?
RS: No, and we found that out on two occasions in 100 Squadron, at Xaffévillers, on Handley-Pages.
Me: So the spies weren't caught.
RS: Oh yes, the place was rife with spies all round there. Anyway, that's what happened to poor old Carlton-Smith.
Me: Tragic, for that to happen.
Me: Was there any sort of propaganda that the Germans employed?
RS: Yes, I er... where it is I don't know, I think it's upstairs with my lumber. I was sitting in an FE-2b, at Xaffévillers, waiting to take off, and there'd been a German aeroplane over about two hours previously, very high up, we thought photographing... Just waiting to take off, and down floated a leaflet, right in front of the 'plane. Well, we weren't supposed to pick these up or have anything to do with 'em. I jumped down out of the 'plane, got down and picked it up. I had it with me and of course, brought it back after the raid. It was a leaflet in french...I think it was french, and english. Sayingthe Germans had not seeked this war, they didn't want the war, this that and the other, and why didn't we end it, or something like that you see and so on. In other words, you see, they were saying that they didn't want to continue the war. I've got that somewhere,
The leaflet dropped by a Hun aircraft - Sept 1918
Pour La Liberte? . . . .
Camarades, on vous dit que votre guerre contre l'Allemagne est une lutte pour la liberté, une lutte contre les désirs d'hégémonie d'une caste militariste étrangère. Qui est-ce qui vous dit cela ? Qui est-ce qui, au moyen de ce mensonge vous envoie à la mort par milliers? Personne d'autre-que votre propre caste 'militariste' , votre propre clique 'capitaliste' qui, derrière les coulisses d'une politique soi-disant démocratique, forment la pire des autocraties !
Vos maîtres prétendent apporter la liberté au monde et vous envoient détruire l'Allemagne. Ils vous ordonnent de dépouiller de ses droits d'existence et de libre développement un peuple pacifique et laborieux! Dans quel but? Simplement parce que ce sont vos 'militaristes' et vos 'financiers' qui veulent s'assurer l'hégémonie absolue dans le monde. C'est là ce qu'ils appelent lutter pour la liberté! C'est vous qui devez*payer le prix de ce triomphe de la force brutale. C'est pour lui qu'on vous demande de sacrifier votre vie, votre bien-être, votre santé. Le 'militarisme'', Allemand n'est qu'une attrappe grossière. Le danger de voir son hégémonie s'établir dans le monde est un ridicule épouvantail. Mais le jour où, avec votre aide, vos propres capitalistes, vos propres nationalistes, vos propres millitaristes réussiraient à triompher - ce jour-là, vous verriez s'établir en Europe un véritable régime militariste et impérialiste qui vous écraserait sous son poids. Car c'est l'Allemagne qui forme au-jourd'hui le dernier rempart, protégeant les libertés continentales contre la vague de cet impérialisme, anglo-saxon qui a déjà submergé le monde, et dont vos gouvernants française ne sont que les instruments plus ou moins conscients, plus ou moins volontaires.
L'Allemagne, qu'on accuse de vouloir subjuguer l'Europe, a proposé à cette Europe de discuter franchement, sincèrement, la grande question de la paix future. Les gouvernants de l'Entente ont refusé cette discussion, qui, pourtant, ne les engageait à rien. Ils avaient peur de celte liberté qu'ils prétendent servir : car au fond d'eux-mêmes ils n'en veulent pas de cette liberté, ils s'en servent comme d'un drapeau qu'ils déploient devant vous pour vous faire marcher au carnage, mais qu'ils bruleraient le Jour où leur force brutale triomferait. Non, la liberté est tout autre chose! Cette liberté, les peuples laborieux ne la trouveront que dans une paix conciliatrice, dans cette paix que vos maîtres ont toujours repoussée, aveugles devant l'immense misère, sourds aux plaintes des mourants, des veuves et des orplielins!
RS: Another funny thing too..at the south of our aerodrome was a bit of a wood, and in that wood was a battery of aircraft guns. These officers used to come over to our mess occasionally, asking us if we could see their guns. They were very proud of their camouflage, could we see them from the air? You see? I forget what we told them, whether we could or couldn't, I don't know, Anyway within a week, down came a fluttering thing, with a photograph of this wood, with crosses marked where these guns were. From the Germans. They'd got it from their spies that they were swanking about their camoflage and so on, and they dropped this over, as a joke to us, that they knew where the guns were.
Me: Good lord.
RS: So I think the country was rife with spies all round there. I know that when we were flying at night we could see flashing going on, and morse code going from different spots. Somebody flashing messages.
Me: Could you not interperet the messages?
RS: No, I don't know, we hadn't time. We passed over, but we used to notice this going on. We had spies at Ochey. We left about the tenth of august, and somewhere about the fourth or fifth of august...
