, congratulations on getting your DSO (as they say, it stands for "d**k shot off). Carrick
, Edward will be bringing your boy a box of chocolates. I'm out for 7 days. I hate two seaters! Fullofit
, I am a big fan. Keep the stories and photos coming. Banjoman
, great to see you here all the time again! MFair
, I miss Naval Eight and am jealous of your Tripes. I nearly sent my new pilot back there, but didn't think that was on.
Edward Rowntree got a bit too close to a two-seater gunner and will be out for a week.War Journal of 2/Lieut Edward Rowntree. RFC
Part 2: 8 to 11 April 1917
I am now firmly ensconced in 23 Squadron. Let me describe this place. Our encampment straddles a country lane roughly halfway between Amiens and Albert. The fields are flat and open, beaten down by a thousand bad landings. 4 Squadron used to share the place with us, but moved out a month ago. There are several rows of hangars along the west edge of the field. Our huts are clustered in the southeast edge of the field, close by the lane. Only recently have the last of the men moved into huts. They passed much of last winter under canvas, which must have been miserable on this open plain. In the southwest corner of the field stands a large stone windmill surrounded by hedges. This was place to make landing in a fog more entertaining! A brigade of coolies has been preparing a second landing on the south side of the lane. "In the southwest corner of the field stands a large stone windmill surrounded by hedges."
Just before I arrived here the Australians moved out of the surrounding area. The squadron was surrounded by them. The countryside about is a rabbit-warren of trenches and dugouts with barbed wire everywhere. They used the area for practising attacks, but now have quit rehearsals and departed for their opening performance.
The village of Baizeux is about a couple of hundred yards down the lane from the windmill, heading towards Amiens. It consists of low houses, each with its inevitable midden, interspersed with a few cloistered farm buildings. There is a school and plain and ugly brick church – Rome’s answer to a Methodist meeting house. There is a lovely chateau off the main road in the village, but it houses an Australian divisional headquarters. I took a walk there the other night with Tom Doran, but the cherrynobs  on duty suggested we sod off. We found a small café and bar in the town and apparently were a welcome relief from the Anzacs.
Our commander is a Major named Leighton. Major Hogg, to whom I was introduced on arrival, was apparently only filling in for him while he was on leave. Major Leighton’s former command was a BE2 squadron, so the business of scouts is still new to him. 
My flight commander is a particularly wonderful fellow, a Scot with an Irish name – Captain William Kennedy-Cochrane-Patrick. As his calling card reads “continued other card,” we generally call him simply Patrick when in the mess. He has shot down three Huns and is a wonderful pilot. He was employed as a test pilot at the depot in St-Omer for a while and later flew Sopwith two-seaters with 70 Squadron.  "Our commander is a Major named Leighton."
I have already written about O’Grady. We call him OG. He is an entertaining fellow, quick with a song or story, and quicker yet to claim a round in the mess. Irish to the core, he is an engineer and worked in Canada for a while before the war. His father, I am told, is a writer of some note.
We have been up two or three times a day due to the big push near Arras. At times like this the red tabs want every Hun balloon down and every Hun train stopped, so there is no shortage of interesting work. On 8 April I received a wonderful present: my very own single-seat Spad scout. It is a French machine and as such very similar to French cooking – it is elegant to look at but very heavy. It is fortunately a quick machine, so one can always dive out of a scrap as long as one doesn’t get caught at low speed. It forces an unusual style of fighting, centred on quick slashing attacks and a rush to gain distance and regain height after each pass.
I had my first scrap on 9 April during a line patrol near Arras. We spotted two Hunnish two-seaters and I picked my prey. It was a shock how quickly the enemy gunner reacted. He made several holes in my wings, but the Spad is well put together. After my third pass, the HA spun down out of control. I watched as it fell from 9000 feet to less than 1500 feet. Then I lost sight of the thing in the haze and smoke over the front lines. I filed a claim, but it remains unconfirmed.
Our first patrol of 10 April 1917 was an attack on a railway station behind the Vimy front (where all hell is reportedly being unleashed on the enemy). I made five low level strafing runs on the sheds and carriages and could see men and horses tumbling right and left. It is frightfully easy to become too focused in these games and fly into the ground. Twice I gave myself an awful start!
