A journal of the Great War – By an Anonymous Aviator (Colin Urquhart)
I returned from Doullens that evening to the sobering news that Barry Hazard had not reported in. The next morning brought no news. As had been the pattern of late, our first flight got away only at nine. Flt Comdr Goble led three of his B Flight Pups, and I was instructed to tag along with my Nieuport. The Pups climbed so much better. It was difficult to keep station. Our task was a “close offensive patrol” in the Arras-Monchy sector. We saw nothing and turned towards home after the appointed time. I signalled to Goble that I would patrol alone – I had cleared it with him before.
The Nieuport was fully fuelled. There was enough remaining for about thirty or forty minutes, so I headed south over the lines to Miraumont and then turned north. Just as I was about to give up three Halberstadt scouts passed close overhead. I had completely missed their approach, but they were oblivious to my presence. Seized by a moment’s madness, I decided to stalk them.
I was behind the rearmost Hun and only 400 yards off when one of his mates spotted me and turned. The others must have been dud fellows, for they made off and the lone Halberstadt jockey and I turned and twisted without result for nearly ten minutes until I managed to hit the hostile machine during a head-on pass. He snapped about and headed home. I closed on him and emptied the rest of my drum into him from very close range. I was certain that my rounds splashed all about his cockpit. The Lewis stopped, its bolt to the rear, and I turned away. My Hun put its nose down and dived eastwards, still under control. I landed at La Bellevue, where I got a splash of petrol before setting course for Vert Galant.
At lunch Lieutenant D’Albiac told me that I should gather up Hazard’s things if we had no news by tea. We didn’t, and Soar helped me. There were letters from a girl at home, which we burned in the oven. One never knows what such things contain. He had a few personal items: a good pocket watch, a Waterman safety pen, a cricket bat, and a book of Blake’s poetry. His flying gear was spread out on his bunk. It was apparently the norm that any personal flying gear was up for grabs. My feet were too big for his sheepskin thigh boots, but I claimed a nearly new felt face-mask. I was nearly undone going through his drawers where I found a ragged stuffed dog under his singlets. It had likely been his since infancy. It went in the box we prepared to mail to England. I lost an argument with Soar about that decision; I was certain it would shatter Hazard’s mother to send it.
Hazard was our second loss. FSL Hope had gone down on 23 November. I did not really know him well.
The next morning high winds, low clouds, and sleet prevented all flying. I taught French to the lower deck instead. My star pupil, Dalgliesh, was clearly in love. His hand waved continually above his unkempt vacant head as he sought in vain to retain basic phrases to support his courting with local farmgirls. I scarcely got the chance to answer him, as there was always some wag ahead of me:
Dalgliesh: “Surr, how wud ye ask a wee French lassie ta gae fer a stroll, surr?”
Evan (a transport driver): “You mean how would you get the poor thing to stop screaming and running away, don’t you?”
Dalgliesh (obviously hurt): “Awa’ and bile yer heid, ye numpty. Yer no a romantick, see?”
After dinner on the 30th, Squadron Commander Bromet informed me that I was up for leave starting 12 December. With luck the bad weather would continue.