17 August 1916
Achille Coppens
Quatrieme Escadrille (RFC 25), Belgium
Farman F.40 Pusher (F.E.2b)

08:25 Line Patrol

Finally back in the saddle again! Our mission this morning was a line patrol in friendly territory over the Niewpoort area. Weather was awful but I won't complain. Got a few glimpses of the coast and had a chance to knock the cobwebs off. No enemy aircraft spotted. In fact the only other contacts we saw were moving towards the line from west to east in front of us, but we never got close enough to identify them.

16:10 Line Patrol

This afternoon Capt. Bouckaert and I were sent back out on our second patrol of the day along the front between Ploegsteert and Ypres. I guess our C.O. wanted us to make up for lost time! We joined three other craft in B flight with 3 more craft flying top cover in A flight.

After our climb out we lost sight of A flight and never made contact again. As we approached the line 5 dots emerged directly in front of us at co-alt. One dot dropped away and did not return, but four dots came directly at us. As they came into view they were Fokkers and looking for a fight! They passed just under us and came in behind us.

As the Fokkers approached from our rear no effort was made to engage them, but instead once again we held our patrol formation. The Fokkers closed to within firing distance on our rearmost plane and opened fire. In just an instant he exploded like a giant fireworks display. Then the Fokkers focused on the next of us in line while we maintained our formation with some sporadic fire from our gunners. The Fokkers quickly sent the next of us plummeting to earth in a death spiral with one Fokker following him down to make sure of the kill.

Now there are two of us left and at this point I'm thinking to heck with orders, so I break out of what is left of our formation with my wingmate and begin to maneuver. My wingmate breaks in the opposite direction and the three remaining Fokkers follow me! So now the chase is on. Not looking to fight three Fokkers at once I put my nose down to the west and run!

My wingman quickly dissappears from sight, but not the Fokkers. Being a good 30 miles from my home field I start to look for alternative fields but also realize if I slow down to land the Fokkers will be on me. So I maintain a gentle descent at full power towards my home field as the Fokkers appear to be slowly closing. Finally at about 10 miles from my field one Fokker breaks off the chase. Then a few miles later the second Fokker breaks off and now its an even fight! But when I turn to engage the last Fokker he suddenly decides he is no longer interested in me and turns for home. Realizing the chase could go on for another 20 miles back to the lines I turn back for home and land alone without incident. Later in the day it is reported that all three of my wingmen were shot down with the loss of all crew members and craft.

This tactic of flying in formation without combat maneuvering is doing us little good in this experiment with the Farman in the role of a scout. My alternative is to break away from the formation but then become a lone target that could be singled out as I was today. The only solution seems to be to turn and fight, as we can't outrun the enemy. Had the Fokkers pressed their pursuit another few miles I would have likely met the same fate as the rest of my flight. But would they listen to the ideas of a Sergeant? Probably not, so I'll bide my time and pray I survive long enough for my transfer to a scout squad as I refuse to call the Farman a scout!

Dogfighting is what you do "after" you drop your bombs and blow something up!
Can you say "JABO!" thumbsup