Me: When you left for Xaffévillers...
RS: When we left for Xaffévillers...well our orderly room and quarters were about a third of a mile inside this wood, south of the aerodrome. And we used to have a tender or a lorry, that took us up in our flying kit and everything else. Outside the orderly room, we'd pile into this, and it'd drive us to the aerodrome and we'd go to our respective aeroplanes, you see, and take off.
On a tender at Xaffévillers.
When we'd finished and came back, we used to walk through this wood. My hair used to bristle up on end at times. I was walking sometimes alone through this wood and I could hear these wild boars grunting... any amount of 'em out there - wild boars, wild pigs. In fact I was orderly officer once in a sidecar and a damn big boar ran right across us, about twenty yards away - with great tuskers, went right across us! Well, we were... I went to the orderly room to get in this vehicle, to take us to the aerodrome and there were half a dozen priests in black robes. Like these Greek priests, with hats... black mantle things on their heads and black robes down to their feet. They were there watching us get into these vehicles, you see. When we got back from the raid there they were on the aerodrome watching us dismount, get out of the aeroplanes and whatnot. We made these remarks; ' Bloody spies'. Like that you see, that was that. Now what authority they'd had or what credentials they'd had I don't know, but they got them alright, apparently. Anyway, we left a week later on the tenth of august, and that night the place was plastered. The cuttings in the trees where our machines were, our quarters in the middle of the forest, were bombed, and our huts, and the orderly room. A real heavy raid on the place and we'd gone. And I think that was reported by these so called 'priests'. Ooh yes I think so, I don't know but it's quite possible.
Me: So, when you got to Xaffévillers, were you pretty much safe there?
RS: Yes, security wasn't bad there. I told you I met four spies going down to the YMCA in Xaffévillers. I told you about that didn't I? They were caught and shot two or three days later. But that's all I know about that lot at Xaffévillers. Otherwise I don't think we had any more problems.
It was very interesting, I went to Rome in '72 or so with my cousin from Florida and his wife and my brother Jack and I. And we motored through, met them at Calais, they'd been touring Europe. We went across, picked them up at the station at Calais, we motored through France, through the Riviera, and Italy, got to Rome. We had about a week or ten days there, going around and then Doug and Jane decided they would go back by train. They'd got a free travel, you know a Eurotravel thing, she wasn't too good in the car, one way and another. So they'd decided to go back by train and get to England and go to my house. So Jack and I stayed down another day or two, south of Rome, then we meandered up through Italy, stayed the night at one or two places, and through Switzerland, and er... what was I going to say? What am I leading up to, what was I talking about?
Me: You were talking about the spies in Xaffévillers, then you said there was something very interesting...
RS: Yes, now what was it?.. Oh, it's gone. This is old age!
Me: What would you say was your fondest memory, your most treasured memory, just now, recapping.
RS: What, of the first war?
Me: Yes, of One Hundred Squadron.
RS: Well, I wasn't very happy when the war finished! I went on a raid on the tenth of November... we went on this raid, and bombed the target, an aerodrome, about sixty or seventy miles over the lines. Coming back I said to my pal next to me "My god, they're firing some big stuff at us down there!" Big flashes... And we realised there was a thunderstorm between us and the ground and it was the lightening, you see, and I thought it was the big guns firing at us, but nothing was bursting near us. So we went on and then we saw the line in the distance, all lit up, search lights, going up, Very lights going up. I said "God! it looks as if the war's finished" we hadn't a clue, that it was going to finish. Well, we flew on and we landed and went to the orderly room, where we make our reports and everything else, nobody there, not a soul. And I went to my hut to take my flying kit off and there was a fellow called White, he's in those photographs, an american, climbimg out of a slit trench in his shorts and singlet, pickled as an owl... getting out of a slit trench that was full of water. Now, he'd come in before us, with a fellow called Best, who was the rear gunner, that was that. We went in the mess there and they were all pickled as owls the whole lot, the whole squadron, CO and everybody. There wasn't anybody in the orderly room to receive us or our report, they'd just deserted the place - completely. So we weren't very pleased about this, we'd just come in... cold and one thing or another, and found them all drunk. I went to bed. A week later we flew up north to a place near Crecy and Ligescourt and so on. But looking at histories of the war, the last aeroplane...
Me: Was that the end of the war then?
RS: Yes, it was. The armistice was on at eleven o'clock the next morning. Reading the histories, I read about the last aeroplane coming in to bomb Germany, was this fellow White and Best was the rear gunner and this that and the other . And they all were pickled there when we landed, we were half an hour behind them! But this was never recorded, it didn't go up on the records at all. It's not even in the Annals of 100 Squadron.
Me: So in fact, you were the last bomber...
