August 15, 1916
Flight Sub-Lt. Dudley Doorite
RNAS-4, Coudekerque

Yesterday Flight Lieutenant Parker bid me stay behind and help the mechanics work on my crate as well as other repairs. He felt it would do me good to see how much work went into keeping a Strutter airworthy. It's like he somehow blamed me for getting shot up. It's not like I asked the Eindeckers to do so.

I think he's just bitter that his claim was rejected, while mine was not. That means I have two kills to his one. I'm not the leader though: That honor goes to a newcomer, Flight Lieutenant Nick Arthur, who joined yesterday with 5 kills to his name. A bonafide ace.

Today Parker announced that the combined British and French armies were preparing to attack Guillemonte, some little village between Albert and Bapaume, in an effort to break the stalemate north of the Somme. We would be heading a little further southeast, to Athies, to hopefully destroy some trains and prevent reinforcements. Parker led one flight consisting of him, Whiting and I, while Lt. Arthur led the second flight of three more.

It never ceases to puzzle and amaze me that Wing Command sends us so far south when there must be half a dozen squadrons closer including several more dedicated bomber types. Still, it was a cool day, brilliant with puffy cumulus clouds at 5-7,000 feet, and I could think of far worse ways to spend my morning.

As we winged south-south east I kept looking back over my shoulder, back past my observer, and watched first the city of Dunkirk, then the entire North Coast fade to an idea, a suggestion on the northern horizon, wondering if I'd ever see it again.

I'll spoil the suspense. I needn't have worried.

Indeed, my only problem seemed to be growing issues keeping up with Parker and Whiting. Parker led us south to Lens, then on to Athies, while I steadily lost ground. Enemy Archie may have fired on us: I definitely heard the eternal artillery battle along the Somme, but at 10,000 feet nothing hit. No Eindeckers either. If they noticed us, they couldn't catch us.

We reached Athies 2 or 3 minutes apart, then I spun to pursue my wingmates home. Farther...farther... eventually, not too far from home but not that close either, I lost them entirely.

Well then. I knew the course: 330 degrees, Parker hadn't wavered since his bombing run. I also knew he and Whiting would stay at 10,000 feet until the final descent. I determined to pay them back by racing them home and broke into a dive, levelling out at 5,000 feet.

Not good enough. A huge cloud chose to block my path. I plowed through it, and at 4,000 feet the haze finally broke and I saw Dunkirk clear.

Nonetheless, it took a few minutes of spiraling to find out where Coudekerque hid. I zeroed in and came in for a landing.

Did I beat Parker and Whiting home? As I turned off my engine I heard the stuttering drone of idling engines. Looking up I saw two specks slowly spiraling the field, trying to get down.

Serves them right for leaving me behind.