04:00 comes awfully early when you've made the mistake of staying up too late, oh well, that's life in the Royal Navy. I've been waiting for this day to come for almost a year and now it has arrived. I've finally been ordered to the front on my first combat patrol. I can't tell if what I'm feeling is excitement or dread, maybe it is a little of both. Anyway, breakfast has been eaten, engine has been warmed up, maps and other gear have been rounded up, so we best be off. Took off promptly at 06:05am and headed off over the channel to climb to our operating altitude. After what seemed like forever, we turned and headed off to the front where we had been ordered to photograph any troop movement along the front just east of Poperinghe. We arrived without incident and began circling over our target while I took all of the requested photographs. It was a smashing good time as we had the sky entirely to ourselves. On one of our circuits two Hun aeroplanes just flew right below us, they looked at us and we them. Before anybody could do anything they were gone, just as well, I don't know if I could have done anything anyway. As we were turning for home, my engine started making the most horrible racket one would ever want to hear while flying over Hunland. I had to leave the formation and begin limping for home. I remember the old salts in the squadron telling me that if I had engine trouble and I had to set her down somewhere other than an airfield then I was to look for a road to use because as they would say, "You really don't want to hit any fences, they can really ruin your day". I set her down and walked the few miles to a phone and had the squadron lorry come and fetch us. I would say, that was enough excitement for me on my first day.
Here are more photographs that Thayer took with his Browning.
Heading out to the lines.
Taking photographs of troop movements
Huns that flew right under us.
Thayer and myself sitting in a field.
Member and provider of banjo music for the Illustrious BOC