Navigation links at the bottom of the page

Letters Home...Lieutenant Douglas Alexander Hardy Nelles RNAS

Flight Sub-Lieutenant D. A. H. Nelles,
RNAS circa 1916 RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service)

Editing Note: Publishing private correspondence presents problems of invasion of privacy, both of the writer and the person to whom the correspondence is addressed. Should an editor correct misspelled words, improve the punctuation, polish the syntax? I believe that any change made to the original is a further intrusion into the writer's private world beyond the initial act of publication. For this reason, the letters of Lieutenant Nelles written from his internment in Holland are here reproduced without alteration so as to retain the style and syntax. There is a further risk when editing private correspondence. Spellings alter, words change their meaning, and phrases lose the spark of the original imagery in which they were written. For example, the spelling of bicycle appears as bycicle, museum as musuem. There is evidence of all these in the letters published here, but written almost eighty years ago.

For the reader to have a sense of time and perspective it is worth providing background information on the life and times of Lieutenant Douglas Alexander Hardy Nelles, RNAS, DSC (1892-1985). In writing this sketch of this decorated WW1 aviator I have made free use of the documents and correspondence loaned by Mrs Sandra Murray of Port Hope, Canada, daughter of Douglas and Majorie Nelles. I extend my sincere thanks to Mrs Murray for the use of her family photographs, newspaper clippings, documents and correspondence to write this article.

LOCAL AVIATORS READY FOR SERVICE AT FRONT reported a Toronto newspaper 1 on 4 August 1915. Considering the average length of newspaper reports in those days, the news item was uncharacteristically short. It dealt with sub-lieutenant commissions being granted to Canadian flyers in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and, in parts, reads:

... over a hundred young Canadians ... have signed up with the Curtiss Aeroplanes and Motors, Limited, for aerial instruction. Admiral Charles Kingsmill has received notice from the Admiralty that no more aviators are needed at present, and has issued notice to this effect. Cowley' and Lieut Nelles had a narrow escape on Monday at Long Branch. 2  Getting out of a steep bank, the machine dished and both were both badly shaken up. The biplane was completely wrecked but neither of the men is the worse for the mishap.

There was rather more to the 'dished biplane' incident than reported in the news item. Lieutenant Douglas Alexander Hardy Nelles, born in Simcoe, Ontario, on 23 August 1892, was a commissioned lieutenant in the peace-time Canadian Militia. Up to the 2 August, 1915, accident in the Curtiss Jenny, in which he was the instructor, he had, from 30 July 1915, accrued 177 minutes of flying time in the Curtiss boat: a total of 13 flights for an average flight time of 13% minutes. 3

The Curtiss Tractor, JN4, 1913/14 fitted with a
single tail plane with instructor and student in flight.
  Curtiss 1813/14 type fitted with floats taxying
Nieuport 10 in the Dunerque dunes
wrong way up
  Officers inspecting a stricken Nieuport 10
The biplane referred to in the Toronto newspaper was a wheeled Curtiss Tractor, JN4 (commonly known as the Jenny). On Monday, 2 August 1915, Cowley was the 23 year-old Nelles's first pupil, 4  having himself just passed his flying tests. It was also Instructor Nelles's first flight in the 'land machine Curtiss Jenny'. 5 He recorded walking away from the crash having 'Hurt shins on gas tank. Otherwise no injuries but plane badly damaged'. Nelles was one of thousands of Canadians who flocked to enlist at the outbreak of the First World War. He lived in an age in which strong ties of blood and heritage bound the land of his birth to the 'old country' and he needed no encouragement to use his initiative in preparing himself for the service of his choice. Given his commission in the pre-war Canadian Militia, his learning to fly at his own expense will not surprise those familiar with this period of Canadian history. On 15 October 1915, he passed his tests after twenty flights and a total flying time of barely nine hours since 30 July. As proof of his ability, he was given a Royal Aero Certificate, and laconically reports, 'No more Cowley'. 6
Despite the British Admiralty notice through Admiral Charles Kingsmill that 'no more aviators are needed at present', 7 Nelles was appointed to the rank of Temporary Probationary Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the RNAS on 3 November, 1915. (He was not confirmed in the rank until the following February). He sailed on the SS Athenia six days later, landing at Greenoch, Scotland, on 22 November and reported for duty to Chingford, Essex, on 1 December 1915, where he began his training for service at the front.   View of a Curtiss with a single tailplane flying overhead
Curtiss Flying School at Longbranch, Toronto.
Nelles is standing third from the right.
Behind the group is a Curtiss JN4,
used for instruction at the School
  The Curtiss Flying School at Longbranch
Rifle Range, Toronto, 1915

