That's a mean-looking Fokker Herr Stachel has himself
The Story of Benjamin A. Drummond
Part 10: Fokkers.
September 9th, 1918.
"Come on - tell me!" Monk urged, a wide grin on his face. I shook my head again, exhausted from his onslaught. "How the hell did you make it back, Frisk? You gotta tell me!". I sighed. In my head I played it on repeat; the moment Wilson had leapt out of the shell-hole and called out to the Doughboys in the forward trench. He had barely managed a "Hello" before every gun on the line shot him all to hell. "Monk, I don't want to talk about it, okay?" I said, for the third time.
After I had parted ways with Ross and his observer I called Soubiran's office from the front. Just like him, he showed no surprise at hearing my voice, and sent a car over to get me. I had scarcely entered the mess when I was bombarded by cheers, questions, pats on the back, all of which failed to register with me. Eventually Larner dispersed the crowds of astounded pilots. "Can't you see he's shaken up?" He bellowed in frustration. Huh. Shaken up - yeah, tell me about it...
I was grounded on the 8th, despite a feeble attempt to protest on my behalf. Soubiran was adamant that I should stay down, and his will quickly decimated my own. I spent the day in something of a haze, watching SPADs take-off and return for most of the afternoon. As early evening rolled around I diverted my attention to a great storm in the distance. It looked as if it was coming this way.
Today I was awakened by the sound of our barracks door thundering against the outer wall - it had been torn open by the ferocious storm that had worked its way over to us in the night, and now swung free. It seemed to be enjoying its freedom, and caused enough commotion to have the whole of the 103rd out of bed by 6 AM. Cursing the damned hunk of wood, we congregated in the mess to go through our usual routine of eating breakfast before indulging in our various comforts - reading, writing, games of cards and the like. I noticed a few new faces in amongst the usual crowd. New recruits, or pilots I'd just failed to notice before?
Breakfast today tasted incredible. It was the usual meal, ham and eggs bartered off the local farmers, but something seemed different about it. In hindsight, perhaps something was different about me. By any means, the morning had come and went in the time it took me to blink and before I had gained my senses I was in my machine, about to embark on an escort mission. A D.H.4 from the 50th was heading far into Bosche lines to drop some presents on an airfield.
We were soaked before we had even left the ground, and a cold and miserable 2nd. Flight headed to meet up with the DeHav. After forming up above our Biplace friend, we scooted over into Bosche territory and, amazingly, got all the way to our target unmolested. At one point a lone Fokker appeared from behind a cloud but, seeing 7 SPADs bearing down upon him, he decided he wished to live a little longer and promptly circled straight back into his cloud. I was pretty amused by the sight of it - it reminded me of a gopher popping in and out of its hole.
On the way back we flew through a cloud, and by the time I was through the other side my formation had just...vanished. Beginning to feel nervous, I turned for home. Just then, a lone Fokker appeared below me, clearly in a similar predicament. I cocked my Vickers and dove upon him, getting a good burst into the unsuspecting Bosche. He must have been new as they come, for he barely tried to evade me as he flew - instead, he just carried on straight, hoping I would leave him alone. I continued to pepper him before spotting a second Fokker diving in from my right side. I dodged the attack and soon was behind him as well - I think he lost sight of me after attacking. He got a good burst as well, and I think he must have been wounded, for he fell into a spin momentarily before, like his Kamarade, flying straight and allowing me to shoot him up as much as I liked.
I'm quite embarrassed to admit it, but I ran out of bullets before the Fokker went down. I flew right up to him to inspect his machine, and it seemed that every inch of his plane was holed-up. However, he flew on.
Cursing myself for failing to down either 'sitter', I turned again for home, giving it full throttle. As I was crossing the lines, I was alarmed to spot four Fokkers that had been chasing me for god knows how long! Fortunately, our A.A soon saw them off. I was grateful when I finally got home.
Whoops, getting a bit reckless! I put poor Frisky through the ringer...again...
Sgt. Albert Mayes MC No. 42 Stationary Hospital, 5 Victories.
10th September, 1918:
Ugh. Back in this place again. Seeing as my wounded shoulder was only 'minor' (compared to the horrific injuries suffered by our boys in the trenches, that is) I 've been rather crudely ferried back to good old No. 42. in the back of an ambulance. I'm keen to get back up in the air, but the nurses insist I need to rest my arm. At least the company is interesting again - no German pilots this time, but the chap in the bed next to me is an old dog from the RFC days - Cpt. Edgar Hurst, his name is. Hurst has been regaling me with various outrageous stories of his war so far. The old boy has been in it since 1915!
Hurst is a bear of a man, covered in various nicks and scars collected here and there, but his eyes shine with a kindness I've seldom seen in the nurses here, never mind the fighting men! He's been stomach-shot this time, but he is in perfectly high spirits about the whole thing. This afternoon he told me another story - this one has to be my favourite to date! As he tells it, he had just earned himself a well-deserved rest period of one month after being downed back in the third day of 'Bloody' April 1917. He decided to visit his family in Liverpool for the first two weeks, and spend the second two partaking in the decadence of London.
He stayed at a place named the 'Cavendish Hotel' (I know it well, being a Londoner. Unfortunately, it is not for the likes of a commoner such as myself!), a grand old victorian building and home to the many elite socialites of London town. The place was run by the notorious Matron, Rosa Lewis, known to some as the 'Grand old Lady'. Naturally, Hurst ran his pockets dry long before he stayed for the intended two weeks, but during one night he had been invited to a soirée hosted by Mrs. Lewis herself, in her own sitting room no less! Many of the guests that night were famed pilots and other officers of note. He partook in the merriment of the evening (which, according to Hurst, became quite rowdy indeed!) after bolstering his courage with several flutes of Champagne. As he traversed the sitting room, the piano complimenting his increasingly drunken state, he saw a most peculiar sight indeed!
I howled with laughter as he told me about one RNAS Aviator he had encountered, who was single-handedly setting about the task of exhausting the room's supply of caviar! Hurst briefly spoke to the "Caviar Fiend", as he amusingly referred to him as, who by this point had filled himself to near bursting point. Having something of the devil about him (how deceptive those kind eyes are!), Hurst took it upon himself to inform Lady Lewis of the poor pilot's weakness for Caviar. To his evil delight, the Matron had yet another dish, with champagne, sent to the poor chap's room! The fellow must have taken one look at the dish and immediately fallen ill!
Ah, I have enjoyed Hurst's stories very much. They make the war seem much more like a silly parade of lads mucking around, rather than the hell it is. Tomorrow I may repay Hurst's story of the "Caviar Fiend" with the tale of Chris Rast's cigarette.
For now, though, I shall indulge myself in some of the rest the nurses say I so desperately need.
