Cyril Woolly Cpt, Rfc, Instructor Pilot 8 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
June 25, 1918. Morning Formation, I was awarded the D.F.C.
Morning Escort :: Covered an RE 8 going to targets near Cambrai Lots of e/a flying by ,but no attacks
Patrol: I was Acting Flight Leader for a Sweep near Vimy and I didnt do to great. Our 6 a/c spotted and flew under a flight of e/a. I kept such a close watch that I didnt see a Lone ? Albatross come up behind me. I heard a Rat a tat then spotted holes in my kites lower right wing. I broke left while my wingmate broke right. The e/a peeled off after my wingman so I kept in a turn and came up his tail. Holding down the triggers, he came apart. The rest of the flight had tangled with the other e/a and got 2 destroyed mine made 3. B Flt had 2 a/c damaged.
Well, the darn balloon was impregnable but at least we got back to base without any losses.
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Yesterday, rained in the morning but cleared up about 11:00. At 13:00 the Major took four of us on an offensive patrol into Germany. We were to hang around the aerodrome at Thiaucourt to bounce anything that came along. We stayed at 5,000 meters and kept, as much as possible, between the sun and the aerodrome to avoid a shrapnel barrage that would call attention to us.
After about 20 minutes of this the Major brought us around to head south for home, when four dots appeared about 12 or 1500 meters below us, flying toward Thiaucourt. He waggled his wings, pointed downward and began tumbling his Nieuport down like a leaf. It was a beautiful thing to see. Ralph and Alk followed suit but I'm a little cautious of that maneuver. It's hard for me to recover from it and I get very dizzy so I piqued as steeply as I dared. I didn't look around to see where Dewey was, just assumed he we diving or tumbling somewhere in one of my blind spots.
I was correct, he was in one of my blind spots, directly beneath me and no more aware of my whereabouts as I was of his. Suddenly his Nieuport was right there in front of me, I yanked the stick back hard, heard a loud crack and saw my top wing appear to break loose and whip back. I knew what this was, it was the reason I had been cautious about my dive in the first place. I knew too that the bottom wing would probably hold and the ailerons are on that, which would give me some control. The plane was still diving and the motor had cut off but it answered to the controls.
I made a careful recovery at 2,000 meters, restarted the motor by catching the prop. There was a blue flash from the gas accumulated under the cowling but I didn't blow up or catch fire, for which I was immensely grateful. Keeping the motor full on and nudging the plane in a southward direction I examined the top wing. All the leading edge back to the main spar had torn off, taking the linen completely off the starboard surface, half the covering on the lower surface was held against the ribs by wind pressure alone. Nearly half the left wing was a naked skeleton. (1)
In my Father's sermons, this would be the moment that I cried out to the Lord to perform a miracle, give me guidance or repent, trust myself to his mercy "Thy will be done," or make a deal with the Almighty, which would have been as much use as my Nannette and Rintintin hanging on the control panel. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but it's not true. The idea never even occurred to me. Instead I ran the advice Rick had given me from his experience of this very scenario through my head as I tried to take the proper steps that would keep me alive. It was up to me and my Nieuport. The starboard wing was getting almost no lift at all so the crate kept wanting to bank and go into a spin. I had to apply both rudder and ailerons over to the right to compensate for the instability, which caused me to edge west. Keeping her going south was a continual process of easing off the controls to change direction every so slightly, then reapply them hard over before loosing the balance. Rick had shifted his weight by leaning over to the right, this helped a little as well and I thanked him.
All through that, seemingly endless journey, I coaxed and caressed the controls, completely attuned to every sound and movement my little ship made. I talked to her, told her what a good girl she was, how beautiful she was and how much I loved flying her and she talked back to me with the sound of her engine, the humming of her wires, her movements, telling me what she needed from me to keep us in the sky. I started calling her "Babygirl." It seemed I had heard the nickname before somewhere but still call it up. Anyway, that was her name now. We were like one being and I wondered, "is this what it's like to be with a woman?" I decided that if we survived this adventure I would find out as soon as practicable.