At Chingford and a short time later at Dover, where he was posted on 10 January 1916, his experience was no different from that of his fellow flyers and comrades. Life in training was new and exciting, with pranks and prangs and flying fatalities that happened to other people, of course, not to those who survived. Fortunately for this record, Sub/Lt Nelles supplemented his flying log with notes that form the basis of this summary of his flying experience.

Accommodated at the Burlington Hotel, Dover, 8 he records his first experience of a German air raid on the Channel Port on 23 January when, at 1.00 am a raider or raiders dropped eight bombs on the town, killed a man, and started a fire. He records another air raid occurring 12 hours later, at 1.00 pm, although he spotted several enemy aircraft.

Mar 20: RFC pilot killed near aerodrome. Lost control at 1500 feet.

Mar 26: Went to Folkstone. Saw ship sunk by mine. Apr 23: FSL Hughes crashed Morane. FSL Marvin badly injured when he crashed Nieuport.

Apr 24: 11.45 am German plane over Dover. Could hear bombardment of Belgian coast. FSL Wooley injured when he crashed Caudrun.

May 20: German plane dropped several bombs on Dover and near Pencion.

May 23-26: Flew Caudron to Redcar.

Between his arrival at Chingford in early December 1915 and his departure from Dover for No 5 Wing, Dunkirk, at the beginning of the following July, he flew a variety of aircraft and had a number of lucky escapes of the kind reported in the Toronto newspaper. His flying log records solo time spent flying the Curtiss, Avro, 80 Caudron, BE2c, Bleriot, 80 Bristol Scout, Morane, and Standard Nieuport. His total flying time to 30 June 1916 was 54.48 hours; he flew solo for 41.49 hours.

Considering the variety of aircraft flown and the comparatively few hours spent flying, aviators of Nelles's day had little time in which to learn. In a way that later aviators might find difficult to understand, Nelles and his contemporaries learned as they went along. Without navigation equipment beyond a simple compass, they flew by the seat of their pants and navigated only by what they could see. It was visual flying at its most simple. One hesitates to apply the word primitive to line of sight navigation, though this is equally apt. Delivering Caudron 3273 to Redcar in Yorkshire was a cross-country affair that well illustrates the pluck of the intrepid WW1 flyers.

Beginning mid-afternoon on 23 May, 1916 Nelles took off for Yorkshire and made the journey in eight legs, taking four days. He landed north of Sevenoaks, Kent, to get his bearings, hopping to Yalding, Delting, Chingford, Gravesend, Cranwell, Grantham, York and Redcar.

Nelles frankly admits causing an accident by switching off the engine and gliding. He recorded, 'Unable to restart prop. which had stopped while gliding. Misjudged the distance to aerodrome and forced to land in nearby field. Ran into fence before stopping and turned up on nose, the only damage being a bent nose piece'. 9

On 1 April, flying a Bleriot at 700ft from Dover to Westgate to Folkestone, the engine failed and, in landing in a field near Folkestone, a farmer's hedge stopped the machine. It was enough to break the prop and shift the petrol tank forward from its mounting. There was otherwise little damage. The recovery crew, which included Nelles, brought the aircraft home by truck the next day.

His diary entry for 4 July is matter of fact: Crossed to Dunkirk by boat and reported to No 5 Wing.

Of his experiences in No 5 Wing, a contemporary, Squadron Leader C.P.O. Bartlett, DSC, wrote that, being a naval wing they used naval terms. 10 "We saluted the ,quarter deck', attended 'divisions' on Sundays, slept in 'cabins' and frequented the 'Ward Room' or 'Gun Room'; went 'ashore' in the 'liberty boat' i.e. into Dunkirk in a Crossley Tender. The 'lower deck' was given to 'make and mends', the Master at Arms detailed 'port and starboard watches' - and so on." From his arrival at No 5 Wing, Dunkirk, in early July, 1916, until his internment in The Netherlands in April the following year, Nelles lived a charmed life, as he admitted himself. Bomber pilots were especially vulnerable to fighter aircraft and the amazing array of missiles flung at them by inventive German defenders. He gives a remarkable description of what it was like on bombing raids.

