August 13, 1916
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Dudley Doorite
RNAS-5, Coudukerque

I recovered from my week in the hospital just in time for an afternoon sortie led by Flight Lieutenant Parker, with Sub-Lieutenant Whiling completing our threesome. We took off in the pouring rain, with cool grey strattus clouds hanging low and all but blotting out the sun.

Despite this it felt good to be back in action, and after the obligatory take off run and some semblance of formation we flew southeast. Our target: Haubordin aerodrome, where we'd kiss the Hun with some bombs and fly home.

We headed southeast therefore, and to be honest I didn't navigate. I was content to let Parker have the honor, while I practiced staying close enough for mutual support, while far enough to avoid any 'accidents.' We were flying over - I'm going to guess Abeele, though I can't be sure. There was definitely a friendly aerodrome below me, when I heard engines behind me. I spun: Four aircraft - I didn't zoom quickly enough to be sure what kind - in formation. They ignored us and vice versa, so I assume they were friendly.

Then I turned back. My flight was...gone. Look up right, down right, up left, down left.... gone. I banked sharply to improve my sight lines...nothing. Were they behind one of these thick grey clouds? Was I wrong about the foursome and they'd turned to engage? I doubt the latter - they were definitely biplanes, and I can't see Rolands or Aviatiks just peacefully ignoring us ...

Decision time. I pulled out Lou's maps and found my target. I had a rough idea where I was, and by turning straight south I soon ran into the largish forest south of Baileul. Once there I could look east and find Armentieres. Once THERE I sighted the Lys river, and so proceeded south more or less confident I was on target.

After flying over no man's land for several minutes heading dead south, I began to wonder about my navigation and spun east to get on the German side of the border. As it so happened, I was close - as an Eindecker was patient enough to explain to me.

I didn't see him until near the end: He'd come up behind me, and my observer, Captain Stevenson, let him have it. He soon fled or was destroyed (see below). After a bit of hunting around I found an observer balloon, and near that an aerodrome. I could identify the latter by its proximity and the nearby clump of trees: Avelin. I headed there with the intent of a final course correction, when Eindecker # 2 lazily drifted in front of my path.

His back was to me, as if he wanted to practice formation flying. I wanted to practice gunnery instead and fired a short burst into his fuselage. He climbed. I followed, firing. This was a bit of a mistake as I almost stalled out, but I managed to hold it and was just lining up on the pilot...

....when Eindecker # 3 struck from behind!

Stevenson must have been taking a nap, because here he was filling my stabilizer with holes. I may have shot #2 down - I'm not sure. Either 1 or 2 fell since we would get a claim when this is all over, but # 3 followed me into a dive. NOW Stevenson woke up and scared him off.

The tear of fabric usually means it's time to go home. Avelin aerodrome was handy, so I let them have the bombs instead with a hastily written note to "Please deliver to Haubordin." Then I turned for home. The German balloon was just sitting there, asking to be shot down, so I obliged and dove on it.

Too steeply. Over speed warning. Over G warning. After firing a good volley into it I broke off, planning to lazily turn around, bleed my speed and finish him.

That's about when I noticed that, even with full right aileron, I was banked about 45 degrees to the LEFT. And not stabilizing. CRAP! Time to run.

Over the next thirty seconds or so, once I steadied on a direct west course, I managed to stabilize my craft, but only with nearly full aileron and in sluggish, jerking motions. My rudder still worked, but with my ability to control my bank uhm.. shot, I tried not to rely on it.

The plan now was to sprint across the line, locate the city of Bethune, and from there to Chocques aerodrome. Nothing wrong with my wings, I slowly climbed from 2,000 to 5,000 feet over No Man's Land. Relaxing my grip on the joystick meant a hard left bank, and though keeping hold of the joystick didn't take much physical effort I could easily imagine my pilot grunting, wrestling with it.

And that's when Eindecker # 3 returned!

He dove on me from God knows where. Scattered shots to my left wing. Stevenson fired back and, as I crossed into friendly lines, he turned for home.

Bethune spotted: A little off course, but fixable. Aerodrome spotted. Now I allowed the plane to bank and cut the engine, pulling out of a shallow dive at about 1,000 feet and on the wrong end of a copse of trees east of the field. Oddly the plane stabilized easier this time - perhaps the faster airflow under the wings helped. Regardless I steadied on course and passed over the forest at tree top level to land.

I forgot to take a picture, but my stabilizer looked like Swiss cheese. Though the model didn't directly reflect that, I could easily imagine some of the wires controlling the control surface having been cut, explaining my disability.

No injuries, one pending claim, and the mechanics will need a few days to patch up my crate as well as give me a ride home.

Thanks for the maps, Lou! They saved my butt.

Last edited by CatKnight; 08/13/14 06:34 AM.