You boys are a hoot! And yes, the Fokkers are cropping up like mushrooms. Must be Swany scaring them all away towards Gaston's neck of the woods. Gaston decided to paint his Nieuport violet. That's the name of his wife, Violette.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."
#4468703 - 04/03/1912:05 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Wow! So much to catch up on here, but I will have to do it when I get back home tonight. I just stopped in to post the following video of 2nd Lt. Swanson taking Captain Rankin up for some stunting this morning in an effort to get the man more acclimated to aerial combat. While Swany had a great time, the Captain was less than thrilled by it all.
(apologies for the lower quality, I realized afterwards that I saved it in the wrong format: ah well, such is life)
#4468728 - 04/03/1903:39 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Emile Benoit La Mont Sgt, N 26 St. Pol-sur-mer, AF Flanders, France
April 3, 1916.
Dawn Recon incomplete, I was solo and ran into a Monoplane. Rough fight Chandell after Chandell, turn after turn my Ob was getting off strings of 7-9 shots as we re positioned our a/c. Finally, after what seemed an hour and at the end of the second Drum of 303's, the e/a went into a spin and disappeared under a cloud. My ob thought he shot him down,but no one seen the crash. After landing, the Adj checked with Army units alas, No one found wreckage.
Last edited by carrick58; 04/03/1906:37 PM.
#4468754 - 04/03/1907:18 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
My meeting with Sergeant Edith went well yesterday. I had requested that the Major introduce us in his office so that there would be a stamp of officialism to the whole arrangement that was being proposed. I was a bit taken aback when my new wingman entered; just a kid, 17 years old but looking more like a scrawny 14 year old that should be in boys school. I saw a subtle wince in the eyes as the Major called him in, "Edith! Come in, you're a bit late!". He hates that name, I thought to myself, having people call him Edith. I saw right away that this is a lad who is out to prove to everyone that he is not a little boy. This boy has been picked on in the past ... but now he has an aeroplane and a machine gun.
After introductions, the Major laid things out to the lad in pretty straight terms. He is to stick to me at all times and follow my direction, with no more wild antics or heroics. There seemed to be no argument from Edith. I wonder if that will last ... I will need to be firm for the next while, but also earn his trust in the air. I have hopes that being ten years his senior will help. As we left the office together, I told him that I was pleased he was to be my wingman (a bit of a lie) and asked did he mind if I called him James, or did he prefer Sergeant Edith? "Oh yes, James would be great Sir"; he brightened up a bit. "All right then, let's head to the hanger and you can tell me everything you know about flying the DH2. I want to learn from the best". He practically beamed.
With preliminaries out of the way yesterday, I was in the air for my inaugural flight with the DH2 this morning. I lead the flight, which was an added stress but the patrol area was in familiar territory near Armentieres so navigation was not a problem. The DH2 is a completely different bird compared to my old BE2, and I struggled to adapt. Fortunately it was a long flight and I had time to get used to the wings being behind me, the terrible lack of rearward view, and its less settled nature. Sergeant Edith stayed glued to my left and Sergeant McHard kept station to my right. We arrived home at St. Omer with no difficulties. A promising start!
Last edited by 77_Scout; 04/03/1908:21 PM.
#4468773 - 04/03/1910:20 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
MFair, I’m alright with purple haze. As long as it’s not purple rain. Lou, I didn’t see anything wrong with the quality. Swany’s flying was exceptional. I didn’t know Moranes could do that. Are you sure some of the breakfast didn’t end up on Swanson? It looked like there could have been a good chance. Excellent movie! Carrick, yup, candy coloured Nieuport. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Nice pic with that Fokker in the background. Lederhosen, there’s nothing to it. I can see your video card is capable. Start rolling!
31 March, 1916 9:00 Senard, Verdun Sector Escadrille N37 Sous Lieutenant Gaston A. Voscadeaux 8 confirmed kills
This morning Voscadeaux learned that 2 more Fokkers were added to his confirmed kill tally. He was now the leading ace of the Escadrille.