Nelles took to the naval life of No 5 Wing (on land and in the air) with alacrity, as his correspondence shows. His log from 5 July 1916 on is thick with the record of bombing raids - Gravelines, St Denis, Walcrern, Bergues, Ghistelles, Ostend, Zeebrugge, and so on. He flew Twin Caudrons, Sopwith 11/2 Strutters, the BE2c. The charmed life he led stemmed as much from good judgement and good flying as good luck. He breaks a crank shaft and glides to safety behind his own lines; gets chased off by Fokkers raiding aerodromes and heavy batteries; carries bombs in his Twin Caudron that fail to release and has no way of telling his companions at the base that he's returning with a live load; gets utterly lost and disorientated in low cloud. Again and again he reports, cryptically, 'Bombs fail to release. Very bad shelling. Dived to 115 knots to escape.' 'Landed too fast and a little side to wind. Machine went on right wing and then over on nose. Also, burst a tyre'. 'Dropped 4 Lepecqs from 3800ft. The remaining eight failed to release owing to defective pawl and rachet on bomb gear.' 11

He remained with No 5 Wing RNAS at Dunkirk, until April 1917 when the squadron moved to Petite Syanthe, 12 inland about three miles from Dunkirk. His good fortune continued until 22 April, 1917 when, in the early morning, he again went on a bombing sortie to Ste Denis Westram aerodrome. His log contains this final entry:

April 22, 1917 Wind NNW Sopwith 1 ½ 9376 95 min. Bombing raid to Ste Denis Westram aerodrome. Air pressure system failed when about 5 miles inland near Dutch Frontier. Landed in Holland near Oosburg (Oostburg) and was interned.

  An AA gun of the type used
for anti-aircraft defence at Dunkirk

In fact, as reported by a fellow flyer, F/Lt TY LeMesurier, Nelles was last seen 'descending low over Holland'. 13

Regarding Lt Nelles's correspondence, it is worth stating that like many a young man setting off for war he left a sweetheart behind. His childhood sweetheart was Marjorie Williamson, three years his junior, who lived next door. Both families were long-established in Canada. The Nelles family had Huguenot forebears who arrived in North America in the 18th century. Marjorie's family came from Britain and the Orkneys.

Majorie Williamson and Douglas Nelles were not engaged to be married at the time he left for England. It was, however, understood by both families that they would marry one another when he returned from the war. All his letters from the front and from Holland where he was interned he addressed to Majorie at the Nurses' Residence at General Hospital, Toronto, where she was in nurses' training.

The four surviving letters of the many Nelles wrote are of interest for a number of reasons and are here reproduced in their entirety. The first letter includes a graphic description of a bombing raid and an early flyer's wonder at the grandeur of flying above the clouds. Written with the immediacy of observation in the thick of combat experience, his portrait of the target area from a flyer's point of view is unsurpassed. According to his log record, the description in the first letter refers to a bombing raid on Ostend harbour on 10 November 1916. Compare the following bare entry in his log with his description of the raid for Marjorie.

Nov 10 4.35 am. Twin Caudron 9117 140 min. Bomb raid on Ostend Harbour. Dropped 2-65's and 8-15's frp, 3700 pm objective. Searchlights, some AA and fire balls. Bright moon but bank of clouds at 4 to 5000. 14

The remaining three letters are equally remarkable for the details of his internment in Holland. From Oostburg, where he landed, he was escorted to The Hague, where he joined other downed flyers, both German and Allied. In The Hague, the Dutch authorities allowed those interned to find their own accommodation with private families and left them free, with only minor restrictions, to travel the country as they wished. Generally, the Allied flyers found billets on one side of the town, Germans on the other. 15 Before the war ended, on giving his word he would return, Nelles was given parole to visit his mother, who was ill in Canada.

