To combat the ever growing Fokker menace, le Capitaine received new orders to tighten formations and fly all missions at full squadron strength. And that is exactly how the orders were being followed. The task was to bomb the aerodrome at Ars near the City of Metz. So it was Adj. Guytant followed by Sgt. Voscadeaux in the ‘B’ Flight, closely being trailed by Adj. Mezergues and Cpl. Sourdiac in ‘A’ Flight. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and some fluffy clouds to break up the monotony. The formation was nearing the target. Gaston could see Metz at 2 o’clock. He kept glancing at the ‘A’ Flight just behind and marvelled at the precise control the two pilots exerted over their machines. Only a few more minutes until the bombs start to fly. Gaston took another look behind. Something didn’t feel right. Yes, Mezergues and Sourdiac were still following closely, but there was something else. Something out of place. Gaston could feel something was wrong. Movement! Something was coming from behind, below the ‘A’ Flight. He squinted his eyes to filter the glare from the sun and suddenly realized what it was. Instantly his eyes grew large as saucers and his hand automatically pushed the control column. The Caudron stood on its starboard wing under protest and was about to stall. This maneuver probably saved Gaston’s life as the Hun was unable to follow. It all happened in an instant and Becquerel caught unaware was hit in the nose by the widely swinging Lewis. He was knocked back and blacked out for a few moments. In the meantime Gaston was wrestling with the controls of the stalling machine and at the same time fighting to get the monoplane in front of him. He had him! Now, Ernest! Fire! The Fokker was right in front of them, but Becquerel seemed to be dazed by the blow to his nose. He was holding one drenched in blood glove to his face, trying to stop the nosebleed. Finally he came to and let a barrage of bullets towards the Boche. He was letting him have it. Gaston saw bits of wood and canvas fall away from the monoplane and the pilot could do nothing but make counterclockwise turns. Becquerel must have cut his control cables. He was a sitting duck and just like a sitting duck he went down. No fake spins, no tricks. Gaston saw a cloud of dust rise below as the unfortunate Hun hit the ground. Gaston looked around to get his bearings and continue toward the aerodrome. He still had to drop his load. There, just at the eastern edge of the forest, right across from Metz. That’s where the aerodrome is. He swung the machine to get it on course, when he saw Becquerel swing the MG around. What?! Gaston looked in the direction the gun barrel was pointing. Another Eindecker at 2 o’clock high! More fire, more wild maneuvers. Gaston just prayed this is the only Hun left. They kept spiralling lower and lower. Voscadeaux nearly had him, but Becquerel’s front gun fell silent. The ammo ran out and they could only protect themselves with the rear-facing weapon. Gaston quickly glanced at the compass and immediately disengaged when they were facing south. He was intently observing the monoplane. Will he attack, or will he retreat? He’s going home! He’s had enough. Gaston could see him flying low and straight for the aerodrome. Voscadeaux breathed easier as his Caudron was crossing the lines and getting closer to home, despite the full set of bombs still dangling under the fuselage. Hopefully the rest of the flight inflicted enough damage to call the mission a success. He did see a lot of smoke and fire from the distance. He was the first one back at the airbase and remained by the aircraft while Becquerel was getting first aid. Soon after, Adjutant Guytant appeared over the aerodrome, circled around and landed. Gaston ran to meet his flight leader. Guytant jumped down all pale. Gaston, not noticing, slapped him on the back with a huge grin and asked: “Did you see it? Did you see that Boche nosedive into the dirt? We’ll definitely get this one confirmed!” But Adj. Guytant didn’t join in Gaston’s jubilations. “Sorry Gaston, I didn’t see it. We were going straight for the airfield. I dropped my bombs and started to circle at the rally point. Mezergues and Sourdiac came next. They dropped their bombs and then it happened.” Guytant was white as a sheet of paper. “They banked in the opposite directions. I saw it all! The two planes smashed into each other right above the airfield and came down as one mass of wood and metal. It’s senseless, so senseless!” Guytant broke down and wept like a little child. Gaston embraced him, letting the other man whimper against his shoulder. “It is war and we are soldiers. We are soldiers...” Gaston wasn’t sure he believed his own words.
“I understand Sergent Voscadeaux, but I can’t put in a request without a confirmation.” Capitaine de Bondy’s eyes were resting on hopeful Gaston. They were not piercing him this time. “Dumas! Get in here!” The bespectacled adjutant appeared as if out of thin air. “Oui, mon Capitaine!” He clicked his heels and saluted with an open palm. “Make some calls around and check if anybody had seen a Fokker go down near Metz.” de Bondy signed a form and handed it to Dumas. The adjutant looked at his commanding officer, then at Gaston. “Oui, mon Capitaine!” He clicked his heels again, another salute and then he disappeared. “War. It’s a dirty business, Voscadeaux. Tomorrow we’ll be getting replacements.”
"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."