As soon as we crossed the Lines we began a shallow dive, a very shallow dive. I was having problems keeping her on an even keel because of the drag of the torn fabric whipping around, I told Babygirl we'd be home in a jiffy, just hold on and we'll get you taken care of.
I was at 300 meters by the time I sighted Gengoult. I went straight in at full throttle because I didn't dare let up and loose the lift from the wings. I killed the engine as soon as her wheels touched and when she had slowed enough I yanked back the stick with all my might to dig her tail skid into the ground as we went into the field next to the landing field, stopping just before we hit the fence.
I just sat in her as what seemed like every vehicle at the aerodrome came racing up to us. Black was first up the side, asking me "Hey, you Okay Loot?" I just looked at him and nodded, I couldn't feel my face, I must have been pale as a ghost. He helped me out of the cockpit onto the ground. As soon as my feet touched the good earth my knees buckled and I vomited on all fours. I muttered something about "Damn Castor Oil," but I didn't fool anyone.
I got up on my own after awhile and stood with my face and hands on Babygirl's side. I whispered to her "Thanks Babygirl, we're going to be fine now, Black'll take care of you and your'll be right as rain, lets both get some rest and I'll see you tomorrow." They wanted to give me a ride to the orderly room but I wanted to walk. Two enlisted men walked with me, just in case.
Dewey came in while I was making my report, looking like he was going to cry. He thought I was dead and it was his fault and kept apologizing but I told him it wasn't anyone's fault. You can't see everything up there, especially down and forward. I should have been essing so I could see around me instead of fixating on watching the Major's stunt. I punched him his the chest, calling him an SOB, and received a like blow, after which we both had a hysterical laugh in loo of what might have manifested itself in a hug, that just wouldn't do. By the way, the four Boche got away.
While I was in the orderly room they told me my Pfalz was confirmed. I'm quite surprised, maybe the flames caught someone's attention and they put two and two together from my report and those of the rest of the flight. Anyway, now I've accounted for two trained Germans and their machines which I'd say pays for my training at least.
The Major talked to me a little about the incident then told me to get some rest, which I immediately did.
(1) The damage in the picture from the game does not match the damage described in the journal entry. The damage description and what was required to keep the plane in the air is a compilation of several reports of similar incidents, among them, Rickenbacker and Meissner of the 94th Aero.
Carrick - The Nieuport was unstable and I didn't dare make any sudden movements but it wasn't nearly as nerve wracking as the historical accounts. Not expecting to die in reality took some of the stress off. The sim can only do so much. I did have to make that straight in landing at full power because the plane wanted to stall any time the engine wasn't at full. Certainly doable.
Cyril Woolly Cpt, Rfc, Instructor Pilot 8 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
June 27, 1918.
Another big fight over by Menen. The Sqn's 10 a/c were doing a sweep and caught 3 Hannover Recon types over then lines. The fight took the Flight down to the deck , knocking down all the machines) while I stayed high. I had spotted a flight of Fokkers. Out of a 7 a/c total 3 came down to play the rest went home. After much turning and doing chandells my flight came back up and saved my bacon. B flight had 5 Kills, A flight 1 Kill total 6 e/a destroyed. The flight had 2 damaged with 1 pilot wnd + mine a well shot up SE over 18 holes.
Seemed like every mechanic in the place was working on Babygirl today. In addition to recovering the wing they're having to replace damaged ribs, overhauling her engine, repairing and replacing the controls overtaxed by our ordeal. Her landing gear is having to be changed, new shock absorbers, tires.
There's no reserve machine for me to fly so my time is relatively free today but I couldn't stay away from the hangars, guess I'm a little infatuated with my plane. Well, love is where you find it and we certainly had a bonding experience yesterday. I tried to stay out of Black's way as much as possible but painted her name underneath the office and put my 2nd Rat on the rail above my Mickey.
Everyone else was busy, a number of patrols flown. Very strong wind from the Northeast. Roby and Pip crashed their planes after becoming separated from their flights, Bedroll and Ash are missing and we fear the worst.