Just a sly nod to one of Raine's expertly crafted stories!
Adjutant, Darcel Limoges Esc 95 Spads Raray AF Marne, France 4 Victorys.
Sep 11, 1918.
Dawn Patrol in the rain. What a mess. Lost the flight going through clouds and the muck. The Haze in the rain was so bad I never found them so had to guess . No luck . Finally found an AF and landed ( Toul AF ).
Having finished beta testing WOTR and issuing a few mods for it, I have decided to catch up on all the good stories that have been going around. I hope to get Godfrey back in the air and issue a few stories of my own soon.
Case: Cooler Master Storm Trooper Pwr Sup: OCZ, GameXStream,1000-Watt MB: Asus Maximus VI Extreme Mem: Corsair Vengeance (2x 8GB), PC3-12800, DDR3-1600MHz, Unbuffered CPU: Intel i7-4770K, OC to 4.427Ghz CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Seidon 240M Liquid CPU Cooler Vid Card: ASUS GTX 980Ti STRIX 6GB OS and Games on separate: Samsung 840 Series 250GB SSD Monitor: Primary ASUS PG27AQ 4k; Secondary Samsung SyncMaster BX2450L Periphs: MS Sidewinder FFB2 Pro, TrackIR 4
There's a Bosche Kite Balloon over near Verdun that had been making a nuisance of itself recently and, of course, it fell to 2nd flight to go shoot the gasbag down. Larner led the patrol, much to his disdain - he wants absolutely nothing to do with balloons. Dolan, Pyne and Cauffman formed the rest of our flight. As I have no wingman at the moment, Soubiran himself decided to, as he put it "Keep a watchful eye" on me. He wasn't impressed in the least at my solo stunt yesterday;
"You hop the lines, by some miracle, and the first thing you do when I let you back in the air is to charge around on the German side chasing Fokkers, and alone, no less! Shall I just torch your machine myself, and save the trouble of re-fuelling and re-arming it, Drummond?"
"I'm very sorry, Sir. I had got separated, and-"
"You get separated, you fly home. Don't pretend we haven't told you that".
"Damn it, Drummond! You know how many fool pilots I've lost?! Don't get it into your head that you're some kind of hero, or I'll have you out of this squadron quicker than you can snap your fingers! Clear?"
"Yes, sir. It won't happen again."
Yeah, the boss wasn't pleased in the least, and so up he came to babysit me. How embarrasing.
The damned rain had carried on through the night, and it was still coming down strong as we took off at first light and climbed up over the top of our old pal, "Je Vois Tout". Miserable and half-drowned, I watched my upper planes slice the raindrops in two as we flew along the lines between St. Mihiel and Verdun. At one point I caught Soubiran's gaze, and he held his two fingers up to his eyes. Watch for the Bosche!. I acknowledged, and begun scanning vast swathes of grey, wet, and totally empty sky. I lazily watched as a lone scout appeared from within the clouds above us. Staring, I could see that it was a Fokker. No, Two Fokkers. Three, no, Five. Seven? Oh, god. Here we go.
Jasta 65 Arrives...
Larner had seen them almost at the same time I had, and swung our formation around to face them. They accepted our invitation, and I watched in anticipation as they all put their machines into steep dives. I picked my target out and got the scare of my life when a different Bosche dove straight down at me, his Black-Fuselage'd Fokker screaming past within inches of my tail - he must have pulled up hard underneath me, as in the same second he nearly caught my nose on his way back up!
I had scarcely regained my composure when bullets started impacting my machine. Somehow that damned hun was behind me already, peppering the hell out of my machine! I tried to spin away but the German was having none of it. Gritting my teeth I weaved, climbed, circled, and did everything else in my power to get the tenacious German off my back. Behind him I could see Soubiran and another one of ours trying to get him off me, but having little success. After what seemed like hours, one of my wingmen finally got a strike and the German turned off. Now out of harm's way, I allowed my fear to convert itself into fury, and turned back to dive after my pursuer. I got one good burst into him right away, at which point he went into a steep nose-dive. Not happening, pal. I followed him in the dive, looking for vengeance. He pulled up sharply about 200 meters from the deck, but I was ready for him. He seemed surprised as a second volley of bullets went through his machine, and tried to turn. However, this just gave me a bigger target and one carefully-aimed burst later I had his wing off! I watched as he twirled down hellwards and a triumphant laugh escaped me. Caufmann appeared on my left wing with a wide grin on his face and gave me a thumbs-up.
We circled back, and not a moment too soon for out in front of us one of our boys had got himself caught alone with a second Fokker! We turned to aid our comrade - to my amazement, it was Soubiran, and the German was all over him! I intervened, firing a burst at the Bosche to deter him, and as he turned I saw in bold white the inscription "U.10" on his wings. I don't know what made me remember that detail, but remember it I do.
Needless to say, "U.10" had no problem getting out of the way of my gunfire. however, he failed to spot Percy Pyne, one of the eggs that had arrived during my stay with the Germans, dive in from above with both his Vickers going beautifully, and before the German knew what was coming his Fokker burst into a great ball of fire. Luckily for him he didn't have too far to fall. Good for you, Pyne! I thought to myself as I watched the twisted wreck of "U.10" land in a flooded shell hole, kicking up a wonderful shower of sparks and hissing clouds of steam.
The Death of Freiherr von Beaulieu-Marconnay.
Both Pyne and I had the simultaneous idea to head back - the fun was just about over and we only had each other for company. I tried to ignore it, but I was worried by Soubiran's absence. Surely no Bosche was alive that could knock the boss down that easy. He must have turned back already. On our way back we saw a couple of our boys putting in at the twin airfields of Lemmes and Vadelaincourt and so I led Pyne in to join our colleagues. As it turned out our friends were Caufmann and, to my relief, Soubiran. As I de-planed, Caufmann ran up to us with the widest grin I've ever seen on his face. "Here they are, our two killers!" I flashed him a sharp-toothed grin of my own. "See his wing come off - it nearly took me with it! But how about Pyne's flamer?!". We excitedly chattered about the fight before Soubiran appeared beside us in his typical looming way. "Drummond". Tensely I turned to face the boss, expecting to be chewed-out again for getting my SPAD shot up. "That's the stuff. Keep it up".
Six words were all I got off Soubiran for my morning's work. I felt immensely proud. My victory was confirmed, as was Pyne's, later in the day.
One more victory and I'll have equalled Casper's score.
Heavy rain all night and today, everything damp. Read, wrote letters, played cards. Went to get Pup and let her splash around in the mud awhile, looked like a drowned rat.
Lots of singing tonight, much drinking.
