Adjutant, Darcel Limoges Esc 95 Spads Raray AF Marne, France.
Sept 1, 1918.
Dawn Airfield attack. Hq want this AF hit hard,but we only have 4 a/c with Machine guns. As we attacked , I noticed that the Hun a/c didn't look right some had only one wing ? Being Repaired ? I heard latter in the mess that these e/a were the New Hun X planes Lightning fast tight turns and Speedy with twin Heavy guns. Added to this they were being assigned to all Ace Jasta's.
Line Patrol: 2 Section put up 3 a/c. We were able to chase and attack 3 Recon types. I fired to far out and had the guns jam. My flight leader Anton got the only kill a Flamer the others got away.
22 April 1918 The French Countryside Near Toul-Croix de Metz Airfield
The following day, Dunn managed to get airborne without incident. The flight had been a simple patrol, and despite Lufbery's strict orders about “no combat,” when the flight was jumped by a handful of Huns, Dunn couldn't resist taking a few shots at them before he turned and headed home. He was pretty sure he missed with every round, but the chatter of the twin Vickers was satisfying nonetheless. He took some ribbing from the ground crew about the bullet holes in his plane and the relative lack of spent ammunition in the Vickers, but he ignored them and reveled in the high brought on by his successful first contact with the enemy.
But now, the following morning, he stood at the edge of a copse of trees not far from Toul Field and tore off his flight gear, throwing it in a pile at his feet and letting out curse words with every piece he threw down. The Nieuport 28's Gnome 9N had – once again – sputtered on take-off and the plane began to drop to the earth no matter what Dunn did to try to control it. This time, however, there was no mere fence to get in the way. There was a thicket of trees that he simply hadn't had the power to clear, and he'd ended up smashing the plane into the oak and horse chestnuts, tearing off one wing and breaking apart most of the fuselage. Dunn himself had somehow escaped uninjured, something that brought him no pleasure as he stared at the unrecoverable wreck that had once been his Nieuport.
He hear the growing buzz of another plane in his flight and craned his head to find the source. He watched in disbelief as his wingman - 2nd Lieutenant Eugene Matthews – broke formation and brought his own Nieuport down in a rough landing near the edge of the trees. Dunn folded his arms across his chest and waited, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Andy!” Matthews shouted as he debarked the plane while it was still slowly rolling forward. The engine sputtered into silence as the round-faced pilot approached, taking off his hat and goggles. “Dear Lord above, Andy, I thought you were a goner!”
Dunn looked pointedly at the remains of his Nieuport. “Something is wrong with these planes,” he said. “Two dead engines in three days. The things are gonna kill me before the Huns ever get around to it.” He sighed and walked closer to the wreckage.
“It's that rotary engine,” Matthews said, his voice lower and calmer than when he'd approached. “Hasn't worked right since they built it. They say it can even catch fire.” Matthews stood rooted in place, staring at the wreckage as if afraid to approach it. “Fire,” he repeated, the fear in his voice plain.
Dunn looked over his shoulder at his wingman and friend but said nothing. He turned his attention back to the wreck. “Well somebody's gotta do something,” he said quietly. He could hear the hot engine pinging as it cooled and he smelled burnt oil. “I'll talk to Rhodes about it,” he said. “See if he knows anything.” Roderick Rhodes was the squadron's head mechanic. A serious Brit with a serious moustache, he always seemed to be tinkering with the planes as he stormed from one side of the barn to the other, pushing his crew beyond their limit most of the time. It made for good turnaround repair times, but the morale in the ground crew could use some improvement.
“Yeah,” Matthews agreed. He still stared at the wrecked Nieuport as if mesmerized. Then without a word, he blinked and looked at Dunn, then back at his own plane. “I gotta get up,” he said as if in realization. “Lufbery will have my head if I don't catch up with the rest of the flight.” He turned and ran toward his plane, pulling on his flight cap and goggles as he want. “Sorry about your plane,” he yelled over his shoulder. “Glad you're okay.”
With that Matthews clambered into his Nieuport and looked around in bewilderment. “Uh...” he began. “Andy? Can you give me a hand?”
Dunn smiled and shook his head at his friend's antics, but obliged.
* * *
That afternoon Toul-Croix de Metz Airfield Near Verdun, France
Dunn and Matthews stood rigidly at attention just inside hangar four, as Major Raoul Lufbery paced back and forth in front of them, hands clasped behind his back. He hadn't said anything since he found them together talking about the lost Nieuport. He simply called them to attention and began to pace. Dunn wasn't sure if he was composing his thoughts or simply letting them stew for a moment.
“I don't know where to begin,” Lufbery finally said.
Dunn tilted his head upward a fraction of an inch. Ah, composing his thoughts it is. He said nothing.
Lufbery stopped paced directly in front of Dunn. “Lieutenant,” he began, giving the word an odd two-syllable pronunciation. Lufbery was born in France, but had an American father. He was fluent in both English and French, but sometimes his accent crept in without warning. “You have damaged or destroyed two aeroplanes in only two days.”
