Great stories everyone. I have been much enjoying reading them on my work breaks.
Here is the opening installment of my pilot's story. William Arthur George Stanley is ready to take to the skies.
I had a bit of trouble getting him started. For some reason, a pilot in 16 squadron cannot fly in early December without causing a DLL crash. I reinstalled WOFF before I worked out it was that specific. Stanley is flying in game on the earliest available day where he can fly, the 21st of December. But I am considering his progress to be at roughly the same pace as everyone else's.
The barking of the training sergeant carried far over the racecourse in the cold damp air. The wooden collisades of the grand stand stood empty, but men in khaki marched up and down the course, trampling the turf into a muddy mess. Here and there, men undergoing instruction in various aspects of military life huddled in groups against the cold. Between the road and the stands, in sheds and stables that had until recently supported the sport of kings, men became accustomed to the mechanisms of modern war.
In one of the administration offices, William Stanley reported for duty.
Captain Anne looked up and smiled at the student pilot that had been brought before his desk by a helpful orderly. "Ah, welcome to Doncaster second..." the adjutant peered at the officer's buttons, "lieutenant. Household Cavalry I see?" "Yes sir," Stanley replied, "the Blues." "Good! Good balance is what is needed in an aeroplane, and a cavalry officer is well practised in that function. You shan't be expected to bed down in a stable here. Officers are billeted in the big house opposite the main entrance. You can't miss it. Happily the mess is there as well."
The adjutant consulted a list and scribbled a note, which he handed to Stanley. "This is your room. Report to 'C' shed on the aerodrome at 0800 hours dressed to fly."
The next morning found Stanley waiting in front of a wooden hangar with a dozen other pilots. Like Stanley's, their wings were freshly stitched onto their tunics. One or two wore their yellow flying coats open to display the magical badge. It was shortly before dawn that Stanley arrived on the aerodrome and the weather had been deemed good enough by Captain Moller, one of the instructors.
15 (reserve) squadron had a few of the shorthorns that Stanley had soloed on, not three weeks before. The majority of the aeroplanes were a tractor type biplane called an Armstrong Whitworth FK3. It was an attempt at improving on the Royal Aircraft Factory's BE2, but had turned out so similar that most people would have assumed that they were looking at two aircraft of the same type. There were a few BE2s as well, and it was in one of these that Captain Moller took Stanley up.
"Nothing fancy," Moller had told his pupil before climbing into the cockpit. "Take off, make a circuit to the north. Don't fly over the town. I don't want you having an engine failure and making an unannounced visit to some poor lady's garden. Take us up to one thousand feet and make a good descent and landing. You've got your wings, so show me that you deserve them."
The BE2 climbed far more quickly than the gentle shorthorns that Stanley had been flying. As the hangars on his left dropped away, Stanley saw the pointed end of the teardrop shaped racecourse behind them. This was where the stands clustered along the Great North road. White dots inside the circuit showed where soldiers were being trained in setting up tents in a proper military fashion.
The wind wobbled the wings of the climbing BE gently as they reached the target altitude. The dark brick terraces of Doncaster stretched away to the left and Stanley turned right, and north, mindful of Moller's instruction. Moller, sat in the rear cockpit, watched his movements with silent judgement. North of the aerodrome was open countryside and Stanley flew over dark winter fields under a grey sky. Now slowly descending with the engine ticking at idle.
On the approach to the aerodrome, Stanley saw a copse startlingly close to his left wing. He dipped the right wing to veer away from them before levelling out and making a good, if fast landing. The tail skid bounced slightly before settling and dragging the BE2 to a stop.
After taxiing over to the hangars, Moller helped Stanley down from the front cockpit.
"A good start, Second Lieutenant. A lot of pilots are taught to hold the wings level and turn solely with rudder. Either you weren't taught that or you ignored your instructors." The ruddy faced Captain leered at him, "don't you dare ignore me, by the way. If you had turned with the rudder, we would have skidded into those trees. So well done on the banking turn."
Stanley beamed with pride.
"It would have been better if you had been looking where you were going. Those bloody trees are well off the proper approach." Moller continued. "Go and find something to eat, and then report back here. If the weather stays clement we may have you up again after lunch."