Chapter Four, “Sopwith Camel Fighter Ace” by Robert M Todd
17th Aero Sqdn, U.S.A.S. – A.E.F. (Five kills and
now lives in San Diego, CA)
two weeks of flying the Camel, I had enough time to be sent
to The School of Aerial Gunnery at Turnberry, Scotland. Aldy
was about a week behind me in his training, so I told him
I'd wait for him in London so we could go up to Turnberry
together. Aldy finally joined me and, after two more days in
London, we boarded the train for Turnberry, Scotland. After
reporting in, we were assigned sleeping quarters in the
Turnberry Hotel, a very fashionable vacation spot.
adjoining golf course had been turned into an aerodrome. The
hotel sat halfway up the side of a mountain, looking out
over the aerodrome and into the bay, a most beautiful spot.
The room Aldy and I were assigned to was in the front and
across the bay we could see Ailsa Craig, a round mass of
rock sticking out of the water several miles away. We were
on the second floor which was nice because the elevators
were not running. All our meals were served in the main
dining room, and we were introduced to several Scottish
dishes immediately; kippered herring with our eggs and
treacle for our cereal. We like both and the service was
very good. The dining room was known as the "Officer Mess —
St. 2 Auxiliary School of Aerial Gunnery, R.F.C."
aerodrome was the golf course complete with bunkers, and
traps and a dandy water hazard that circled through the
whole field. This was a brook; a typical Scot hazard on a
golf course. The prevailing wind came off the sea which was
not bad for take offs but to land, we had to come down the
mountain where the hotel was and sideslip in for a very
short landing strip to avoid the brook and other hazards.
planes were not maintained as well as the ones we flew at
the training field in England, and Aldy was assigned to a
Camel that was not rigged right, it pulled to the left and
was hard to land. The planes were equipped with two Vickers
machine guns, firing through the propeller, and we fired on
ground target — planes silhouettes laid out on the beach
away from the field. We also had camera guns that we could
fire when fighting with each other. The films from these
showed how close you came to making a kill.
played billiards and cards for recreation. The Aerial
gunnery School No. 1 was at Ayr, Scotland. One night when we
were in Ayr, we met "Andy" Anderson from Hawaii. Andy knew a
civilian family that wanted to entertain Yanks — later than
week, I joined Andy and we went to their home and spent the
afternoon playing tannic and drinking tea. After serving us
a nice dinner they drove me back to Turnberry. Andy Anderson
played the ukulele quite well and later in life wrote and
published many famous Hawaiian tunes we all know today!'