24. October 2012 · Comments Off on FRY, Clarence Horne · Categories: Biographies · Tags: ,

LIEUTENANT CLARENCE HORNE FRY, R. F. C. Clarence Horne Fry was born in Lynnville. Giles county, Tennessee, February 26, 1894, a son of John W. and Anna (Horne) Fry. His parents moved to Columbia when he was only two years of age and in the schools of this city he received his education. He graduated at the Columbia Military Academy in 1912. Shortly after completing his education he entered business life by establishing a garage business under the firm name of Fry Brothers Auto Company. He was engaged in this successful enterprise when the United States declared war with Germany. On June 2, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois, he enlisted as a private, first-class, in the aviation section of the United States army and returned home to await orders. These came before the end of the month and he was ordered to the Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio, for his preliminary, or ground, training. In the following September he sailed overseas and entered his first training camp at Christ Church College, Oxford, England. As yet he had experienced no actual flying. After about six weeks spent in school at Oxford he was tranferred to a training camp at St. Albans and here gained his first experience in flying. Letters from him to his family during this period contain many interesting details of his experiences in learning the art of aviation. Under date of December 7th he wrote: “Have been doing a great deal of flying for the past few days and will start flying by myself (solo) in another day or two. I have a new instructor now that is awfully hard to please but think I am doing very well. He invited me to go to a neighboring town with him yesterday to take lunch and return in the afternoon. I flew the machine all the way over there and back and enjoyed the trip very much. Climbed up to six thousand feet, then flew straight to the town, using the railroad track as a guide, and landed in another airdrome.”

On the 18th of December he again wrote: “I started flying solo again early this morning and finished over half the time I have to do here and will finish entirely tomorrow and be sent on to an advanced squadron. I put in most all day flying and made ten landings and only broke one skid wheel, which I consider pretty good for a beginner, inasmuch as I had such hard luck the first time I went off solo. I have gotten to feel very much at home in the air now alone and feel like I can make the bus do anything I want it to, and that is the main thing in flying. Be self-confident and not get excited if the wind blows you around a little too much or you hit an air bump and fall a few feet. I went up about three this afternoon and went about five miles to a little town near here. When I decided to turn around to come back I could not find the airdrome, so had to wander around about thirty minutes until I saw another machine which I followed. It led me back all right, so I landed and stopped for the day, as it was time for tea and getting too dark to venture up again.”

By the middle of January Lieutenant Fry had progressed far in his flying. On the 27th he again wrote: “Everything here is moving along about the same and I am putting in time every day in the air when the weather is fit. Of course we have a fair number of crashes here, but have had only one fatal accident since I have been at this place and considering the hours put in flying and the stunts that are pulled off that is a mighty good record. I expect to finish up in about another month and will then be ready for active service, either in a fighting squadron on the front or instructing at some airdrome. I will hate to leave the R. F. C. and go back with the U. S. army, as I have many good friends now among the English, South African and Australian officers in the R. F. C., also I like the English army customs. They go in more for comfort and the pleasant side of life, whereas the Americans take things more seriously and think because you are in the army you should give up all the pleasures you had been used to in civil life and do what you are told by your superior officers without question. I do not think the English army could ever be beaten on that account, for no matter what happens they are just the same. If one of the fellows gets information that his brother or father is killed or if a fellow is killed in a flying accident, although he may be his best friend, about all he will say is, ‘Hard luck, old boy, but never mind, we will be seeing you in a few days,’ and everyone will go ahead laughing, talking or dancing just the same and the unfortunate fellow’s name will never be mentioned again. They just take everything as a matter of course and you never hear a man complain or in any way intimate that he is afraid to do his bit. Many of the fellows here have been out in France for months at a time, have been wounded several times and received different decorations for bravery and you would think they had done their part, but they are just as willing to go back and do more as we are.”