The 27th finally put something on the scoreboard. In the same fight, MacArthur sent down a biplace over Lorry, SE of Metz and their Major Hartney got an Albatros. Now they can paint their beer crate eagle on their machines.
Talked to Davy this evening about the private matter I want to take care of as soon as possible. He's much more a man of the world than I am and said he knows just the place. We'll go over to Nancy at the first opportunity, hopefully soon because we expect to be moving to the big show at any moment.
Cyril Woolly Cpt, Rfc, Instructor Pilot 9 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
June 28, 1918.
Morning Sweep by Fricourt. B flight engaged 5 Fokkers. Our Cover Flight was out of position so did not engage. B Flight just went at it Pell Mell with the devils. We knocked down 3 ( 1 was mine ) the others went home. The cost was 1 SE destroyed Pilot KIA + 3 damaged. My Chap was flying across the front during the opening of the fight. I was firing at everyone as we smashed thru. I must have hit his gas or oil lines because his Prop came to a Stop. As I dove and zoomed , I turned and saw him smack the ground in a huge Dust Cloud. Victory # 9.
Cyril Woolly Maj , Rfc, Instructor Pilot B Flight Commander 9 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
June 29, 1918.
Morning Parade: Promoted to Major and made B Flt Commander.
1001 Hrs. B flight was assigned to Offensive Patrol near Vimy. Met and engaged , I was mostly chased till the Flight tore into them, a flight of Pfalz Scouts. B Flt scored 3 of the e/a for 0 losses with 2 damaged.
It's been difficult to keep up given real-life commitments recently. Jerbear, I continue to be an avid fan of Goode. Your story of his near-fatal collision was a true nail-biter. Very well done! Robert, great video. That was a giant fake wooden balloon, I think. Carrick, you're an amazing trooper. Great photos.
Here is the latest from Geoffrey Corderoy, who is going to a new squadron.
Diary of Maj. Geoffrey Corderoy, 43 Squadron RFC Part 57: 23 February 1918 – 1 March 1918
23-24 February 1918 – Poperinghe aerodome / Dunkirk
Awoke to high winds and sleet rattling on the tin roof of the hut. Flying was out of the questions so had a good sleep and caught up on letters. Brother Reggie is bound for Egypt after all, flying RE8s. Wrote him to send commiseration.
Wrote recommendations to promote Koch and Seth-Smith to lieutenant.
We had a tender laid on to take all interested parties to Dunkirk for shopping. Bought shaving soap, brandy, a small carpet, and a couple of good books. Quigley and I discovered a little place called the Café au Centre at Malo, and had a fine tea.
The weather being unfit, several of us decided to overnight in the town and stay on until the next morning. I had to arrange a drive home as there was a conference at Wing to attend in the afternoon. The Huns are looking to make things hot when the weather breaks, it seems. Lieut-Col Van Rynevelt confided that a move was in the offing for me.
25 February 1918
Wing called around 10 and ordered a flight to chase off some Huns over Choques. Rushed off with all available, including Hobson and most of his flight. Patrolled over Choques for an hour but no one showed up for the party. 26 February 1918
Joined Gorringe’s flight to attack the Hun field at Haubordin. We came down through the cloud and hit their hangars and sheds quite successfully. Poor little Huns were running about with the breeze nicely up. Gorringe spotted some two-seaters off to the east and we climbed to attack them as they headed home. I got behind one and shot him about, but the crew was keen and the gunner managed to get a few bursts in my direction during a turn. The rounds cannot have missed by much, for the odour of phosphorous was very distinct as they passed, and at least one round hit my machine forward of my position.
Discretion being the better part and all that, I turned west and climbed away, accompanied by Rankin. Scarcely had we crossed over no man’s land than the revs dropped away and the prop windmilled to a stop. I stared out over a mass of torn brown mud under a grey sky, looking for a place to put down. Our trenches passed below and I could hear cheering and see the upturned faces of the poor buggers who lived and fought down there. Then ahead I made out a narrow guage line heading back towards Amentieres, and resolved to put down alongside it. I stalled the Camel into the muck beside the line and came to a stop in mere feet.