Le Capitaine called for an attack behind enemy front lines north of Chalons. As always Gaston raised his hand up and reminded the C.O. that neither the Bebes nor Twelves could carry any bombs. What damage does the Headquarters expect them to inflict? This time Le Capitaine was ready with an answer. “- Significant damage. You will be taking along Les Prieurs.” Everyone in the briefing room was wondering who they were and why weren’t they introduced to the rest of the Escadrille yet. After a lengthy explanation and with Le Prieur rockets strapped to their Nieuports for the first time, ‘B’ flight was ready for take off. Their machines were rolled out onto the field and set in a row. The engines came to life and the signal was given to begin the mission. At that very moment another wave of Fokkers appeared over the aerodrome. Gaston was infuriated. “Ce n’est pas possible!” Is this going to be a daily routine? Yet again Gaston chased the Huns away and eliminated one in the process. Sergent de Geuser followed Gaston and witnessed the kill. Something was off, though. Was it the strong wind? Le Prieur rockets? Him? He could not shoot straight. Others also reported odd conditions. The mission had to be scrapped. Perhaps this was the Boche new strategy? Prevent the French machines from ever taking off? They could not be this desperate. Bad news - Caporal Papinet crashed his Nieuport 12. The wind flipped the machine over at take off. He has been taken to the hospital with severe head injuries.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."
#4468783 - 04/03/1911:30 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
1 April, 1916 9:40 Senard, Verdun Sector Escadrille N37 Sous Lietenent Gaston A. Voscadeaux 9 confirmed kills
Gaston's Fokker he chased yesterday was confirmed. It was a bitter sweet news. Cpl. Papinet died last night in the hospital.
This time the brass requested to conduct an attack on enemy rail system at Verdun North Spurline Junction. Gaston requested Le Prieur rockets to be loaded onto their planes. He would finally have the chance to test them in combat. Voscadeaux and his two wingmen arrived over target in record time. He was eager to test the new weapon and gave his flight mates the signal to attack. They all dove as one with Gaston in the lead. As they neared their target he’d noticed something that should not have been there. The flagpole in the middle of the square was flying the Tricolour! This was a French rail yard! Gaston pulled out of his dive and the two wingmen behind did as well, seeing the same thing as Gaston. They have averted a disaster! Voscadeaux was not amused. Who comes up with these targets? Germans? They've returned to their aerodrome without firing a shot.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."
#4468810 - 04/04/1902:45 AMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Wow, Fullofit - Verdun certainly is a hot shop...but it won't be for long with Gaston patrolling its skies!! Congratulations on your confirmed victories - only one more for double-acedom! Surely all Le Bosche are talking about the Violet Devil by now! Bad news about Papinet.
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, No. 24 Squadron R.F.C, Bertangles West, France.
April 3rd, 1916.
At first light I had written a letter for Switch-Off and Jimmy Reynard, leaving it with the Old Man to be posted at the first convenience. Naturally, he had reacted with faux-irritation, but assured me that the note would reach Clairmarais by nightfall. The rain was coming down heavily as I made my way towards the briefing tent, expecting in disappointment to see all operations wiped off for the day.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that, despite the foul weather, we were scheduled for a line patrol down south, near Cappy, and a second patrol at 2 PM, near Monchy-le-Preux, on the edge of Hunland. Looking forwards to the day’s work, I headed to the mess for breakfast - sausages and fried tomatoes, with mustard on the side of the plate.
After a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast I found myself idly reminiscing with Freddy about our training in Hounslow together. However, before too long we were politely interrupted by the thin, kindly face of Johnstone, who softly cleared his throat for our attention. “Sirs, your patrol leaves in twenty minutes” he said, setting down two mugs of tea before us. We thanked him, swallowed the piping-hot tea in a flash, and quickly pulled on our flying clothes, before setting out onto the airfield. Again, I felt a sense of pride as my bus sat quietly on the field, awaiting me, in among the long flight line. To its left was Hawker’s red-strutted DeHav, and on its right was Freddy’s bus. “Ok, mate, good luck up there!” Freddy offered, patting me on the back before effortlessly hopping into his own machine. A white grin flashed from under his goggles and moustache as I climbed aboard my bus, pulling the thick gauntlets over my silk gloves as the Ack-Emmas prepared to swing our props. As I was organising my maps and checking our route one last time, Hawker came up beside me. “Campbell! If I drop out, you’re in charge!” he told me, with a coy smile. I blinked at him. “Me…?” I responded, but he had already turned towards his bus.
