Squardon Commander Cyril Woolly, DFC., DSO Maj , Rfc, 20 Victories 1 Rfc Sqn Fienvillers, AF Flanders, France.
Aug 9, 1918. I led the afternoon attack on an enemy AF. We did a job that flight all our 8 a/c had Four 25 lb Contact bombs. We had to fly around 2 flights of e/a to get the target, but we did hit it from 2,000ft and lower.
Squardon Commander Cyril Woolly, DFC., DSO Maj , Rfc, 20 Victories 1 Rfc Sqn Fienvillers, AF Flanders, France.
Aug 10, 1918.
Big fight on Dawn Patrol. I led B flights 5 a/c into a fight with 6 Vee Strutters while Our cover flight 5/ac mixed it with a Flight of Fokkers high up. We were holding our own when another 4 Fokkers showed up and joined in the circling , diving , and zooming a/c. What a Bee Hive of machines. I damaged one e/a then had one one my tail. Full power I ran for it only to have a Fokker dive on me ( I didnt see him ) The e/a was so close that I could hear his Twin Spanau's clattering. The enemy fire ripped open my fuel tank causing the tank to empty and a bullett tore through the fleshy part of my side. along with numerous hit in my a/c. The e/a over shot past me which gave me time to set her down in a Church yard albeit a Hard landing. Heavy Damage. All said and done the sqn lost 3 SE's ( including mine ) + 2 damaged. for 5 e/a destroyed.
In spite of very low clouds and poor visibility, we had to go on patrol this evening. Stayed below 1,000 meters, the mist and clouds made it difficult to keep formation, almost collided twice. All we could see of the ground were the flashes of the artillery. Harman crashed while landing after the patrol, he’s in the hospital but his injuries aren’t particularly bad so he should be back soon.
Pup, or rather Mickey III is doing well. She seems to have taken up with Meissner, follows him around whenever he lets her. I guess she can see that he’s the pack leader, but she comes back with me for some peace and quiet in the evening. They tell me she growled at Atkinson when he came by today, good judge of character, I’d say.
Can’t get what was left of Dodd’s face out of my head and I think sometimes I smell the body.
Saturday, August 10th
Covered a French photo plane over the lines today. Losts of Archies but no HA. We landed at the refilling station at Coincy before heading on back to Saints. The place is up close to our balloon line and used to be a Hun aerodrome.
Abe and I walked a km or so from Coincy to see the huge base where a Paris Gun was located. The Huns tried to destroy it when they evacuated but their dynamite just bent the plates a little. We were near the lines, within sight of the balloon line. The air was full of the pounding of the guns all around and then all of a sudden we heard the shallower "whang, whang" of the black Boche Archie clustered around a group of our returning planes.
Real chicken dinner tonight, we made sure Pup got her share. She thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Meissners having a coat made for her like Mickey II’s for formal occasions.
It has been some time since I have last written. Getting captured is hell on ones writing ability. The Huns are short of everything and paper is not a luxury afforded to most prisoners. Since I returned to our side of the lines I have heard every story imaginable about my escape: I snuck out with the help of a friendly Hun, I snuck out with the help of a local villager, I killed my captors with my bare hands etc. Although, I will say my favourite I heard involved a very friendly Farmer's daughter, a false mustache and a pig.
They are all bullocks of course. The real story is much less exciting, much more horrifying and I will not share it here. Once I managed to return to our side of the lines I was immediately sent rearward for debriefings followed by a spell of leave in London. I hit the sites, tried to put back on some weight and failed to shake the nightmares. Exciting times indeed. Oh, and I was promoted to Captain as well, which meant I would not be returning to 62 Sqn on my return. Instead I was sent to 3 Sqn, flying Camels.
3 Sqn had been in the fight for months on end and was short of experienced pilots. You know what, no, that is not accurate. The reality was that apart from the CO and the two remaining flight commanders, the Sqn was full of pilots with 10 or less hours of flying experience. They did not stand a chance. Despite the fact that the Hun's Spring Offensive had petered out and we were making gains on all fronts, the remaining aircraft of the enemy were still dangerous, especially with the release of the D.VII. I was told it was now my job to take over B Flight and try to keep some of these poor kids alive. It would have been kinder and more efficient to get them drunk in the mess, take them out back and shoot them. At least then we wouldnt lose the aircraft as well.
Over my first three missions, we lost three of them. Only one was to enemy action. The other two crashed their camels. What a waste. It sickens me that my eight months in this war make me one of the most senior pilots we have in the Sqn. What do I know of teaching these kids? The Camel is a completely different mount the my old Brisfit. The Brisfit is as stable a gun platform as you can get. It goes where you want it to, when you want it to without any kind of trouble. The Camel is a vicious #%&*$# that will kill you at the slightest insult. If you stall her, she will whip you into a vicious spin. Forget to immediately fiddle with the mixture on takeoff and the engine cuts out, it flips onto its back and will slam you into the ground in seconds. I do almost wonder whose side the Sopwith company is on.
In the hands of an experienced pilot, the Camel is a true killer. If I can get one of these pilots to that point, I will consider myself a success.
Well it is time to lead another batch of new guys to their death. Patrol over the lines in 30 minutes.
Welcome back Cpt Sitwell. Best of luck with your Eggs (USAS speak for new boys)
2nd Lt. John B. Goode 147th Aero Squadron, USAS
Sunday, August 11th 1918
Fourteen plane patrol, no EA sighted. Forced to fly low by the weather, Archie particularly unpleasant, everyone returned with holes in their wings.
Cpl. Herd is training Pup to sit, stay, heel, speak, roll over, lay down, shake hands, etc. He hope to get her to salute like that dog in the Yankee Division.(1)
(1) Sergeant Stubby, mascot of the 102nd Infantry Rgt. 26th Division US. Served 18 months in France, participated in 17 battles, twice wounded. Gave early warning of barrages and gas attacks, found wounded in no'man's land, captured a German by holding him by the seat of his pants until American soldiers arrived to take charge of him.
No bon for flying today. Meissner ordered all of us to get familiarized with the SPADs, same with the 27th. More are coming this week, we knew it was coming, but it still feels like a punch in the stomach, first our Major and now SPADs. You would think, from the operational problems the French Squadrons are having, they would leave us flying our Nieuports and use the ones already purchased rather than scrapping them. Then the Group would have at least have SOME planes they could keep in the sky.
Having nightmares about Dodd. Most of the time it's his smashed face in the mud, but sometimes he's alive and whispering something important in my ear that I can't remember when I wake up.
I almost died twice yesterday. The first time up we were escorting a Harry Tate on a basic recce mission to determine the success of the latest offensive. Jerry is running scared now. We brought up some of the more senior members (relative term) of the Squadron, due to the priorty put on this intelligence.
Out of nowhere an entire flight of DVIIs were tearing into us. I turned and twisted for an eternity, my crate slowly being filled full of holes. I was running out of altitude quickly. Finally, I made a break for the lines, having no other choice. The fusilade of gunfire from our boys in the trenches sent the Huns packing and I ditched the Camel in a shell crater.
I was back in time for the afternoon flight. It was a short hop to the East to bust a Hun sausage spotting artillery onto the advance. It turns out this one was well protected and we ran into another flight of DVIIs circling the target. A fierce scrap followed, and once again I found myself at the mercy of several Huns. Out of desperation, I ended up flying below treetop level, into the remains of a ruined town. I flew like a madman, wingtips inches from disaster.
It was enoigh to convince the Huns I wasn't worth it and they left me alone to stagger back to a friendly airfield with holes all through the cockpit. It was a miracle I wasn't hit.
I spent the evening getting very, very drunk in the mess. We lost four aircraft today, but somehow only one pilot, a new chap whose name I never learned. Only 11 hours on his log book. He never stood a chance.
Today went much better. We were called up to intercept a flight of two seaters over the lines. We spotted them just North of Amiens and sent two of the four smoking into the earth. I definitely did damage to one of them, but he was finishedoff by a chap named Cecil. It was his first victory and I let him put in the claim.
Ive come to the conclusion that I will not survive the war. Although Jerry is falling back before us, it is only a matter of time before I buy it. The DVII is just too good of an aircraft and Ive dodged death so many times already. What if one of those bullets yesterday was an inch to the left or right.
