23RD OCTOBER 1918 AGE 22


Lieutenant Charles Reynolds was a pilot with 55 Squadron, part of the Independent Air Force. If you've never heard of the Independent Air Force neither had I.
The Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the Independent Air Force, or the Independent Force RAF, on 6 June. The RAF was intended as a tactical force, operating in support of the army on the ground, the Independent Air Force was to be a strategic force, attacking German railways, industrial centres and airfields. By the end of October, joined by French, Italian and American squadrons, it had become the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force. However, three days after the signing of the Armistice it was dissolved.
Charles Reynolds enlisted on the outbreak of war and was commissioned into the 1st Surrey Rifles on 14 October 1914. He was eighteen. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, getting his wings in June 1917. After this he received specific bombing training before joining 55 Squadron in March 1918. The squadron flew the new DH4s on daylight bombing raids over German targets. Reynolds was wounded on 18 May 1918 having taken part in a raid over Cologne when thirty-three bombers caused widespread damage and 110 casualties. He returned to his squadron in October and was killed on the 23rd when his plane crash landed on returning from a bombing raid.
Andrew Whitmarsh's British Strategic Bombing 1917-18: The Independent Force writes of the many difficulties day bombers faced. Forced to fly at very high altitudes with rudimentary oxygen equipment, oxygen deprivation was a real issue, as were extreme cold causing frostbite, headaches and temporary deafness - all contributing to debilitating exhaustion.
Reynolds' widowed mother, Annie Delesia Reynolds, chose his inscription. It is not a quotation from Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam but Mrs Reynolds will have been referencing it:

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.
Quatrain XXI

Fitzgerald's melancholy verses, first published in 1859, perfectly capture the fleeting nature of life and the pathos of youthful death.

Mrs Reynolds says, "Lo, one we loved", but in fact she lost both her sons. James Reynolds also enlisted on the outbreak of the war. He did not take a commission but served as a private in the London Rifle Brigade and was killed in action on the 2 May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate.