Monday 28 April 2014

The Quirk

From "On A Wing And A Prayer", by Joshua Levine - a book about WW1 airmen told mostly in their own words.

"In Lewis Carroll's poem, Jabberwocky', a monster is slain by a boy in a strange and sinister world. In April 1917, an Albatros was destroyed by a BE2c (or 'Quirk'), in the skies above Arras. William Bond of 40 Squadron, a pilot and parodist, made the connection:

Twas brillig and the Slithy Quirk
Did drone and burble in the blue,
All floppy were his wing controls
(And his observer too)

'Beware the wicked Albatros',
The O.C. quirks' had told him flat;
'Beware the Hun-Hun bird and shun
The frumious Halberstadt'

But while through uffish bumps he ploughed,
The Albatros, with tail on high,
Came diving out the tulgey cloud
And let his bullets fly.

One, two; one, two, and through and through,
The Lewis gun went tick-a-tack,
The Hun was floored, the Quirk had scored,
And came 'split arsing' back.

'Oh hast thou slain the Albatros?
Split one, with me, my beamish boy, 
Our RAF-ish scout has found them out', 
The C.O. wept for joy.

Bond himself described the parody as 'cheap', but others disagreed - most notably Mick Mannock who pasted a copy of it inside his diary ... On 22nd July, Bond, a Daily Mail journalist in peacetime, was shot down and killed by a direct Archie hit."

A great parody, but a couple of things to ponder. Firstly it was the BE2e that was, as far as I know, called 'The Quirk', although it was certainly around when the poem was written. But, secondly, would there have been a reference to the RAF in 1917?

Anyway, I was very pleased the other day to read a comment that WW1 pilots considered 90 metres to be about the longest distance that it was worth firing on an enemy aircraft from (preferably much close). Out of interest I decided to work out what that was in 1/600th scale - it's 15cm or, near enough, 6". The range I assigned to firing in 'Spandau and Lewis'. I was quite pleased by this neat little coincidence until, on the train up to Sydney the other day, I decided to use the information to work out how long a 'Spandau and Lewis' turn was. Apparently it's 1.8 seconds. This means the average game represents an action that lasts about 20 seconds. I hadn't really intended it that way, wanting to include observer actions such as artillery spotting and photography in the action. So I'm going to quietly forget those numbers and state that 'Spandau and Lewis's time- and ground-scale is officially 'a bit abstract'.


  1. cae5ar@y7mail.com29 April 2014 at 12:04

    Wow, it all happens pretty quickly up in the skies! Nice poem and thoughts; interesting read.

  2. It's a great parody, isn't it? 'RAF' actually stands for 'Royal Aircraft Factory', Situated at Farnborough, this was where the BE (Bleriot Experimental) aircraft were built. Also, I'm fairly sure that BE2cs were known as 'Quirks' before the advent of the BE2e -

    1. "'RAF' actually stands for 'Royal Aircraft Factory', Situated at Farnborough, this was where the BE (Bleriot Experimental) aircraft were built. "

      Silly - I should have thought of that. I used to work there (albeit whilst it was in its current QinetiQ guise).