“SOLDIER AND AVIATOR—A TRIBUTE”
" W H A T a long time ago Easter Day, 1911, seems ! That was the day my brother Patrick came home from India on leave. In a letter received from him just before, he wrote : ' I have a great scheme in my mind, and want you to help me . '" These are the opening words of a little volume written by Miss Ethel Hamilton, sister of the late Capt. Patrick Hamilton, who was killed by the fall of his monoplane during the Army manoeuvres in September lasta little volume in which the authoress reveals something of the inner feelings of one brother who met his end in the service of his King.
Every page of this simply-written memoir has a pathetic interest It tells of the good nature of the brother, the courage of the soldier, and the enthusiasm of the aviator. And it touches the heart all the more when, in her closing words, Miss Hamilton gives the names of her brothers, " who counted not their lives dear unto themselves," but gave them at the call of King and country.
They were :—
Alastair, Royal Irish Fusiliers
The " great scheme " her brother Patrick had in his mind, Miss Hamilton goes on to tell, was that he would learn to fly. At first he was persuaded not to, but his mind was made up, and nothing would deter him. Yes, there was one thing that would have influenced him. Had his mother asked—but that was not her way, for " she said that no one's personal feelings ought ever to interfere with any man's career provided it was an upright and honourable one to follow." Was not the mother as courageous as the aviator in thus expressing her opinion ?
Readers will remember the late Capt. Hamilton learning to fly, how he met Mr. G. M. Dyott, and how they decided to go over to America to fly, taking with them two Deperdussin monoplanes, a 60-h.p. two-seater, and a little 28-h.p. single. During his tuition he had the misfortune to hurt his knee, and it was hardly well again when the time arrived for him to sail.
Recalling his departure on the boat special from King's Cross, Miss Hamilton writes: "I wrung my heart to see him, such a slight, solitary figure he looked on his two sticks, being pushed and hustled by a noisy American crowd ; but even there I saw him help some woman with her parcels," a little incident which beautifully illustrates the kindly trait in his character.
Some few months after his arrival, it will be remembered, he had an accident while flying in Mexico, which might easily have cost him his life, for on the little single-seater he was caught in an eddy which turned him completely over and brought him down 100 ft. heavily to the ground. Writing to his sister after the accident he said : "Don't be alarmed, as I have not so much as a scratch, but I have had about the limit in smashes." He went on to describe the details that led up to the fall. Later he resumed : " The propeller was not even good for matchwood, the tip of the skids went like paper. One wing is as good as a sick headache and the other we can repair. When we struck my legs were caught in the bridge (the control bridge) and luckily kept me there, and I watched the oil and petrol pouring out of the tank, and wondered if it was going to fire, but nothing happened, and by the time I realised I was not in another world, I crawled out and started looking over the wreck. Then I began to realise I'd had about the most wonderful escape anyone could possibly have."
His only fear was that, following on such an accident, he might be afraid. Anyone who has personal acquaintance with a pilot will readily understand this. But he found himself not afraid. All the time he seemed to realise the importance of military aviation in a serious way, thinking it necessary strength for our nation. He said: “ I t has got to come, and we have got to do it .”
For his keenness, it is but necessary to recall a remark he once made. " If I have to go absolutely broke," he said, " I am going to take out a machine to India."
THE RESULT OF FLYING AFTER SUNSET AT MEXICO CITY.—The machine turned completely over and landed down on its back. Everything was smashed except the wheels and the pilot.
Returning to London from America, an article in the Daily Mail attracted his notice, and caused him to reconsider his decision to go to India. He would be more use, he thought, in England with his machine. And eventually he was able to get the necessary permission from the Foreign Office to stay in England.
It is a curious point that right up to this time the late Capt. Hamilton had not taken his certificate. He immediately set out to obtain it, and passed for his credentials on March 16th. The story goes on to tell how he had his machine, which was at Southampton, overhauled and reinforced; how eventually he obtained his flying orders from the War Office and how he flew over to South Farnborough from the Beaulieu aerodrome, to which flying ground he had had his monoplane taken. This was the same machine a 6o-h.p. Deperdussin that he used for so long at Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain. He took his superior brevet on July 13th, being the sixth to qualify.
"On the 11th August my brother came home for the last time. . . .”It was during this visit that I asked him if he was at all afraid of death. He seemed quite surprised and replied 'Why should I be ?' It made me feel almost ashamed of having asked. Indeed why should he be? There was no reason that could possibly cause him to fear. We little thought death was so near. I asked him what he thought came after this life, and he said he had no idea, except he was sure it was something better. And now he knows !
He had such a wonderfully beautiful mind."
" Pat left us on 18th August with a light heart, perfect confidence, and no fear. His joy was in his duty, and he hoped he might help to demonstrate the use of aeroplanes in the manoeuvres. He laughingly remarked the last day, ' Now look out for machine No. 158, because that will be mine, and with any luck, perhaps even the King may hear my name mentioned.' And, indeed, this came true in a way we little thought of."
His last letter here ran :
‘My dear Ethel.
" Many thanks for yours. I am oft to Wallingford about 5.30 a.m. (September 3rd). The 100 Gnome-Dep. is going very strong. She is a wonderful machine, climbs like a rocket.
Yours in haste.
Love to all,
The machine he referred to was the one that he had previously flown in the Military Trials. Four days later, Capt. Hamilton and his passenger Lieut. Wyness-Stuart were killed on that machine, falling from some 500 ft. in Graveley near Stevenage Herts. For the machine on which he learnt to fly he had previously mentioned in a letter - I hope never to fly any other machine except a Deperdussin. They are absolutely marvellous."
He never did fly any other machine. He met his end on that machine. But it was not the machine's fault, nor yet his own. So he went to his rest a soldier and a man of whom we were always proud.
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