As he notes in his letters, Nelles received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his service, as published in the London Gazette and made known to him during his internment. On his promotion to a captaincy 'A & S' in the RAF on 1 April 1918, Capt Nelles had the unusual distinction of having been commissioned in all three services, the Army, Navy and Air Force. He transferred to the Unemployed List on 11 May 1919, relinquishing his temporary commission on 1 September 1921 at the age of 29. After landing at Oostburg, Holland, in May 1917, however, he never again piloted an aircraft. The slaughter on the Western Front and the appalling conditions soldiers suffered during life in the trenches has no parallel in warfare except, perhaps, on the Eastern Front in Russia during WW2. At the same time, the behaviour of WW1 aviators on both sides of the conflict was strong and fair and decent. This was to some extent repeated during WW2, when captors sometimes royally entertained their captives before shipping them off to captivity. One explanation for the mutual respect between flyers in the conflict, especially during WW1, was that battle in the air was yet a very personal combat. Aviators, flying in slow motion as compared with modern aircraft, could and often did look their foe in the eye. Having this experience and knowing that the other fellow was beset by the same conditions of mechanical failure, the chance of a fiery death, and the possibility of disintegration that comes from falling from a great height meant there was a built-in respect for the other's flying and fighting skill.

Letter to Marjorie November 13, 16

Same address

November 13, 16

Dear Marjorie;

Your last good letter, that of October the seventeenth, must have had a very exciting experience on the journey because it had received a salty bath and was still wet. However, in spite of the fact that the envelope had fallen apart and the ink run it was more than readable. I believe that a small amount of mail was lost but as some came for me I am hoping that all mine was together and therefore none lost. But, on the other hand, as I have no letter from you written between October the first and seventeenth and as you do not mention having received one which I wrote on September the twentieth perhaps I am a loser.

The Graham who was killed was not a Canadian and I knew him only by sight.

You have guessed correctly with regard to the English stamps.

When one first joins this service he is nearly always the recipient of several invitations from London photographers to pose for them gratis but up to the present I have not taken advantage of the offer. I keep wishing that the Toronto photographers were equally solicitous to probationers at the JGH and that you would gratify at least one of them and then give me his name and address.

I am very glad to hear that your COs are so nice and trust that you will find them all pleasant to work under. Am interested to know if you saw Al Jolson and what the show was like. Quite a good concert was recently held in the near-by town and we had one of our own on the station the following evening. Out Gun Room orchestra in which I am sometimes permitted to play the bones contributed and was, of course, a marked success.

As the Toronto papers may have informed you we have been raiding Ostend. Although very unreliable the weather has improved somewhat and the bright moon light has assisted our work.

Recently I witnessed one of the finest spectacles which I have ever seen. We were on a raid during the very early morning in the bright light of a full moon. Shortly after getting started clouds began to come up and some of our men who were the last to leave had great difficulty in allocating the objective on account of them. However, I was more fortunate being among the first and consequently as between the observers on the at that time there were numbers large spaces in the clouds I had no difficulty in picking up the objective which stood out very clearly in the moonlight.

Of course there were many enemy searchlights searching the heavens for us but they seemed rather weak and almost useless in such a light morning. Even when we did get in one of the beams were apparently nearly invisible because they seemed to make little effort to hold us in the rays. The clouds were between four and five thousand feet high so we came below this altitude to drop our 'pills'. At such times if a machine happened to get ground and a cloud its silhouette would be seen for a few moments but not for long enough to fire at it very accurately.

All this while the Huns were sending up in addition to the searchlights dozens of fire balls many of which rose to seven and eight thousand feet before burning out. They use several types of these but all burn with a brilliant greenish white flame. Sometimes these balls are sent up singly but usually they come up four or five in a string connected at regular intervals probably by a wire. The earth seemed a mass of them. They also use a sort of pinwheel arrangement which seems to rise in a zigzag course shooting out sparks in all directions. Of course they kept shooting their guns but as the shots could not be at all accurate the red flash of the high explosive shell bursting here and there at varying heights only added to the grandeur of the firework display.

Having released my bombs I flew a few miles away and circled for a short time climbing all the while until I was about eight thousand. I was well above the layer of clouds which here were without an opening and stretched out in all directions for miles. They were delightfully billowy resembling and undulating sea of foam (what! what!). They so reflected the light of the moon that my machine was completely lit up.