During the afternoon of the 10th we paid another visit to the rail station, which apparently is the gathering point for all new Huns coming to visit our part of France. This time we were interrupted by two black Albatros scouts. I was able to surprise one of them and eventually forced it to land. Because it seemed to land under control in a field on its own side of the lines my claim was recorded as merely a “driven down.” "I was able to surprise one of them and eventually forced it to land."
We have suffered several losses since my arrival, and from what we hear we are not alone. A fellow named Bath killed himself landing in a tree the second day I was here. On the 9th, the day I claimed a two-seater, another new pilot named Morgan attacked a DFW and collided with it, destroying both machines. On 11 April we lost another new man, Lieut Acton, who had just returned from England. He had flown BE2s before and was new to scouts. And we nearly lost yours truly... "...another new pilot named Morgan attacked a DFW and collided with it, destroying both machines."
At 6:45 am we took off and headed northwest, bound for the sky over the town of Douai. Douai is home to a number of Hunnish squadrons and is known as a fine place to party. Patrick led five of us: himself, OG, Acton, Tom Doran, and me. Over Douai he gave the signal for “hostile aircraft in sight” and turned west, diving hard. I followed, struggling to find the others. At times like this it is very easy to collide with one of your mates, and the Spad’s wings are closely spaced which makes forward visibility tricky. After a few seconds I saw two dark objects pass in front of a cloud with Patrick’s machine nearly on top of them. They were two observation machines, likely DFWs. I picked the one that Patrick had ignored and made a diving pass. I pulled the Spad up and about. It is a heavy thing and turns like a farm waggon. On my second attack I could see my bullets tearing into the wings and body of the HA. The Hun aircraft steamed ahead regardless. I circled back and came at it again from behind and below, firing all the while. As I got within a few yards I made the mistake of pulling up and to the right. The German gunner was made of stout stuff. He fired his machine gun and hit me immediately. A round struck my goggles and shattered them, tearing them off. I felt a sharp stab that seemed to penetrate my brain. When I put my glove to my face it came away bloody. I could not see from my right eye.
I turned away from the morning sun towards home, or so I hoped because the compass was spinning madly. Fortunately no other enemy were about and I crossed the lines in less than ten minutes, landing roughly at Etrun. I was immediately conveyed to an RFC Medical Officer who was on site. He reassuringly told me I had two metal splinters in my eye, but that it should heal quickly and my sight should not be affected. Less reassuringly, he said he’d take them out immediately but had nothing to give me for the pain except whiskey. I opted for the fullest possible dose while he hunted for a thing that looked like surgical pliers. After a second dose of medication, I felt much better. The splinters were removed and I was shipped off in a Crossley with an impressive wad of gauze over my eye and a bandage around my head. I shall enjoy myself by frightening the new chaps.
On my return I was ordered not to fly for a week pending an examination by the Wing medical officer next Wednesday. The RO read my report of the scrap and said he would note the DFW as driven down since by my description the HA was unlikely to have made it back to base. Not a confirmed victory, but at least an acknowledgement of effort.
The Major gets the papers first here and announced at dinner that the Americans are officially in the game now. We discussed at some length what it would mean. OG, over a “medicinal drop” as he termed it, opined that we should not see them for some time, but if they were sent to England we should lock up our wives and daughters.
We are also getting reports that the Canadians have secured Vimy Ridge, which is a big thing by all accounts. Another good push might see this war done for, we agreed.Historical Notes:
 Military Police – so called because of their red cap covers.
 Maj John Burgh Talbot Leighton MC transferred to the RFC from the Scots Guards in 1915 and served with 2 and 14 Squadrons. He was killed in a flying accident in May 1917.
 Those of you who have read Cecil Lewis’s wonderful Sagittarius Rising
will recall how Patrick assisted Lewis by showing him how to stunt properly and allowing him a great deal of free flying time while he was in the pilot pool at No 1 AD awaiting posting.
 Standish John O’Grady was an Irish barrister, writer, and journalist who championed Irish mythology, history, and culture while retaining strong Unionist views. He reputedly was an influence on W.B. Yeats.