Wednesday, September 11th 1918
Dud for flying, still raining constantly. Dewey and I took the Indian with a buddy seat over to Bar-le-Duc this morning. Bought a few things for the mess, cheese, butter etc. Dewey got some more liquor for the mess.
The liquor is sold by the drink. Each member of the Bar Association pays 75 francs. This entitles him to drink at the bar. I don’t drink that much but I pay the 75, I’m not short on money and it keeps everybody friendly when you join in and pay up.
Got a little wet but we’ll live. Saw 2 big batteries of 155mm Trench Howitzers and a US Engineer train.
General Orders from HQ say that every effort must be made to cut out drinking in the Air Service. We’re specifically noticed as boozers. How unjust, and how true of many of us. Maybe General HQ should go up in one of these crates to get shot at and see how welcome a drink can be to calm the nerves and settle a stomach cramped by Castor Oil.
Not many of us sober tonight, several falling down drunk. Hope they don’t live to regret it, latrine news says the Big Show starts at 5 am tomorrow. General HQ won’t be too happy if half the Group have their heads too far under liquor to fly.
One of those "RL" moments that cost Richthofen his life. Jasta 16b ordered to babysit a balloon. As they arrive at 1400m, a group of Bregets are over head. Sure enough two of em fall out and dive on us. A wild melee starts with 4 D7's on the tail of one Franzmann. Too much traffic and a collision will probably happen, so I move off to the side to watch. No signs of the 2'nd enemy any where, so I'm sitting back and waiting for the others to collide with each other.
And then "WACK"...blood all over the place and the prop blast of a Breget as it flys past my screen. Feeling so sucure, I'd forgotten that the other Franzmann changed his mind and came back to help his doomed friend. I eventualy got him but Stachel is out till the 28th.....but still alive.
Sgt. Albert Mayes. No. 42 Stationary Hospital. 5 Victories.
12th September 1918:
Big news today...
It had just gone 10 AM and, feeling quite stiff and irritable, I decided to climb out of bed and go join the “Boiler Gang”. Before I get to the news of today, I shall have to explain who these fellows are.
Unlike my last stint at No. 42, my bed is on the third, and top, floor of the hospital. On the attic floor the grand old building’s roof slopes to a point, supported by thick oak crossbars that hang just about average head height (I soon discovered this means that any man past a certain height spends a lot of time crouching as he walks, leading to plenty complaints of sore backs to the nurses!). Despite the charming decor, the roof is in disrepair and so all the chill of the French September is able to get at us, should it please it to do so.
A thick pipe runs vertically through a cutout in the floorboards at about the middle point of the ward, and exits through the roof. Attached to this pipe is a boiler, fuelled by hot coals typically, that offers some warmth to the immediate area. The far corners of the ward don’t benefit at all from this, however. In fact, the room’s edges seem to constantly remain at an unnatural coldness; last night a nurse had to pour hot water on a young cavalry officer’s hand to un-freeze it from an icy bedpost.
The “Boiler Gang” are a bunch of enlisted infantry types that, day in and day out, crowd as close to the boiler as possible without burning themselves on the scolding metal. There they share stories and cigarettes, and take it in turns to sneak mouthfuls of whisky while the others keep an eye out for the nurses.
Today was particularly wet and stormy, so I decided to introduce myself to the Gang with the hopeful return of a share in the heat. I tried to coax Hurdt over as well, but he simply smiled and explained “I’m far too tired to bother, lad. Besides, I can always nick the sheet off the bed next to me if it gets too cold”.
I had just sauntered over and opened my mouth to speak when a Lieutenant tore into the ward, riding some poorly-maintained wooden crutches, and twice yelled out “The yanks are advancing on St. Mihiel!” before rocketing back out the way he came.
The men all fervently murmured among themselves. Was this the start of a push that could end the war? Was it the next senseless mass slaughter? Every man had his own answer.
All I knew was that the offensive was far away from our hunting grounds. I doubt we’ll see much change in the Huns on our side of things. If anything, and my fingers are crossed for this, there will be less of them in the sky.
I wonder if things are ‘hotting up’ for our American friends in the Verdun region?
Opening day of the Big Push, started just as predicted, 5 am. Americans advanced on both sides of the salient 1,000 meters with no resistance at all. 8,000 prisoners, Thiaucourt, Montsec and St. Mihiel , the strongest positions in the sector, all in our hands. At one place a whole Austrian Regiment surrendered, 2,200 men, gave up without a shot. Horrible weather but we had to fly anyway. Rain, low overhanging clouds sometimes down as low as 300 meters, gusty wind all day.
No one seemed to dissipated to fly, despite the night bombing.(1)
Snake, Alk and Muther went up first, couldn’t go above 1,000 meters but valuable info on operations seen from low altitude.
Dewey and I went up with Alk a little later. Couldn’t fly above 500 meters, very dangerous, worried the whole time my engine would conk at this low altitude. This thing doesn’t glide like a Nieuport, drops like a rock.
Towns and woods all burning, terrific shelling all along the line. Roads all clogged with damaged wagons and trucks, roads themselves almost obliterated by the shells. Lots of aircraft sighted, none identified as Hostiles. Fired at anything that looked Hunnish.
Hartney’s boyfriend, Luke from the 27th roasted a sausage today. They say he was acting pretty crazy, made 3 passes at the thing before it blew. His SPAD was too badly damaged to fly back so it was written off, he came back on a motorcycle.
Joined a voluntary trench strafing party with the 94th about 17:00. Visibility cleared a little and we were able to fly at 1,500 meters. We attacked machine gun nests, artillery positions, anything we could find. A number of hits on my SPAD. My engine conked and I had to make an emergency landing just behind our lines, among the craters. The engine caught fire as I was landing, I had to bail out of the machine as soon as it slowed down enough. Got some minor burns and scrapes but nothing to keep me out of action. Ammo went off like 4th of July, had to bury myself in the mud to keep from getting hit. Lost my nice mirror, Vickers and Nanette and Rintintin, all burned up.
Putnam of the 139th Aero was killed today. (2) That makes Rick our highest scoring man now. He told me that, rather than feeling honored, he feels like he’s been jinxed since every man who’s held the honor so far is dead.
(1) Night bombing – sleeping all day and going to clubs, chasing women, drinking, etc all night.
(2 )David E Putnam 1st LT 139th Aero died 12 Sep, 13 confirmed kills, possibly as many as 30 including unconfirmed.
Sorry, this one may be a tad on the long side - I've been trying to add a little personality to some of the characters to make my stories a little more...er...story-ish....!
The story of Benjamin A. Drummond
Part 12: Thunder. September 11th, 1918:
All sorties have been scrubbed for the better part of the day. The weather has gotten dreadful overnight and, even if we could traverse the soaked-through muddy airfield, our SPADs would get blown around the sky like so many fallen leaves if we were to even attempt going up. Shooting up Bosches is out of the question - nobody, no matter how good, could get their guns on target in this kind of storm! We'll simply have to sit indoors and wait it out.