27 February 1918
Line patrol south this morning, joining Gorringe again. We took off at ten amidst falling snow and climbed into the sunshine. Orders had been to patrol at 10000 feet, but Gorringe pushed higher, looking for clear visibility. My ear seemed to hold up well.
Patrolled up and down from Lens to Havrincourt for an hour and a half, seeing not a thing, and then returned frozen and miserable to Poperinghe.
On landing I was handed orders from Wing that I was to be transferred to take over as OC of 43 Squadron, another Camel squadron, based at La Gorgue. After lunch I packed everything into the Standard and headed for Mont Rouge to see the Wing Commander.
I had to wait for twenty minutes before the striking Boer emerged from a meeting and I began by informing him that I was reporting to La Gorgue that afternoon and thanking him for posting me to a front-line unit.
“Depending on the enemy you might be in the thick of it or you might be pulled back,” he said. “Your new lot have been decent enough, but HQ thinks you can get more out of them. There have been hints that the unit is earmarked for new machines, and it will be your job to ensure they deserve them.” “Bentley Camels?” I asked. The RNAS had already received these 150 hp machines and were very pleased.
“Can’t say,” said Van Ryneveld, but his smile betrayed somethings.
“Oh God, those things are a long way off. But,” he said with a conspiratorial grin, “I hear that a Snipe will be sent over to 1 AD for evaluation. If you’re available I’ll give you a call to take it up.”
The drive to La Gorgue was miserable. The poor little Standard skidded all over the place and twice I needed to recruit some willing Tommies to push the thing up hills, but at five o’clock I pulled up to the squadron office – the same little building I’d reported to when I first arrived at 46 Squadron in May of last year, fresh from England. A dusting of snow covered the field, but the cindered runways were visible and the row of Nissens, including old No. 3 that I’d once called home. The RO was a pleasant fellow named Purdy, and I was introduced to the Engineering Officer, a chap name Greene. Purdy reviewed the squadron organization with me.
The three flight commanders were all British. We had far fewer colonials than most squadrons. There was Trollope on A FLight, who’d flown with 70 before I was there He’d had a flight since the summer battles. Balfour had B Flight. He’d come from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and flown Strutters with 43. Had the MC. Then there was Woollett in C Flight, also with an MC. He was described as a bit of a character. I’d get to know the others at dinner. The one name that stood out was Lieut. Charles Chaplin Banks – his real name, I was assured. In fact, he’d recently arrived in France from HE, where he’d won an MC downing a Gotha in January.
28 February 1918 – La Gorgue
Despite the snow, we had several patrols this day. I joined Trollope on a DOP to Avelin. On the return trip we ran into a group of Albatros D5s near Houplin. The fellows handled themselves well. I managed to get onto one Hun, a yellow machine with a black tail, and sent him down out of control. Unfortunately no one saw him crash and he remained officially only a “driven down.”
"I managed to get onto one Hun, a yellow machine with a black tail, and sent him down out of control."
1 March 1918
We are trying to close the eyes of the Hun, and so were ordered to attack their field at Lomme, south of Lille. I joined Trollope’s crew again and led the attack, hitting the hangars and sheds heavily and destroying two machines on the ground. We lost a new man named Bliss. No one saw his end; he simply failed to form up when the attack was done. The Hun Archie was surprisingly good. One puff erupted under my machine, throwing it up a hundred feet. Just as happened the week before, the engine cut out over no man’s land and I put down in a snow squall, again next to a rail line.
Living in tents at present, eating canned horse and dog bisquits (1) should get quarters tomorrow. No flying until today, shortage of gas and castor oil.
Bedroll came in, seems he was so lost he ended up about 15 or 16 km from the Swiss border near Belfort. Ash is detained in Switzerland and expects to be repatriated. Now that's LOST!