Major Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery
Dunn was quiet, but then nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Lufbery stared at him, unblinking. “I'm surprised the Germans haven't given you a medal,” he said evenly.
Dunn didn't know what to say so he just clamped his mouth shut and waited.
The Major turned to Matthews. “And you, Lieutanant,” he said, “if you ever fail to form up with your squadron because you stopped to check on your friend, it will be the last time you fly for a long, long time.” He looked from one man to the next and shook his head slightly. “Merde. What am I going to do with you?” he asked.
Dunn had the good sense not to answer.
“Matthews, go police the landing field. If I find anything bigger than my fist out there come morning, you're grounded for a week.”
“Yes, sir,” Matthews said.
“Dunn,” Lufbery continued. He sighed and shook his head. “Have the docteur check that bruise on your head,” he said. “I'm sure that thick skull of yours protected you, but let's be sure.” He looked from one man to the next. “Dismissed.”
Dunn turned to go, but Matthews lingered a moment, and then cleared his throat.
Lufbery turned his attention to the young lieutenant. He paused for several seconds, then sighed. “What is it, Matthews.”
“Sir,” Matthews began. “Would it be okay...” He stopped, then cleared his throat again. “I mean, I just thought maybe it would be okay if we painted up our planes a little.” He smiled hopefully, but seeing the nonplussed expression on Lufbery's face, Matthews' smile faded.
“I will make you a deal,” the Major said calmly, looking from Matthews to Dunn and back. “The day you can get your plane airborne and bring down a Hun connard, is the day I will personally hand you a paint brush!" By the time he reached the end of the sentence, he was nearly shouting. He paused and took a deep breath. "Is that clear?" he asked quietly.
Both men nodded. “Yes, sir,” they muttered, cowtowed.
“Now get out of here,” Lufbery tossed. He turned and walked away without another word.
Dunn and Matthews looked at one another then wandered off in opposite directions without saying anything.
* * *
The next morning, the engine in 2nd Lieutenant Eugene Matthews' Nieuport 28 caught fire shortly after takeoff.
Dunn watched helplessly as his friend and wingman fought the flames as the burning aircraft rolled over and plummeted toward the ground. Dunn knew it was impossible to hear the screams over the roar of his own engine, but in his mind he could hear the young pilot screaming all the way down as the plane fireballed into the ground less than a mile from Toul Field.
Dunn didn't sleep for two days.
The death of 2nd Lt Eugene Matthews
Anybody else have such a hard time in Nieuport 28s? Dunn (and now poor Matthews) just can't seem to get a break!
Last edited by Witt; 09/02/1801:03 AM.
DiD Centenary Campaign (Intrepid) 2nd Lt Andrew Dunn, 94th Aero Squadron Enlisted April 21, 1918
I flew an N28 for several months. It will spontaneously catch on fire due to gas pooling in the cowling and it will loose it's top wing fabric if you come out of s steep dive quickly.. Other than that, it's a very fast and maneuverable plane more than a match for the Pfalz and Albatross DVa. I enjoy flying them. Advice - if you get an alert that you have a system failure, even if you see nothing wrong, cut the engine off and get down immediately because your almost certain to catch on fire.
24 April 1918 8,000 Feet above No Man's Land Near Verdun, France
The weather above the battle lines was clear and sunny. Clouds obscured most of the battlefield below, but Dunn wasn't focused on that. He had spotted a trio of German planes headed home and was trying to gain on them. They were above him and far away, and his Nieuport 28 struggled to gain altitude and keep up with the fleeing planes. The rest of his squadron was tangled in a dogfight behind him and a thousand feet lower, and his new wingman - 1st Lieutenant Gerald Andrews - was nowhere to be seen.
Andrews was a dark, brooding man with black hair and mustache, and a perpetual five o'clock shadow. Dunn hadn't spoken to him much; he didn't have it in him to make and lose another friend.
They'd buried Matthews' without much fanfare. The veterans in the 94th seemed to take it in stride, but Dunn was still shaken at the loss of his friend.
They can even catch fire. Matthews' words echoed in Dunn's head as he tried to concentrate on the task at hand.
He'd been up twice since Matthews' death; both flights had been uneventful. Rhodes had explained some of the problems with the Gnome 9N engine in the Nieuports, but Dunn hadn't really been listening. Something about monosoupape engines, fumes in the cowling, cracked fuel lines and other mechanic double speak. Dunn just wanted it fixed. It had dumped him on the ground twice and killed his only friend. He wasn't going to let it kill him as well.
With a physical shake of his head, he pulled himself back to the present. The German planes were probably DFWs from the look of them. He'd never seen one up close, but it matched what he remembered from looking at drawings. As he neared the formation, he could see the gunner in the back seat of his target pointing his way despite Dunn's approach from behind and beneath. The man tried to swing his machine gun toward Dunn's plane, but couldn't. Dunn smiled grimly and dipped the nose to gain some speed before moving in for the kill.
