Lou, great to see you here. Love the livery. Very French. Proper British pilot wouldn't be seen dead in that thing. Like a flying boudoir, old boy.

Banjoman, I'm enjoying Abner's adventures in the other DiD thread, and greatly appreciate the welcome here.

Carrick, I'm jealous of your DH2.

Alfred Keers got in a bit of a scrape last time up...

Ground mist on 11 March gave us an extra two hours of kip time, although the coming and going of the guard was a constant disturbance. I chafed at my seemingly permanent role of Duty NCO.

Shortly after 8 oclock, Captain Paget Graves led a formation of five Fees to the lines near Armentieres. From there we were to fly south over the area where last week we set off some huge underground mines. Our tunneling troops are fighting a war under the trenches while we are fighting a war over them!

We climbed steadily as we headed east into blinding sunshine. The clouds were patchy and we made our way through them without difficulty, emerging onto the glowing white desert of the upper sky. Only a few minutes later I noticed movement off to my left. It took a while to confirm that Id seen something, but then a glint of silver betrayed the small formation three Hun two-seaters about a mile and a half off to the north and heading west, slightly above us.

I dashed forward and signalled to the flight commander, pointing in the direction of the Huns. He waved vaguely and I understood that I was to lead the way, so I put the Fee about and began climbing towards the north. The German aircraft had turned for home and I set course to cut off their retreat. I was about 500 yards from the enemy aircraft when I realised to my horror that our machine was the only one in the attack. Captain Paget Graves and the others had continued west. There was nothing for it now but to continue the attack.

As Captain Dawson (my observer) and I approached, the rear right Hun began firing. The gunner occupied the rear position in what I believe was an Aviatik type. I dodged under his tail as Dawson began returning fire. As soon as Dawsons rounds started to hit home on the right-hand Hun, the rear left-hand Huns rounds could be heard snapping past. Two holes appeared in the upper plane. I dipped under the rear left Hun and Dawson emptied the rest of his drum into it without apparent result.

Just then a deep burning pain shot up from my left leg. Id been hit by the right-hand Hun. There was blood and my heavy coat was torn, but it didnt seem serious. Everything moved as it ought to. We gave up the hunt and turned west, landing at a friendly field outside Bailleul. No 1 Squadron was there and I trundled directly up to a hangar where there were a number of pilots. Captain Dawson and one of the Morane pilots helped me down and into a tender. There was a dressing station operated by the Field Ambulance just a couple of miles east of the field. A RAMC doctor saw me fairly quickly and cleaned up the wound, which was little more than a furrow across the top of the left thigh.

Just a bit of a scratch is all, he said while puffing on his pipe. Mind you, another inch or two higher and youd have been the last of your line. It made me reconsider chasing two-seaters all alone.

Stitched up, I flew us back to Clairmarais, but when I landed I was told Id be off flying duty for five days. Then Major Wilson tore me up for bumf for gallivanting off after Huns like a bloody terrier after a ferret instead of maintaining formation. I tried to explain my misunderstanding of Captain Paget Gravess signal, but it was carefully explained that my stupidity did not constitute a compelling excuse.

Ill not have you wandering around my aerodrome with your thumb up your arse for five days, Sergeant. Report to the pilots pool in St-Omer this afternoon. Ive been fighting to keep you here, but Im beginning to question whether its worth the effort. See the squadron office after lunch for your papers.

That afternoon I sat forlornly in the back of the tender with my kit and two ack emma lance corporals who were off to retrieve parts. They reminded me that at least Id be done with orderly NCO duties. They were right. Life always gives you something good, even in the worst times.

I reported as instructed to Lieutenant W.F.C. Kennedy-Cochran-Patrick, the OC Depot, who tore a strip off me for not having reported directly to the pool on my arrival in France. I explained that my orders did not instruct me to do so, but apparently I didnt know what I was talking about. Then I explained that I was medically grounded for four more days and the good lieutenant started to get excited all over again. It seemed that I had that effect on officers. He asked what was wrong with me and whether I thought I could fly. I responded not much and yes, probably. He liked that answer.

Fine, then. Follow me. Mr Patrick led me out to the field. No 1 Aircraft Depot was a crowded spot and incredibly busy. Noises of engines running up, grinders grinding, and hammers pounding echoed across the narrow field, mixing with the blipping gurgle of Le Rhne rotaries from the Moranes and the deep rumbling of Beardmores and the dull thump from the oleo suspension of Fee undercarts as they dropped onto hard ground. Take that BE2 up as much as you want. Get some hours in while we figure out where youre going. But first, let me take you over to the Sergeants mess and get you a place to call home."

This was far better than being Duty NCO.

"I dipped under the rear left Hun and Dawson emptied the rest of his drum into it without apparent result."