Orders came down on Thursday and the ground squirrels left right then, all except the mechs and some trucks to transport them. Flew all the planes here on Friday, nice hot, dry day, only a few pilots got lost or had mechanical problems. We got back from our adventure just in time. More about that. The mechs stayed until Saturday, the place was bombed Friday night after we flew out but no casualties in our outfit. Rick didn't get to come along, his ear is giving him fits and they sent him to the evac. hospital.
Big muster of the entire Group this morning, told us the fuel shortage had been alleviated and patrols would begin. Made 1st familiarization flight over our new sector, Faverolles which is 24 km SE of Chateau-Thierry, East to Dormans. Found our landmarks and best routes. This place is only about 10 miles from Paris. It's a long run to the Front tho, about 40 miles.
The Major took Me, Dewey, Alk, Snake and Steve on a cooks tour inside our lines at 5,000 meters, concentrating on the area around Chateau Thierry. Babygirl running beautifully.
Now, about Thurday evening. Davy made some phone calls and got everything arranged, borrowed a car from the French, for which I payed a handsome bribe. Couldn't get one of ours because they all left in the morning. Loafed, read and worked on Babygirl all day, butterflies in my stomach, worrying that something would put a damper on our plans, while at the same time wanting to back out of it.
We left about 5, Davy, Dewey, Me and Wally. Went to Pont St. Vincent where there's a Maison Tol'er'ee, a blue light brothel for officers, first rate, the girls get regular exams, condoms provided. Off limits to AEF, Black Jack frowns on this sort of thing, even though he has a French mistress in Paris, RHIP (2). Davy had everything arranged and I had the purse. Three of us sat in a parlor with erotic paintings and statues scattered around and a girl playing the piano while Davy haggled with the madame, I was glad to be spared all that, especially since I would have been far out of my depth.
After a bit, four women came in with the madame. I was introduced to Colette, who would be my flight instructor, to aid me in earning this new, very different, set of wings. Slim, but who isn't slim in France these days, except for the Politicians, Bureaucrats and Generals. A few years older than me, but only a couple I'd say. Dark hair piled in a softly swirling Pompadour, dark, intelligent, almond eyes, one slightly rounder than the other but compensated for by cosmetics, she wore quite a bit of makeup as did the other three, an unusual, upward curving nose, long, elegant neck.
We were ushered into a dining room where the chef they employed had put on a feast of a pork dinner, Champagne, I paid for everything. Davy had been amazed at how much money I possessed. I still had the money Uncle Bob had given me when I left the States and I don't gamble and seldom drink. I didn't drink a lot of the Champagne but enough to fell guilty about not holding to the Temperance Pledge I had signed in the Family Bible to please my mother. Sort of funny, feeling guilty about drinking a little wine when I was sitting in a whorehouse.
The room was a little stuffy with the blackout drapes pulled tight. She spoke fair English. I was a bit tongue tied so she carried the conversation in a deep but not harsh or masculine voice, drawing me out. She had long expressive hands which she used continually for emphasis, making a point of lightly touching me from time to time. She was fascinating to watch.
As the Champagne took hold I became more relaxed. Davy made a point of letting everyone know that Dewey and I both had 2 Boche to our credit, which impressed them very much. She started calling me "Mon Foucon," My Falcon. The girls schedules were entirely open for us, so there was no rush, no time limit, no 15 Francs for a half hour. We all smoked in the drawing room after dinner. This was the first time I had seen a woman smoke, except for my Granny with her corn cob pipe, smoking to relieve a tooth ache. Colette had a very suggestive way of blowing the smoke out her nose, in fact, everything she did seemed suggestive, but then it could have just been my frame of mind.
After a bit she stood up and took me by the hand, each pair of us going upstairs. I spent six glorious, profitable and educational hours with her. When it was time to go, actually past the time when I should have left, she gave me a kiss, told me,"Eu weel com back teu see me Mon Foucon, ann bring me the ead uv ae Boche, oui," then she laughed and shoved me out the door before I could respond in any way.
