top of page

Rising From the Flanders Mud

a despatch rider reaches for the skies

This is the front cover of my latest book, Rising from the Flanders Mud, published in August 2023

Background

A champion motorcyclist in British and overseas Endurance Trials at the outbreak of WW1, it was only natural that Graham Price would volunteer as a despatch rider in the British Army. Arriving in France with the British Expeditionary Force in October 1914, against all odds he survived all manner of dangers on the Western Front during the battles of Mons and Marne and later on the Flanders Fields at Ploegsteert and Hill 60. A year later, when he gained the dubious distinction of being the oldest surviving member of the band of 65 eager and naive despatch riders who landed at le Havre, Graham decided to 'reach for the skies'.

 

After months spent in trying to persuade his commanding officer to release him from his motorcycling duties, Graham Price was eventually offered a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and, after training as an observer, was posted to 6 Squadron, located on the French / Belgian border. In a few short months Graham not only mastered the new art of aerial telegraphy in a two-seater artillery observation aircraft, he also became a crack shot with the Lewis machine gun. By Christmas 1915 he was promoted to the position of senior observer in 'A' Flight and in two months took the squadron's record for the number of enemy engagements.

 

In March 1916, only weeks before he was due to return to England for pilot training, Graham Price's luck finally ran out high above the ruined city of Ypres during a fateful encounter with an enemy Fokker scout. This book is the true story of Graham Price's life, much of it written in his own words.

ISBN: 9781803028903

Type: Paperback

Pages: 228

Photographs: 56, Maps: 9, Images: 40, Footnotes: 150

Published: 11 August 2023

Rising from the Flanders Mud is my sixth and most recent book, though the project started back in 2006 when Richard Price contacted me via my website to ask if I had any details on his great-uncle 2nd Lt Graham Price, who served with 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps at the same time my grandfather was with the same squadron. I was able to help Richard and even added a section on his great-uncle in my first book, For God, England & Ethel. Over the years Richard and I developed a friendship, albeit through emails, sharing facts and figures on various aspects of WW1 as well as the memorabilia and letters that had been passed down to him from his father. I expressed the desire to write a book of Graham Price's short life and Richard gave me access to everything he had on his great-uncle. With other projects taking priority, it wasn't until 2021 when I heard of the sudden and unexpected death of Richard that I gathered together all that Richard had sent me on his great-uncle and combined it with details and photographs kindly provided to me by Richard's cousin Gill Thorn, great-niece to one of Graham Price's sisters. Sadly, though many photographs and artefacts once owned by Richard have been lost, I still had enough to put together an account of Graham Price's short but interesting life, partly in my words and those of the Press for his life before WW1 but the majority written by Graham Price himself, in the form of letters he wrote home to his family from the time he enlisted in October 1914 until his untimely death in March 1916. To make the letters understandable to modern-day readers I have added many explanatory footnotes and images as well as many photographs taken from the Price family archives.

The front and rear cover designs for the book Rising From the Flanders Mud, written by Steve Buster Johnson
Graham_Price_Big_Map.png

Structure

The book is divided into four parts:

Part One - The Making of a Champion

Part Two - Despatch Rider with the Royal Engineers

Part Three - Observer with 6 Squadron

Part Four - Death of a Champion 

Part One - The Making of a Champion

This section of the book covers the early life of Graham Price, from his school and college days to becoming his father's  right-hand man in the family business, all the while developing his passion for the fledgling sport of motorcycle reliability trials. By the time war was declared against Germany in August 1914, Graham Price was an acclaimed competitive motorcycle rider in England as well as on the continent and his future as a champion seemed assured. Almost overnight,this was all to change.

Rising from the Flanders Mud extract, a book by Steve Buster Johnson
Graham Price gains a gold medal on a PV motorcycle 1913
Auto Cycle Union Gold medal c 1914, awarded for reliability trials

Part Two - Despatch Rider with the Royal Engineers

Graham Price mending communication lines in the Western Front trenches 1915
Graham Price being gassed in the WW1 trenches April 1915
1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front, from the book Rising from the Flanders Mud

This section of the book describes how Graham Price enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a despatch rider soon after war was declared. Like most people in the United Kingdom, he thought that life would return to normal within a matter of months. Soon after basic training in England he was shipped out to France in October 1914 and in a matter of days was in active service on the Western Front. The story is told in Graham's own words, in letters he wrote home to his family. Many footnotes, images and photographs have been included to explain what he was writing about and the actions he became involved in during the thirteen months as a despatch rider.

Part Three - Observer with 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

This section of the book is also written in Graham Price's own words, from letters he wrote to his family and also articles he had published in England from time to time. As with Part Two, numerous informative footnotes, images and photographs accompany the text. After being offered a commission with the Royal Engineers in early October 1915, Graham Price became attached to the Royal Flying Corps and returned to England for observer training. In November 1915 he returned to the Western Front, this time flying as an observer with 6 Squadron on dangerous reconnaissance / bombing missions and supporting allied artillery using airborne wireless transmitters.

WW1 aerial combat, from the book Rising from the Flanders Mud by Steve Buster Johnson
Details of a reconnaissance mission and encounters with enemy aircraft
Examples of footnotes that explain what Graham Price is writing about

Part Four - Death of a Champion

This section gives an account of the mission in which Graham Price and his pilot George Fincham were killed after being shot down by a German Fokker scout. Details and photographs are also provided as to the crash site, their final resting place and letters of condolences / articles honouring Graham Price's life. There is also a twelve page extract from 'For God, England & Ethel' which covers the last mission.

Extract from For God England & Ethel by Steve Buster Johnson
Fragment of crashed BE2c in which Graham Price died
The crash site and Graham Price's headstone
The death of Graham Price in Rising from the Flanders Mud by Steve Buster Johnson

© 2023 Steve Buster Johnson. Proudly made by Wix.com

bottom of page