In the morning, around maybe 5 AM, we were suddenly wakened to the cry of "Aw, Hell!". Shooting up out of bed in alarm, we turned round to see Pyne sitting up in his drenched bunk, helplessly looking around at us. The poor guy was soaked to the skin! Almost immediately we noticed the section of roof above his head that had split, letting a flood of rainwater drop mercilessly onto Pyne as he slept. We all howled with laughter, as Pyne furiously threw off his bed sheets and grabbed his uniform, storming off to change. Our sides aching, we stared up at the hole in the roof.
Throwing our flying coats over our heads, we made a mad dash for the 103rd's mess hall and got about halfway before the torrential rain beat us into submission. We all dove into the 213th's mess to escape the weather, only to see a gathering of inquisitive pilots staring at us. Of course, Monk was the first to speak. "Heyo, we got caught up in the weather - you boys mind if we dry off for a bit?". One Captain smirked, looking over our dripping-wet clothes in amusement. "Yeah, why not. Have a seat".
Having secured our salvation from the rain, some of us decided to snoop around (myself included). On the wall, above a roaring and delightfully warm fireplace, hung a large oil painting of the 213th's squadron insignia, a fearsome-looking Indian head depicted as letting out a terrifying war cry. The brush-work was exquisite - I could almost hear the Indian Warrior's call. All four of the squadrons based at Vaucouleurs wore a variation of the "Indian Head" - but only the 103rd sported the "Sioux Head" made famous by the legendary Lafayette Escadrille. On either side of the fireplace, which sat central at the back wall of the Mess, various salvaged parts of German aircraft littered the wall. The rudder of a Fokker, the wingtip of an Albatros, so on.
On the right hand side a small counter-top stretched out from the wall, and behind it we saw shelves stocked with all kinds of liquor imaginable. Ah, so that's why the 93rd's pilots would come over every night. Of course, we had a bar of our own in the 103rd's mess, but if you didn't like wine you were out of luck. A scrawny 2nd. Lieutenant sidled up to me and nodded towards the bar. "Anything for you?" he asked with a hint of an accent, and I nodded. "I havent had any good Bourbon since I left the States!" He smiled. "Bourbon it is". He expertly poured out a glass in one fluid motion and slid it across the countertop, where I caught it mid-slide. My god, it even had ice in it! Immediately raised it to my lips. Oh, I had missed the taste of good Bourbon! Drawing a long gulp out of the glass, I took a seat by one of the nearby tables. The airman picked out a bottle of champagne for himself and joined me. "Oh - where are my manners? Bastien Côté, pleased to meet you".
I looked at him inquisitively. "Bastien Côté? Sounds mighty French...how did you end up in the USAS?" I inquired. "Ah, well, my father left France for America a number of years ago. There he met my mother. Naturally, he wanted his first son to have a proper French name. When the war broke out, I tried to join the French Army, but they wouldn't have me despite my lineage". In feigned disgust he cried out "Non, vous êtes Américain!", and I snickered. "Well, eventually I was able to talk my way into the Lafayette Corps".
I grinned. "Similar to me, then! Mom had me in Scotland, but I couldn't join the RFC. Had to wait until we came over to sort this war out". Bastien broke out into a cheshire grin. "Scotland! Ah, you know, the French and the Scottish have been good friends before. I think that perhaps we shall be the same!". I raised my glass to him and took another sip. Just then I saw Monk, grumbling to himself and throwing his flying coat over his head by the door. I looked over at Larner and Cauffmann, who were both giggling like a pair of schoolboys. Caufmann caught my eye, and shouted over; "We needed someone to go get the day's orders - Monk drew the short straw!". Chuckling, I turned back as Monk wrenched the door open. Unluckily for him, the wind had changed direction and he immediately got a face-full of rain, much to the amusement of Larner and Cauffmann.
Turning back to Bastien, I resumed our chat. "Yeah, I think we'll be pals, too. I'm Frisk, by the way, Frisk Drummond". He raised an eyebrow. "A nickname, no?" he inquired, and I nodded. "Yup. I think you need one, too. How about 'Paris'?". He seemed to swell with pride. "Paris will do just fine!".
I pointed to the painting on the wall. "Who did that? It's very good...". Without looking round, Paris replied.
"Oh, no, it's my own work, but it's not much".
"Not much? It's brilliant! You're a painter then?"
"No, I'm a pilot! Before the war I dreamed of painting".
Suddenly my mind flashed to the SPAD I had received after losing ol' no.12 on the Bosche side, and an idea crept into my head. Apart from my new number, 23 (One of the new arrivals had received the number 12 after I was reported missing), it remained factory-new. "Say, do you think you could paint my crate for me?". Paris cocked his head to the side. "Oh, of course! Why, what did you have in mind?". I mulled the question over. "Ah, well, not much yet to be honest, just one small thing". Just then Monk burst through the door, rain dripping off his nose and eyebrows. He was beyond soaked, and had lost his flying coat somewhere along the way. From beside the fireplace Larner roared with laughter. "Everything's been scrubbed!" Monk irritably shouted, before throwing himself down into a nearby armchair.
"Well, let's go then!". "Now? To the hangars through all of that?" I asked, astounded. Paris shrugged. "It's only rain!". I stared at him for a moment, nodded, and knocked back the remainder of my Bourbon.
As we leaned into the storm, edging our way over the aerodrome, I head Paris shout to me over the wind "So, have you met any Bosche yet?" he yelled, and I nodded. "Got one yesterday! A Fokker!". Paris looked at me in surprise. "A Fokker? Don't get me wrong, Frisk, but I didn't see a killer in you! So, you're a wolf in disguise-" he abruptly stopped, a strange look coming over his face. Slowly, he broke out into a grin. "Aha! That's it!" he shouted. "That's what?". "You'll see - let's keep going!".
We reached the hangar my SPAD was sheltered in, and scrambled inside. I pointed out my machine to Paris, and he put a hand on my shoulder.
"Okay. I'll get to work".
"But I haven't-"
"Just be patient. I won't be long".
That evening Soubiran gathered us in the 103rd's mess. "Gents. You may have noticed the build-up of troops in the lines recently. Tomorrow, our boys are making a push with the French. A real push". We all stared at each other, excitement visibly welling within us. "If the Germans have any fight left in them, the skies are likely to get more crowded over the next few days. There's also a chance we'll be getting sent on more strafing runs. In addition, H.Q says we go up no matter what the weather is like. What I mean to say is, you boys better get your act together".