The Nieuport dropped slowly, the wind roaring in Dunn's ears as he pulled back on the stick and leaned his head to better look down the sights of the top Vickers mounted to his left. As the DFW came into view, he squeezed the trigger and the Vickers roared to life, hurling shells at the retreating German aircraft. Dunn couldn't tell if they impacted the plane or not, but he kept pouring bullets that direction as the two-seater started to evade.
His hand still gripping the trigger, his eyes fixed intently on the German plane, Dunn was both startled and confused when he felt burning pain in his right leg and ribs. He released the guns and looked down to see what had happened. The blood pouring from his wounds was syrupy and dark. As he stared in disbelief, more German bullets riddled his plane. He whipped his head to the right and spotted one of the other DFW gunners firing relentlessly in his direction. Dunn had been so focused on his target, he had completely ignored the other two-seaters.
He jerked the stick left and forward, spinning away from his attacker. As his Nieuport gained speed Dunn tried to control his panic. The air speed indicator climbed higher and higher and Dunn could hear the plane groaning in complaint. He pulled back on the stick abruptly, bringing the plane level and then sending it shooting skyward. He was thrown back in his seat and heard something crack and tear. A moment later, he came to his senses as a dull pain started to spread from his right leg and torso. He leveled the Nieuport and scanned the sky for any sign of the attacking DFW, but all three planes had continued on their home-bound course. The sky was clear of enemies at the moment.
It took all of Dunn's concentration to bring the plane back on a southwest course, aiming the nose roughly toward Toul Field. He wasn't sure he'd make it that far without passing out from blood loss, so he cut the engine speed and dropped the nose toward the ground, slowly bring him closer to some sort of safety. By the time he reached Toul and the wheels touched down on the landing field, Dunn realized too late that he'd nearly overshot the runway. His Nieuport was true to form and plowed through a fence line as it skidded off the field. Pieces of a shattered fence post shot through the Nieuport like so much shrapnel, tearing up the plane and impaling Dunn in his other leg. By the time it stopped moving, Dunn's vision had started to fade. He was vaguely aware of men running toward his wreck, but he lost consciousness before they arrived.
* * * 25 April 1918 L'Hospital Americain Paris, France
Dunn opened his eyes.
Both legs hurt and there was a dull ache in his right side. He looked around the stark, nearly empty room and listened to the bustle of nurses caring for the wounded in the rooms around him. The air smelled of disinfectant and old urine, but he didn't care. He was still alive.
“Nurse,” he croaked. His throat was dry and hurt. “Nurse!” he tried again.
Seconds later, a stocky middle-aged woman in a stained uniform entered his room. “You're awake,” she said, no trace of accent in her voice.
Dunn nodded. “Water.”
As she brought him water, she asked, “How are you feeling?”
Dunn thought it was a stupid question. He'd been shot by a machine gun and crashed his plane. How did she think he would feel? He didn't answer. “Where am I?” he asked instead.
“The American Hospital in Paris,” she said. “You'll be here a while.” She smiled sympathetically and for a moment Dunn felt better. He'd heard about the beautiful French nurses and their bedside manners from some of the men – most of whom were talking through their hats – but Dunn found comfort in the maternal nature of this woman and wondered for a moment what his own mother would think of that if she were still alive.
He nodded and closed his eyes.
“Get some sleep, soldier,” the nurse said.
"Too noisy," he muttered. "And this bed is lumpy as the army's potatoes and gravy."
The nurse patted his shoulder. “Better get used to it,” she said. "You're gonna be here a while."
Last edited by Witt; 09/02/1802:16 AM.
DiD Centenary Campaign (Intrepid) 2nd Lt Andrew Dunn, 94th Aero Squadron Enlisted April 21, 1918
Adjutant, Darcel Limoges Esc 95 Spads Raray AF Marne, France.
I put my 4th Victory in the bag today, but took ze bullet for the team. 2 section put up 3 a/c for offensive patrol and we spotted 3 Recon types on their side of the lines. I dove and came up under the e/a my 1st couple of bursts got the gunner so slowed and held down the triggers. Bang, Fire, and smoke the the e/a took a header for the earth. Spotting a wing-mate still attacking an e/a I went over to help. The rear gunner put 2 bullets in my ship and one in me. I sped back across the lines and landed at a friendly base. Its back to the rear and a Hospital for me.
Witt - 2nd. Lieut. Dunn's story is coming along really nicely, I hope he makes it through to the end! Here's hoping he has a speedy recovery.
Jerbear - the USAS has been a ton of fun so far! Plenty of action, plenty of chances to shoot up the ol' Kaiser's Biplaces
The story of Benjamin A. Drummond. Part 3: Kicking the Grief.
2nd September, 1918.
