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136. Clearing out the Cowshed


It’s amazing what can suddenly come to light. Rick and his partner Marian were clearing out the old milking parlour at Dad’s place prior to installation of a new boiler, and among all the detritus they came across was a box of family memorabilia. Dad and I spent a very enjoyable day going through it all, but the things that were of particular import to this blog were some photographs.

When the Scout is finished, we plan during 2016 to make two very special trips. One is to Imbros and or Thasos, where the airfields Granddad operated from are still usable, in order to commemorate his centenary. It will be quite amazing to be able to look down on the Gallipoli peninsula again from a Bristol Scout.

The other will be to fly over the Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 2016.

The reason for this trip is that Grandad’s first cousin, David, (after whom I am named) was injured on the first assault on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and died a month later. He was a Second Lieutenant in the First Battalion, the Border Regiment and on that fateful morning he was in the second trench. At 0630 he watched the first trench go over the top and saw that none of them got beyond their own barbed wire. An hour later he had to order his men over the top. They had to file over bridges laid cross the first trench and line up ready for the advance at walking pace. Of 23 officers, only 3 survived unscathed, and of 850 men, 690 were killed or injured.

The contrast between Granddad and his brother, both of whom had adventurous wars but survived unscathed, and their first cousins, David and James, both of whom were killed, has always struck me as a particularly brutal example of the fortunes of war.

The other thing that struck me as odd was that despite my great grandfather’s keen interest in family history in the 1930s, we had no photographs of his nephews David and James beyond the age of about 8 and 10. I had wondered if their parents had found the recollection of them so painful that they had destroyed all the pictures.

And so when we found these pictures in the cardboard box I found a real lump in my throat.

2nd Lt David Bremner, 1st Bat., Border Regiment, 1914.

2nd Lt David Bremner, 1st Bat., Border Regiment, 1914.

Even the mouse who took a fancy to one had left the face and uniform cap intact. The first picture is of David, presumably when he first joined up in 1914.

2914-09-22 Bremner David V and James VI 21-05-1916

The next one is of the two boys. It’s dated 31 Mar 1916, only about a month before David’s death. He had matured in those two years, and looks like a leader of men. James is shorter and a very different build, and in the third photograph of him with his father he seems relaxed and happy. James was killed at Arras in June 1917 when a shell exploded in his trench. Hampy was 6ft 7in tall, and while James is not quite so tall, David must have been much the same. It’s a family trait. Hampy’s brother (my great grandfather) was 6ft 5in, and my grandfather, father and myself are all well over 6ft.

2014-09-22 Bremner Alexander Hamilton and James VI 1916

Let’s hope we can take the Scout to France in time to commemorate them both.


From → Research

  1. Wonderful blog. I am sure I have records of your grandfather’s missions over Gallipoli in late 1915. I have written a book ‘Gallipoli Air War” (Pan Macmillan Australia 2013) on the topic.


    SQNLDR Hugh Dolan Retd

    • That’s fantastic! He only arrived just before Christmas, so his first flight from Imbros was on 19 Dec. He flew the Voisins exclusively until he got shot down in one on the eve of the evacuations, after which they let him loose on the Bristol Scout. I shall certainly look for your book.

  2. Brian Perkins permalink

    Hello David:
    I continue to enjoy following your progress. Interesting to see the family resemblance (re photos)
    I believe I had an ancestor killed at Beaumont Hamell as well. Marshal Perkins. Many Canadians killed there! I had a great flying season with the 35% Scout. Have well over 100 flights to date! Beautiful predictable flier!

    Brian P.

    • I’m so glad to hear the model is continuing to behave itself. I met someone who’s built a model of it in X-plane that has the fully accurate aerofoil section and the lifting tail, and that seems to be a good reliable flier too, with a reasonably predictable stall. It also gives us the first shot at an acceptable CG range, which is a huge step forward. And the first estimates of the actual CG seem to come pretty close to the range that is comfortable in X-Plane too. fingers crossed!

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