We had to race like the Devil was chasing us to get back on time. Jumped into our gear and drove out to the field in the French car. Everyone else was already at the hangars, getting ready to mount up. The Major just pretended he didn't see us. The 147th flew out last, right behind Davy's outfit.
I'm glad I did it and it was certainly something I'll never forget and I'll never forget her. Didn't want to die without ever having known a woman. It's not like I have some premonition of my death but there's certainly a high chance I might die, given where we are now.
(1) Canned horse and dog biscuits - Bully Beef and hardtack
Cyril Woolly Maj , Rfc, Instructor Pilot B Flight Commander 10 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
June 30, 1918. The chaps were doing an Escort and engaged a flight of Albatross Scouts. A bang em up type brawl. I damaged one but couldn't follow him down because 2 of his buddies dropped on my tail. I gained speed the did a reversal spitting them . I swung 180 , and sitting in front was a Hun. By jove, I pulled the triggers and the e/a smoked then flipped over and went into the ground. B Flight claimed 3 a/d that day + mine However, we lost an a/c and 1 more pilot was wnd.
Cyril Woolly Maj , Rfc, Instructor Pilot B Flight Commander 10 Victorys, 40 Sqn, Bryas, AF Flanders France.
July 1 , 1918 B flights sweep area was down by Fricourt. We Flew at 12,000 so to have height advantage over them. Sure enough an enemy flight appeared and as soon as we turned my Motor went u/s. I nosed over and lost a few thousand feet but was able to re-start. Looking up I saw e/a coming down and picked up a couple on my tail. after a wild few minutes , and wild shooting. I nosed over and ran for it. The mec's said it was Icing again. B Flight claimed 2 e/a but lost 1 SE.
carrick - could happen, and in the US Army you get a Court Martial too boot.
2nd Lt. John B. Goode 147th Aero Squadron, USAAS
Sunday, July 1st 1918
Billeted in the village of Touquin now, in the hotel. Settling in. The 27th fared much better, Hartney was able to get them a large Chateau near Ormeaux.
New guy arrived today, 1Lt. Bennett Wells. He's an ex-ferry pilot. Major asked for him, says he's first rate.
The Brain Trust tells us that the Germans have a full 3rd of their Pursuit Squadrons posted in this sector now, including Richthofen's old Circus.
The Major took all 8 of us with operational machines on a familiarization flight to Chateau-Thierry then to Troesnes, just south of Faverolles this morning. Orders out, we're supposed to learn every town in the sector and it's relative distance to every other town. Huge job for the memory. Dewey and I drill each other, I always had trouble in school, trying to remember things by rote. Whole Group kept on alert all day, very tiring.
O'Niell led Dewey and me on a protection patrol in the afternoon at 3,500 meters over the big American attack, straight at the Chateau-Thierry/Belleau Line. Artillery preparation was tremendous. Huge clouds of smoke and dust at over 3,000 meters. Saw a large formation of Germans come over, 7 or 8 of them, too many to engage. They didn't attack us or the boys on the ground so we left them alone, I suppose they didn't see us or we weren't what they were hungry for.
The Hat in the Ring Gang had a fight with the new Fokkers, lost Harold Tittmann.
Quentin Roosevelt is with the 95th now. He's been assigned as Davy's flight commander but he had enough sense to let them know that he didn't expect to lead patrols any time soon. They all seem to have really taken to him. Seems like an entirely different bird now that he's here instead of at the mud hole. I was introduced to him, he either didn't remember me from Issoudun or pretended not to. He has that big toothy smile, like his daddy and that kind of handshake that'll wring your arm out of it's socket.
So many great stories. I’m glad I drop in here from time to time. Jerbear, very engaging story. Would like to hear more about the “pork dinner” at Madame’s. Raine, good luck with the new outfit. I know Corderoy will be able to whip them into shape. Are they really getting Bentleys? It’s weird but I was able to catch them much easier than the regular Camels in my Pfalz. Dark Canuck, looking forward to how your pilot will get out of his predicament. And finally Carrick, I think you’re flying too high and keep getting iced. Keep the stories coming and keep us all engaged.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."