I awoke early, drenched in sweat. I had seldom slept; every time I shut my eyes the awful image of Casper's SPAD going down flashed on repeat. In the dreams it was so much worse. I could see him close-up then, and each repeat bore a different reaction. In one version I saw him desperately wrestling with the controls, in another he was screaming and crying, terrified of his impending death. In a particularly nasty variation (one which caused me to bolt upright in the middle of the night with a gasp) he had been torn apart by German bullets, and merely swung lifeless with each rotation of his machine. The worst by far, and the one I had just awakened from, was the one where he was a mere boy again, in our old school uniform.
I lethargically washed my face, trying unsuccessfully to push thoughts of Casper to the side, before throwing on my uniform and heading to the 103rd's mess. As I walked along the grass leading up to the mess hall, I could see six SPADs of the 93rd Aero lifting off the field for the dawn patrol. I paused for a moment by the door of the mess to watch them turn off North and disappear into the horison.
Upon stepping into the mess I could see Tobin, Larner and Soubiran crowded round a table together, idly chatting away. Soubiran called me over as I passed, and I stood to attention before him. "No need for that, Drummond". I relaxed. "As of today you're assigned to 2nd Flight. You have the morning patrol at 0700". I nodded, saluted, and turned to grab myself a cup of joe. As I sat nursing my drink, Cpt. Pyne appeared in front of me. "May I?" he asked, pulling a chair out. "Of course, Captain," I replied, and he sat down across from me. "Sorry about Casper. He was a good kid" Pyne offered, his eyes turned downwards. I shrugged, managing a weak smile. "He was always a reckless fool back home..." I muttered, almost to myself.
At 6:30 I ambled out onto the airfield, idly watching the mechanics readying our SPADs. I hadn't yet spoken to my own mechanic, and was about to go over and say hello when a broad-shouldered Captain appeared from out of the Mess Hall. He came over to me and extended a hand. "You must be the 2nd flight egg, huh? We'll be flying together, then!". I shook his hand, and he grinned. "Capt. Hunter, folks here call me Monk". "Frisky. Frisky Drummond." I replied, and he raised an eyebrow. "Funny nickname," he said, his grin wideneing, I shrugged. "Blame Cas," I started, before a fresh stab of sadness cut me off. Monk's smile faded slightly. "Cas. Yeah, hard luck he went in. You knew him?" I nodded. "We grew up together". Monk nodded solemnly. "Must be tough for you. Sorry. Did you come out here to fly with him?".
I shook my head. "No, not exactly. I didn't even know he was at this aerodrome. It was reading about the Lafayettes in the papers each week that made me want to fly. In fact, I very nearly joined the R.F.C when I was 17, but Ma talked me out of it". Monk looked puzzled. "The R.F.C? How did you plan on that? The Tommies wouldn't just take a Yank on board.." "Well, technically I'm a citizen. Ma's from Scotland, she had me while out visiting family.". I explained. Monk nodded, his grin returning. "A Scottish Texan? That's a scary thought...". I begun to chuckle, as did Monk, and soon we had broken into raucous laughter like a pair of complete idiots. Although I was still reeling from the loss of Cas, I was glad that the guys here had welcomed me so readily. It softened the blow, if only a little. That was the first genuine laugh I'd had since Cas had died.
0700 rolled around, and we climbed into our SPADs. Pyne was flight leader; behind him was Irving, Dolan, Monk and myself. 1st flight, led by Cpt. Tobin, were to cover us when we got to the lines. As we sat waiting for 1st flight to board their machines, I saw the darndest thing...Cpt. Larner, quite deliberately, lit three cigarettes off of the same match, passing two to Furlow and Cauffman and smoking the third himself. Everybody knew it was bad luck to light 3 cigarettes off of the same match...and as if that wasn't bad enough, his SPAD bore the number 13l! He caught my eye as he took a drag of his cigarette and winked at me, a fox-like smirk appearing on his face. From my left Monk shouted from his cockpit "He does it purely for the devilment - Larner's just crazy like that!" I looked over at him, then back at Larner, who was now climbing into his cockpit. I have to say, this squadron's certainly full of unique characters.
We took off by about 10 past 7 and headed out along the same route we'd taken yesterday. I formed up on Dolan's wing. We climbed in circles over the top of a French balloon, and I watched the observer lazily regarding us, leaning on the side of his basket. I guess he never really saw much going on this far back. On the side of the balloon, the words "Je Vois Tout" were painted in large red letters, circling over the top of the French roundel. I wonder what that meant. I diverted my gaze to my wingmen, and saw Hunter sitting on the end of the formation. With a pang I thought back to Cas sitting in the same spot yesterday. I tried to push the thought out, rationalising that a good soldier shouldn't be so affected by the death of a comrade. It didn't work. I then thought about how Cas would have probably teased me for being such a sap. What's with the mopey face, Kiddo? Toughen up, will ya?. That only made it worse.
I was snapped out my haze as we flew into a cloud. I hadn't yet flown through one, and I admit I felt slightly panicked as my vision was instantly torn away from me. However, my training kicked in and I glued my eyes to my instrument panel, and soon enough I was out the other side. Amazingly, I had kept my position in the formation. Dolan, who was looking back to make sure I wouldn't fall behind, briefly gave me a thumbs-up before facing forwards again.
