First World War : Flying over France.

Thomas Smith Impey was born in 1880 and was a student at Bootham School from 1893 to 1896.  During the First World War he served in the Royal Flying Corps, becoming a Captain and later a Major.

Photograph of Thomas Smith Impey in Bootham School Gym Team, 1894
Thomas Smith Impey in Bootham School Gym Team, 1894

In the March 1916 edition of “Bootham” magazine he writes about his experiences flying over France:

“T. S. IMPEY joined the R.F.C. in February 1915, ” three months late, owing to an accident that kept me from doing anything at all for many weeks. I am now almost the oldest pilot flying, many of the senior officers being years younger than me. . . . I took my pilot certificates in about six weeks, and passed the final examination qualifying me as a flying officer in July. . . . After some delay with my engine at Folkestone, I crossed the Channel at about 8,000 ft. . . . From 8,000 ft. the N.W. corner of France looks like a map, Calais and Boulogne seeming only a hand’s-breadth apart, the hills and valleys being quite indistinguishable. . . . I was flying at 8,000 ft. looking for gun flashes over the line, when three or four came up— bang ! bang ! pong ! ping !—all around me, and little round puffs of smoke flashed away behind me;  and I confess I turned round and flew out of range in zig-zags as quickly as I could, which was at about 80 miles an hour. Of course, I had to go back again when I had a few minutes to think it over, and now, though I don’t like ‘ Archie,’ I have learned to fly through him like everyone else, and do my work regardless. . . . It is awfully cold sometimes at 10,000 ft., which is a height we often fly at; and without proper protection in the winter frostbite is more than likely.””

T. S. Impey survived the war and was granted a permanent commission in the R.A.F. He retired in 1922.

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