From this observation point I watched the yellowish white circles of the searchlights playing upon the under side of the cloud bank whose density was just sufficient to keep the rays from passing higher. Occasionally a shell burst above leaving a puff of black smoke which stood out very clearly against the white vapour. But by far the most beautiful part of the spectacle was when a string of the fire balls having lost most of their momentum issued serenely from the clouds and rose slowly for a considerable distance before losing their brilliancy. It seemed as if they were so impressed with their own splendour that they expected to light the upper world as they had illuminated that portion which existed beneath the dividing layer but soon discovering that their effect was insignificant compared with that of the great satellite they 'perished miserably' disappointed, humiliated and grieved (again, What! What!).The eye witness eventually return 'killing time' in the air until daylight when a landing was effected. I am quite incapable of describing the gratifying sensation which overcomes one upon his return from a successful raid but unfortunately it is sometimes quickly dispelled by the news that another is to be staged as soon as weather permits.

Very affectionately yours,


Letter to Marjorie May 8, 1917

107 Bankastraat
The Hague

May 8, 1917

Dear Marjorie;

I have not forgotten my resolve which I stated in a letter to you but very recently, although owing to the events which have since taken place it does not seem very recent, to write more regularly. However owing to the submarine menace our mail comes and goes only one in about ten days so I hope to always send at least one letter per boat. When the boat does come we get all the old English papers so we do not actually miss any news but get it rather late. Of course, the Dutch papers give all the most important news as promptly as the English ones so we are well aware of what is happening at the front. There is an English section to one of the local papers so I do not have to rely on translations. As yet no mail has come for me but there should be some in the next mail.

In continuing the story of my experiences from where I left off in my last letter I cannot hope to make them appear as interest as they really were but nevertheless I will do my best and your imagination must supply the rest. After such a long run of good fortune, compared with that of the average flying man, I had begun to believe that mine was a lucky star and so when a minor defect suddenly developed in my motor and at a time when I had a rather limited choice of landing grounds - German territory or Holland - my disappointment was great. If a change of luck was necessary it might have allowed me to get a 'blighty' (a wound or injury, not too serious but sufficient to 'sick leave' to England and perhaps Canada) instead of putting me entirely out of the game.

I was on a bombing raid and we all - bombs, machine and self - land intact beside Oostburg which is close to Belgium and near the coast. I had come East as far as possible in the glide but was not certain which country I was in until I had time to notice the crowd which had collected about me almost before the machine had come to a standstill. Numerous soldiers were in the throng from whose uniforms I knew that I had been able to get sufficiently far East.

A Dutch officer took me in charge. He knew no English and was so uncertain of my intentions when I took out my revolver, unloaded a few moments previous, to give it to him that he almost feinted with fright evidently thinking that I intended fighting my way, single handed, back to France. I was marched to the local military headquarters where I gave temporary parole and the outside world was informed of my presence. It was a very fine warm day so I removed as much of the warm flying clothing as I conveniently could. This left me bare-headed and attired in an old khaki uniform with high fur-lined boots. No doubt, I presented an odd spectacle walking through the main street of the village accompanied by the military and inhabitants flocked about and followed me open mouthed. They do not often get such amusement for a fine Sunday afternoon so they took full advantage of it. The Dutch are the most curious people whom I have ever come across and others with more experience than I express the same opinion. Even in the cities they will stand and gaze absentmindedly at anything at all out of the ordinary. However, in this case their interest was quite excusable. On my journey to The Hague and in my wanderings about the city prior to my being equipped in plain clothes I always felt a multitude of eyes directed upon me and was escorted by a crowd of street urchins. My popularity was at its height.

The evening of my landing I was dined (I am not sure whether at the expense of the Dutch or British govt.) at my little hotel in Oostburg by several of the local military 'big guns'. They knew some English so we got along very well. Early in the morning accompanied by two young Dutch officers both of whom spoke English I went to Byskers(?) by train, crossed to Flushing by boat and thence to The Hague via Rotterdam by rail. The afternoon was spent in purchasing plain clothes. It had been so long since I had brought any that I was almost bewildered but with the assistance of another interned officer I was eventually equipped and so able to walk about the streets without stopping the traffic.

One of the officers has sent me a 'snap' of my machine which, of course, I am very glad to have.