Having reached our altitude, we turned West and bid farewell to "Je Vois Tout". We cruised in-and-out of another cloud formation, and before long I was fairly comfortable with going through them, which is just as well because the weather only seemed to get worse the further West we went. I caught a glimpse of 1st flight through the clouds, and watched them for a moment. Why are they flying so strangely?. I looked ahead of them, and suddenly realised they were chasing a pair of Bosche two-seaters! The rest of my flight saw the Germans at the same time as me, and our formation turned to give chase. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw one machine go up in a brilliant ball of flames. I leaned out of the side of my canopy to get a better look. The plane twisted in the air, showing its upper surfaces to me. "NO!" I cried, as I spotted the 'S' on the wings. It was Cpt. Soubiran! I watched as his SPAD fell towards oblivion before setting my sights back on the Germans.
Tears of rage welled behind my flying goggles as I came head-on at one of the German machines. I pressed down on the trigger hard, and my Vickers roared out in hatred. The German machine looped away with a trail of smoke behind it, and I tore my SPAD around to follow. In the blink of an eye I was behind the Biplace machine again, and I begun pouring lead into him. His lower left wing tore off, and then his right. Bloodlust surged through me as I continued to fire bullet after bullet into the crippled German machine as it wallowed into a steep dive. Clearly the squadron shared my sentiment as four of us shot the hell out of the Bosche all the way to the ground, fully exacting our revenge for our fallen comrade. I put another savage burst of white-hot tracers into the German, and his nose dipped straight for the earth. I watched as the German fell. That's for Cas. And for Soubiran! I shouted in my head.
In surprise I noticed that one other SPAD continued to chase the falling German, and I watched in shock as they screamed towards the ground together. "Pull up, you idiot!" I screamed in helpess desperation as they got sickeningly low to the earth. The other SPAD pilot realised his mistake, and I saw the wings of his machine warp as he pulled the stick back full-force. The damned idiot barely managed to stop himself from crashing straight into the ground! The German machine had fallen in between a chevron-shaped group of trees, right in the corner where they met. I watched the plume of smoke slowly rise into the air, before being blown North, as if whatever remained of the German was still trying to fly home. I found the sight unnervingly enjoyable.
We arrived back, two machines short. Pyne was nowhere to be seen...hopefully he'd just got lost, or landed with engine trouble somewhere. In silence we de-planed and headed towards the mess hall. In there we barely uttered a word. Across the table from me Larner poured himself a shot of whiskey, downed it in one, and poured another. "God damn you, Rob..." he muttered, and knocked back the next shot. No wonder Larner was so torn up - he and Soubiran were thick as thieves. After 15 minutes the telephone in Soubiran's office begun to ring. We all winced at the absence of our C.O's voice. No utterance of his usual blunt "Soubiran here". Eventually, Cauffman couldn't take it, and rushed in to answer the phone. "Yes? Uh-huh. Ah, you're okay? Good. What...hold on, what?!" We all peered over in curiosity, and were shocked to see a huge grin on Cauffman's face. "No, I'll send a car right now!". He hung up, and came sprinting into the middle of the mess hall. "That was Pyne. He landed with a dead engine. He's with Soubiran!". Our jaws dropped. "But...but I saw him go down in flames!" I stammered, and Cauffman's grin widened. "The sly devil managed to put the flames out in the dive and land his crate! His arms are a bit burned up, but he's okay!". A few stunned seconds passed, and we burst out into raucous cheers.
Soubiran and Pyne were back with us by 1 PM. To my surprise, our C.O seemed completely unaffected by his ordeal, despite the fact that it was a miracle he was alive. He called me into his office at around 2 PM to talk about my victory claim over the German machine, a 'Rumpler', according to Larner. It appeared that three or four of us had all claimed to have shot it down, and so Soubiran wanted everybody's account of the victory before awarding confirmation. I couldn't help but notice the bandages wrapping his hands as he penned down the details of my account. By the end of the day, he still hadn't reached a verdict.
In the evening I asked Soubiran what "Je Vois Tout" meant. He chuckled. "Oh so you've seen that balloon then? It means 'I See Everything'. They've written it on the side ironically, being placed so far back from the lines and all..." I smiled slightly. At least the war had some underlying humor here and there.
No flying, everyone just waiting around for the word to ferry the planes. Mostly played cards, wrote letters, napped.
Meissner (1) had the Sal. from 1st Aero (2)come over to take me up. Stuffed my ears as full of wax as I could get them. The pilot put the plane through its paces to see I’d get sick, both of us had a great time. Even though I’m obviously fine now, Meissner still wants me to give it a few more days before I fly.
Very uncomfortable couple of nights. Everything went with the trucks, even our cots. Finding out how the other half lives. I’m sure the boys in the trenches would love to hear us whining about having to rough it a little.
Posted 12 letters. Caught up for once.
