First World War
Letters Home from
Captain Kenneth W. Junor, MC
A series of letters, of which the following are extracts, became available to the REVIEW and were published in the June 1919 Memorial Issue. They were written by Captain Kenneth W. Junor who went missing on April 23, 1918 and was later confirmed dead.
French engines in the squadron have the reputation of giving the most remarkable results for the first few weeks, and then going "dud", but I am convinced that it is mostly due to the pilots, and think that with care I can get good results with this one. At present it will out distance and out climb any other bus in the squadron. It had its first initiation today. Capt. Billings dropped out of the patrol before we reached the lines, with engine trouble, so I took over the leadership. First we had a fight with a two-seater. I didn't get a shot, but MacPherson killed the observer from such close range that he has spots of his blood all over his fuse bags. Dear old Mac! He is so keen on getting a Hun that he literally rushes in where angels fear to tread. I am afraid he will be done in.
I got the patrol together, minus one chap who got lost, again, and we climbed to 14,000 when we spotted five Albatross scouts about 500 feet below us and west of us. (We were then 12 and 15 miles into Hunland.) We got in behind them and attacked from the east. They were going toward the lines and were not expecting trouble from that quarter. The result was that they didn't even know we were upon them until we opened fire. I got slap bang on the leader's tail and fired 50 rounds. He went down out of control and crashed. Then my trouble began. First, my Lewis gun, which is mounted on the top, came unfastened - blew down and hit me an awful whack on the head, my Vickers gun jammed, and worst of all, my engine cut out completely. I was in a bad way with Huns "reving" about all over the place.
Discovered that lack of air pressure in the petrol tank had caused my engine to stop, so pumped it up with the hand pump - engine picked up. The Lewis gun bracket was broken, and the gun would not stay up. Just then I spotted a Hun on Porter's tail. That would never do. I dived at him, holding the Lewis up with my right hand and pressing the firing lever with the left. Couldn't take a decent aim. The shots were wild, but they served to scare the old Hun away. I then turned for the lines. When I got there, I found neither Mac or Porter were with me. I was afraid they had been done for. Back I went 15 miles to the place where the fight had been; not a bus of any kind in the blue. Archie was darn bad, and I was still holding the Lewis gun up. I turned for home feeling pretty low. It was the first fight I had led a patrol into, and I didn't want to have any casualties. I couldn't even feel happy about my Hun. Imagine my relief when I got to the airdrome to find both Mac and Porter standing on the tarmac and wondering what had become of me. "All's well that end well," and everyone was pleased with the morning's scrap.
Since I wrote last we have had to move about thirty miles back to a new aerodrome. The Huns have our old place now. You remember in one of my letters I spoke of walking over an old battlefield, visiting my old gun emplacements, etc., etc. - well, that is all in Hunland now. The air has been stiff with Hun machines "revving" about in droves. I have been shot down twice in three days. I feel that I have passed a most critical point in my flying career. I certainly hope so. I have never had such a close shave before."
Letter 2 - When I Get Home
The fight started at 17,000 and we were now at 5,000 and I could see the Huns in their trenches below. For some reason, I wasn't the least bit excited, quite cool, in fact - cold, I guess. I was only annoyed at being beaten up. Suddenly the Hun stopped diving at me, and left his pal to finish me off. I think probably he ran our of ammunition, as he must have fired over 400 rounds at me. When I saw I only had one machine to deal with, my spirits rose. I determined to out climb him on my turns (we were then down to 2,000 feet, about four miles east of the lines.) When he saw what I was doing, he got "wind up" and turned nose down for home. That was my chance, and I literally pounced upon him. I fired a long burst from both guns at close range. He went down in bits and crashed in a field. His miserable pal sat up above and watched the proceedings. They certainly are sportsmen, these Huns - I don't think!
I came home across the floor mighty thankful to be alive. When I landed my machine practically fell to pieces. It was shot full of holes and a complete write off."
Letter 3 - A Visit from the King
Well the other day we did a patrol - two flights of six machines each; one flight about 2,000 feet above the other. The idea being that the bottom flight would look for scraps, while the top flight would protect them, and prevent Hun scouts diving on them. I was in the top flight, Hank in the bottom (which was led by a chap named Mealing). Our flight was led by Captain Billings. I was on his right. Shortly after we crossed the lines, the bottom flight went down after a Hun two-seater. We "revved" around over them, when turning toward our lines, I suddenly spotted 10 Albatross scouts (purple and white) led by a silver coloured Pfaltz scout (don't forget him) below us, and diving toward our bottom flight. I immediately dived on them. I got on the silver chap's tail and opened fire. Both my guns jammed. I didn't worry much, as I expected all the other Huns would be busy with our chaps, but no such luck. Before I kew it there were half a dozen of them on top of me, and they certainly could shoot. The air was filled with tracer bullets. They came crashing into my bus. They shot my main petrol tank through, just in front of my feet. About fifteen gallons of petrol poured all over me, my engine stopped. Of course, all this time I was throwing my bus all over the sky - never still a second - rolling, spinning, etc. and worst of all, losing height.
If there had been one Hun or perhaps two, I could have avoided them, but with so many it was hopeless. I was absolutely terrified that my bus would catch fire. I switched on to my emergency tank, and the engine picked up. There were only three Huns after me - two Albatross and the Silver Pfaltz. While I was avoiding one of the former, the Pfaltz dived right on top of me and fired from close range. The burst crashed right into my emergency tank above my head; one went through my wind-shield. Petrol poured over my face into my eyes, absolutely blinding me. I thought my time had come and I almost gave up. My engine stopped again. I wish I could relate all the thoughts that flashed through my mind in those few wild seconds. I thought of dinner in a Hun mess, if I could only get down alive. I recalled with a tinge of regret that I had not had a chance to wear me MC ribbon, and a thousand other things.
I was down to 3,000 feet. Looking up, I saw that both Albatross had disappeared, and only the silver Pfaltz diving. But I was quite powerless with no engine. Suddenly an S.E. came out of the sky like a bolt from the blue, smack onto the Hun. I saw his tracers as he opened fire, and quick as a flash the Pfaltz went down, his beautiful silver plane flashing in the sun, completely out of control.
I could hardly realize that I was saved. Then the horrible thought that I could not reach the lines. I tried everything with my engine; pumping with the hand pump, switching on to different tanks, and praying it to go. I was too done up to cheer when it started to sputter - ten, twelve, fourteen hundred revs - enough to keep me going. What it ran on I don't know. The oil tank was shot through - no oil pressure. The radiator was shot, letting out all the water, temperature over 100 degrees, but on it went like a lame duck - "clankety clank". It sounded like a farm tractor. But it was game, and with a sigh of relief, I crossed over the lines.
I picked the nearest field and went down. The engine seized up as I landed. I wish you could have seen my machine. It was full of holes. Besides what I have told you, there were several bullet holes in different parts of the engine - even the tips of the propeller blades were shot through. One flying wire was gone and fusebags punctured in several places. I didn't waste much time inspecting it, but commandeered the nearest car and beat it back to the airodrome.
If you have never had your life saved, you can't imagine how you feel toward the chap who does it. He and I have been great rivals in the camp in a friendly way. We got our decorations on the same day, and were nearly equal for Huns. Since I have been on leave he has quite outdistanced me, The Pflatz made eleven Huns for him, as well as two balloons. He was about due for a DSO. But here is the sad part. On another shot that same day he failed to return. A machine was seen to go down in flames, and Walkeredin saw an S.E. burning on the ground."