A gleam in his eye, Soubiran looked over his pilots not unlike a proud father regarding his sons.
"Get some rest, boys. Tomorrow we're going after Metz".
Part 13: Balloon-Buster
September 12th, 1918:
Monk, Ponder, Furlow and I stood alongside my SPAD on the 'ready line'. "I like the wheels," Monk said, earning him an exhausted look from Furlow. "The wheels? You dullard, Monk! No, the inscription is the good part...that blue's a bit overdone, though". Now Monk looked annoyed. "The Inscription? What does it even say...? Loop Dege...Loop Degezz...?". Suddenly Soubiran performed his magical appearing act behind us, "Loup Déguisé" he explained, and a slight smile appeared on his face. "Wolf in Disguise". The Boss turned to me. Uh oh, here it comes...
"A bold statement, Drummond. You'd better not get yourself shot down while wearing that. That would give the Bosche a good laugh...". He turned to leave, but paused and turned back. "That blue's a bit overdone. I'd re-paint it". and with that he strolled on past us, boarding his SPAD. "Ever the optimist..." Ponder muttered, lighting a cigarette which he smoked leaning against his own machine. I checked my watch. "We're supposed to be up already. Where is he?" I asked irritably. Without answering, Furlow gestured behind me to Dolan, who had emerged from the Mess tangled in his flying coat. He rushed over to us, and Ponder flicked his cigarette.
"Glad you could join us, Charlie...I hear there's a war over there. Should we go have a look?".
"Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry. Let's go".
Monk turned to us. "Alright, boys. Best of luck! Do us all a favour and knock down that balloon so we don't have to go over a third time, eh?". I climbed into my SPAD and turned to face him. "We? You coming too, Monk?". He grinned. "Nope. I'm off to write my sweetheart. Enjoy!". And with that he and Furlow sauntered back off to the Mess hall.
Led by Ponder, we took off in two pairs of two and climbed towards St. Mihiel. Dolan sat on Ponder's wing, and I stuck behind Soubiran. Our target was the balloon we'd set out to get on the 10th...although we had put on a brave face, we were all (apart from Soubiran) nervous of running into those black Fokkers again. Dolan especially - his machine had been shot up pretty bad in that last fight. Perhaps that's why he had been late - from what I've heard, it's not too uncommon for some pilots to lose their nerve and refuse to go up...maybe Dolan was getting close to that point. I hope not.
The wind was atrocious as we reached the mid-point between St. Mihiel and Verdun, far worse than was acceptable for flying. However, just as Soubiran had promised we were going up regardless of the weather. I had to imagine our big offensive down below, it was happening behind a thick sheet of cloud. At Verdun we all tensed up at the sight of three machines that had appeared high above us, but as they slowly came down we realised it was 1st flight on patrol. Larner, at the head of the three-ship, waggled his wings and came over to join us. I think that put us all at ease, slightly, having a 'top cover'.
We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Balloon came into sight - no black Fokkers today. We all dove down and had a crack, and I saw flames licking out of bullet holes as I tore past. I looked over my shoulder in time to see it go up in a brilliant flash. Hah, that's number 3!. I tailed Soubiran as we joined back up with Ponder and Dolan, and together we started to climb back up. Breaking through the bottom of a particularly black cloud, I quickly lost the other three and found myself alone. Damn! Okay, you know what Soubiran would say. Fly home - no, wait! There's 1st Flight!. Eagerly I climbed towards Larner's flight, knowing all-too-well now how dangerous flying alone could be.
Frank Luke, eat your heart out!
I had almost climbed to 1st Flight's altitude when I caught sight of five Fokkers coming my way. Cursing, I doubled my efforts, but it was no use. With baited breath I watched as their leader turned my way, quickly followed by the other four. Feeling dread creep over me, Soubiran's words sung in my head again: "You'd better not get yourself shot down while wearing that...". I checked my compass to see which way home was, and my heart sunk when the red arrow pointed straight at the Fokkers that were heading my way.
All of a sudden the four trailing Fokkers threw their machines into a hard left turn and started away! 1st. Flight must be somewhere above them, I hoped to myself. However, I still had the leader to contend with. He had gotten it in his head that I was going down to his guns no matter what. I lifted my nose to meet him - and a great gust of wind flipped me straight on to my back! In a panic I pointed the nose straight down and tried to out-dive my adversary. He stayed right on me the whole time, and so I threw my machine into a climbing spiral. Again, the Fokker followed but this time he must have lost sight of me, for he straightened out and begun gently weaving back and forth. I wouldn't get another chance...
I pressed down the trigger hard, and my Vickers burst into life. Shredded wood and fabric tore away from the Fokker's wingtip...I had him! The German tried to bank his damaged machine away, but he couldn't get clear of me. I lined up the kill-shot...and both guns jammed. I shouted aloud, letting go of the throttle and wrestling with the left gun's charging handle. The round wouldn't budge! I tried the other, and - yes! One gun was back in action. Just then tracers flashed past my head, and I broke away in alarm. While I had been wrestling with my Vickers the Hun had got back on my tail! It was a brave attempt on his part, but he couldn't stay with me owing to his crippled wing. Soon I had turned the tables, and tore the remainder of his wing off, watching as he fought to regain control all the way down. If only he had used that opening to get some distance from me he might have gotten away alive.
An unseen kill
But, he didn't. That's one more dead Hun. Shame nobody was around to see it. The moment the Fokker fell out the fight Flak opened up at me, and so I made a quick dash for home. Well, I say quick...that low in German lines it fell a hell of a lot longer. Upon landing, Soubiran strode right over to me. "Drummond. Are these bullet holes? Where the hell did you get to?". Lord, Soubiran made me more nervous than any Fokker pilot could. Nervously I cleared my throat to answer him.
"Sorry, sir. I lost you in a cloud and was jumped by a Fokker..."
He paused, staring expectantly. "....Well?"
"I got him in the end. Took his wing off".
"Did you. I take it nobody saw this?"
He stood for a moment, his thoughts working over.
"Once more, Drummond. Once more and I'm having you transferred".
"Understood. Thank you, sir..." I breathed, slumping back in my seat. Soubiran snorted, waved a dismissive hand at me, and marched back into the Mess. Shakily I de-planed, as Paris walked over. "What was all tha - are those bullet holes?! Damn it, Frisk, after I spent all that time painting your crate up!". I let out a nervous laugh. "Yeah, about that..." I muttered. Paris bristled.
"Er, well, I think the blue might be a bit overdone."
I made up 2nd. Lt. Bastien 'Paris' Côté for storytelling purposes
Darcel Limoges Sous Lt. Esc 95 Spads Ochy, AF Verdun , France 4 Victorys.