(1) 1st Lt. James A. Meissner, presently commander of the 147th Aero Squadron, previously of the 94th Aero Squadron, 8 aerial victories, 4 of which were during his service with the 147th Aero.
(2) Salmson 2A2 Observation Plane. 1st Aero was an American Squadron equipped with these aircraft and were frequently escorted by the 1st Pursuit Group's Squadrons.
The boys flew out of Saints in 3 groups, spaced out to conceal their movement as much as possible.The last group left at 14:30.
I've been left behind with the Adjutant and a small detail to make sure the camp is properly policed.
Everything seems quiet and lonely after the trucks with the last of the mechanics pulled out. The stray dogs that didn’t get taken along are wondering around wondering where their meal ticket has gone, they’re out of luck I’m afraid. We’ll leave as soon as its dark.
Wow, all these Yanks at the front! Some great reading. Witt, best of luck with Dunn, and I hope he gets that paintbrush soon. Wulfe, Drummond seems to be doing very well. That shot of the Spad diving on the two-seater is a crackerjack. Jerbear, hope to see Johnny in the thick of things after a few quiet days. And Carrick, congrats on the fourth kill for Limoges.
Holger Barfuss is doing well and looking forward to getting a triplane one day soon.
Part 4 Vzfw Holger Barfuss, Jasta 7
With three recognized kills, Holger Barfuss felt he was accepted within the Staffel. The officers followed the lead of the Stafffuehrer, Josef Jacobs, who showed a fondness for the cheeky Heidelberger. Along with Josef Bohne, who went by the nickname “Jupp,” Barfuss was often the butt of Jacob’s affectionate teasing.
The NCOs had a comfortable mess in a large house near the Château de Béthune, the site of the officers’ Kasino. But in practice, Leutnant Jacobs often declared “all pilots’” nights and the NCO pilots joined their higher-ranked comrades for the evening.
His talent for scrounging didn’t hurt either. Since he’d found a source of fresh pork and milk, he’d branched out, volunteering his time to ensure the mess was well provisioned. His latest coup was a large box of oysters and a case of champagne, which led to a memorable evening. No fewer than three local farmers now supplied the Jasta with sausage, cheeses, and chickens. Further, Barfuss had contracted with one of the farmer’s wives to head the kitchen for the officers. Some bruised egos among the corporal cooks were involved, but the effect of a woman at the helm was immediate. The crystal sparkled, the linen was clean, and the meats were perfectly prepared and accompanied by delicious soups and sauces. While the same sharpness did not prevail in the NCOs’ mess, it was noticed that on the evenings the officers enjoyed Schweinleber mit Spaetzl at table, the NCOs were quietly scoffing pork tenderloin.
In the air, all was not so joyful. The English were putting up more and more aircraft, many of which flew at altitudes his Albatros could not reach. Barfuss overheard conversations in which some of the pilots, even the more successful ones, candidly thought that the war had finally turned against Germany, and questioned if the situation could be recovered. There was a stalemate on the Arras front, and the speculations was that attention would now turn to the French. Perhaps, just perhaps. .. On 4 May, after an “all pilots’” celebration of Barfuss’s third victory, Ltn Uhle led a strong patrol to escort a Rumpler assigned to spot artillery near Armentieres. They patrolled for more than an hour at more than 4000 metres, freezing on a damp and cool morning. Finally, the double-seater signalled a return home and the Staffel took station above and behind the Rumpler. Approaching the Lys, which flowed northward here on the friendly side of the lines, a formation of Camels took a stab at downing their ward. Barfuss selected one of the little brown scouts, but soon found himself at the mercy of a very talented pilot in a superior machine. Time and again, the Englishman peppered the black Albatros. Barfuss threw his machine into a spiral, praying it would hold together. The Camel spiralled behind him, emerging only 100 metres above and behind, still firing. Barfuss threw his machine one way and then the other, but the Camel was determined. At length, Barfuss saw the field at Ste-Marguerite a few kilometres off and made a zigzag course for the protection of its machine gun positions. The Englishman fired a parting burst which rattled through the upper wing of the Albatros and then, with a wave, turned westward. Barfuss hedge-hopped home and landed at Marckebeeke in a cold sweat. That day Ltn Uhle did not return.
5 May dawned sunny. Headquarters phoned a few minutes before nine with orders to take off at once for the line of friendly captive balloons near Lille. A British formation was reported in the area. It took about fifteen minutes to reach the area. The Staffel’s formation, under the command of Leutnant Degelow, circled about for twenty to thirty minutes, seeing nothing. As fuel ran low (for the machines were only partly fueled), Degelow signalled a return to base. Shortly after, however, Barfuss noticed a large group approaching from the east. It looked odd and he tried to catch the attention of the others, but the Fokkers pilots did not notice. His was the only Albatros. Barfuss climbed and soon made out the shape of the speedy De Havilland two-seat machines.
