At 12,000 feet the engine struggles to breathe, the wings run out of lift. The rudder sags and responds sulkily, requiring more and more boot to keep the aircraft pointed in a straight line. The Caudron G.4 however handles the air at high altitude with comparative ease, it's two large engines huddled in their acorn shaped nacelles provide enough thrust to take the seemingly ungainly bomber with it's crew of two to over 13,000ft. Kolb was not long into his patrol when he spotted the Caudrons, they were about 4,000ft above him and coming from the direction of Saint Quentin, presumably returning from a dawn bombing raid in the area. It was a long and slow chase, not an exhilarating rush of adrenaline but a wearing test of endurance, would Kolb be able to coax the machine high enough with his current fuel load, would he close to within firing range before the machines reached the relative safety their side of the lines and put their noses down in order to outrun him.
Minutes ticked by and the shapes of the two G.4's slowly drew nearer, Kolb began to pick out details on the hindmost machine, the lattice like tail, the head of the observer who was watching Kolb approach, waiting, as Kolb was, for the moment to fire. When he was within 300 yards Kolb began firing short bursts in an attempt to get the Caudron to turn and lose speed, he didn't expect to hit at this range but both Kobes and Laack had told him that enemy aircraft would often respond in such a way, despite not being in any particular danger, out of sheer reflex. This French pilot was made of sterner stuff however and it wasn't until Kolb had closed to 200 yards and his rounds began striking the bomber that the pilot veered into a graceful right hand turn, carrying the two merging aircraft East. They were over the lines now, Kolb could not keep up the pursuit much longer for fear of ending up stranded behind enemy lines again or having his line of retreat potentially cut off by enemy scouts. He urged his machine on, closing steadily and firing bursts as the opportunities presented themselves.
At 100 yards the enemy observer began to return fire, Kolb jinked, careful not to lose speed but needing to maneuver behind and under the tail of the G.4 in order to stay out of the observer's fire. The duel went on this way, a game of cat and mouse which the observer eventually won with an accurate burst that holed Kolb's fuel tank and forced him to turn away to the north. Kolb swore, his fuel was running out fast and he was over the wrong side of the lines. At least he had plenty of height, he would make it home. Provided nothing else went wrong. Laack's words came to him subconsciously.
"There's no problem in flying that you can't make worse Kolb."
Mindful of this advice from his departed friend Kolb considered the foolhardiness of his pursuit and the inept manner in which he had engaged the enemy. Of course Kolb didn't have many options given the circumstances but he identified his major mistake in this instance as having been too keen, too hot headed in his pursuit. The problem was that, given the relative parity of his aircraft with the Caudron, Kolb was left with precious few options so far as engaging advantageously. He would have to talk to Kobes and the others about tactics, using the sun, patrolling the right places at the right times.
"Live and learn, but live first." Kolb mused to himself as he descended. He picked a field from the myriad below and landed on it safely.
Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.
Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein.