Sgt. T. Lawson Brooks, No. 46 Squadron R.F.C June 1st, 1917.
Our pups sat in a row on La Gorgue aerodrome, glinting in the morning sunlight. Mines was still in its standard PC10 livery, but the other machines of No. 46 Squadron - who had only recently returned from Home Defence duties - were painted in all kinds of bright colours, and several bore nicknames given to them by their pilots. Next to my own machine sat "Chin-Chow", Lt. Lee's Pup. As he had told me before, he was very fond of this machine as, just before leaving for England on Home Defence, Boom Trenchard himself had allowed Lee to take the best Pup he could find from the aircraft Depot, and "Chin-Chow" (then unnamed) had been his choice.
Led by Lt. Odell, 'B' Flight, consisting of seven pilots including myself, lifted into the air. We were to fly a CP in our own lines, and look for marauding Huns coming over the lines. I was yet to see a Hun machine, and was fearful that, even should I spot one, I would not recognise it, but Odell assured me that I would know when I saw one.
We climbed up and headed North for Poperinge at 9,000 feet, and as we flew I scanned the skies with keen eyes, a thousand scenarios of meeting the Hun running through my head. In one moment, I had shot down 5 Huns single-handed, in the next I was deciding whether to jump or burn. The uncertainty put me on edge.
We had flown for about forty minutes, and I continued my long sweeping scans of the sky, when suddenly I spotted, far away to our right, a mass of black specks coming our way. The others had seen it too, and we lazily turned as one to face the unknown formation. As they approached, I could make them out better - single-seat scouts with elegant, rounded fuselages and swept back wingtips. I recognised their profile from my training - they were German Albatroses!
Our two formations circled each other, goading the other to come on. After a few seconds of this, one insolent Hun gracefully rolled and turned towards our pack. Out in front, Odell took on the challenge, breaking away from our group to meet the German. They approached each other head-on, and in an instant they were rolling around each other, skidding and banking across the sky in a furious fight to get on the other's tail. As this happened, our own formation and the Albatros formation charged each other, diving in after the two duellists, and soon the sky was a tangled mess of tracer fire and twisting aeroplanes.
Hesitantly I weaved through the furball - everything was happening so fast around me! To my left, an Albatros spun down with a Pup firing at him as he went. To my right, a chain of British and German machines chased each other's tails in a line. I looked behind me, and was shocked to find a bright red Hun(1) lining up a shot on me. I immediately skidded away to the right, and saw the flash of tracer where i had been sitting a moment before. Pulling the stick into my stomach, I circled with my opponent, our own private duel surrounded on all sides by vicious fighting, and soon I had caught up to his tail. As I fired, the Red Albatros dove away. I rolled onto my back and followed, my Pup shuddering in protest as we fell, before the German straightened out again. I saw the flash of red in my gun-sights and let the Vickers speak, but my aim must have been poor, for the Albatros, who was only mere feet away, promptly banked hard away to the right and disappeared into a cloud.
I turned back into the fight, just in time to see the horrific sight of a Pup and an Albatros smashing into each other mid-flight. I watched, sickened, as the two machines became entangled and fell, spinning as they dropped to oblivion. However, I had no time to watch them go all the way, for our scrap was still going strong. To my low right, I saw "Chin Chow" flash past, with two Albatroses following. I dove after the trio, and behind me I saw two more Pups join the chase. Firing a ten-second burst at the two Germans, they abandoned their pursuit of Lt. Lee and turned back to face us. Following the rearmost Hun, I was quickly behind him and shooting - his machine had its tail painted green, with yellow-and-black fins(2). I thought it a rather ugly machine.
Firing at green-tail as we dropped in a spiralling dive, I watched in growing anticipation as holes appeared in the wings and plywood fuselage of my opponent. My tracers crept up his tail, towards his cockpit, and suddenly his machine pitched up violently! As I zoomed under, I saw the pilot hanging lifeless on his straps, before the plane stalled on its nose, fell backwards, and spun towards the earth. Circling, I watched it go all the way down and crash into a thousand pieces on the ground below.
Now low and stuck underneath the fight, I watched as two Pups chased a black Albatros3) towards the ground as I flew back for home, but it seemed that the majority of the fighting was over. I made it back to La Gorgue without incident and reported my claim to the Adjutant. Later that evening, it was corroborated by Lt. Barragar.