RS: We were the last, we were the last. Now this fellow Best... did I tell you about going in the mapping room and we were going to Krupps at Essen and I found Best there crying his eyes out? Well that's the fellow...who eventually went into the church. Well, he was the rear gunner, in this plane. He was one of the last machines to come back from bombing Germany. But we were the last, we were half an hour later after them!
Me: So Best, the chaplain ,was pickled with the rest of them.
RS: There they were, the CO, Burge and all the rest of them, all boozing and whatnot. They should have stayed in the bloody office, shouldn't they? To receive us back.. They just abandoned us there you know.
Me: So you didn't know that it was the end of the war?
RS: They knew alright...
Me: But, did you when you got back?
RS: No, I only knew when we got back. When the war was over they packed up the orderly room, the CO's office and the adjutant and everything else, went to the mess and got pickled.
Me: So that was probably your fondest memory?
RS: I don't know if it was my fondest memory, it still wrangles.
Me: So what sort of celebrations did you...
RS: Well we didn't celebrate at all really, I mean they were all drunk as owls, frankly I went to bed. I was tired I didn't bother boozing or anything, I went to bed. The next day we had, at my suggestion, got half a dozen piglets, which we were growing to have for our mess you see. I don't know what age they were but anyway we had them all slaughtered and we had them for sucking pig, for dinner one night. We were only there for a week then we went up north.
RS: I don't know about fondest memories... My fondest memories were getting back safely, I think, Ha! No, I wasn't very pleased that last night.
Me: I'm sure you'll go down in history, after this tape, as the last bomber to come back in WW1!
RS: we're not on the record at all...
Me: Well you will be now.
RS: Have you been recording?
Me: Oh, yes that's gone into posterity.
RS: Oh, I didn't know.
Me: So if you've got a word for posterity, what would it be? If there're any lessons to be learned from your experiences for posterity what would thay be?
RS: Take things as they come, Ha ha, that's all I can say!
Me: Will you have a......Have one of these they're very nice.
( Gets up to pour another drink)
(At this point the numerous shorts he had been plying me with, were taking their toll and the camera goes askew after I knock it accidently)
When asked about being nervous at times...
RS: Never. I just used to have a belly ache of course, like we all had. Your father would've too. All of us. But I was never frightened, you never seemed to think that anything would hit you 'till it happened, I suppose, and it never happened with me. I almost got...five bullets went right between me legs, came in here went out there, they never touched me. It was a fighter, he attacked us from underneath. They went right through, between me legs, and I counted the holes in the side of the fuselage afterwards. I never saw him. On that occasion, this fellow and I were sent on a mission. Did I tell you? Big Bertha was shelling Paris. Paris was about thirty miles away and we had to go on and bomb a map reference just in the corner of a field, where this gun was on the ground. We just went and dropped our bombs on this spot, that was all we could do, we couldn't see anything, don't know whether we hit the gun or not, but we just plastered this with sixteen 112 pounders and departed back home. It was then that I got these five bullets through. Hehe.
Me: Never saw the fighter or anything?
RS: No, I just heard the rattle of the gun.
Me: How come that you couldn't see him but he could see you?
RS: Well, we were a big machine. Then again,he'd probably see our exhaust or something like that, you know.
Cheers! (we clink our glasses together as a toast)
RS: I think we ought to have another one of these!
~ THE END ~
Roy Shillinglaw passed away on 24th September 1999
News of Roy since my visit
Subsequent to creating these webpages I received various emails with regard to Roy. One from Don Fuller, a relative of Roy Shillinglaw.
Roy celebrated his 100th birthday on May 16th 1999. 100 Squadron did a 4 plane flypast for him! He now lives in a nursing home in Douglas (Isle of Man) where he is well looked after. During these birthday celebrations he was awarded the Legion D'Honeur by the French Government.
Don Fuller added in his email:
"I was talking about Roy to our local vicar's wife, and I could hardly believe my ears when she told me her father flew in 100 Squadron in the 1st War as well! Her maiden name was Bourne and I believe he flew on raids with Roy. She has a message pouch with a letter from her father still enclosed with the weighting stone. It emplored his mother to ask the gardener to save some moleskins to make a new flying cap because it was so cold flying in the open cockpit."
News of Roy's death
You may well have heard the sad news that Roy Shillinglaw passed away on
Thursday, September 24th, 1999. His funeral will take place next
Wednesday, September 29th on the Isle of Man.
Your superb tribute to Roy on your site is mentioned in our own web site
page that relates to Roy's 100th birthday.
They say old soldiers never die. Let's hope Roy's memory will never fade
Web Site Editor
100 Squadron Association
Interview Index page
RFC intro page
Emails I have received about these pages
More pictures of 100 squadron RFC from my father's album
Various WW1 related objects in my possession and some found at the old aerodrome site nearXaffévillers in France