Excellent stories gentlemen. I'm going to be saying that a lot and I'm happy to be saying it. Special mention goes to Wulfe. Your characters are brilliantly written!
The out of control claim for the Eindekker was rejected. That isn't surprising really. What is surprising is that Stanley survived what happened next.
-------------------------------------------------------- Houses of Parliament, London.
Lord Derby rose from his red leather bench in the house of Lords with a slight stiffness. This was partly his age and partly the result of sitting listening to the final reading of the Military Service Bill. He nodded gently and acknowledged other Peers as they filed out to lunch. There was a lot of talk about how divisive conscription was. Yes, there had been some resignations; but those were only from amongst the more populist of the Liberal party along with that man Henderson from the Labour party. Good riddance to him. What said it all was that the bill was passed within a week of its eventual proposal.
What was interesting was that Lloyd-George had been pressing for conscription. The prime minister on the other hand had tried to put off the question until the final failure of the Derby scheme had made it necessary. And yet Asquith had taken on the responsibility of introducing the bill himself. That might come back to haunt him.
And what of the failure of the Derby scheme? Lord Derby smiled gently as he anticipated the near future. He was a member of the Conservative party, which had always been in favour of conscription. He was still in charge of recruitment, and wouldn't you know? The Derby scheme worked better as a pre-registration for conscription than it did as an encouragement for volunteers.
Derby wondered what there was for pudding.
La Gorgue, France
2nd Lieutenant Stanley was beginning to feel a sense of déjà vu. “This is the third time we have been to Loos in as many days!” He protested. Captain Gould glowered at him. “There have been a lot of munitions trains sat there lately. Wing wants us to drop a bomb on them.” “We did that yesterday sir. With little result I might add. I don’t think our little cooper bombs are going to get the result Wing want.” “Just do it, Stanley. It’s you and Gilbert. Lieutenant Briers will be escorting you in one of the Fees. “Very good sir, I’ll go an get Digby.” “Air mechanic Digby is busy overhauling the engine on 2216.” Gould told Stanley brusquely. “You’re taking McLoughlan.” Stanley saluted and left his flight commander to go and find his gunner. McLoughlan was a Lieutenant from the Bedfordshires. He seemed a cheery enough chap, but pilots soon learned to be wary of a new observer.
It was mid morning as the three machines approached Loos Junction. Archie warmed up the air for Stanley as he looked for his target on the ground. He wasn’t particularly good at bomb aiming, so was hoping that he could stick close to Gilbert and let his bombs go when he saw Gilbert drop his.
Even as they approached the target, two Fokkers attacked from behind. Stanley loosed his bombs early so that he could concentrate on the threat from behind. He weaved gently right and left, trying to give McLoughlan a shot.
One of the monoplanes concentrated on Gilbert’s BE2. Gilbert banked right, turning away from the formation. Stanley could only watch in horror as smoke began to stream from Gilbert’s engine. Soon, fire was spreading along the fuselage. Mercifully for Stanley, the BE2 was now too far away for him to see what happened to his comrades.
The other Eindekker engaged the FE2 being flown by Briers. The fighting machine should have had a better chance, but Briers was flying straight and level. Stanley took advantage of his lack of an assailant and dived underneath and in front of the FE2. McLoughlan could not miss.
Stanley watched as his observer stared at the German aeroplane. His hands were on the Lewis gun but his the gun remained silent.
The Fokker’s gun was not silent. Bullets smashed into the tail and engine of Briers’ machine. Stanley saw the Fee tip forward as part of the tail plane gave way. Briers and his observer, Trevelyan went into a dive. Their engine was smoking badly and Stanley knew it was not an intentional manoeuvre . His gunner, McLoughlan had not moved.
The Fokker turned his attention to Stanley’s BE2. McLoughan just watched as bullets began to thud into the woodwork. Stanley had had enough.
He pushed the stick forward and they dived steeply. Stanley cut the throttle back and banked the dive into a spiral. When they had lost three thousand feet, he levelled off and sped toward the lines. The Eindekker was trailing them for a while, but apparently decided that he had done enough and turned away.
Stanley took them over the lines and past the balloon line before turning north for La Gorgue. McLoughlan was now slumped in his cockpit. Stanley was wondering if he had taken a bullet.
As soon as they landed, Stanley reached forward and checked his gunner. “Are you alright?” McLoughlan looked up at him muzzily, as if waking from a stupor. “Ah, what? Ah, fine. I’m fine.” “Come on, let’s get you out of there.”
Major Powell looked at the report again. Then he placed it back down on the desk and addressed Stanley, who was standing in front of him. “Grave concerns, Second Lieutenant?”
Stanley tilted his head slightly in a sort of shoulderless shrug. “McLoughlan outranks me sir, so I cannot reprimand him directly. However I must protest at his conduct sir. I consider his inaction a direct threat to any pilot that he flies with and any crew nearby.” “So you blame Lieutenant McLoughlan for the deaths of Gilbert, Howard, Briers and Trevelyan?” “No sir. The Hun did that. McLoughlan could have saved them, however, and he failed to defend our own machine.” Powell sighed, “What do you suggest, Stanley? Court-martial?” “No sir,” Stanley replied hurriedly. “The consequence would be too severe. I must request that I am no longer assigned McLoughlan as an observer. Furthermore, I would suggest that McLoughlan is not suitable for flying duties at all.” “Send him back to his regiment eh?” Powell squinted at Stanley. “That carries a stigma. It would mean disgrace.” “He might live to overcome it,” Stanley told him. “If he flies, then he will take good men with him.”