21 February , 1916 10:00 Senard, Verdun Sector Escadrille N37 Sergent Gaston A. Voscadeaux
They were all roused from their slumber by a not too distant fusillade of incessant German gun batteries pummelling some poor Poilus in their dugouts. Gaston was in particularly foul mood, as it was just past 4 in the morning. He knew there will be another recon mission to find out what the Boche are all up to. He hoped to catch a few winks before it was light outside, but the racket was too great for any kind of rest. Gone are the days when he could fall asleep in any condition. He got back up and went to the mess for an early breakfast. He wondered if there was any citrus left and found a large grapefruit at the bottom of the basket. He cut it in half and poured sugar on each cleaved side. Yesterday’s Le Figaro was laying on the corner of one of the tables. Gaston grabbed it and begun to read the headlines while scooping the flesh of the fruit with a spoon. “- Hmmm, Major-General of the armies, de Castelnau - his old boss, was visiting Verdun to assess the defences. Maybe he can order those blood-sucking Huns to stop making so much noise at such an ungodly hour.” He finished the second half of the grapefruit and set to brewing coffee. He took a whiff of the milk sitting in the jar and decided it was still safe. The bread was stale, but no matter. He will fry it in a pan, add the milk and voila, good as new! The dawn was just around the corner, better get a move on. They’ll probably want to get out there as soon as possible. The shelling continued. “The possible” happened to be at 10:00 and just as Gaston predicted, they were sent to reconnoitre the situation in the St. Mihiel salient. This was an important mission and both flights were manned with all available airplanes. Three per flight. Gaston led Cpl. Soumagniat and Cpl. Dreux in ‘B’ Flight, while the ‘A’ Flight was commanded by Adj. Barnay and remaining spots filled by Sgt. de Geuser and Cpl. Tsu. Unfortunately Adj. Barnay had to turn back at first waypoint with engine problems. He set down in a field damaging the plane in the process. It was cloudy over the target, but still plenty to see. Gaston hasn’t seen a scene like this before. Shells exploding along entire length of the front as far as the eye could see. Smoke rising high up in the air obscuring sections of front. Dirt being thrown in all directions covering trenches. Man and beast trying to flee the steel rain. The aviators could hardly believe what was happening below. The gates of hell may have just as well been opened and none would be astonished more. After 22 minutes of observing this chaos Gaston gave signal to turn back and report to base. This was not another attack, this was something much bigger.
"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."