The next Saturday I went to Hengels for the week end to visit Jamieson and Harkness two Anzacs who used to be in my unit and landed here last Autumn. On Sunday afternoon 'Jamie' took me in the side-car of his motor-bike for a run of about sixty miles from which I got a good idea of the country about there.

Last Tuesday I went to the French opera which is here and which is considered very good. They gave a number of scenes from several operas which included 'La Fille du Tambour Major'Manon, 'Le Cheminau', 'Mignon', 'Hamlet' and 'Louise'. I hope to go again Saturday evening when 'Carmen' is to be given.

The weather has been ideal since my arrival some of the days being hot. It has been a late Spring so the tulips, daffodils, lilacs and hyacinths are not yet quite in full bloom. I am going to cycle out in the country to see the fields colored with them. As Interned officers on parole we are allowed considerable liberty. There are only a few small portions of the country which are prohibited to us and we are allowed to chose our residence from the remainder. We may change our residence if we so wish and after obtaining permission which is not difficult we can visit from place to place. Ling in The Hague we are allowed to wander about as we please with a radius of several miles. We report ourselves each Saturday.

I have met Bete a couple times. He is again about to return to Canada - more or less permanently this time, I think. After I have been here a few months I hope to be able to obtain sufficient leave to get home also. It has been made more difficult to obtain leave now than at one time.

I am now living in an apartment with three other interned officers. It is by far the nicest and most economical way of living. Holland is not an inexpensive place to live and at the present time prices are higher than usual. Although there is no real scarcity of food we have bread and potato cards. I spent the whole of one morning standing in line to get my card.

My permanent address is: c/o British Legation, The Hague, Holland.

I expect to join a good tennis club where I already have played a couple of times so that will help to pass the time away.

Hoping you and all your family are perfectly well, very affectionately yours,


Letter to Marjorie May 22, 1917

May 22, 1917

Dear Majorie,

Although another mail boat has arrived I have been unfortunate so far as letters are concerned. However in another respect I have been extremely fortunate for the English papers announced that I have received my promotion to Flight Lieutenant and what is still better by far have been awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross).

Up to the present I have found no difficulty in amusing myself in Holland and I do not anticipate getting bored during the Summer months. I have been playing a considerable amount of tennis the last few days. Another RNAS machine was forced to land in Holland a couple of weeks ago bringing a pilot and observer. The former also plays tennis as in fact do many of the interned. The club courts are quite good and have a surface similar to those at the Toronto tennis club.

A couple of us are going to Leiden for the day on Thursday. I expect it will be quite interesting. Gradually I hope to see all the country. The tulip fields are now most beautiful. For the sum of five or ten cents a visitor may pick as many as he can carry away. I have visited some of the galleries etc. but still have others to see.

Twice a week I cycle out to Capt. and Mrs van der Wyk's home to teach English to their boys. They are extremely nice people and have a beautiful home and estate. I hope to learn some Dutch from the visits. I have tea and dinner with them and try to converse with the three boys. All educated Dutch people speak at least three languages beside their own. They are usually French, English and German. It is amusing to see all the bycicles in Holland. Absolutely everyone possesses one and they are ridden a great deal for pleasure. Of course, the roads are excellent and many places have special bycicle paths. The parks about The Hague are (a) great source of pleasure. They consist mainly of woods provided with good roads and numerous winding foot and bridle paths. In ordinary times one can procure good saddle horses by the hour but now all fodder and grain are so scarce that the horses are kept from working. They have been feeding them even canary seed.

I saw R.L. Dugit's name in the casualty list as killed and also a long time ago M.A. Clarkson which must be Maurice. It is only when one sees the name of a friend that he is impressed very much.

It is ages since I have had a letter from you but I suppose that is just another of the disadvantages of coming to Holland. These honours for me have made me more anxious than ever to be back with the squadron. One has such a feeling of uselessness here. Hoping you and all your family are perfectly well,

Very affectionately yours,


Letter to Marjorie June 4, 1917

June 4, 1917

Dear Marjorie;

The last mail boat was fairly kind to me and among my mail was your letter of April the sixth. It was close upon two months coming. I hope that it will be exceptional. There was one letter from mother written after she received news of my internment.

