13-14 December, 1915
Le Bourget
Sergent Gaston A. Voscadeaux

The Caudron was heading east. The pilot in the cockpit was barely looking for any terrain landmarks anymore to navigate by. He knew where he was going and was confident of reaching his destination without too much trouble. The sky was clear and the sun which was rarely seen this time of year was shining brightly, casting playful reflections and dark shadows inside his cockpit. The autumn leaves on the trees below assaulted his senses with the multitude of hues saturated with brilliant reds, fiery oranges and bright yellows. The roads and train tracks snaked their way on the ground beneath, switching sides from port to starboard and back, as if they were playing hide and seek with the aviateur, who was tracking them. The waters of Marne were shimmering in the distance to the north. Harvested fields and sprawling forests filled the reminder of his vista. Gaston was on his way to Villeneuve-les-Vertus near Epernay as part of his next piloting exercise. Land there and return back, all in one go. The awe inspiring views surrounding his machine would be something he’d enjoy immensely, were it not for the dark plume of smoke his #2 engine was trailing. The trouble started 3/4 of the way to the destination airfield. There was no point turning back now and Gaston decided to fly on. He kept glancing at the ailing engine and giving it the looks as if it were Kaiser himself. He knew he will not hear the end of it when the captain at Le Bourget hears of it. He’ll tear him a new one for sure, but before this unpleasant activity occurs, he will have to get his butt down to earth in one piece and preferably not in flames. The smell of burning oil was noticeable and he was risking the engine catching on fire, but it was either this or getting stranded somewhere in the middle of an empty field with no help in sight. Thankfully the engine stabilized and kept on running albeit with significantly reduced RPMs. He was slowly losing altitude but the aerodrome soon appeared in view and Gaston was able to bring it in. Le Pou was the first person Gaston recognized and it was him who again took care of the Caudron’s sick engine. Once the mechanic had a look, he estimated that the repairs would take a whole day. Broken rings in one of the cylinders were the culprits of this most recent mechanical failure. Gaston braced himself for another phone conversation with his captain.
The next day Gaston was up very early, anxious to be back up in the air and on his way to Le Bourget. He found his Caudron in the hangar being looked over by Le Pou who was scratching the body part that no one should see being scratched. Gaston pretended not to see and instead inquired about the repairs. The mechanic assured him that the engine was now better than new and that he can take off at his leisure. Gaston didn’t waste any time. He thanked Le Pou for his tireless efforts and started his preparations. He was in the air within the hour and flying, by now, down the beaten path toward Paris. As promised, the engine purred like a well-fed kitten and Gaston soon was greeted by the sight of La Ville-Lumière. He could not resist the temptation and took the bus over the city outskirts to get a better look. It was like seeing an old friend. The view of this great metropolis filled Gaston with pride and inspired him with resolve and will to keep it safe from Le Boche. He promptly turned north and came in for the landing. He didn’t care anymore what Le Capitaine had to say about his piloting skills. Gaston has now a new mission. He will be the guardian of the French people. The Sentinel of France.

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"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys,
The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain,
From out of my arse take the camshaft,
And assemble the engine again."