5 February , 1916 9:04 Senard, Verdun Sector Escadrille N37 Sergent Gaston A. Voscadeaux
Gaston couldn’t decide if he liked or loathed his N12. On the one hand it was fast. It went like stink compared to the lumbering Caudron. He could also see directly ahead with no one obstructing the view. But that was it. The observer was now in the rear. Gaston couldn’t see what the other man was up to or what was happening behind the plane. He couldn’t even communicate anymore, be it by sight or sign. There was also no gun firing forward anymore. Something Gaston missed the most. He can’t point the machine at the enemy anymore and “shoot” using his observer as the extension of his trigger finger. He has to rethink the entire aero battle strategy. For now it is what it is. And what it is is a reconnaissance mission to front lines north of Verdun. They’ve been going back and forth for the past 15 minutes looking for any troop movements. The Flak keeping them company, jolting them up and sideways with every near miss. Another perk of a tiny aircraft, being thrown about like a leaf. Durand tapped him on the shoulder. What did the kid want now? He turned back with great difficulty to see what the fuss was all about. The young gunner was gesticulating and saying something, but Gaston couldn’t hear a word and just nodded, then turned back to flying this death trap that will lose its lower wings, God forbid he had to dive. Another tap on the shoulder. This time Christophe was holding a glove to his nose. What is he doing? Squeezing his zits? He better not squirt one of those pimples on him. And that’s another thing. Now with the engine directly in front of him all this castor oil seems to spray right in his face and the smell... The engine coughed, stuttered and switched off with the prop windmilling as if to swallow the last gasp of air before suffocating. Surprised Gaston begun to check the instruments. The air whistled all around him with the Flak suddenly making much more racket than usual. Gaston heard a yelp from the back seat. Durand was getting very excited: “- Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! We’re going to die! We’re going to crash. We’re going to burn alive and then crash! I don’t want to die! Au secours! There is petrol everywhere. We’re going to burn!” Petrol? Gaston checked the gauge. The tank was empty. One of those Flak near misses must have punctured the fuel lines. Why did he not smell it? He pointed the crippled Nieuport south in the direction of French positions and checked the altitude. It wasn’t great and it will be close. Durand continued his histerical rant and Voscadeaux had to order him to shut up so he could concentrate on bringing the airplane down. They were low and overflying a large forest. If it were a Caudron, they would have already been dangling off the tips of those spruce firs below, but the little plane kept on gliding until it gently touched down in a clearing SW of Hesse Forest. This was a wonderful machine, a beautiful little plane that brought them safely to earth. Gaston was wrong. He loved this plane. The farmer that owned the nearby field gave Gaston a ride to the Verdun aerodrome in his Lefebvre tractor while Durand stayed with the machine. He came back with the repair team, who plugged the leak in the tank and filled it with enough petrol to get back to base. They were back at Senard before the evening.
"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."