I could hear the Ack-Emma at my tail grumbing irritatedly about the weather. “Bloody nonsense,” he was saying as he took a firm grasp of a propeller blade, “they tell us never to get the #%&*$# things wet, then they fly them through a thunderstorm!”. His thoughts were interrupted by a sharp “Switch On!”, and as I flicked the magnetos on the engine roared into life. The mechanic nodded approvingly - and it was then I noticed that only Hawker’s bus had started on the first swing. Immediately I became even more enamoured with my little ship. After a few more swings, eight Monosopaupes were singing in harmony, and after a few moments of idling our motors Hawker begun to roll forward.
If the raindrops were daggers while flying a Fee, they were bullets in a DH2, and as we reached our speed I wished I had bought the masked version of the flying cap in London. The climb up was long and gruelling, and with the engine mounted far away from our seats, impossibly cold. Finally, we turned out towards the lines, three machines of ‘A’ shooting out ahead of us. We flew on through the icy weather, and I was beginning to feel very sorry for myself, when suddenly over Albert an Aviatik appeared about 2,000 feet above us from behind a cloud. Immediately we pointed our noses up, but the Avitik, upon seeing us, promptly broke away into a cloud and was not seen again. Nevertheless, our patrol lifted to 7,000 feet just in case the Hun made a reappearance.
The wind had become increasingly annoyed at our uninvited presence, and beat ferociously at our machines. Even with the 100 horsepower engines, we fought our controls to keep from stalling and dropping out of the sky. You think you can master me?! it seemed to roar, as a vicious gust brought me precariously close to Freddy’s machine. I snapped to the left, jerking away from the Kiwi, and ended up caught behind the formation. Gritting my teeth, I opened the throttle full in defiance of the elements, clawing my way back into formation by the time we had reached the edge of the mud.
We went halfway out from our lines, but no sooner had we started our patrol when Hawker finally relented and turned us back. The return trip was as unpleasant as the journey out, but I distracted myself from the misery by scanning for the Aviatik, hoping in vain that we might at least get to have a crack at him. At one point, two lumbering shapes emerged from the clouds and I excitedly pointed my nose up at them, but I sighed in disappointment as a closer look revealed them to be Fees.
We gratefully touched down back at Bertangles, and hastily de-planed, rushing as one to the mess tent to get dry. Johnstone, to our delight, had seen us coming in and eight freshly made cups of hot tea awaited us. We still had plenty of time to spare before the 2 PM patrol, and so I headed down to the hangars to check up on my bus. Mines was in the Bessonneau, and Miller was tightening her wires when I arrived, and he gave me a friendly wave. “How did it go up there?” he asked, and I groaned. “Have you seen the bloody weather?” I responded, slumping down onto a crate by the hangar entrance. “Nothing going on, save for one miserable Aviatik, but he was too high to get at” I explained. After a short pause, Miller turned to me with his hands on his hips. “And a bloody good thing, too...look at this”. He gestured to the Lewis gun. I came over and peered at it, shaking my head in confusion. “The whole bloody mechanism is frozen stiff with rain! The inside of the barrel, too!” he cried, demonstrating by trying unsuccessfully to charge the weapon. “Are you on another show today?” he asked, after he was done wrestling with the faulty weapon. I nodded, concerned, and he sighed. “Well, I’ll have to fit a spare gun on your bus before then. What time are you off?”. “Two O’Clock”. “Oh, plenty of time then. I’ll get it done just now”. Together we headed to the armourer’s ‘office’ (which was in reality just a workbench which the man sat behind, in the farmost hangar) and procured a new Lewis, before running through the rain back to my bus, with the gun wrapped in my flying coat. I then hung around to watch Miller expertly re-fitting the gun, in keen interest. It was a simple job, and he was done with several hours to spare.
