Hasse, congratulations on a safe landing in difficult circumstances. I thought for a minute that Bruno could follow a fine French tradition and start his own boucherie chevaline. Great to see you posting again. I'm looking forward to Robert joining us on 5 April!
Colin Urquhart has finally scored his fifth official kill.
A journal of the Great War – By an Anonymous Aviator
The last two days brought enough break in the weather to get in a morning flight each day. Blissfully, ground fog and rain caused the cancellation of the earliest patrol, so the steward roused me at four each morning only to tell me that I could sleep in until seven-thirty, at which time he reappeared with steaming mugs of sweet tea and chocolate biscuits. The temperatures were dropping now and on the occasional morning a thin crust of ice formed over the water jugs. I poured a little into a white enamel basin and placed it on the stove to warm before washing and shaving. Reggie Soar shaved across the stove from me, singing an aria – usually from Tosca but always very, very badly.
On 27 November 1916 my shave was interrupted by the Recording Officer, John D’Albiac, who bellowed at Soar and I to drop everything and get our machines on the field with Flight Commander Goble. Goble was B Flight Commander, but this was an emergency job. Apparently Huns were seen heading towards Doullens or Marieux. I pulled boots and some corduroy trousers on over my pajamas, put on a bulky Irish knit sweater and grabbed by flying coat and gear. Soar headed for his hangar. My little Nieuport was already being run up by Leading Mechanic Black. Hazard was already aboard his machine. The mixed formation of Pups and Nieuports took off line abreast and sorted themselves out, climbing westward through wispy rain squalls. I thought of my mug of tea, scarcely touched, and cursed the Kaiser. I looked behind and saw an unfamiliar Pup. It took station to my starboard quarter. It was Flt Comdr Huskisson, the Squadron Second-in-Command.
Over Doullens we began to patrol, four miles south, two miles west, four miles north, two miles east, and around again, passing over Marieux field on every north or south leg. On our third circuit I looked down and spotted three pale objects passing over a small dark wood southeast of Marieux. I pulled ahead and waggled my wings, but Flt Comdr Goble did not seem to notice. I fired a red flare and, not wanting to lose the unidentified aircraft, left formation. No one followed.
For a minute or two I had lost them, and then a flicker of movement caught my eye. Three pale brown machines were heading directly for Marieux. They were biplanes with square wingtips. At last I could make out the absence of bright colours on their markings, and second later the dirty black crosses – three Halberstadt scouts. It was a rare thing to find Huns this far over our lines. I glanced over my shoulder and, seeing nothing behind, dived at full speed on the trailing Hun. When I was about 300 yards he turned to meet me and we began to circle, drifting lower and lower over the woods and fields. The other hostile machines must have abandoned their mate, for it was just he and I. His Halberstadt could not out-turn the tiny Nieuport and at length I was able to hit him with a short burst. The Hun lost nerve and levelled out, heading east. I had the advantage of a little height and quickly got on his tail, closing to about 20 or 30 yards before I fired. He sideslipped away. I turned, but he was gone.
I circled a couple of times, searching above and below before spotting him. Now he was low, gliding unsteadily to a ploughed field about half a mile off. I approached and saw his machine touch down, and then begin to tumble “arse over teakettle.” The machine broke apart and caught fire.
D’Albiac met me on the field. Goble had already reported the kill; he had finally noticed the Huns and turned to join me. The Hun was down before he could get near, so he had turned and beaten me back to Vert Galant. The Halberstadt was my fifth official victory, my first with the Detached Squadron.
On 28 November Hazard and I were asked to join Goble’s flight to attack a balloon near Guillemont. I got the first run at it and fired my LePrieurs. I saw at least one hit and a few seconds later I looked back to see the balloon fall in flames. I put in a claim, but Flt Comdr Huskisson, who had again joined the party, had hit the thing after me and got the credit.
We returned home separately after the attack and the weather made the trip miserable. The cloud was nearly down to ground level and I thought I’d never make it. The Nieuport lacks a compass and for some reason by little prismatic compass was not in the pocket of my flying coat. It was a huge relief at last to emerge from a low cloud over the hills west of Doullens and spot the White Ensign flapping in the wind over our field.
Now am off for the rest of the day and heading for the bath house in Doullens!
"Now he was low, gliding unsteadily to a ploughed field..."