Bernard Instone’s war has two parts to it. He volunteered initially for the ASC (Army Service Corps) in the summer of 1915. The ASC, Ally Sloper’s Cavalry - were the men who operated the transport.
It was with the 521st company of the 61st (2nd south midland ) divisional train ASC that took Corporal Instone to the battles raging in northern France. He must have witnessed terrible sights. The death and injury would have been everywhere. As winter approached the mud and cold would have consumed man and beast, let alone the shells and the bullets.
Bernard used to tell of the horrors of seeing the horses sometimes slip off the safety of the duckboards into the mud, where their fate was then secured. They would slowly sink, and there was nothing anyone could do to help them. He used to recall the shortage of clean drinking water and food was in short supply. The rats however flourished.
As far as is known, Bernard did not see action in the Somme, but he helped provide essential food and equipment and ammunition to the troops under unimaginable conditions. During his time in France and in England, he was thrown from his horse on two occasions. He was concussed both times, once seriously. We can only speculate as to the situations that led to these falls, the research will continue.
On the 24th December 1916 he returned to England to begin the second part of his war. He now sought a career in aviation where the life expectancy for aircrew in his squadron was 23 days.
After his officer training at St Johns College Cambridge, which he completed in May 1916 and joined the Royal Flying Corps as an Observer on 2 November 1917 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He arrived in France with 59 Squadron RFC on January the 5th 1918, which three months later became known as the Royal Air Force. (sketches of unknown pilots he few with, 1 of them thought to be Lt Macpherson who he flew with regularly and spoke about in glowing terms) In the months to follow, as well as routine patrols, bomb dropping and photographic reconnaissance, he was to have a dog fight with a German fighter and to crash on take off (The RE8, pictured to the left, had a reputation for spinning after take off) from the French airfield of Vert Galant, 17 km north of Amiens. He left the Royal Air Force in August 1918.
The pencil drawing, left, is a dramatic representation is one of a real event in May 1918. The pilot Lt Kinet and Bernard, the Observer, were on patrol in their RAF RE8 in Northern France, when they came under attack by a lone wolf Fokker Dr1.