I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…
I had been out night flying and we landed. I checked in on the Aerodrome Log Book, where I had been and time returned–10:50 p.m.–and got ready for my cot.
Next morning there was a Corporal Guard at my cot and informed me I was required at O.C. Orderly Room.
I dressed in my R.F.C. (Royal Flying Corp.) Uniform and they marched me to the Orderly Room.
I began to think what is this all about, I soon found out.
The O.C. soon acquainted me that I was under arrest for shooting up a village, chasing a buggy with a man and his wife in the cart, shooting up a house when they had visitors leaving; worst of all, shooting King George V Horse Breeding Stable and taking Slates off the roof.
Whoo, What a charge!
“Sir, I did nothing of the kind. I was flying and shooting at the White Target and split it right down the middle and never touched the Lewis Gun again.”
He would not have it and informed me that King George wanted me Court Martialled on a certain date and the King was to be informed of the trial.
They took away my Sam Brown Belt, and then I became a prisoner. What they called “Undressed.” If I had been an Officer, They would have taken my Insignia from Cuffs and Shoulders.
They then marched me out and put guards over me all the time but allowed me to attend classes.
They had different Officers interrogating me with different questions trying to cross my statements and wanting me to admit I was guilty.
They had one old Colonel questioning me in front of a map showing me the way I flew with the degrees and data sheet.
I told him that was wrong and pushed his hand away from the map and showed how I flew that night.
He said, “You are a very headstrong young man. The type we want in the Air Force, but it is bad you are in this trouble. The King wants you punished and we can’t do anything about it.”
The British Military individuals are a Peculiar people for when you are in trouble, they ostracize you.
I was in an awkward position as I was the only Canadian at the Aerodrome.
There was an Australian but he would not talk to me. I wanted him to compare the rifling of my Lewis Gun with a bullet from the shooting. He just ignored me.
I can tell you I was in a terrible mental condition, knowing it was not me, and could not get any proof to help me.
The day of the Court Martial arrived.
I arrived at the anteroom, marched in under Guard, and all the witnesses were there.
They looked at me as if I was a criminal. They certainly took care they had enough on their side and here was me alone among a bunch of Foreigners.
What they would say against me, was beyond my imagination.
All at once the Heaven Opened and an Angel came to my rescue.
A young Sergeant came up to me while I had guards around me to march me in to hear my fate.
The Sergeant said to me, “Sir, I am very sorry to have to appear against you.”
I said, “Sergeant, tell the truth, for they are forcing this on me,” and I left him.
I walked to the other end of the anti-room, and said to myself, “What can the Sergeant say about me?”
I went back to him and said, “Sergeant, what are you going to say against me?”
He said, “Sir, I am the time keeper of this Aerodrome and I wrote down the time you shot up our town.”
I said, “I didn’t shoot up your town. Well, what time was it?”
He said, “I wrote it down at the time, and here it is, 11:10 p.m.”
I said, “Are you certain?”
“Certainly, I am sure.”
I said, “Stay where you are and don’t let anyone have that paper.”
I then went to the Sergeant with his Guard at the Court Martial door and told him I wanted to speak to my Lawyer Officer whom I had never seen.
The Sergeant said, “No! The Trial is about to begin.”
I said, “Sergeant, I am going in if I have to fight the bunch of you.”
He got scared and sent in one of his airmen to inform the Court Martial Chairman what I wanted.
Out came my Lawyer Officer, a pompous devil, and said, “What do you want?”
I said, “I want you to come over and meet this Sergeant.”
He said, “I won’t.”
I said, “Yes, you will if I have to drag you over.” He really got scared.
He came over and I said, “Sergeant, show him that paper, but hang on to it.”
I said to the Officer, “What time is on the paper?”
He said, “11:30 p.m. What difference does it make?”
I said, “Go inside and look at the Log Book and you will see that I checked in at 10:50, 10 minutes to eleven p.m. This Sergeant is the time keeper for the Aerodrome, and you will see that the Pilot checked in the Plane at 10:50 p.m. There is a 20-minute difference.”
He said, “The King will be as mad as Hell.”
“I am not interested about the King being mad.”
He left and went into the Court Martial Court, then they asked the Sergeant to come in.
They then took the Guards off me and asked me to come in.
They informed me a terrible mistake had been made, and gave me the Air Force apology, then gave me my Sam Brown Belt.
I had been under a terrible strain; nearly out of my mind.
They checked the records and found the culprit had left the day before the trial as he would not make Navigator and was going as an Observer.
The next morning, an Airman was at my cot informing me I was to report at the Orderly Room at once.
I said to myself, “What have they got on me now?”
I hurriedly dressed and went with the Corporal to the Orderly Room, and standing before the O.C. of the Aerodrome, he apologized to me for what I had been through.
Then he said, “You cannot stay here. You have made a fool of all my Officers.”
I said, “Sir, I didn’t make a fool of them, they made fools of themselves.”
He said, “Don’t you speak that way about my Officers.”
I kept quiet.
He said, “You cannot stay here and there will be a plane here at 2:00 p.m. to take you to Lyme Castle on your way to France. You have a splendid record and the High Command asked me to inform you that you will be Gazetted today as a 2nd Lieutenant.”
“Sir,” I said, “I am ready to go now. I have all my things packed.”
He said, “Did you know you would have to leave?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Well, I will have a plane ready in an hour.”
He then got out of his official chair and said, “Goodfellow, I am sorry this happened.” He shook hands with me and wished me luck in France.