I experienced my first combat yesterday, it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Hauptman Goller, my observer, and I were ordered to fly an artillery spotting mission up near Arras for our morning sortie. We arrived without incident and Goller got to work. As we were flying our pattern I noticed an aeroplane approaching from the northeast, but I wasn't too concerned because the enemy had always behaved themselves. I kept my attention divided between Goller and the oncoming machine because I still hadn't identified it yet. It wasn't long before I realized it was a Bristol Scout, but I still wasn't concerned because the Scouts we had encountered before never paid any attention to us, so we carried on. When the tommy had gotten about 800 to 900 meters away, I noticed the enemy make an abrupt turn in our direction. I notified Goller to prepare himself because it looked like this tommy was up to no good. I put our bus into an easy left turn which afforded Goller a clear field of fire towards the enemy and he started banging away. I soon discovered that the enemy couldn't get into an advantageous position if I kept us in this bank. It was at that moment that I made a crucial mistake, I then decided to roll into a right turn and thereby shorten the range for Goller. Somehow, my change in direction had confused Goller but not the enemy because I had mistakenly placed myself right where he could fire. A hail of bullets slammed into our plane before I could correct my mistake which resulted in many holes in my wings and unknown to me at the time, my fuel tank as well. I immediately rolled back to the left which put Goller back into a firing position and he began firing again. He fired a particularly long burst after which the enemy's engine burst into flames. I sat there stunned and covered in sweat, the coughing of my engine woke me to the reality of my situation. I turned for home and set her down in a field. It was only we were on the ground did we both realize that we had both been wounded, a slight graze to my upper arm and a graze to Goller's thigh. We sat there each in his own thoughts until Goller said, "We did it, I thought we were goners, but we won." and with that we started laughing and congratulating each other. Aerial combat is a strange mistress, she scares you at first but then she intoxicates you with her zest for life.
Member and provider of banjo music for the Illustrious BOC