I put zee bosche in the bag this morning. It was my 1st outing from our new AF. II Flights 4 machines had Escort and got tagged by a flight of e/a's with Blue Tails. I had a few close calls as zee bosche fired at me ,but was able to outpace then chandelled into one . He turned and I was on him. My guns chatted and his upper wing gave out then the e/a fell. It crashed east of Manoncourt AF by Nancy. I landed to talk to the recon boys Sqn put in 3 claims for 1 loss.
WOLFE - WE LOVE STORY-ISH, KEEP EM COMIN' Loop Degezz! Good story.
2nd Lt. John B. Goode 147th Aero Squadron, USAS
Friday, September 13th 1918
New machine from reserve, Kellner SPAD (1) with a Clermand Walker motor, excellent combination, ready to go. Took it on a half hour hop, no problems, very satisfied with it. But it has Marlins.
Worked over my Marlins, tried them out at range still jam but keeping bursts very short helps, stuck with them, have to make the best of it.
Rain, low clouds and poor visibility, flew patrol with Ralph and Muther between Chatillon-sous-les-Cotes and St Mihiel 15:45. Couldn’t fly above 100 meters.
Could clearly distinguish the French and American troops all along the roads and in the fields. No activity on the roads behind enemy lines. Found some German trenches and attacked in turn, shooting into them, but couldn’t observe the effects of our fire. Rifle and machine gun fire from the ground wasn’t intense but rather accurate. Flew at 10 to 15 meters the whole time, expended all my ammunition except 100 rounds, I just don’t like to be out of ammo.
Some of the boys had fights with HA but no claims made.
Reportd say that Americans took 25,000 prisoners, mostly Austrians, all roads leading to the front jammed with our troops.
Ellmer caught fire while making a landing. Burned, looks pretty bad. I was lucky yesterday.
Hartney’s dummy airdrome worked. Germans bombed it last night.
(1)Kellner et ses Fils piano works outside Paris produced some of the best SPAD VIIs and XIIIs.
(2) 2nd, later 1st Lt. Ralph A. O'Neill, B Flight, 5 aerial victories. (3) 2nd Lt. Walter P. Muther, B Flight, joined the 147th Aero 24 July 1918
We got up around 4:30 AM today, having been assigned a Morning Patrol of the lines. All our pilots have been in a mood all morning...our feet are absolutely soaked through to the bone. Turns out the Corporal that was charged with repairing the hole in the Barracks roof hadn't done a very good job, and the water was up to our ankles as we readied ourselves for the patrol. I had to find my flying boots, which had floated off to one of the corners of the barracks! Ironically, it was Pyne who got to laugh at all of us today - seeing as his bunk was still directly underneath the hole, he had opted to gather his bed-sheets and sleep over in the hangars, under the wing of his SPAD. He was the only one of us that managed to get through the morning bone-dry.
In our irritated state we hadn't noticed that only four of us were actually in the barracks upon our wakening - Dolan, Furlow, Irving and myself. Assuming we had slept-in, we rushed over to the mess but found nothing save for the operations blackboard. We looked over it briefly; 1ST FLIGHT - DAWN PATROL OVER TOUL. LEAD - LARNER, 0400. 2ND FLIGHT - MORNING PATROL OVER NANCY. LEAD - DOLAN, 0530. I guess the others were already out over the front somewhere.
It was the 3rd day of what we now knew as the Mihiel-Argonne offensive. As our SPADs were moved onto the 'ready line' by the Corporals, we pretended not to notice the thick black plumes of smoke rolling lazily across the horizon. One by one we rolled, and took off into the overcast sky. For the third day now we were tossed about by ferocious winds and stabbed by needle-sharp raindrops. I tired to decide what was worse, my escape from the Bosche lines or this. Fortunately, the clouds were quite low and we were able to climb up out of the rain fairly quickly. We reached Toul, and Larner's flight came down to join us again. I guess they'd had no luck so far and had decided to head over to the front with us. Not long after, my SPAD begun to lose power at an alarming rate. Looking down in alarm, I searched for the problem - ah, what an idiot! Having lost feeling in my hands due to the cold, I'd let go of the throttle lever and accidentally pushed the Mixture lever forwards instead. I quickly reset my mixture and gunned the throttle but, to my annoyance, I had dropped a considerable distance below my flight.
Trying to climb back up was hard work. The wind pushed down on my upper planes hard, and I had to yank the stick with a considerable amount of force to keep my nose raised. It's scary, being in a sky that doesn't want you there. I prevailed in the end, and now I was met with the view of our full formation - 10 SPADs, including myself. No doubt any Bosche flight that saw us would be terrified! Just before reaching Nancy we spotted a flight of six French SPADs and flew over to say hello on our way past. The leader of their flight waggled their wings in response, and we parted ways.
Suddenly, very far in the distance, I saw 8 specks silhouetted against the clouds, patrolling over Nancy. Cautiously I waggled my wings and pointed towards them. I saw Dolan strain his eyes, turn back to me and shrug. He hadn't seen them. Again, I signalled to him: MACHINES. MULTIPLE. FAR. he shook his head again, but now I could see he was taking me seriously. I slid back into formation and we continued along our route, keeping an eye on the distant formation. It looked like they were flying the opposite direction to us, and by the time we had reached Nancy they had crossed back over to the German side. No doubt then, they were Fokkers. Dolan saw them now, but ordered no attack. Instead, we warily eyed each-other from across the lines. It almost felt like we'd formed some kind of temporary truce, a 'live and let live' type deal.
We made two long circles around Nancy, during which nothing of interest really happened. However, after about 15 minutes we caught a glimpse of the Fokkers - they'd broken our truce and crossed the lines! We eagerly turned to Dolan who, to our excitement, gave the signal. As one we turned straight at the Germans. After a few seconds they realised what was happening and their formation lazily banked in our direction. This was going to be a big one!
Our two formations merged, and everything seemed to happen in a flash, as 8 bright red Fokkers flashed past us at alarming speed. I had to duck to avoid a head-on. As I pulled up I watched as Furlow got behind one and ran straight into the back of it, diving out with a smashed prop. Three then appeared behind me, and three of ours appeared behind them. In panicked confusion I dove out of the fight, looking over my shoulder to try and make some sense of the chaos. Suddenly, a Fokker flashed in front of my guns! I opened up, watching bullets smash through his machine!
Just when I thought I had him, there was a sickening tearing sound as a stream of tracers tore through my own machine, and I went into a spin. Panicking, I fought with my controls as I fell through the clouds and back into the rain. I managed to right myself, but something was seriously wrong with my SPAD, which now listed very heavily to the right. Wrenching the stick over to the left and kicking the rudder against the list, I was able to barely keep level. Just then I saw a SPAD drop out of the clouds with a Fokker on its tail...it was Cauffman! Damn, I have to do something!.
Somehow I was able to force my SPAD to cooperate against its will, and I got behind the Fokker, still chasing a now straight-and-level Cauffman. I fired a long burst into the Fokker and it peeled away in surprise. Cauffman gratefully pointed his nose down and dove for home, as did my Fokker. I swooped down on the now-wounded Fokker and, to my amazement, the wing broke off almost instantly under my second burst! Already having chanced my luck way too much, I turned after Caufmann and ran for home.
My SPAD was becoming increasingly unresponsive, and the ferocious winds were busying themselves trying to finish me off. I had to get down, now. Ahead of me, to my complete joy, I spotted a French aerodrome! I cut the throttle, but with the loss of airflow under the wings I could no longer control my machine...praying to any god willing to listen, I closed my eyes as I approached the ground, my SPAD slipping further and further to the right. Suddenly there was a horrendous thud, followed by a tearing sound. I opened my eyes again, and discovered that I was skidding along the airfield, propped up on one wing and one wheel! I held my breath and gripped the stick so hard my knuckles must have been bone-white inside my gloves as the SPAD rolled along the ground, before finally rumbling to a stop and falling heavily back onto its wheels a fair ways past the aerodrome. Inside the machine I sat frozen to the spot, not daring to move a muscle.
After a short while I was coaxed out of my machine by a French pilot,who led me to their Squadron's Chateau. As we walked the length of the airfield, I could see a long shallow scar running its length where my wing had dug itself into the ground. The French pilot asked me a series of questions, none of which I understood. I then realised why he was asking me questions in French...although my machine was smashed up, the French inscription was still clearly visible on the side! Embarrassed, I explained that I didn't speak French, and that a friend had written the inscription for me. Luckily, the pilot spoke good English. Once I had calmed down, the Frenchmen led me to a telephone and, in a shaky voice I called Soubiran's office (thankfully he was already back) and arranged to be picked up. As I waited, a French mechanic looked over my poor old smashed up crate. After a minute's inspection he turned to me and held his hands up: "Monsieur, Elle est complètement morte!". I'm not sure what he said, but I know it can't have been good.
I passed the remainder of the time by counting the bullet holes on my machine. I found 35 in total, most of which had gone through the wings.
Upon returning to my own aerodrome, I found out from Soubiran that everybody else was O.K, thank god, but my SPAD was pretty badly smashed-up, at least 3 days work to repair. Uh-oh, how was I going to break the news to Paris that his artwork had all gone to waste? Well, turns out I didn't need to...word had gotten out to all the squadron's pilots of our intense dogfight, thanks to that blabber-mouth Monk. Paris found me later in the afternoon in the 103rd's mess. I looked up at him, shrugging. "Sorry". I said, and he grinned. "Eh, it's only a machine, easy to replace. You, on the other hand...". I chuckled nervously.
Attacked a gas bag with Meissner, Ken, Love, and Dewey between Chatillon-sous-les-cotes and 3 fingers pond, (1) We stood our SPADs on their noses, diving on the thing from 2,000 meters above. You couldn’t have done that in a Nieuport! When I recovered from the dive I almost passed out. It exploded in a great red fireball. Terrific amount of shrapnel and MG fire but not a hit on my machine. We all put in claims.
Five plane protection patrol for a Sal at 13:55, Ralph dropped out with engine problems about 10 minutes in. We received heavy Archie fire but were otherwise not interfered with. Four Fokkers passed about 500 meters overhead as we turned south again toward 3 fingers. but left us alone
Whitey got a Fokker today on a protection patrol then took down a gas bag for good measure. Hartney’s going to recommend him for a DSC.
Rick came by with his mechanics and spent a long time going over my new Kellner SPAD with Sgt. Black, rather lasciviously, I thought. Started her up and listened to her like it was music. The engine does have a very nice, dependable rhythm, no coughing or sputtering or missing a beat. Rick told me I had a real gem and threatened me if I didn’t take good care of it. “Pilots are a dime a dozen in this outfit right now, but serviceable SPADs are at a premium.” Offered to swap me for it and throw in his Vickers too boot but I knew he was only half serious. He’s done a lot of work on his crate and has it just the way he wants it now and his guns are his life, he wouldn’t give those up for anything.
He took down a Fokker this morning, 1st Hun he’s gotten since he’s been back from the hospital.
Terrific artillery preparation tonight.
Frank Luke took down 2 more Drachen. Apparently, he’s not yellow like we all assumed, he’s insane, a real Balloonatic
(1) Three Fingers Pond – the Americans called Etang-de-Lachausse’e Three Fingers Lake or Pond referring to its general shape.
Again, fabulous attention to detail...I always look forward to John B.'s exploits, I seem to learn something new with every read!
The Story of Benjamin A. Drummond
Part 15: Deathtrap
14th September 1918:
Monk and Larner were rolling - actually on the ground, rolling - with laughter as the mechanics wheeled my replacement SPAD out on to the aerodrome this morning. I could swear that the mechanics themselves were trying to mask their snickering as well. Even the stone-faced Soubiran, standing beside his SPAD on the ready-line, was biting back a smile.
The machine was all beat-up to hell, and was clearly only still sitting around for spare parts. The linen of the original wings had been completely stripped and replaced at some point, and rather than being painted in camouflage they had been lazily once-overed with some dull brown paint. The Radiator Cap and the Mixture lever were both slightly bent. Bizarelly, the rightmost machine gun was a Marlin (a particularly badly-maintained one, the cover was slightly rusted and the charging handle felt stiff as I tested it), whereas the left M.G was a Vickers - thankfully it seemed in decent condition. The machine's office wasn't faring any better either - The altimeter had a crack running through the centre of its face and the wicker seat was badly frayed. If that wasn't enough, the right-hand wheel had a visible wobble to it, giving the impression that this old beat-up SPAD was actually limping its way onto the ready-line.
"Well, Frisky," Monk started in between his laughter, "If you get a Bosche in that thing I'll buy all your drinks for a month!". With a hopeless look on my face (that sent Larner, Monk and now Caufmann into another bout of hysterics) I looked over my machine. It reminded me of that old book Cas and I had been forced to read in school, "Frankenstein; or, the Modern Promethius". How the hell was I supposed to bust a balloon in this thing? I doubt it could even get off the ground without falling apart! Even if I did, I was doubtful the Marlin would go, and you need both guns to cook a sausage. I finished my cigarette and stubbed it out in a dent on the cowling, cursing the machine under my breath before climbing in.
Our target for the morning was a German Sausage Balloon that was tethered south-west of Metz. Since the Offensive had kicked off, Balloons had become prime targets for the Aero squadrons and, from what I'd heard off of Paris, we were far from being the only Pursuit Squadron being sent up at them.
Eventually, the rest of the pilots arrived for our morning balloon-busting sortie and, after they had inspected the comical 'FrankenSPAD' sitting on the line, they readied themselves for our flight. Of course, it took the corporal at my nose six tries to swing my propellor, leading to more ridicule, but eventually we were all good to go, and up we went.
Much to our immense relief, the rain was finally off! However, the wind was terrible, but in truth we had all but gotten used to it by this point and kept our formation fairly tight until we reached the Bosche lines East of St. Mihiel. Through breaks in the cloud we could see, miles away, horrendous billowing plumes of smoke rolling across the city. It was a chilling sight. While we observed that distant hell, we were suddenly side-swiped by a gust of wind that very nearly sent Cauffman crashing into Furlow, and after that we loosened our formation up slightly. I listened to the irregular staccato of my engine as we flew. This damn SPAD.
Of course, the flak came up at us not long after, and it all seemed to be going for me! I weaved left to right, dodging thick black bursts of shrapnel. Oh, what a miserable morning I was having! We got on top of the balloon and went into one hell of a steep dive down at it. I cocked my mismatched guns (the Marlin took some effort to charge), but the balloon went up long before I got anywhere near it. I didn't see who got it. We quickly re-formed and circled back to head home, dodging the now reinvigorated flak as we did so. Suddenly Ponder started waggling his wings like crazy and pointing up to our right. We all looked, and were met with a sight that stopped all our hearts. 13 Fokkers, looming high above us. I bet they'd seen the gasbag go up and had come over to find the culprits. With baited breath we flew underneath the terrifying German formation, praying that we wouldn't be seen. To our intense relief, the Fokkers continued overhead, silently melting back into the clouds.
We didn't hang around for long after that! Fortunately our return flight was uneventful. I later found out it was Tobin that had burned the balloon.
At 1400 hours we all gathered for another balloon busting job. Somehow the damned Germans had already replaced Tobin's sausage! I had Cpl. Adam give my SPAD a once-over, and I was grateful to discover he had un-stuck the mixture lever. Caufmann was handed lead of 2nd. Flight, with Tobin taking over 1st. Flight. For the second time I hopped into my rickety old SPAD (which the guys had rather distastefully nicknamed "Deathtrap") and went up. As we crossed the lines I absent-mindedly watched a formation of SPADs escorting one of our two-seaters in the distance. Looked like they were headed over to the Bosche side as well. Go get 'em, boys.
Dodging the flak was like Deja-vu. It came up at us at exactly the same spots as it had done in the morning. This time 1st. Flight decided to stay high - presumably they were still reeling from the appearance of those Fokkers. However, 2nd Flight had direct orders to go after the balloon, and so we unwillingly dropped further down into the flak.
I peered up at 1st Flight, and with horror I saw that same group of Fokkers from this morning dropping down on us! I fired a quick burst, at which point my wingmen all snapped their heads towards me inquisitively, and I pointed straight up. Our formation instantly broke away in all directions. Fokkers seemed to be coming at us from all angles, and I soon found myself isolated with two of the brutes. Looping and rolling in my ragtag spare SPAD, I looked around desperately for my wingmen - where the hell were they? where the hell was 1st flight?!
In between two Fokkers and a hard place...
I looped round into a cloud and dove down. The wind rushing at an incredible speed, I prayed to god that this SPAD would hold together. In all honesty, I didn't expect her to pull out of the dive as smoothly as she did, and I certainly didn't expect to come out of it with all my control surfaces attached. When I was out the other side of the cloud layer, the two Fokkers had disappeared. Off to the side I spotted one Bosche chasing down a wingman who looked in a bad way. I dove on him and, of course, my Marlin jammed on the first shot. However, the Vickers went beautifully and I watched in glee as the enemy pilot slumped forwards on his stick, before his white-tailed Fokker screamed down hellwards.
"Deathtrap" dives on a Fokker
Turning back I now saw Furlow trying to hold his own against three Germans above me. I tried desperately to climb up to get to him, but I was still a ways below the fight and before I could reach him I was interrupted by yet another German. I fired a burst at him and he dove away, so I let him go and turned back, but Furlow had disappeared into the cloud along with his tormentors. I diverted my attention back to my Fokker, who had started climbing back up below me, and fell upon him. I suspect he was a rookie, my attack caught him completely off guard and, as I tore past him, I saw that his propeller had stopped spinning. Feeling particularly bloodthirsty, I chased him all the way down and shot him into the dirt over Beaumont. I knew the claim wouldn't be confirmed, but I was only concerned with knocking the damn hun out the sky.
After he had spun to his death, I turned back to search for Furlow. I had flown for five minutes and was beginning to lose hope, when suddenly out in front of me a SPAD dropped out of a cloud, spiralling downward with a lone Fokker. There he was! I gunned the engine and took "Deathtrap" to her limit, roaring into the melee. The Fokker saw me coming and darted into a cloud. Gratefully Furlow turned back towards me and we headed for home. Plenty of Bourbon in the 213th's mess tonight, held with trembling hands. Larner bought mines. Fervently we discussed the combat earlier in the day.
"Those guys nearly had us!"
"Nah, they weren't nothin'."
"Are you kidding, Caufman?! You turned for home a minute in!"
"You watch your mouth, Furlow!"
"Hey. Cool off. We're all tense."
"Yeah, I bet you're especially tense in that deathtrap of yours!"
Furlow, Irving and Caufmann all burst into laughter. Happy just to have survived another day, I joined in with them.
"Don't be too harsh on ol' Deathtrap. I got two Fokkers flying her! 'Sides, your SPAD is shot to hell, so we might be sharing her!"
Irving put on an expression of mock-horror, earning a couple snickers from us all.
Soubiran sent a corporal to come and find me later in the evening, wanted me to come through to his office. I stepped in, and the boss gestured for me to have a seat. "These claims you've put in". I went cold, knowing full-well I'd put in for three Fokkers that nobody had seen. Damn. Soubiran must think those claims are bull! "The two Fokkers from today I can't give, as I'm sure you know. However, this balloon claim," he indicated to one of my combat reports that he'd laid out on his desk, "and this Fokker. I've had reports citing you as destroying both of these enemies".
Pride swelled in my chest...that made four confirmed!!
"Despite the odd lone excursion," Soubiran started, shooting me a questioning look, "you're a fine pilot, and the men like you. For that reason, I had a word with Thaw after our morning sortie".
My eyes widened and I gripped the sides of my seat like an excited schoolboy...spoke to Thaw? about what?!
"We were in agreement on the subject of our conversation. Congratulations on your promotion, 1st. Lieutenant Drummond".