On the 26th of February, his birthday, Lieutenant Fry wrote of a thrilling experience in his plane: “Had a very nice experience yesterday. Climbed up to about eight thousand feet with broken clouds way below. Did a few loops, rolls and Immelmann turns and then decided to spin down a few thousand feet. I spun very nicely, but my engine, which was throttled back, stopped and I had to dive to get it started again. I finally got my prop buzzing, but when I looked around over the landscape I couldn’t see a single familiar landmark. There was a very strong wind and I had been blown down wind for about fifteen miles. I would have kept on flying up wind, but my petrol was about out, so I began to pick out a good field to set her down in. Just then I saw an airdrome and made for it and landed. I asked where I was and they told me it was the Eighty-sixth Squadron, about fifteen miles from my airdrome. I then called up the C. O. of my squadron and told him I was there and the machine O. K. He instructed me to get filled up, study a map and come back home where I belonged, which I did after having lunch with some of the fellows I had met at Oxford and other places in England.”

On March 29th Lieutenant Fry wrote: “Had a very peculiar thing happen to my machine yesterday while I was practicing trench strafing, flying close to the ground and diving on houses, trees and trains. One of the rocker arms broke and it being a rotary motor cut all the coiling off the front end of the machine. I made a good landing, however, in a very small field, so small that they had to take the machine to pieces to get it out. The commanding officer of the squadron congratulated me on the good show I made in not crashing my machine. The big show is on now out in France, the biggest in the history of the world, but the Hun is sure to get badly licked and I hope it will end the war. The flying corps is doing the biggest work now they have ever done and a few hundred machines are destroying whole divisions of German infantry. It must be thrilling to dive on a whole column of infantry with all guns open. I am nearly through here now and will probably be going up to Scotland for a short fighting course in a few days. My recommendation for a first lieutenant commission has been in for some time.” (Lieutenant Fry’s commission arrived three days after his death.)

The above paragraphs are but a few of many which Lieutenant Fry wrote to his family. Throughout his correspondence there runs a vein of humor and optimism. There was never a hint of dissatisfaction with his difficult part in the war, but, on the contrary his letters were full of praise for his English associates, love of the country in which he was stationed, eagerness for actual front line service. That his feelings toward his comrades was reciprocated by them was indicated in the expressions of affection they gave after his death. Lieutenant Fry was successively a member of the Twelfth, Seventy-fourth and Fifty-sixth Squadrons, Royal Flying Corps, and at the time of his fatal accident had graduated in flying and was awaiting a plane before being sent to the fighting front.

There are but few details to give concerning the actual crash which cost the life of Lieutenant Fry. He had begun a flight in a high-powered Spad plane, built for speedy scout duty and known as one of the most difficult machines to operate. When about three hundred feet above the ground the machine was thrown into a turn. This was a dangerous movement so close to the ground and it is believed that Lieutenant Fry had discovered something vitally wrong and was taking the only possible chance to save himself. The machine fell into a nose spin and crashed on the field near the starting point. An ambulance and surgeon was at the scene immediately, but death had come instantly to the aviator. That he had retained his presence of mind was shown by the fact that his petrol supply was cut off, thus preventing the flames which would have consumed the plane and himself. Previous to this time he had stated that this would be his procedure in case of accident, as he had no desire to be burned to death as some of his fellow aviators had been.

The accident occurred on Saturday and on the following Tuesday the mortal remains of Lieutenant Fry were laid to rest in the cemetery at St. Albans [Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire], there to remain until removal to Columbia, Tennessee, two years later. Of the honors paid to him at St. Albans a newspaper of that place contained the following: “The ceremony was of most impressive character, full military honors being accorded. The coffin was conveyed upon a motor lorry; it was draped with the American flag and was covered with floral tributes. A number of officers of the Royal air force acted as bearers and the deceased’s brother officers of the United States air force were the mourners. The cortege was headed by a band of the Middlesex Regiment. A numerous firing party was drawn from the R. F. A. and the buglers who sounded the ‘Last Post’ were stationed in different parts of the cemetery, the echo producing an intensely impressive effect. After the burial the Stars and Stripes were unfurled and held aloft as the procession marched back to headquarters.”

On May 19, 1918, in the high school auditorium at Columbia, there was held an impressive memorial service for Lieutenant Fry. It was the largest memorial service in point of attendance ever held in Maury county. After the close of hostilities and as soon as the necessary steps could be taken, Lieutenant Fry’s body was removed from St. Albans cemetery and brought back across the seas to Columbia, where it arrived August 18, 1920. On August 19 he was laid to rest in Rosehill cemetery, with full military honors. (ibid.)

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