A First War RFC Sidcot Flying Suit Worn by Canadian Pilot
A First War RFC Sidcot Flying Suit Worn by Canadian Pilot - (British-made, developed late in 1916 by Sidney Cotton, (thus the abbreviated name "Sidcot" and was used by the British, French, and later, American Air Services: service members found that the leather flying coats in use were simply not protective enough for the piercing cold of the high altitudes, often as high as 20,000 – 22,000 feet, thus a one-piece flying suit was found more protective), the exterior in khaki brown cotton, V-opening at the front that extends from the neck to the waist, with three smaller buttons at the lower end near the seam on the right side and five larger buttons placed on the right side of the chest, all facing the appropriate reinforced button holes on the large fold over flap on the left side, large fur-lined pockets on either side on the upper leg at the front, matching adjustable cotton belt sewn in place at the waist, the left side with a three-prong buckle, the right side marked in black ink with the upward-pointing British Broad Arrow production insignia, marked "207" above, "N" to the left, "D" to the right and "P" below, vented cuffs with two large buttons at the cuff line facing a reinforced button hole and an additional large button along the venting above facing a reinforced button hole, hook and eye closure on the collar, complemented by a button down pullover flap placed on the left side, ensuring a snug fit and warmth at the neckline, the collar itself is fur-lined, as is the entire inside of the flying suit, the maker label sewn in place in the shoulder area but has faded with time, although "4 Wadley St., Oxford St. W.1" in London is still plainly visible, a strap in the collar for hanging from a hook has separated from the body of the suit on the right side, measuring 450 mm across the shoulders x 1,530 mm in length, soiled, exhibiting wear in the fur lining, with holes in the left front pocket and right rear leg, very fine). Footnote: Hugh Anthony O'Donnell was born in Hamilton, Ontario on February 21, 1895, the son of Patrick Joseph and Julia (Doyle) O'Donnell of Hamilton. He was educated at Hamilton Collegiate Institute and later went to law school at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. At the age of 20, he was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1915, then admitted to the partnership of Stewart, Hope & O'Donnell, Barristers and Solicitors of Perth, Ontario in 1916. O'Donnell left for Toronto to enter the "aviation branch" of the service in 1917. One of the other partners of the law firm, Major Hope, had already been in France at this point for a year with the 59th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, himself having fought at the Battles of the Somme and Vimy Ridge. In his records, O'Donnell stated the "Name of Person to be Informed of Casualties" as his wife, Mrs. D.B. O'Donnell of Toronto (he married Dorothy Schmuck on February 14, 1918 and was later to have one son and one daughter). His son, Hugh John O'Donnell, born in 1922, would later become a veteran of the Second World War with the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. Now enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps in Canada, he was sent to Camp Taliaferro, Fort Worth, Texas for winter training, just west of Dallas. Camp Taliaferro was a World War I flight training centre run under the direction of the Air Service, United States Army. After the United States' entry into World War I in April 1917, General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing invited the British Royal Flying Corps to establish training fields in Texas for the training of American and Canadians volunteers because of its mild weather. After looking at sites in Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, Wichita Falls and Midland, three sites were established in 1917 in the Fort Worth vicinity (known as the "Flying Triangle"), those being Hicks Field (#1), Barron Field (#2), and Benbrook Field (#3). The Canadians named the training complex Camp Taliaferro after Walter R. Taliaferro, a U.S. Army aviator who had been killed in an accident in 1915. During winter 1917-1918, RFC instructors trained about six thousand men there. In six months, 1,960 pilots were trained, completing 67,000 flying hours on the Curtiss JN-4 Canuck (also known as the "Jenny"), a two-seater biplane weighing 2,100 lb (950 kg) with a maximum speed of 75 mph (120 km/h). 69 ground officers and 4,150 others received training in ground trades and skills. Canadian cadets were at Benbrook and Everman Fields while the US cadets and the Canadian aerial gunnery school went to Hicks. O'Donnell's Pilot's Flying Log Book (coded "R.F.C. Can. 711" on the front cover), indicates that he was attached to No. 33 Canadian Reserve Squadron, Royal Flying Corps in January 1918 and to No. 81 Canadian Reserve Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. O'Donnell appears to have been stationed at Hicks, as his Log Book is stamped "School of Aerial Gunnery, Royal Flying Corps, Canada. For Time in Air In Aerial Practices and Tests. See Last Double Pane in Log Book.", signed by the Commandant, School of Aerial Gunnery, Royal Flying Corps, Canada and dated February 5, 1918. The reference on the last double pane states "1918 School of Aerial Gunnery, Water Target (Lake Worth, Texas), Silhouettes (Range), Tower Target (Danger Zone), Camera A & B (Aerodrome), Camera 12C (Aerodrome). C.C. Gear (Danger Zone)", with the recorded times in the air listed (Passenger: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes; Dual: 4 Hours, 00 Minutes; Solo: 0 Hours, 00 Minutes, for a Total of 5 Hours, 15 Minutes). He went overseas as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and was placed with No. 43 Training Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, becoming adept at takeoffs, landings, photography, aerobatics, formations and machine tests, with his records in the Log Book stamped and signed by the Assistant Adjutant, No. 43 Training Squadron, Royal Air Force. The Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1, 1918, to form the Royal Air Force. While with No. 43 Training Squadron, O'Donnell crashed shortly after his 10:15 PM takeoff on May 25, 1918. He escaped the crash and was back at training four days later, on the 29th. His Log Book is stamped Chattis Hill Training Depot Station, Royal Air Force and No. 43 Training Depot Station, Royal Air Force in multiple locations while he was in England, the two being one in the same. In the Summer and Fall of 1918, he was attached to the Central Despatch Pool and engaged in taking aircraft from various parts in Britain to the fighting points in France. He was at No. 43 Training Depot Station, Chattis Hill, Royal Air Force from September 23 to October 7, 1918, documented as having flown an Offensive Patrol from Whitehall to Southampton on September 23rd. He officially graduated from No. 3 Royal Flying Corps School on October 7, 1918 and during October and November of that year, he saw service in the neighbourhood of Cambrai, France. O'Donnell crashed for a second time, on November 3rd at the Aerodrome, again surviving the crash. The last entry in his Log Book, on November 12, 1918, indicates that he had accumulated a total of 120 Hours, 45 Minutes in the air (Dual: 20 Hours, 40 Minutes; Solo: 100 Hours, 5 Minutes). He is documented as being at Crystal Palace Disposal Centre on January 15, 1919 before returning to Canada and was cited in the London Gazette 4419 of April 4, 1919, as being transferred to the unemployed list as of January 15, 1919. O'Donnell returned to Canada aboard the U.S.S. Grampian in 1919. After the war, he returned to Stewart, Hope & O'Donnell, Barristers and Solicitors of Perth. He also took on other positions, including President of the Perth Shoe Company Limited, Director of the Henry K. Wampole Company Limited, President of the North Theatre & Realty Company Limited and Director of the Delaware Hill Development Company Inc. of Buffalo, New York. He was a member of the Links of Tay Golf in Perth and the Knights of Columbus. His political affiliation was Liberal, his faith was Roman Catholic and his passion was Golf.