Firestep to Fokker Fodder

Not many comprehensive schools possess chapels, but Magdalen College School Brackley, where I taught English for over thirty years, inherited one from the grammar school from which it took over in 1973.

During chilly assemblies in the chapel, my attention often wandered to some wooden crosses on the wall. These are ex-students’ crosses from First World War battlefields, sent home when they were replaced by the uniform Portland stone grave markers.

I never did find out the stories behind the crosses, but am delighted to learn that Andrew White (whom I taught over forty years ago) has taken up the challenge. He has investigated the journal of William ‘Jack’ Lidsey, who enlisted in the Ox and Bucks in August 1914, fought on the Salient and the Somme, and joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

Andrew is well-qualified to write the book, since he spent many years in the RAF, and more recently has worked as a battlefield guide in France and Belgium.

Jack Lidsey joined the Royal Flying Corps as an observer with No. 16 Squadron. The squadron suffered severe losses in the run-up to the Arras offensive of 1917. Lidsey survived one encounter with the great German air ace, Manfred von Richtofen, but a second did not end so well, and the Red Baron claimed him as his 29th victim.

Andrew’s book is based on the detailed journals that Lidsey kept, in the trenches as well as in the RFC. It looks as though it will be well worth reading. Details are here.

William ‘Jack’ Lidsey in 1916

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