Carrick, great work in that BE. Hope you stay clear of the Fokkers for a while more. Loftyc, good to see you back. That's an ugly observer you're flying with! Wulfe, another great story and hearty congratulations on bagging a Hun. I hope you get credit. Fullofit, you fired off about three months' pay worth of ammunition at that Aviatik. What was it made of? MFair, many thanks for the comments. Lou, hope your rigging is in order soon.
Jim Collins has struggled to achieve much in the past three days. I'm one day ahead as I'll be travelling again this week.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins Part Fourteen: In which I am plagued by the dreaded pest Gnomus Defectivus
"I saw the giant lilac bush at the last second when it jumped out from under the cowling and grabbed the right side of our wing."
“You’re building a shed, pal, not a jævlig cathedral.” Swanson was looking over my shoulder as I sketched ideas for my little readiness hut. “Give me that.” He snatched the paper and pencil and leaned back in the armchair while I leafed through the dog-eared remnants of one of the mess’s back copies of La Vie Parisienne.
In fifteen minutes he threw the pad back at me. He’s sketched a simple hut on posts with stone piled around the footings and a shallow sloped roof.
“If it was made of logs like it should be, we’d make a sod roof and you’d be cosy all winter. But then you’d need lots of birch bark and I haven’t seen too many birch trees around here. Maybe we can get wooden shakes.”
I nodded. “Swaney, if we raise the front I can do a straight roof sloping to the rear of the hut and use corrugated. There are tons of the stuff all over France.”
“Ja,” said Swanson. “But then it wouldn’t be proper Norwegian.”
“Terrible pity, that,” I said. “But it’s the war’s fault after all.” He nodded, smiling. “As soon as we get a day off, let’s grab a truck and go scavenging.”
The weather had turned unseasonably warm and we were blessed – or cursed, if you will – with excellent flying conditions. We flew north towards Ypres on the 27th to note rail and road traffic in Upper Hunland. Our mission was cut short by some aggressive Fokkers, but we had an escort of Nieuports from Escadrille N15 and one of the French pilots succeeded in downing one.
On 28 January 1916, we were bound for Courcelette in Nether Hunland, down in the Somme region. Just as we approached the torn line of the front, my engine began missing badly. I gave Mealing the wash-out signal, a white flare, and set course for the aerodrome at La Bellevue, where we landed, had lunch, and received new sparking plugs.
I got to sleep in on the 29th, for we were not up until nearly two in the afternoon. I accompanied Mealing back to the Somme, Posières this time, where we were to disturb the Huns’ postprandial somnolence with our Hays bombs. Halfway there, the motor began a hellish rattle and I switched off quickly to avoid the risk of the entire engine assembly departing the aircraft without leave. Looking down, I realised how very lucky we were, for the fields near Izel lay below, although there seemed to be machines all over the place. Savy lay only a short glide to the north. It was open and flat and relatively devoid of bothersome poplars. Savy it would be then, I decided.
We glided down to Savy without incident and I turned to the field with plenty of height. Only then did I discover how strong the wind gusts had become. The Morane seemed to hover in place. I put the nose down to avoid stalling. Until the last second I was sure we’d make it, but then I knew we’d land short of the mowed field. It didn’t matter much, though. The edges of the field were not too rough.
I saw the giant lilac bush at the last second when it jumped out from under the cowling and grabbed the right side of our wing. The Morane lurched to a halt in a couple of feet and I heard Theobald’s head on his windscreen, accompanied by loud Anglo-Saxon assertions of my mental inferiority, low birth, and romantic proclivities. We were down safely once again.