Raine, my thanks as well to you for bringing in the personal connection in your latest episode, it adds just that much more depth.
Fullofit, Gaston and his crew could have walked across that flak! Those Hun gunners must have gotten a double shipment of shells.
Scout, an exciting video and reports. Too bad about Chenley, a hero to be sure.
MFair, condolences on your flight loss as well. Yet another hero who will receive la Croix de Bois.
2nd Lt. Swanson and his new G/O, Captain Daniel Craig, are glad to be back on the ground and still alive after this morning's sortie. It started out safely enough with B Flight lifting off from Auchel and climbing up through another wet, wintery haze as they headed southeast towards the railyard at Vitry-en-Artois. The sleet was left behind once above the clouds and the skies were relatively devoid of activity, save for Archie at the mud. The target was fairly easy to locate, the only catch being sure to pick the correct railyard as there were two of them near the town. The Brass Hats had stipulated that the one to the northeast of Vitry-en-Artois was the one of interest. Swany lined up along the tracks and when the large warehouses were sliding slowly under the rear bar of his bombsight he let the eggs drop. Seconds later the young airman watched with satisfaction as both buildings burst into flames.
Job completed, the flight turned for home and no sooner had they done so than Swany's mount started losing power. No amount of fiddling with the mixture could coax the Le Rhône beyond a fast idle, so he pointed the nose of the beast directly towards the lines and held the best glide rate he could. Minutes later Swanson and Craig were feeling much relieved as they slipped over the trenches with 1,200' of altitude to spare. Their relief was short lived when suddenly, from the grey skies above, an Aviatik came swooping down on them. The Hun must have spied them as they were drifting down and surmised they were in trouble, deciding he and his gunner had an easy target. It was a poor decision for all concerned, though far more so for the Hun. As Swany began taking evasive action, (what little he could with a failing rotary), he found out in short order just how good a shot Captain Craig was. While the Hun observer hammered away at the Morane with deadly accuracy the Captain, calmly and coolly, drew a bead on his assailant and unleashed a stream of lead that went directly into the front of the Aviatik and into the enemy gunner as well. The fellow immediately slumped over the edge of his cockpit as the plane carved away, prop grinding to a halt. Swany had little time to admire the Captain's handiwork though as it was all he could do to put their riddled bus down in one piece. Ground winds were fierce and he caught the left wingtip on landing and nearly upended themselves. But luck was on their side and the Morane swung around, bounced on its wheels several times, and came to a stop right-side-up. The two made a quick assessment to determine if either had been hit. Neither had, miraculously. As the shaken but safe pair climbed from their bus they noticed their would-be killers had landed several hundred yards ahead of them, towards the town of Neuville-Saint-Vaast. They began walking quickly in that direction to inspect their trophy and to determine if there were survivors.
By the time they reached the downed Hun craft it was surrounded by British troops from a nearby encampment who had already removed the body of the gunner and had the wounded enemy pilot sitting outside of the plane. The Captain immediately ordered them to post a guard on both the enemy plane and his as well, to take their prisoner to the nearest dressing station, and to direct the Captain to the nearest telephone. Before the Hun flyer was hauled away Craig asked him a few cursory questions in halted German, to which the fellow would only give his name and rank. The Captain also went through the man's pockets, checking for maps or notes or any other information that may prove useful. There was little apart from some loose coins, a lighter, a crumpled pack of cigarettes, and a dogeared photo of a comely young fräulein.
It took a couple of hours for a crew to arrive from Auchel to retrieve the broken Morane, so it was mid afternoon by the time Swany and the Captain were back in camp filling out their AARs and claim forms. After that, 2nd Lt. Swanson went to his room where he played his Hardanger fiddle for nearly an hour in an effort to calm his rattled nerves. Jericho was out somewhere, likely tending to Moon, which was just as well. Swany wanted to be alone with his thoughts. While he was fighting off the Aviatik he had felt nothing but an urgency to do what needed doing. Now, however, with the threat removed and the battle several hours gone, he was feeling just how close he had been again to death. It was unnerving, frightening. He wondered if it was going to be like this now after every encounter, or, if he lived long enough, would he become callous towards it all. Neither option was a good one.