Back in the mess I had the chance to speak with Andrews and Whiskey. The latter told me of one particular scrap he’d had with a most unusual machine - a fokker with brown wings and a green fuselage - that had lasted for over ten minutes. “One hell ‘e a pilot, he wis! But, in the end ‘A sent him doon. Poor laddie, he flew ever so well…”.
Eventually, our machines were wheeled out again for the Two O’Clock show, and again we pulled on our still-damp flying gear and headed out to the flight line. To our disgust, the rain hadn’t died down a bit, and we were freshly soaked before our engines had even started. Hawker was again leading the show, with the little Irishman, Cpt. Cowen, as his wingman. After another round of failed prop-spinning, we lifted off again into the still-hostile sky.
Andrews dropped out not long after we had lifted with engine trouble, and I couldn’t help but envy him, picturing him sitting nice and warm, and dry, with his cup of tea in the mess. Wilkie, too, seemed to be having some trouble, as his bus was soon lagging behind as we climbed - but Hawker soon matched our speeds to his. The Major must still have been sore about missing the Aviatik this morning, as we went all the way up to 10,000 feet before turning for the mud, and by the time we’d made our altitude, the rest of ‘A’ flight had disappeared off somewhere, leaving only five of us.
Evidently, the Huns were as fed up with the weather as we were, and for that miserable, freezing patrol we didn’t see a single enemy aeroplane. Not even the archie gunners were bothering to fire at us as we hovered over the German trenches, and eventually, sick and tired of the whole ordeal, we gave up and headed back. By the time we reached Bertangles, I was numb with cold and fatigue, and it was only after I’d hastily guided my bus into a bumpy, rough landing that I realised I had landed on No. 3’s aerodrome. Two Ack-Emmas, their tunics held over their heads against the rain, ran over to me.
“I’m afraid you can’t tell me you’re lost, sir!” one of them said with a cheeky smile, as I wobbled out of my machine. “Yes, sorry, I was just keen to get down”. “Not to worry, chum. C’mon - we’ll get you a nice hot cup of tea”. Feeling guilty for dragging them into the rain, I helped them wheel my bus into one of their hangars, where we parked it next to the Morane I’d seen when I arrived - the one with the strange insignia, which I now saw clearly was, in fact, a goose. Puzzled, I turned to the Ack-Emmas. “What’s the story behind this, then?” I asked, indicating to the odd marking. The two mechanics shot each other a glance, the corners of their mouths twitching, before to my surprise bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
After letting myself thaw out in No. 3’s mess, briefly chatting to a couple of their airmen, I wheeled out my bus and made a quick hop over to the right airfield at about dinnertime. I was still chucking to myself about the story No. 3’s Ack-Emmas had told me as I pulled my flying coat off, ducking into the mess tent. “Ah, here he is!” Wilkie cried as I entered, and the table had a good chuckle at my expense. As we tucked into our wonderfully hot bowls of chicken soup, the Old Man stood up from his seat. “Okay, okay, listen up you lot, only two today,” he announced, and we hushed like schoolchildren. With a theatrical throat-clearing, he dramatically raised the telegram before himself. “Well done to Carruthers and Campbell, who have both been accredited a victory each!”. The table burst into loud cheers, as we were both congratulated. I was over the moon - my 5th victory, and my first with No. 24! I was especially proud as Maj. Hawker shook my hand firmly, ‘officially’ welcoming me to the squadron. We celebrated with brandy that night, and headed back to our tents feeling merry.
Well, I've managed to get caught up again on all your reports here Gents - most enjoyable!
Wolfe, congratulations on Graham's MC, a well-earned award. Wonderful episodes, and I am enjoying the crossovers into the No.3 stories. I feel your pain when it comes to flying in the rain in an open cockpit. I've done it in RL and it is no fun at all.
Fullofit, congratulations to your man as well on another CdG. Gaston now has two bronze palms on his ribbon. Also, that is one purple kite he is now chasing around in, the Hun's will come to fear it in no time at which point he won't have any to shot at as they will all run away as soon as they see him. Tough luck for Papinet, hopefully he won't be in the hospital too long. Super videos, by the way.
Scout, sounds like Aleck's first flight in the DH.2 went well. He is going to love that mount, especially coming from the Quirk.
