Wulfe, wonderful stuff once again. I fear for Jacky that his Jeanne is not a one-man woman. And congratulations on your first confirmed victory!
Maeran, true-to-life flavour in your story about McLoughlan, and a great vignette on the Military Service Bill. Well done!!!
77_Scout – another milk run to Loos. So many of our pilots are filling that airspace. I wonder if something’s up there? And who is the mysterious Mr. Davis?
Fullofit, glad to see you warming up to the Nieuport 12. I share your feelings about the weather.
MFair, good luck with your new observer. He’s held up well in his first mission, but you have been a bit of a Fokker magnet recently.
Carrick, good escape on that last flight!
Lou, speedy recovery. I hope Dent isn’t out of it completely. You made a great pair.
Jim Collins has finally completed his "ready shack." He's been luckier than most of our other pilots in avoiding Fokkers.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins
Part Seventeen: In which I bring some taste to a rather vulgar crew
On 7 February, Captain Mealing led us south to the Somme valley again, and again we dropped some bombs on enemy second and third line positions. Really, I thought, the Huns are so well dug in and our bombs are so small that it scarcely merited the fuel. In any event, that big Aussie Mealing was once again a good luck charm, as we saw no Fokkers and the Archie was unusually light.
The weather closed in the next day. My little shed was now fully closed in and roofed over, and I finished putting putty around the two windows in the morning. After a little wheedling with Major H-K, Mealing and I managed to purloin a Crossley for a plundering expedition, and I coaxed Cpl. Wilson away from the blacksmith to drive us. We made our way down rutted roads where ice and mud conspired together to defeat our passage towards the front. Several times military police tried to bar our way there. Captain Mealing told them we were on the hunt for a German aeroplane which we had downed, and we were permitted to continue. Finally we came to the village of Cuinchy, now within the range of German guns, and could go no further. The village had been shelled to rubble. It was perfect. Wilson found a house with a reasonably intact Persian carpet. Soon after I stumbled upon the thing I most craved – a wonderfully baroque French cast iron coal stove. The thing was covered in pale blue enamel and stood on four ornate legs. Its bulging grated front bore a blue and white enamel handle, and upon opening it, Mealing opined that it was large enough to accommodate wood in a pinch. It took all three of us to lift it onto the tender. Another half-hour’s work brought an ebony-inlaid coffee table, a small bookstand, and two dowdy old armchairs, complete with antimacassars. The final triumph was a copper oil lampstand with a fine porcelain tower painted with a Chinese scene.
I noted a number of Welsh and Northumbrian fellows from a tunnelling company in the village. Mealing and I agreed there would be a push here in the spring. Cpl. Wilson’s comment on tunnelling was limited to “Bugger that for a lark.”
We stopped in Bethune on our return trip, where I found a shade for the lamp and Mealing and I went for tea at the Globe. It took some search to retrieve Cpl. Wilson, who’d been told to meet us at the Grand Place at three-thirty. He emerged from a side street close to four o’clock, quite unable to drive home. He blubbered a bit about a “braw wee dicky burd o’ a lassie” who’d over-served him and then turned down his offer of marriage.
I still slept at my billet with the Poiriers, but the little den I’d built (well, actually it was 60% Swaney and 30% Jericho) was a brilliant sanctuary. I set up my folding cot there for days when I might have to wait for the weather, and it promised to be a spot where I could retire to read or write letters when the constant grinding of the mess gramophone got on my nerves. Jericho’s brackets looked smashing on my shelves. And Cpl. Wilson proved surprisingly handy at rigging a pipe to my artful stove.
I didn’t put a lock on the door, although I considered it on the 10th, when I retired to the hut after lunch to discover a large brown cow had been forced into the hut and had done no favours to the Persian rug. I suspected Jericho, mainly because he led a chorus of mooing whenever I entered the mess. Wilson and I had the early patrol on the 11th, when Sgt Bayetto and his observer, Lieut. Theobald, joined us in escorting Captain Mealing’s machine to drop bombs on positions around Pozières, down near the Somme. We flew through several snow squalls and saw no other aircraft. Over Bapaume we saw some Archie flashes and puffs in the mirk, but the enemy had to be firing blindly at the sound of our engines.
"We flew through several snow squalls and saw no other aircraft."
On our return, I found that the little hut now had been adorned with a sign over the door reading, “Madame Foufou’s House of Pleasure.”
 These were likely men of the British 170th Tunnelling Company, which worked most of the winter to mine the nearby Hohenzollern Redoubt. They were stationed in and about Cuichy.