It took too long to reach them and the English saw the lone Albatros approaching. There were at least eight De Havillands and they all banked and dived at him like true fighters. For several minutes, Barfuss had his hands full as first one then another English machine charged him with its front-firing gun blazing. Holes appeared all about him. At length, he caught one two-seater in a turn and hit it with a short burst. The De Havilland did a half-roll and turned under him. The poor observer, Barfuss thought – he must be thrown about! Barfuss fired again, this time from behind but from at least 250 metres’ distance. The machine turned under him once more. This pattern repeated until they were down to only 500 metres and well behind German lines. He had this Englishman all to himself. He fired a long burst just as the two-seater attempted another downward half-loop. This time the De Havilland remained inverted and dived downwards, crashing in a field seven kilometres southwest of Lille. Barfuss landed next to the crash site, determined to save the occupants of the machine – if they were lucky enough to survive – from the crowd of grey-clad infantrymen that were charging towards them. He need not have bothered. Both the pilot and observer had been fatally shot and were terribly smashed about. He cut away the roundel from the side of the fuselage as evidence of his fourth victory.
"his time the De Havilland remained inverted and dived downwards, crashing in a field seven kilometres southwest of Lille."
6 May was a busy day. Orders arrived after midnight for a move to the forward field at Ste-Marguerite. The Staffel would be the only unit of Jastagruppe 6 to move there. All vehicles and wagons save two were gone by dawn and the aircraft were in the air at 09h00. It was a short and uneventful fight. The new field needed much work, and there was nothing to replace the luxury of the officers’ château. The nearby village was badly damaged, but the NCO pilots secured a good-sized house with shutters but no windows, and set about making it home. By nightfall, they had acquired beds and some furniture, and had got the kitchen into working order. Until they were ordered otherwise, they would have their own NCO pilots’ mess.
Raine - exciting story, enjoying Barfuss's abilities as a scrounger, a good touch to the character.
2nd Lt. John B. Goode 147th Aero Squadron, USAS
Wednesday, September 4th 1918
Got to Rembercourt early this morning. Dewey had my cot all set up when I got in, hell of a guy. Pup got so excited when she saw me she peed on herself, guess she figured I’d gone West.
1st patrol, went out for familiarization and denying observation, 10 planes between St Mihiel and Watronville.
All day long, small patrols at 5,000 meters fly over the aerodrome to keep high flying Rumpler photo planes from coming over. They ran off a couple of them today. Mr. Hun is mighty nosy.
Everything’s camouflaged here at Rembercourt, no fires, we’re under continuous observation by a line of enemy balloons.
Don’t care for the landing field, tiny thing, 30 acres they say, surrounded by small hills on 3 sides. We’ll have to really be on the ball to keep from cracking up on landings.
The 147th will mess with the 94th on one side of the field, the 27th will mess with the 95th on the other end ¼ mile away. Hartney (1) wants to break up the rivalry between the French and British Squadrons.(2) Good idea and about time.
We’re in some leaky old barracks now but we’ll move into tents in the woods beyond the airdrome. The enlisted men, who are in pup tents, will get these beauties, lucky them
We’re fairly close to the lines, 12 miles from St. Mihiel, can get there in a few minutes. We can hear the guns and the small arms day and night. In the evening we stood outside, looking off towards the lines at the intermittent flashes of light, then listen for the low boom following shortly. Occasionally we see a searchlight roaming around the sky like its lost something. At intervals, parachute flares go up, giving out a brilliant flood of light before they sink slowly to the ground.
Meissner wouldn’t let me take my SPAD up, wants me to rest up some more and give it a try tomorrow.
1 Major Harold Evans Hartney; born in Canada; enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914; shipped out with the 28th Bn. CEF, May 1915; transferred to the RFC 21 Oct 1915; flew and FE2d with 20 Squadron, scoring 5 aerial victories; shot down in late 1916, sources differ as to who brought him down, some sources cite Paul Strahle of Jasta 18, while others indicated he fell victim to Manfred von Richthofen; became a US citizen in Oct. 1917 while recuperating and joined the US Air Service; commanded the 27th Aero Squadron; took command of the 1st Pursuit Group, 21 Aug. 1918.
2 French and British Squadrons - the 94th and 95th Aero referred to the other two squadrons of the 1st Pursuit Group, who trained in Canada, as the British Squadrons as well as Canuks and the Canadian Flying Circus. The 27th and 147th referred to the 94th and 95th Aero, who had been trained mostly in France, by French instructors, as the French Squadrons.
The Hun is on the run. There is no doubt about that, although our boys are still paying dearly for each meter they advance. We are tasked to support them any way we can and therefore spend moat of our time dropping bombs and straffing Hun infrastructure and troops.
This is a costly endevour in both men and machines. My own observer was killed this week by groundfire and I was lightly wounded. I spent three days stuck behind the desk unable to fly.
I get up with the lads as often as possible which is grand. They are a good lot and overall keep me from pulling my hair out. It is strange to be the "old man" of the group when I am scarcely older than most of them.
With the push forward we are falling further and further behind the front. It means long hours en route to each missiob, but the Hum rarely strays in our direction and most of the flight is relatively stress free.
