Fullofit, so sorry to hear about your losing Bruce. He had an amazingly long career! Good luck with Mr. C!

A journal of the Great War By an Anonymous Aviator (Colin Urquhart)

Part 5

Buck and I ran from the twisted remains of our Strutter. The ground was rocky and torn with shell holes. From across the valley a machine gun hammered away. We could hear rounds slapping into the mud and ringing off the rocks nearby. Buck took a roll of barbed wire in a leap, or at least tried to. The tails of his leather flying coat caught and brought him crashing into the mud. I risked puncture by searching for a gap in the wire. From there it was a breathless fifty yards to the edge of the wood. And that is where the two dullest poilus in France met us with the points of their bayonets. They screamed at us and spat at us and called us Boches and, Im fairly sure, a number of other unsavoury things. One of them, who I gathered was named Paul, wanted to shoot us on the spot. The other, named Pierre (I know, I laughed too, despite our predicament), wanted to stick us a bit first.

I screamed Anglais at them, then aviateur, then Canadiens, but I might as well have been shouting Dont shoot, Im the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Inland Revenue. Pierre and Paul stared at us, slack-jawed and dull-eyed, and darted their bayonets about our faces. After a minute or two of this, an officer rode up on a fine grey.

Thank God, I said. Do you speak English?

He removed a leather glove and slapped me twice across the face. Ferme ta putain de gueule, maudit barbare!

What? I asked. I truly had no idea what he said. Thats when my trusty colleague Jacob Buck spoke up.

If I have it right, Colin, he said for you to shut your whore of an ugly throat, you damned barbarian. Buck was very satisfied with himself. Id had no idea he could "parlez-vous the ding-dong."

Seriously? I asked Buck. A whore of a throat? What the hell is a whore of a throat?

Its rather vulgar, I admit, said Buck.

Vulgar? These idiots need to learn how to curse. I turned to the snail-eating officer. There followed some florid asservations of his mental inferiority and low birth, interspersed with lurid Anglo-Saxon suggestions as to what he could do with himself and where he could do it, and capped with suggestions for the disposition of the French army and of Pierre and Paul. I stopped to catch my breath.

Eh bien, why did you not tell me you were Canadian? he said.

Lieutenant Morneau, for so he was named, turned out to be a fine fellow possessed of a comfortable dugout with good stock of port. He was even able to procure a glass of fresh milk for my Mennonite gunlayer-cum-translator. It took until evening to get us back to the field at Luxeuil.

We went all the way to Colmar on a patrol on the 9th October. We spotted a pair of Hun two-seaters, but they were too far off to be worth chasing.

On the 10th we escorted Nathanial Page and Ron White for an artillery shoot up near Luneville. About twenty minutes into the shoot three Fokker biplanes climbed to the attack. It turned into a wild fight. I got a deflection shot at one of the Huns who tumbled out of control. There was another on us, and Buck had done a good job of holding him off. As religious and upright as he was, I was astounded by his vocabulary when engaging the enemy. I managed to damage the second Fokker in a head-on pass, then get behind him as he tried to break off. We both dived towards the Hun lines with Archie bursting all around. At length I closed on him and finished him off, watching the machine crash into some trees north of Herbville.

We were turning for home when I noticed a bit of yellow moving over the dark earth a half-mile off. It was likely the third Hun. We made for it and surprised him near Hming. He fell into a field and burned. We returned elated and claimed all three. Thats when we learned that Page and White had not returned. Page was a young English boy. Id hardly got to know him, although he had the cabin next to mine in our hut. White was a petty officer. He had been in the service since 1914.

The RO informed me later that my OOC claim was denied, as the Hun had recovered close to the ground and headed east. The French balloon line confirmed the second Hun, and the third was denied as it was not witnessed and Captain Elder was a stickler for understated claims. Still, I now had three confirmed victories and was a damned fine fellow, wot, or so the Captain said.

That night a new fellow moved into Pages cabin an American named Charles something. Hed signed up in Canada, he said.

We flew twice on the 11th without anything interesting happening, except that I landed from the afternoon flight in the dark. That was a first and was frankly terrifying. Just before touching down, our machine gave a sharp lurch and there was a snapping of brush. We landed with a good piece of treetop in our undercarriage.

Not everyone was so fortunate. The next day was a momentous one. Most of our wing escorted the French bombing group to attack the Mauser works in Oberndorf, Germany. The Escadrille Americaine went into action for the first time. The day was a sad one for our American friends across the way. Norman Nimmie Prince, one of their earliest members, was coming in to land in the late day and hit a telegraph wire. He was thrown from his machine and seriously injured.

We missed the Oberndorf show. Instead we accompanied Flt Comdr Draper, Armstrong, and Dissette over the lines near Nancy to attack an enemy rail junction. Except for some accurate Archie, nothing of note happened.

The next two days saw us on an offensive patrol twenty miles over, then on an artillery shoot up near St-Di. I am beginning to think the Huns have given up the air to us. They certainly have not been bothering us a great deal of late.


"At length I closed on him and finished him off, watching the machine crash into some trees north of Herbville."