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

06:42 Line Patrol Over the Niewpoort Area

Foul weather to start the day with another patrol near the coast at Niewpoort. "A" flight was in the lead by about a mile when two contacts dropped in behind them between our two flights. Unable to catch them we could only watch. After a few minutes the contacts could be seen pulling away and heading towards the German lines, so I could only assume they were enemy aircraft based on their behavior.

We soon lost sight of A flight and never regained sight of them. As we approached the coast I spotted two contacts which seemed to be following us. But with the heavy clouds I soon lost sight of them. Later during our patrol there they were again, this time about 500 yards directly below us...and they were Fokkers! But they didn't see us and went on with their business.

This game of cat and mouse went on throughout our patrol with the contacts following us off and on even as we were homeward bound and well to the west of Niewpoort. Finally the Fokkers begain to close on us and our gunners opened up at about 300 yards at which point they immediately broke off without further incident.

14:53 Line Patrol Between Ypres and Niewpoort

The bad weather broke and the sun came out for our afternoon patrol. There seemed to be nobody else in the sky with with us, either friend or foe. Then I spotted three cons about a mile to our left and above us. I watched them intently as they passed by, and finally as they closed I could see they were Fokkers. But they didn't seem to see us in the partly cloudy skies. I continued to watch them as they passed more to our rear and then out of the corner of my eye I realized there were 5 Fokkers trailing us by just 500 yards that nobody had seen!

No time to really think and no telling where they came from, I jumped in my gunners position and opened fire at about 300 yards. The Fokkers reciprocated. They seemed to split up a bit, picking out their favorite targets among the three trailing planes in our formation of six (me being one of them). Within a moment our rearmost plane began to trail smoke and went into a dive. At the same time I heard bullets start to hit my plane so I broke to the right with two Fokkers in hot pursuit.

As I dove to gain some speed I could tell my plane wasn't handling right nor my engine sounding all too good. I put the nose west and went into a shallow dive at full throttle. This gained me 600 to 800 yards separation from my two pursuers but I quickly ran out of airspace and had to level off at about 1500 feet. At full throttle I was only making 60 mph with my damaged engine so I knew I would be caught by the Fokkers within moments. But off to my left I saw a British observation ballooon and made a beeline for it!

Just as I reached the balloon the Fokkers reached me and my friends on the ground opened fire. One Fokker plummeted into the ground immediately and the other turned in retreat back towards his lines. I limped my plane home only to find I was the only one to return. Later that day I learned that four craft from my flight and their crews had been destroyed with only one other surviving craft who had been forced to land with its pilot lightly wounded.

You can imagine my relief when I returned and was told that my transfer request to Esc 5 (RNAS-1) where I would be flying Nieuports had been approved! I quickly packed, said my goodbyes, then caught a ride with a supply truck heading on to Furnes this evening where Esc 5 is stationed. But my high spirits were tempered by the thoughts of the men I left behind at Auchel/Lozinghem flying those Farmans and wondering how much longer Capt. Bouckaert would survive.

When I arrive at Furnes I mean to find out the name of that balloon crew and send them all some fine whiskey and cigars as they certainly saved my neck today!

P.S. And I thought DiD might be boring...this has been hair raising to say the least, and some of the best flight simming I've done in a good long time! pilot

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