Finally the waiting was over. Four nights of red wine, champagne and cognac had taken its toll, and not only to his wallet. Willi was feeling bloated and heavy. His head still wasn't all that clear either. How is it that everyone else boasts about how much they can drink ? A universal question of youth around the world. Still, the weather had cleared after days of rain and snow. The airfield was again laud with the noise of war flying. Everyone was thankful to be working once more.
Today's romp was to babysit an Aviatik cooperating with the VII reserve Corps north of Beaumont. Artillery needed to be corrected again. The two crews looked at the maps, making remarks and plans. Then they were off, back into the air.
The cold air was refreshing at 3000m. Willi became annoyed with the Aviatik and had to keep turning back to keep the thing in sight. Eventually they arrived at the front and began to circle, waiting for the Aviatik to establish radio contact with the gun battry below. Willi and his Roland were along for the ride, the Aviatik crew gave the orders. Finally the Aviatik straightened out and went over to what was Louvemont, the shoot was on.
The two craft went back and forth east to west until it became boring. Oblt.Preuss was scanning above and Willi below. From the French side two small specks, quite low, were moving over the lines. One was an odd color that stood out against the white and brown surface below. Willi kept his eye on them and the Aviatik. Eventually a red flair arched it's way from the Aviatik, the agreed signal that the shoot was over. The two moved off 10 km NE of the lines and turned for home.
Obltn.Preuss, Willi's passenger, passed a note into the cockpit. He wanted to hang around the front and hope some Franzmann showed up. Seems that Preuss was suffering from a “sore-throat”. Willi took a deep breath and nodded in agreement. Preuss waved the the Aviatik crew off, they were to RTB alone. The Roland banked to the right and moved back to the front lines. The Franzmann didn't make them wait long.
Flak caught Willi's attention near Flabas. Below were the same two specks that he spotted a while back. They where quite low, perhaps looking for ground targets. The Roland rolled from side to side and Willi pointed below. It took some time but eventually Preuss made them out too. The odds were against them so Willi took his time and followed hoping that one of them would come up to fight. Tracer from positions below began firing at the Frenchmen....they were flying a little too low for their own good. Now one of the machines headed south, he was running for home, he must have been hit. The other one, the bright colored one, turned north to escape. A mistake on his part. He was moving behind Hun positions..our side. Both men set themselves to the task. Willi kicked his Roland over into a dive. This time he wasn't going to overshoot the target.
As they got ever closer Willi couldn't believe his eyes... the Franzmann was a bright red, the whole aricraft, one of the newer types that had been reported a few days ago. Willi's hangover was gone. All his senses came back to him. He wasn't cold anymore. One quick look through his sights...blast the bugger had turned suddenly to the left. He knew they were coming for him. Willi used the excess speed to climb in the hope that he could fall back onto the tail of this “Christmas-sled”. The maneuver worked but the nimble adversary just kept turning tight to the left. No matter what Willi did “Santa” was starting to win this fight. It was no use following the N11, the Roland was just to heavy to keep up. Willi got his bearings and headed for the trenches while Preuss started to warn the Franzmann to keep his distance. If the Roland was a brick in a turn fight, on the level she was a race horse. The distance between the two was getting greater.
A cheer went up from the trenches of the 7th Jäger Rgt. Some still tried to bag the French machine for themselves. Bets were made as to the winner. They had seen this red devil before and knew that it didn't look good for their comrade in the air. The roar of the engines and the MG fire was easily heard. The Hun suddenly turned to face his red Nemesis. The two flew passed each other, firing the whole time. Everyone was impressed as the the little red aircraft seemed to almost stop and turn back to follow the “Whale”. All eyes strained upwards following the unequal fight. “now he's got him” someone said aloud. No one spoke. The inevitable was about to happen. Would he crash or burn was now the wager.
Suddenly the two parted, one north and the other south. The fight was over, almost anticlimactic. Everyone cheered and clapped for the short break in their war.