Carrick, too bad Emile and his G/O lost sight of that Hun when he went down. Better luck on the next one getting confirmed.
MFair, another excellent telling of Jericho's adventures. I hope Christian's wound is a light one and he can get back in the air ASAP. And how about that Hun, eh? Giving you a salute as he flys away.
Lederhosen, your man was lucky to have gotten away from those two Niueps. Good news about his claim being confirmed, how many does that make?
#4468874 - 04/04/1904:45 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Thanks MFair. It was a hoot, and the Morane is capable of a lot more than folks give it credit.
4 April, 1916 Bertangles West, France 3 Squadron, R.F.C. 2nd Lt. Randolph Arvid Swanson MC 10 confirmed victories
After yesterday's stunting, 2nd Lt. Swanson was now the topic of conversation around camp, and the prime target of Captain Rankin's wrath. While Swany had gotten permission from the Major in advance to take the Captain up for a turn or two, and while the Captain had in fact agreed to it, no one, (apart from Swany), had any idea of the demonstration that was to be given. All of Bertangles had a front row seat to watch the antics as the ace pilot had climbed to 5,000' while he flew to a position just slightly south of the two fields before he began. Over the course of the following five minutes he proceeded to use up all the height he'd allowed himself as he put his Morane into every attitude imaginable and into several gyrations unimaginable. Rankin held tight to the Lewis gun and remained prepared to fire throughout the escapade, as he'd been instructed to do by the CO, but the poor sod threw up three times along the way, (he likely would have done so more times than that but there was nothing left in his stomach after the third regurgitation). By the time the Lieutenant put his bus back down on terra firma the Captain had to be helped out of the cockpit, so rubbery were his legs. He was also quite speechless. However, after a minute or so Rankin got his voice back and was able to stand, at which point he bellowed at Swanson that he was going to have him brought up on charges of attempted murder and stormed over towards the Major, who had been standing out on the field with the rest of the squadron watching the whole affair. The CO did his damdest not to burst out laughing as Captain Rankin approached, and managed to come up with a concerned face by the time the man reached him.
"I already know what you're going to say, Captain", the Major stated, cutting off Rankin before he could start. "You and Swanson and I will go to my office and discuss this right now in private. No need to air any of this in front of the whole camp."
Major Harvey-Kelly turned towards Swany and waved the young man over, pointing with the other hand in the direction of his office. A broad smile had spread across the Major's face which he was quick to get rid of before he spun back around to the Captain. Once Swanson had reached the other two men all three went off to have a chit-chat. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that.
Today, while Captain Rankin was still clearly harboring all sorts of ill will towards his pilot, he did not allow it to get in the way of the job at hand. He went up twice with Swanson, to man the Lewis gun and to make observations. The first time was to assess the situation along the lines north of Miraumont; the second time was to drop some Coopers on enemy positions at Courcelette. With no Huns spotted in the air on either outing, 2nd Lt. Swanson held the Morane steady and true, much to the relief of the Captain. Rankin hoped the lack of EA would continue for a good long while as he was definitely not looking forward to another demonstration of his pilot's stunting skills.
Following the early afternoon sortie, Swanson headed over to the Bessonnaeu where his bus was parked. He'd gotten the go-ahead from the Major that morning to apply some personalized markings to the Morane, provided they were fairly conservative. Swany already knew what he wanted and collared one of the Ack Emmas to show him where he could find paint and brushes. Little more than an hour later and the job was done. The wheel spats on the Morane now bore the purple and white of Swany's MC ribbon. And on the sides of the fuselage, just below the forward cockpit, he had a bit of fun at his own expense. Three lightning bolts, and the name "Odin" with an exclamation mark. The "O" was quite strategically placed. He could already hear Jericho's laughter, along with that of the rest of the squadron. It made him laugh too.
#4468928 - 04/04/1909:18 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Before I get on with my yarn today I would just like to thank Raine for putting this rodeo on and Lou for adding a bit of realism to it. This is just too much fun! Thanks Amigo's
Lt. Mark Jericho Bertangles Aerodrome April 4, 1916
Swany gave a wonderful lesson in flying the Morane yesterday. Jericho had to marvel at the pilots skill. "Shoot!" exclaimed Jericho, "If that ain't the finest demonstration of flying I'll eat crow." It was even more intertaining watching the poor Captain trying to stand up once they were back on the ground.
