Sgt. Graham A. Campbell No. 20 Squadron R.F.C. Clairmarais Aerodrome, France.
February 1st, 1916:
The Adjutant’s office offered only tedious work. As the clerk, I would take inventory on equipment lists, slogging round the hangars and trying to locate any spare engines, damaged machine parts, ammunition crates, etc. One particular point of annoyance was a drum of Lewis ammunition that had gone missing. I thought it would be of no import, but Adjutant Lovell sent me to locate it, all the same. After several hours of scouring the hangars, with no results, I finally retired to the mess for a break - and found it on the writing desk, where some joker had been using it as a paperweight!
By any means, I was finally back on the active flight roster. Edith, however, was not, and as a result I have been assigned to a new observer, Capt. Barry Ackart. We are also flying A6333, as 6338 is waiting to have the new engine fitted. It felt unusual, climbing into an unfamiliar machine alongside an unfamiliar observer, but, as Switch-off had suggested, I had with me my lucky charm, the small ‘bindle’ of loose tea, which I tied to the control column. It made me feel a little better.
We were given the morning O.P today, near Lille. At 10 past 9, up went the Verey light, and five Beardmore engines roared into life. Graves was in charge of ‘B’ Flight for this show, followed by Reid, McNaughton and myself.
The sky was cloudy, but near St. Omer we found a great big disc that seemed to have been cut from the cloud. We skirted the edges of this disc as we climbed up above 5,000 feet, before heading out all the way down the lines, past Arras and down to Bapaume, further than I’d ever gone on a patrol. After a bitterly long and cold trip, we arrived at Beauhamel, and proceeded to patrol between this city, on our side, and Bapaume, on the Bosche side. Above Beauhamel hung a tremendous wall of cloud, stretching for miles upwards like a cliff-face. It was an eerie sight as we flew towards it, for it felt as if the sky were swallowing our little Fees whole!
Into the cloud we went, as it collapsed around us, and I held the stick tightly until we were through the other side. When I got there, Reid & McNaughton had vanished. I re-formated with Graves and we went back to our patrol. Eventually, after a thoroughly dull period of flying back-and-forth through otherwise empty skies, Graves became fed-up and fired the washout signal. We made our individual ways back towards Clairmarais and, wherever they had gotten to, I assume that Reid & McNaughton also saw the signal, for they arrived about ten minutes after Graves & I.
‘C’ Flight are up for the afternoon patrol. Perhaps they shall see some more action.