And yet once combat begins I feel no fear. I used to, but now a calm settles in. Afterwards, I am a mess. I shake and grow cold. Every time. I think my nerves are beginning to break. God help us all.
April 9th - Caught a flight of Amerikaner attacking our infantry. They were low on fuel and ammunition and well behind our lines east of St. Mihiel. Most of them ran and we could not catch them, but I fired on one from about 200 meters and he turned to fight after I hit him with a lucky shot. The Amerikanisch was more interested in escaping than fighting and I had height advantage. When I shot out his motor at low altitude he landed in a field. I saw him being captured.
April 12th - Attacked two French Sopwith two-seaters. Ltn Hanko brought one down in flames.
April 13th - Called to intercept British DH4s going toward Arlan to bomb the factories there. Caught them after they delivered their bombs. Had a fight with them and 7 French SPADs who joined in. The British lost 1 DH4 and we lost a Pfalz.
Babygirl and I flew our last patrol together today. Twelve of us made an uneventful sector patrol this morning. Her engine pooped out on the way home. Luckily we were near Coincy so I made a dead stick landing there. Burned out three cylinders.
There were no parts to do the repair there so I called Saints to let them know where I was and get what was needed taken up there to fix her. That’s when I got the worst possible news, well maybe not the worst POSSIBLE but certainly way up there. We're ordered to fly our Nieuports to Orly tomorrow, so Babygirls wouldn't be repaired. I was to just leave her at Coicy and return with the next truck going back.
I went out to see her one last time before I left, she seemed dead already with her cowling off and engine exposed but I told her how sorry I was and how much I appreciated working with her these last two months. We had a good run, 55 missions, 5 smashed German machines and 6 dead Huns. I took Nanette and Rintintin, my rear mirror, the compass then patted her on the side and left without turning back to climb in the truck.
I asked the operations officer there to have my Vickers removed and sent to me. The American Marlins these SPADs come with just aren’t up to snuff, besides, I’ve done a lot of work on mine and I don’t want to have to start over.
No way around it, now I’ll be flying a Pooping SPAD. (1)
(1) Pooping SPAD was a double entendre, the first meaning was that the SPAD continually pooped out mechanically and the second was a reference to fecal matter.
Not ignoring you Wulfe but I'm pretty new myself, started in March, and feel that should be answered by the senior members. Welcome though! With a handle like Wulfe I'd expect you to be flying a Fokker.
2nd Lt. John B. Goode 147th Aero Squadron, USAS
Wednesday, August 14th 1918
Ten Nieuports were flown to Orly by our pilots this morning. At least I didn’t have to fly Babygirl there with the rest of them, she more or less died with her boots on.
Went out and looked at my SPAD. It'll be number 16. Black's looking it over and isn’t very pleased with it. It has a faulty carburetor and the oil pipes leak, among other things. It’ll be a couple of days before he feels he can trust it enough for me to try it out.
B flight commanders SPAD will be 11, that’s Alk's. Flight Bs spads are 11-20, A flight are 1-9. C f;ogjt 21-29, Alk wouldn't let them put number 13 on any of our SPADs, just to be safe. Whitey used it on his Nieuport with no ill effects but he has 21 now, being C Flight Commander. Dod Raibly has A Flight.
Pup’s training is coming along, her salute looks more like a wave, I’m not sure Herd will be able to get anything better than that.
One of the Eggs in the 27th, a bird named Luke, claimed he brought down a Hun yesterday. No one saw it and no one believes him. He and Hartney were the only two, out of 13, who could keep their SPADs flying for a photo escort mission. Luke claimed a Hun had latched onto Harney’s tail and he had a big fight with it and brought it down, but he wasn’t sure where it had gone down or what type it was. I heard his story and I don't think I believe him either. His story is too elaborate, talks to loud and tries to hard to convince you. Seems a good pilot though, was a ferry pilot before he came to us last month. Funny looking hair cut.
The boys in the 27th don’t care for him, he brags about what a hot shot pilot he is all the time. Just won't shut up, apparently he likes to talk just to hear his own head roar. They say he’s constantly dropping out of formation to go off on his own. Hartney seems to like him though and said he believes him about the Hun. The pilots over there refer to him as a “Four Flusher” "The Coo Coo BIrd" (1)or “Hartney’s Boy Friend.”
(1) Coo Coo Bird - pilot who does his fighting when no one else is around.
SPAD still not ready. Helped the armorers and mechs. Inspected ammunition belts for stiff links.
Everybody who has one that will fly is trying out their new mounts.
Went for a joy ride in the afternoon with some of the boys in the Cadillac. Pretty country, it’s the season when all the trees, flowers, shrubs, crops, clover fields, etc. have on their best dress. The small farms look like a patchwork quilt.
They’re harvesting their wheat now. They still cut and bind it by hand and use a horse tread mill thresher like my Grandpa would have done. (1)
Word came down that we can wear our foreign decorations now. I’d like to wear my tin next time we're in dress uniform but I’ll wait to see what the older hands in the British Squadrons do first, don’t want to look like a yahoo.
(1) Adapted from letters written by members of the 36th Division USEF, “They Called them Soldier Boys” by Gregory W. Ball.
I dont think anyone would abject if U fly over from England and take up fighters. Have fun !
Awesome! Thanks! In that case...
Sgt. Albert Mayes No. 3 Squadron R.A.F, 0 victories.
August 14th, 1918:
Today was a tremendously trying affair, and it was very much a day of firsts.
My first flight across the Channel, my first day in the 'Great War', my first mission and, consequently, my first time being shot down...
...My first hun.
After making the long and trying journey from Biggin Hill, I arrived at my new Squadron and reported to the C.O, Maj. McClintock. To my surprise, I had already been selected to fly in 'B' flight, and my first mission was at 1500 hours, a patrol of the front lines. We took off in our Sopwith Camels (9 of us in total) and proceeded to the front. Gazing over the scars that the Great War had left was...unsettling.
Over the front, much to my disappointment, we did not spot a single enemy aeroplane, and I was deeply disappointed when we finally turned back west. However, just as we were nearing Béthune my formation seemed to explode outwards in all directions, a mess of wings and high-speed turns. In a panic, I too went into a hard breaking turn, thinking that the Hun had caught us off guard. As I did, four ungainly hun two-seaters flashed overhead, with two of my flight already pursuing. Filled with exhilaration at my first chance to have a crack at the Hun, I immediately gave chase, and eventually came level with the hun formation to their three O'Clock position. I made one slashing attack, in which both my Vickers fell silent, jammed. Oh, how I cursed those damned guns! Pulling to the side, I attempted to clear the jams. At one moment I peered back to see two Huns falling in flames.
Suddenly, my left Vickers' charging handle obeyed, and the jam was cleared! I set my sights now on the lead DFW, and dove at him from his seven O'Clock. Seeing he was distracted with another Camel, I decided to get within point-blank range. To my horror, the wily hun observer immediately swung his gun around, and opened fire. One round smashed clear through my windshield, showering me with glass shards and narrowly missing my left arm! The panic rose again in my throat, and I pressed down on the trigger, wildly shooting back at the now-imposing hun, when he suddenly went into an almost totally vertical dive from 17,000 feet. I had gotten him! I had shot down my first hun!
I circled, watching my hun, still in his death-dive at 3000 feet, when suddenly to my utter horror my engine coughed, and fell silent. My fuel line had been severed! Trying to keep my composure, I drifted in the direction I determined home to be. However, I was dropping like a stone, and was only able to make it as far as the outskirts of Béthune before my plane stalled just as I was maybe a foot off the ground, leading to a very rough landing indeed!
I sat for maybe 15 minutes in my cockpit, stunned into silence by the whole affair. Eventually I was able to muster up the energy to de-plane and walk into town to find a phone and call my mechanic. As I walked, I vowed that I would never again approach a hun in such a reckless manner. Upon my eventual return to Valheureux, I submitted my report, along with a claim for a hun two-seater. Maj. McClintock seemed dubious (despite the fact that he was up there in our fight!), but filed the claim all the same. I eagerly await its confirmation.