2Lt Frank William Wells (Wellsey)
Like so many of the soldiers who entered the Great War, infantry service preceded air service: 2Lt Frank Wells was a Company Sergeant Major in the South African Infantry prior to joining the Royal Flying Corps. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa Wellsey was a mere four months older than Bob Pitman; they even looked alike! As a university educated insurance clerk, he was destined with a junior officer rank, especially since he was awarded his Aviator’s Certificate by the Royal Aero Club in 1913 while still in S. Africa.
Bob met Wellsey when assigned to 100 Squadron in the Western France arena during the summer, 1917 a few months after Frank’s assignment; they were destined to become best friends and bunk mates at the aerodrome, as well as a highly regarded flying team in the FE2b night bomber aircraft, through to the end of that year. Wellsey is portrayed in the Seeking Courage story as a very responsible yet breezy, cheerful spirit who takes each day as its presented. This is a good balance for Bob who is much more cautious and over-thoughtful in his daily duties, since he is forced to understand that in spite of worry and constantly biting back fear in wartime, there is little one can do to manage it. Wellsey’s repeated reference to Bob as ‘old man’ is, I think, a good reflection of their tight relationship.
The service records show that Frank Wells leaves 100 Squadron in early 1918 (deemed unfit for flying) and also to him requesting leave to serve out the war in his native South Africa, should the opportunity arise. Since the story line centers on 100 Squadron and the eventuality that Wellsey leaves for health reasons, I took the liberty to fictionally re-assign him home. That is not to diminish his central role in Bob’s air service, or in his life experiences since Wellsey had such a great and positive influence over him.