29 Nov 1916 @ 08h01 Patrol to Koksijde airfield, Dunkerque, and home
Another grey day with rain and snow with 3kn winds. Ltn. Green led the flight with Gnr Jones on board. I was on wing with Carlson manning the gun and Sgt Leith with Capt Cleaver on board was on the other side of the V.
We were expecting a rather quiet flight being that we were well behind the lines, and that is how it turned out until we approached Hondeschoote airfield, at which point all hell broke loose. Carlson started pointing anxiously to our starboard side high at 10 o’clock. I could see nothing and noted that Green and Leith were staying in formation. I saw Carlson quickly rise up to take the overhead gun. My immediate reaction was to bank starboard keeping the nose down slightly to offer him a decent angle to shoot as we took several hits. As I came around I spotted three Halb DII’s coming our way. Two shot on straight passed us but the other jockeyed for position on our stern. My visibility was pretty much nil in the FE so I looked to Carlson for direction and we banked hard in an effort to give him a frontal shot. We danced the jolly reel for some time taking hits occasionally as we drifted NE and loosing altitude in an effort to gain a faster turn. On several occasions I had him locked directly in front of us offering a dandy shot for Carlson but it was not to be. He was fumbling with the drum which must have been jammed for I could see his lips cursing as he pounded on the drum to loose it. Our only hope was to fend him off long enough to reach Furnes which we were getting close to as we drifted each in circles. The ground came up fast and the controls were extremely sluggish. The Halb made one more pass hitting us with several rounds. I was sure we were for it and I had to straighten out and head for Furnes or we would be going in for sure. I kept waiting for the final rounds to finish us off and to my amazement they didn’t come. I soon spotted the Halb out in front of us a good distance away heading east and took some pleasure in the fact he was receiving greeting from our archie at Furnes. I hobbled in to the airfield and set the FE down gently, taxied up to the hangar and got out quickly, noting the damage done to our planes and ailerons. Carlson didn’t move and as I touched him on the shoulder he slumped over. The ambulance arrived just in time to aid in getting him out of the pit but it was too late. He had gone west. I felt like a wet rag. In fact I didn’t feel much at all. I was unable to come to grips with it for several hours. I later learned that Green was wounded, his observer Cleaver killed and their craft destroyed. Leith was also lightly wounded but his observer was ok. Their craft was also destroyed. It was far from a good day.
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