I suspect this will be over before too long. The Kaiser has to see reason. There is no way his people will last another winter with the blockade in effect. What would they call the winter that happens after the "Turnip Winter?" I hope none of us has to find out.
The Story of Benjamin A. Drummond Part 4: Official Bosche-Killer
3rd September, 1918. I woke up early, fresh from another batch of encounters with Casper. After going about my typical morning routine I walked blearily into the mess. I met with Larner there, who was sitting by himself looking thoroughly fed-up. "Morning, Drummond". He said in a monotone voice. I looked over him with a raised eyebrow. "What's eatin' you, DeFreest?" I asked, and he shrugged. "No flights today. Nothing to do but sit around". "Stuff that!" a voice called out from the entrance, and we both looked round. It was Monk, with the usual grin on his face. "Toul is an hour's drive away! We should head into town, talk to some Madmoiselles".
And so, that's what we did! Conscripting an unfortunately-placed Corporal as our driver, Larner, Monk, Irving (who we'd caught on the way out) and I piled into a car and away we went. Our first stop in town was a beautiful little Coffee house. I went in and asked for a cup. The owner reeled back when I spoke, and eyed me with an offended stare. "L'Anglais?!" He demanded. "Uhh..." I started, but luckily Irving was there to save my skin. "Non, Monsieur. L'Americane". The owner immediately broke into an ear-splitting smile, and held his arms outstreched as if he was going to embrace us! "Ah! L'Americanes! Asseyez-vous s'il vous plait!". And that, apparently, was that!
We had a seat near the window, and I busied myself staring at the intricate oil paintings that hung off the wood-beamed walls. One in particular, a beautiful painting of an old Nieuport 11, captivated me. Behind the Nieuport, one of the old Fokker Eindeckers was depicted, burning. It was strangely haunting, seeing the German frozen in his demise within the confines of the decorative oak frame. I was distracted from my thoughts by Monk, calling over to me; "Hey, Frisk! I think this one likes you!". I looked over to see him sitting in between two young, attractive French girls who sat giggling and fanning themselves down. I laughed him away and finished my Coffee.
At around 3 PM we had failed to find much else of interest, and Larner suggested we head over to visit the Doughboys to the North. We hastily refused. That's Larner for ya - he can't help but tempt fate at every turn! As we had run out of ideas, we all piled back into the car and headed back for Valcouleurs. On the road back we saw some of the boys from the 213th who were just heading into town.
We reached the aerodrome in time to see an all-too-familliar truck parked to the side of the aerodrome. "Ooh, new eggs!" Monk exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. A single pilot clumsily dropped out of the truck, before proceeding to aimlessly wander around the airfield. We pulled up next to him. I got a kick out of it when he immediately stood to attention before us. "2nd. Lieutenant Jeremy Wilson, reporting!" He hollered, and we all snickered among ourselves. "What unit you supposed to be with?" Irving asked. "103rd USAS" replied Wilson. It dawned on me then - this must be Cas' replacement. The familiar sadness flickered, but was dispelled when - after Larner had pointed out Soubiran's office to the newcomer - he marched off in perfect military fashion only to go tumbling head-first after catching his boots on a stray ammo crate. Despite our attempts to contain ourselves, we all howled with laughter.
As we later learned, Wilson (from Concord, CA) was no egg after all. In fact, he'd scored 2 victories with the Lafayette Corps in late 1917 - one of which was an Albatros scout. It turns out my hunch about him replacing Cas was spot on - he had been assigned as my new wingman. I couldn't help but think that our assignments should probably be the other way around.
That evening I was called into Soubiran's office. "Ah, Drummond. Good news for you". Good news for me? "I've looked over the reports. That Rumpler's yours. Congratulations, Drummond...you're officially a Bosche-Killer". Dumbstruck, I shook Soubiran's hand before hazily wandering outside. Eventually my stupor wore off, and I shocked half the aerodrome by whooping aloud and throwing my fist high into the air. My first confirmed victory!
Part 5: Nothing New in the West.
4th September 1918.
2nd Flight had the mid-day patrol today. Six of us, led by Larner, took off and followed the usual climbing route. I noticed my pal "Je Vois Tout" indifferently watching us sail past again today, and decided to give him a wave. In his wicker basket, he nonchalantly held a palm up in response.
We turned towards St. Mihel. As we crossed over our trenchlines, I couldn't help but notice the sheer amount of Doughboys, horses and vehicles, artillery pieces and tanks that had amassed in the area. In addition, there seemed to be a large amount of French soldiers, in their questionably visible blue uniforms, moving around below us. Looks like something big was coming up. I looked back up, and was pleasantly surprised to see that 1st. Flight had merged into our formation! It was a glorious sight, all 12 of us all flying in one huge swarm. I desperately hoped that we'd run into some Germans. Alas, our patrol was dead as they come, and so we flew home without seeing a single bit of action. Sorry - no pics this time around!