"C" Flight was off at 430 hundred for an Arty spotting mission southwest of Bapaume. "God it's dark" Jericho thought as they sat on the field waiting for Captain Griffen to take off. As soon as he did Jericho was right behind him trying to keep him in sight. He had flown a night mission in training but it was a moon lite night. This was different. As they started to circle for altitude Jericho looked around to see if he could get his bearings and when he looked back his flight had disappeared! He stayed in his circle searching frantically and finally spotted Griffen below him. He sighed with relief. By the time they reached the lines Jericho was exhausted from the concentration to keep formation in the dark. "Well maybe the Huns can't see us as I d@#n well can't see them. Just as the horizon was starting to light up Griffen popped the white flare to head home which Jericho thought was ok with him. Then his engine started to falter. He thought about only briefly and set down at Bellevue. While the mechanics were looking over his Morane Jericho had struck up a conversation with one of the pilots there that told him a sad story. The top brass were desperate to come up with a method of ground communication. It seems some office type, that more than likely had never even been in aeroplane came up with the idea of attaching a note to a cable that was stretched between 2 poles 20' apart. The idea was that the observer was to drop a line and hook grabbing the cable and reeling it in with the note. "That don't sound very wise." commented Jericho as the other airman went on. No. 11 squadron, flying Fee's was to try out the experiment and a crew volunteered. The crew came in low and good and the observer hooked the cable with no problem. The next thing that happened was the cable whipped up into the prop and cut off the tail boom killing the crew. "2 top chaps too I hear" the airman added.
Jericho landed back at Bertangles mid morning and the first thing he sees is this Morane with lightning bolts and "Oden" painted on the fuselage below the pilot. "Well I'll be d@#ned Christian. Look at ol' Swany's bus" Christian shot back "he must have liked your little joke at his expense the other night." Jericho shot back, "Oh no! he did'd appreciate it one da@n bit! Told me so himself when he tipped over my cot while I was dead to the world. Naw, he's just having a little fun, besides, looks pretty darn good if you ask me."
Note: The experiment with the cable actually happened in Frederick Libby's 11Squadron.
Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from either end. BOC Member since....I can't remember!
#4468940 - 04/04/1910:57 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Wow! My profound thanks for the medal - I am not worthy! Nevertheless, I shall wear it with pride. And congratulations to Fullofit & Gaston on a very well-deserved second Palm for his CdG!
Carrick - sounds like things are getting rough for Emile. Hang in there - the Scout transfer is on the way! Lou - That's a great-looking bus! Even better when you know the story behind it. Looks like purple is all the rage at the moment - maybe Graham will have to have a chat with Lanoe about painting his bus. Sounds like Swany may need to keep an eye on his observer...P.S - your pictures are looking awfully sunny! Perhaps No.24 has that raincloud from the Truman Show following us around...
MFair - Night-flying! Argh! Scary stuff. Well done on getting the show out of the way while flying blind! Also - scary story about No.11...it boggles the mind what some of the RFC boys had to put up with...
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, No. 24 Squadron, Bertangles West, France.
April 4th, 1916 (Part 1).
The rain continued on through the night and into the morning. After being gently roused from my sleep at 5 O’clock by Johnstone, a cup of hot tea being apologetically left resting on top of my trunk, I made my way sleepily to the mess. My breakfast was interrupted by Sgt. Powell, who slapped me on the back familiarly as he leaned over me. “Mornin’ Campbell! The Major wonts ter see ya” he told me,a nd I raised an eyebrow, immediately suspecting that I’d done something wrong - perhaps landing at the wrong field yesterday? I quickly wolfed down the remainder of my breakfast, thanked the Cockney Sergeant, and hastily made my way for the C.O’s tent.
