Banjoman, thanks for the stats update!!! Here is the latest story from Blaise...

War Journal of 2/Lt Blaise St John-Cottingham
Savy, France


25 November 1916: A corporal rousted Sowrie and me out of bed before first light. We were due for the early patrol, but snow and sleet had fallen all night and it was obvious the show would be cancelled. We sat on our beds and sipped tea. Each flight shared a single batman. Ours was named Cporporal Maconochie. His tea was vile but he did our boots well.

Sowrie was painfully quiet. I prised it out that hed been at Kings College School, Wimbledon. He had done some rowing, so we had that in common. He had two brothers in the RFC. One, Frederick, had even got the DFC for downing a Zeppelin. He was aeroplane mad. Once the topic turned mechanical he was a different chap altogether.

I had time to wash up properly and had just pulled my kit together for a walk to the village bath house when Maconochie arrived blue-faced to stutter out the news that B Flight was to take off in fifteen minutes. Breakfast was forgotten in the rush. Major Smith-Barry was to lead Sowrey, Duke Meintjes, and me up to St-Omer in response to a telephone call that Huns were spotted over the lines in that direction. Sleet and mist hid the far end of the field.

We took off in heavy gusts and the left lower wing snipped at the frozen tufts of grass before I lifted off. The flight north was miserable and wet. My feet were frozen in my leather boots, and I envied the chaps with the new sheepskin things from Harrods. The clouds were thick and disorienting so I followed the leader and ignored everything else. This far behind the lines that seemed a safe plan.

Suddenly Smith-Barry winged over and dropped. I followed, but several seconds behind. I passed blindly through several banks of clouds, emerging at last into a clear gap at around 6,000 feet. And there in front were three Halberstadt single-seaters heading east at full throttle. The three Huns were likely lost and scared, for they made little effort to engage us. One turned at us and fired a few rounds, then dived away. I followed and emptied a drum at him from 150 yards behind, all to no effect. Changing the drum on the Type 16 was a circus act, requiring one to unbuckle and stand, hold the stick between ones knees, and loosen the old drum in the face of a wet, driving, 100 knot gale. Twice I nearly fell over the side of the cockpit. When I finally gave up and sat, the stick got caught under my coat and nearly caused me an injury. Fortunately for me the Hun disappeared into the clouds and let me recover in dignity.

I was lost so flew west for ten minutes. At length I spotted a town, and then the unmistakeable clutter of No 1 Aircraft Depot at St-Omer, where I put down and sorted out my ammunition before flying home at 500 feet. Over a late breakfast I got the happy news that the Halberstadt I downed yesterday had been seen to fall by own troops. That was my second official victory, which made me feel rather a success.

26 November 1916: We escorted a BE12 to Pronne, seeing nothing but getting very cold once again.

27 November 1916: The rain and sleet let up this morning long enough to get off at eight. Captain Gilchrist had a 48 hour leave pass, so Lieut Cole led me, Phillips, Fry, and Hill on a distant offensive patrol down to Bapaume and then thirty miles into darkest Hunland. We saw nothing until shortly after we turned home. Then one flight of Halberstadts approached from the south. We turned to meet them and had barely begun to scrap when a second group of Huns joined in. I cursed the tendency of my older model Nieuport to stall when fighting in high winds. A pair of Huns singled me out. For at least five minutes I flew absolutely defensively, firing only once in all that time. Suddenly the Huns broke off and I was alone, down to 3,500 feet and far from home. I climbed westward searching the sky. After nearly fifteen minutes a lone Nieuport approached and took station on my wing. It was Phillips.

Back at Savy we were delighted to discover that Fry had already landed and Hill and Cole had called in by telephone from other fields. Cole claimed one EA down and Fry another. All in all a good day.

C Flight has moved into Nissen huts by the field and has set up its own mess. Perhaps we will join them soon, but I am in no hurry to leave our comfortable billet in the village. Since I missed the chance yesterday, I will make my way to the baths this afternoon.

French villages are odd places. They seem so low and drab compared to our lovely little English communities. Oddest of all are the piles of manure that each landowner accumulates in front of his house, as if to proclaim his importance and wealth by strength of odour. But the inside of the homes are meticulously kept and the smells from the kitchens more than compensate for the stinking middens outside. Each room is adorned with religious imagery, whether a crucifix, a shrine to the Virgin, or a languorous Christ with his exposed heart entangled in thorns. Give me a good old British hunt breakfast scene any day!

A heavy fog is creeping over the fields about us. We may get some time off at last.


"I followed and emptied a drum at him from 150 yards behind, all to no effect."