Diaries by Dennis Wade

Wicklewood Archive is fortunate in having been allowed an opportunity to copy the photographs and diaries of a village man who fought in the First World War.
The diaries were compiled by Sgt Dennis Wade who was a member, respectively, of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, and then who, in 1918, became a founding member of the Royal Air Force.
His response to calls for duty did not stop there, however, for during the Second World War he was also a member of the local Royal Observer Corps. Dennis Wade, whose father was the Wicklewood miller, first joined the RNAS as an armourer in 1916. He was sent to the White City for 'square bashing' and then to Eastchurch, where they asked for volunteers to train as gun-layers.
He volunteered, and then spent time at Portsmouth Gunnery School before being posted to Manston as crew on Handley Page bombers.
On Christmas Eve, 1916, he flew to France. He was based initially at Dunkirk and then Alquines, from where they bombed Germany. In one letter he says: 'I did three raids on Germany, and on the third raid we got shot down just as we were crossing the lines.
We managed to make our side, and then ran out of petrol and we crashed two miles behind our lines. We lost two killed, my pilot badly injured and myself (with a) broken arm and concussion.
I came out of hospital two days before the Armistice'. The flying log maintained by Dennis records that in his early days of training, on August 16, 1916, he flew in a Voisin aircraft for ten minutes at 1,000 feet.
'My friends had been pulling my leg', Dennis writes. 'They said: If you get Jack Alcock (as pilot), you look out, and don't tell him its your first flight. So I didn't tell him 'til afterwards.
He was a splendid pilot, and everyone admired him. But if he had a newcomer he sometimes let things rip, and if he'd known it was my first flight he'd probably have looped the loop'. Three years after the war that very same pilot, later Sir John Alcock, became internationally famous when with Sir Arthur Whitten-Brown he completed the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in a Vickers Vimy. After qualification, one of Mr Wade's jobs was to drop bombs from Handley Page bombers.
The 112lb bombs were stored on hooks, but 25lb bombs were usually dropped by hand 'whenever we saw anything likely'.
His diaries and log books are full of operational details. His aircraft was hit many times, they had many narrow escapes, they were inspected by King George V and the Prince of Wales, and his papers even include a letter to his parents from his commanding officer relating his crash and his wounds. There is also a copy of a letter dropped over British lines by a German aeroplane on January 17, 1917, expressing sorrow and regret at the deaths of two English aviators. 'They died as heros in all respects. Their bodies will be buried with all military honours', the German letter says. In all, Dennis Wade endured thirty-three night raids during his active service, and afterwards felt he was one of the lucky ones to have survived. His family, however, did not survive the war intact, for both his brothers were killed. Meanwhile, his father, the miller at Wicklewood mill, had worked on alone throughout the war.
Dennis rejoined him at the mill, but they finally closed down in 1942, by which time commercial conditions had changed, with many farmers grinding their own corn. Later, he worked for a building farm, became a milk roundsman, and then became a weigh-bridge clerk with an asphant firm. Mr Wade's diaries also record some of the local effects of the floods of 1912. He writes of 'tropical rain' throughout August 23 which lasted until midnight. In the morning, 'water was running past our gate like a river down the hill to the small river which soon became full and spread on to the road between Wicklewood and Kimberley, completely blocking it. We were very lucky in Wicklewood compared with some places. A farmer in Crownthorpe lost a 12-acre field of oats which stood on the shock on a field adjoining the river'.