It seems to me that they are making your work very hard. You must be in excellent health to avoid more illness than you have had. Have you not been troubled by having to be on your feet so much I can appreciate what a relief it must be to be finished with lectures. As for other work, will it become easier as time goes on; it certainly cannot become much harder.

The even tenor of our live here has not been disturbed since I last wrote save on a couple of occasions. In the morning I usually read, write or study French or Dutch. This is sometime altered by doing some shopping; I have had a good deal to do since my entry into Holland (my trunks have not come yet), or seeing a musuem or some other place of interest. Except for Wednesday and Saturday afternoons when I go out to the van der Wyks to teach English and learn Dutch. I play tennis.

Sometimes we go to the pier at Scheveningen for a walk. Scheveningen is on the sea but the town joins up with The Hague. It is a large summer resort of the uninteresting type. There is nothing to do but live at one of the several large hotels or more modest pensions, sit in the restaurants or caf's and watch the crowds go by. The sea bathing is not very good. The season opens on the fifteenth after which one of the hotels holds dances once or twice a week. That will help some.

The club held a tennis tournament last week I entered the handicap singles and being more or less of an unknown received a good handicap which enabled me to win out. Of course, I was very pleased in spite of the fact that the best players do not enter the handicap event.

A short time ago I was taken on a delightful motor boat ride from here along the canals to Leiden and one or two of the lakes beyond and return. It was all very interesting. The host was trying out metholated spirit as fuel for his motor, it being less expensive and more easily obtained than gasoline which is now selling for over five dollars a gallon. The spirit cost only about three fifty a gallon. Naturally motor boat rides are, therefore, not an everyday occurrence in Holland now.

Ever since I have been here we have had glorious weather. If it has been the same in France there must have been unlimited flying and it makes me home-sick to think of the sport there which I am missing. If we could only have a machine here for exercise!

I saw of R.L. Dugit's death. There was an M.A. Clarkson in the lists as killed. That is Maurice I feel sure. I believe I mentioned these to you in my last letter, didn't I?

For some peculiar reason the Admiralty do not publish the names of officers who become interned. It is rather a nuisance because many of my friends do not hear about it. I just received a letter from Chick written in May and he was under the impression that I was still 'at the old stand'. Hoping you and all your family are perfectly well.

Very affectionately yours,


Endnote: On his return to Canada, Douglas Nelles and Marjorie Williamson were married and raised their family of two sons and a daughter in Simcoe, Ontario. Although he had two years of general arts at the University of Toronto, the war interrupted his education and he never went back to complete it. On his return to civilian life, he first joined a food processing business then bought out the owners. Douglas Alexander Hardy Nelles died in 1986 at the age of 93.
1.  A. T. Cowley of Victoria, British Columbia. back to 1
 2.  Long Branch, a suburb of Toronto, where Bert Aosta of San Diego, California, set up the Curtiss Aviation School, to privately train Canadian aviators for the Western Front. back to 2
 3.  D.A. Nelles's Pilot's Flying Log Book. back to 3
 4.  Lt Nelles's supplementary handwritten notes to his flying log. back to 4
 5.  Supp notes, Ibid. back to 5
 6.  Supp notes, Ibid. back to 6
 7.  Toronto newspaper report. Ibid. back to 7
 8.  Nelles moved from the Burlington to the Pencion some time in January 1916. back to 8
 9.  Entry in Flight Log for 18 March 1916; flying a Caudron at 10300ft. back to 9
10.  Bartlett, C. P. O. in Bomber Pilot 1916-1918, 1974. back to 10
11.  Flying log. Ibid. back to 11
12.  In other references, Nelles spells Syanthe without the a, i.e. Petite Synthe. back to 12
13.  Bartlett, C. P. O., Bomber Pilot 1916-1918, Ibid. back to 13
14.  Flying log. Ibid. back to 14
15.  Reported by Mrs Sandra Murray from conversations with her father. back to 15
(Published in Cross & Cockade International Journal Vol. 26 No.2 1995)

Delta Tech Systems Inc


Duke of York's Royal Military School
Royal Hibernian Military School
Reminiscences of a Queen's Army  Schoolmistress
World War I - The war to end all wars
Books and Militaria
Publications and Papers
Wellington on Waterloo
Related Links

© A. W. Cockerill 2005

Site Map     Contact me