Lederhosen, I’m going to be curious about your experience with the Pfalz A1. Fullofit, far be it from me to question Gaston’s virtue, but I want details when he meets Nicole again. Details! And by the way, great job nursing your wounded Np10 back home.

77_Scout, I suggest that Aleck should make a bee-line to the patent office. I suspect his idea will be someone else’s by dinnertime. Sorry to hear his squadron has lost the Fees. Early 1916 is a tough time for the RFC pilots.

Wulfe, great to hear from you. I hope you get to really enjoy the bit of a break coming up. Carrick, forget the two tablespoons of rum. Collins has a tonic for you. Hope to see Nigel back in the air soon.

Here is Collins’s latest...

An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins

Part Twenty: In which I receive a lesson in interior design

We had finished a three-hour session on Morse and my pupil, Cpl Wilson, was being rewarded for his progress. It was “not on” to entertain the other ranks in one’s quarters, but I figured this was training and not entertainment, and my little hut was not technically speaking my quarters. In any event, Cpl Wilson swirled his Doctor Collins’ Soothing Tonic around a teacup and took another sip, declaring with a loud sigh that it “gaes ‘roon yer hairt like a hairy wurrum.”

The late afternoon sun streamed blue and green through the newly-installed stained glass window – a totally unexpected and generous gift from Swanson. He and Jericho bring no end of surprises, I thought, and mused silently on whether the lovely peacock window was an act of pure goodness or whether it was in some ways related to a certain cow I’d found manuring my Persian rug. Either way, it was a wonderful addition to my sanctuary.

I noticed that Cpl Wilson was staring at it, too. “Penny for your thought,” I offered.

Wilson took another sip. “It’s a braw windae, no? It gies the place a focal point.” I nearly fell out of my chair. The man is an art critic!

This was on the 20th. That morning we’d escorted the Major north almost to the Channel, with Sgt Bayetto’s machine on his right and ours on his left. We were at 6500 feet somewhere between Veurne and Diksmuide when Wilson began pounding my back (we’d given up on my speaking tube because it was too much of a bother in cold weather), and in the next second I heard his Lewis rattling away. Three Fokkers were climbing just under our tail. I’d never seen Huns this far over our lines. They had closed to within 200 yards and all three were lining up on our machine. In a heartbeat (a figurative term, for my heart had certainly stopped about this time) I banked hard left just as several rounds slapped into our wing near the right wingtip. We dived beneath the Huns and Wilson let loose another burst at the rearmost Fokker.

We had an escort of Bristol Scouts from No 11 Squadron and they quickly joined the fight. I gasped when a fireball erupted about 600 yards to the east. One of the Bristols had collided with a Fokker and both were falling in flames. And then it was over. The Huns dived away home and we went about our assigned business, watching over the Major’s machine as Lieut Theobald leaned into the gale with his camera.

The next two days were flying weather, although 22 February brought some rain squalls close to the ground. That day we bombed the aerodrome at Douai, but air-Huns were notably absent. We learned at lunch that the enemy has begun a massive push against the French at Verdun. The consensus was that this was a Good Thing for us, as the Huns would likely send more of their good machines farther south.

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"That day we bombed the aerodrome at Douai..."

Despite the lack of enemy action, we lost Talbot and Gregg. Their machine was caught in a wind gust shortly after takeoff and fell into a small wood near Lozinghem. Talbot had a small white terrier, and the poor thing lies about the mess all day whimpering. It hasn't eaten all day.

The Equipment Officer gave Cpl Wilson a preliminary wireless test and he was able to send and receive Morse at about five or six words per minute, hampered only by his occasionally eccentric spelling. He was becoming comfortable with the Artillery Code though, and in the air little else would be transmitted. We’d flown a couple of simulated missions, done passably well except for the time we nearly landed with the antenna wire still deployed.

I arranged a tender to take Swanson, Jericho, and me into Bethune for drinks and dinner – my treat. It’s a thank-you to Swany for the window and a chance to chat with Jericho, who I hadn’t seen in a few days. Swany had told me an incredible story about how he came from Texas to volunteer in Canada. I needed to hear it for myself.

Attached Files Douai.jpg