69616: From the British Expeditionary Force to the Royal Flying Corps
This story was shared at the Somerville Great War Roadshow at Somerville College, 15 Nov 2014. At the start of the war, my father Charles Beeks was a regular soldier in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) and was sent to the continent with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He was attached to Major General Groves and travelled with him a lot. Charles Beeks later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and received his pilots wings, though the date of this is uncertain. It is believed that he transferred in 1916 and was undergoing training by 1917. He is believed to have undergone flight training in Egypt (flying an aircraft which I believe was a B2CE) and was confirmed by the Bishop of Jerusalem. He was not wounded in the war but did damage his Achilles tendon pushing lorries through the sand in Cairo. He also caught malaria there and was put in hospital; by the end, he weighed just 6 st. 11 lb. He was decorated and received the Distinguished Flying Medal, but I don't know why. I vaguely recollect that this may be related to putting a smokescreen over enemy trenches but this is uncertain. After the war, he served as the standard bearer for the Oxford branch of the "Old Contemptibles Association" (of BEF veterans). His standard is now held in the church of St Michael at the Northgate in Oxford.