Today I finally got to fly one of those cursed Nieuports that have been harassing us constantly. Manfred and I were given a artillery spotting job up near Arras and we had just reached our operating altitude, when along came a lone Nieuport to attack us. I signaled to Manfred and we attacked him instead, which threw him into confusion. The sheep aren't supposed to attack the wolf, but these sheep do. The poor Frenchman was being shot at from all directions and eventually he dove for home. As we reformed for our job, I noticed that he put down about 5 miles from our aerodrome. I marked the spot on our map and we continued with our work. As soon as we returned, Manfred and I jumped into the squadron car and raced over to view our kill. When we arrived there was a small group of the local garrison guarding the Nieuport and the wounded pilot. We pushed through the crowd and found the Feldwebel and informed him that we would be taking possession of the aeroplane. We had no trouble with him, he seemed relieved to have this burden removed. We spoke to the pilot, who had a nasty wound in his leg, and told him that we had vanquished him today and the war for him was over. Manfred, who always carries Schnapps, gave him something to drink for the pain and our conversation soon turned to flying. Manfred's French is better than mine, so he naturally led the conversation. He asked a few questions regarding the Nieuport which of course, the Frenchman wouldn't answer. After awhile, the transport that the Feldwebel had arranged for the wounded pilot arrived, and we said our goodbyes. As soon as the Frenchman left, Manfred turned to me and said, "You know comrade, since I was the one that shot him down I should have the first go with that Nieuport." I smiled and said, "You are right, but you are forgetting one thing." He said, "What's that?" I said, "I am your commanding officer and therefore I get to fly it first." Sometimes being the CO really does have its benefits. He smiled and went to the front of the aeroplane to prepare for my takeoff. The engine started at once and after a few minutes of warming the engine I was off. I have never experienced an aeroplane taking off like this Nieuport, it seemed to literally leap up into the air. This aeroplane is so light on the controls and skittish that I was floundering around for a few minutes, but eventually I became accustomed to how she handled. What joy, this aeroplane soars like a bird and flits around like a butterfly. I was stunting all the way back to our aerodrome. It lands like it regrets leaving the air, our Aviatiks land like they are thankful to be back on the ground. When I landed, I told all of the pilots that they would each get a chance to fly the Nieuport and then I would arrange transportation back to headquarters.
Member and provider of banjo music for the Illustrious BOC