Another wonderful group of stories and reports gents, ripping stuff. As Hasse noted, our pilots are really coming to life here, which will make it all the harder when one, or more, of them is lost. Here's hoping they all survive, as unlikely as that will be. And Mark, Swany will be sure NOT to involve Jericho in any future drinking parties. Truth be told, he doesn't tend to indulge in it much himself. .
January 12th, 1916 Auchel, France
2nd Lt. Swanson had his first tangle with the enemy this morning during an early recce of the lines along the eastern edge of Loos. He and his gunner/obs, Lt. Christoper Dent, flew wing for the Sergeants team of Toni Bayetto and James McCudden. It was a bright winter's morning with clear skies and light winds, making the climb towards the eastern horizon quite beautiful. Once the brace of Moranes reached the front lines observations began of the situation below. There was one section of the British trenches that was receiving a heavy bombardment from the German big guns and Swany wondered how anyone could survive in the midst of such a pounding.
About fifteen minutes into the recce work Lt. Dent tapped Swany on the shoulder and pointed to a spot in the sky ahead of them. It was an approaching craft and its outline was immediately recognizable to Swany as it looked precisely as it did on the aeroplane silhouette chart that hung in the ready room. An Eindecker! The Hun came straight at them so Swany gave some extra rudder as he slid his mount off to the left in hopes of getting out of the line of fire. Oddly though, rather than sending out a hail of bullets, the German pilot suddenly turned away. As the Morane slipped past and below the Eindecker Lt. Dent, machine gun at the ready, unleashed several short bursts that immediately set the Hun plane to smoking. Swany was not quite sure what to do next, but before he had time to mull it over Christopher smacked him on the shoulder again and motioned that he should give chase. Swany swung his mount around immediately and started after the disabled ship, noticing then that Bayetto and McCudden were engaged with an Eindecker of their own, and clearly keeping the upper hand. The young pilot wondered if these particular German flyers were as green as he was, given how poorly they were faring in the engagement.
After what seemed like an eternity to Swany, (though in truth it was but several minutes), their prey was back in range. The Hun had been losing altitude the entire time as he flew a long arc that was now bringing him near the lines about three miles south of Loos. At Lt. Dent's instruction, Swany pulled carefully along side the Eindecker. He could see the Hun pilot was struggling to keep his kite in the air. Suddenly, the Lewis gun barked as Lt. Dent opened fire, causing the prop on the enemy craft to grind to a halt. Swany watched as the Eindecker glided down. He lost sight of it below the empennage and so did not see as the Hun ship bounced just on its own side of the lines, ending up on its nose.
After forming back up with Bayetto and McCudden, the flight returned to Auchel. Swany could hardly contain himself, his excitement was so high. The young man was fairly buzzing as he recounted the adventure to the ground crew that wheeled his bus back into the shed. Again, as he retold it while filling out not only his AAR, but a claim form as well. And once more, as he told it yet again in the mess during breakfast. Along with the excitement though, Swany was feeling some fair amount of guilt and had taken Lt. Dent aside at one point to ask why he'd insisted they go after the helpless German flyer. Christopher's face became stern as stone and his eyes blazed as he replied, "You're new to all this so I'm going to forgive you asking, but I can assure you he had it coming. They all do. They're the bloody enemy and I've no compassion for any of them. Don't imagine for a moment that Hun devil would have allowed us to fly away had the situation been reversed." Swany was taken aback by the ferocity of the Lieutenant's reply. He was indeed new to war, and likely did have no right to be asking such a thing from those who no doubt had lost good friends in the fight. Swany suddenly felt foolish for bringing it up. Lt. Dent could see his rebuke of the young airman had landed hard, so he gave a smile and slapped Swany on the back. "No to worry old man, all's forgiven. I'll buy you a drink tonight in the mess and we'll celebrate your baptism." .