I found him sitting behind his desk, chatting away merrily to the Old Man, as I stood to attention before him. “You wished to see me, sir?” I asked, putting on my ‘military’ voice. He laughed out loud, and waved me away. “No need for that, Campbell! But yes, I wanted to see you. Have you checked the board yet?”. “Oh, no, I haven’t sir”. “Well! You’ll be on the dawn O.P. at Monchy”. His smile faded slightly, and his eyes turned serious. “I wanted you to lead ‘B’ flight's shows today”. My eyes widened, and, stammering, I made an effort to protest. “But, sir! I...I’ve only just arrived, and surely…” he held up a palm, and I fell silent. “Nonsense, Campbell. You are a good airman”. His tone became a little more hushed. “The boys are capable, but are too hotheaded. Many of them have only been on DeHavs. What they need is someone at the head to keep them in check. I would do it myself, but I can’t lead every flight at once!”. I quietly nodded, although scarcely believing the Major’s faith in me. “Not to worry - I’ll be with ‘A’ flight, we’ll be keeping an eye on you”. His friendly smile returned. “Well - what do you say? Are you up to the task?”. Despite myself I snapped back to attention. “Of course, sir!”.
By 6 O’Clock Johnstone had awoken the other members of my patrol - Freddy, Wilkie, Saundby and Andrews. We climbed into our flying gear at 6:30 to the sounds of Saundby grumbling to himself. “Bloody morning patrols. Always get put on them - can’t a chap sleep?”. Wilkie smirked. “Oh, come on, lazybones, the cold will wake you up soon enough”. Saundby threw his arms up. “It wouldn’t be so bad, if you didn’t have bloody No. 3 sending up patrols at god-knows-what hour, before the sun’s even up! I’m a light sleeper, you know…”. I looked over at him dubiously. “Well, you could be on one of those patrols - just be happy you’re not!”. We chuckled as Saunby looked in vain for a response, before going into a huff.
Freddy placed a hand on my shoulder as we made our way out onto the field. “Graham - don’t fuss too much over being leader, eh mate? You’ll do fine - you’re from the Hounslow mob, after all!”. I smiled and thanked him, but in the back of my mind I felt the crushing weight of having not only my own soul to preserve, but the four young men behind me. A strange thought occured to me, and I wondered if Jacky-Boy would have gotten back if I was leading his fateful patrol - but I pushed the thought down. No good to be in a funk while leading my first show.
On the airfield, our machines sat in their line, the rainwater dripping down from the curved edges of their doped wings. Miller whistled to himself as he attached the leaders’ streamers to my struts, and winked as he saw me approaching. I was equally proud and nervous as I climbed into my bus as our props were swung. Looking to my right, I saw my flight eagerly awaiting my signal. I loaded a flare into my Very pistol, and fired it upwards, before rolling forwards.
With Hawker’s ‘A’ Flight above, I felt my excitement growing as I looked back to see my wingmen forming up behind me, and over Doullens I led us into a slowly twisting climb. I decided to take it easy, with the weather still being harsh, and every now and again I looked over my shoulder to ensure my flight was okay - they were keeping good formation with me. We went up to 8,000 feet before I turned towards the lines, feeling four pairs of eyes scrutinising my movements.
The visibility over the mud was horrendous - towering clouds stood before us, leaving only small gaps below to determine our position. Warily, we crept out into no-mans-land, our eyes making long, sweeping scans for signs of any Huns. It all seemed peaceful at first. As we came over the top of Monchy-le-Preux, I checked my dashboard clock - 08:50. We had been instructed to patrol for twenty minutes. I scanned deeply into the treacherous clouds, scrutinizing them and coaxing them to reveal to me any Huns lying in wait - but the clouds were against us today, and with silent frowns they stayed in place.
After an uneventful twenty-minute patrol, I reached for my Very pistol and fired the washout signal. Of our own accord, we rolled back towards our lines and made our separate ways home. Freddy stayed by my side, and we fought our way through the clouds together, becoming keener with each second to get home, and dry. I was miserable as we came in to land, for I wanted desperately to be able to say that my first patrol as a flight lead had merited us a victory, but I was happy that the show had gone smoothly, at least.
De-planing after taxiing my machine out of the way of the others, I pulled my flying cap off, running my gauntleted fingers through my soaked hair, and headed to the briefing tent to check the second patrol of the day.