Yikes, so many new stories posted here while I was away! It's going to take a while to read them all. I predict one cup of coffee won't be enough...
Here's the latest from Julius.
10. AN EXERCISE IN FRUSTRATION
'Tis a lesson you should heed: Try, try, try again. If at first you don't succeed, Try, try, try again.
- An old proverb
March 30, 1916. Early morning, somewhere over the Albert-Bapaume road, XIV. Reserve-Korps sector.
It was just another typical patrol flight over the trenches, or so Julius had believed until he spotted a suspicious-looking machine approaching the lines from the West, several hundred meters below his Fokker. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed the sighting as an English Blériot type two-seater biplane, exactly the kind of machine the Fokkers of the Bertincourt Abteilung were supposed to hunt down and eliminate. With the sun behind his back and having an altitude advantage, Julius was in a perfect position for an attack. He cocked his Spandau, reduced the throttle of the rotating Oberursel engine, and guided his Fokker into a shallow dive. The enemy two-seater quickly grew bigger and Julius moved his head to aim through the gunsight. There was no reaction from the English pilot - he flew on without changing course. Within seconds Julius had approached so close to the biplane that he could easily see the markings painted on its wings and fuselage.
It was the perfect moment, and Julius pressed the firing switch on the control column. The Spandau fired a short burst - and then stopped! Julius kept pressing the switch, but the gun remained silent. He passed the two-seater, all the while struggling with the firing mechanism. If Julius had at that moment looked at the enemy machine, he would have seen its surprised observer finally reacting to the attack and attempting to turn his gun towards the Fokker. But Julius saw nothing of it. He was desperately hammering at his gun, trying to get its mechanism working again. Alas, it was of no use. Julius refused to give up and turned his Fokker to chase the British machine, which was now frantically changing its course back to where it had come from. The Blériot type was hopelessly slow and clumsy, so Julius was able to catch it without trouble. However, he was still unable to get his Spandau working. Julius knew from his training that the observer of the Blériot type had a very awkward field of fire for his gun, so he kept his Fokker in such a position that the Englishman was unable to take a shot at him.
The fruitless chase went on for a while. The Englishmen soon realized something was wrong with the Fokker that had failed to open fire at them, despite being in a perfect position to do so, and stopped trying to evade Julius. Finally he decided to give up and return to Bertincourt. But before he turned away, Julius raised his left hand and shook his middle finger at the lucky Englishmen. The gentleman flying the two-seater kindly returned the gesture.
Julius had ample time to curse his bad luck as he flew back to Bertincourt. He vowed to do better next time, and to give the enemy something worse than just the finger.
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps