31 March, 1916 Bruay, France 3 Squadron, R.F.C. 2nd Lt. Randolph Arvid Swanson MC 8 confirmed victories, 2 pending claims
The squadron is on the move again, this time 30-some miles south to a place called Bertangles West. 2nd Lt. Swanson is gutted and couldn't care less about the relocation. Yesterday he lost his G/O and friend, Captain Daniel Craig. It all began when the Major temporarily assigned a new man, Captain Lance Rankin, to ride with Swanson in order that he might show the fellow the ropes. At the same time Captain Craig had been temporarily assigned to a new pilot, 2nd Lt. Bayles, apparently for the same reason. Neither Swany nor Daniel were pleased with the situation, but orders were orders. The two new teams made up B Flight for the early afternoon sortie; a recce and bombing of the enemy lines along the eastern edge of Arras. Swany was tasked with leading the foray which would make this his third time in command of a mission. He was actually preferring the leadership role as he could make his own decisions about how best to cross into and out of Hun territory.
The flight to the target area went quietly enough. While the skies were gray and cloudy, there was no rain or snow and the winds were light. The two Moranes were still a mile or so shy of the lines when a trio of Eindeckers came diving down upon them. Two of the EA went tearing into Bayles and Craig while the third chased after Swanson and Rankin. Swany watched in disbelief as Bayles flew on straight and level while the brace of Fokkers lined up and opened fire. He could see Captain Craig hammering away with the Lewis at his attackers, and while his shots were landing he hadn't a chance. The Hun bullets converged and ripped through the British machine and its occupants; brief seconds later flames were licking along the fuselage of the Morane as black smoke began trailing behind. Swanson watched only a moment as his wingmen fell to their fate, he had his hands full with his own threat, (luckily just the one, the other two had clearly felt the final wrath of Captain Craig as they were now running towards home, each trailing grayish wisps of vapor).
Before they'd taken off Swany had briefed his new G/O on what he would do should they be attacked, and the fellow had assured him that he would be ready to make use of any shooting opportunities provided him; he was not. When the young ace began putting the Morane through its paces Rankin grabbed the coaming of his cockpit and hung on for dear life. Through a barrage of British AA the Eindecker bore down upon them and took full advantage of the lack of return fire from his prey, peppering the wing and fuselage of the Morane. Swany dropped his kite into a spin to buy a bit of time and as he pulled out he twisted himself around enough so that he could deal with his useless gunner. He punched the man in the back three times as hard as he could - BAM BAM BAM! The blows caused Rankin to let go his grip and turn around to face his pilot. Swany screamed at the man loud enough that he was actually heard over the roar of the engine and the rushing of the wind. "START SHOOTING AT THAT DAM'D FOKKER!" The killer look in Swany's eyes likely did more to convince the fellow to move than did the punches. Whichever it was, when the Eindecker came at them again, gun blazing, Rankin began to fire back. The fight went all the way down to within a hundred feet of the ground before the British team gained the advantage. Rankin managed at last to get a good shot in which caused the enemy plane to jinx suddenly then turn back towards the east. The Hun hadn't flown but a hundred yards or so when he went into a spin and smashed into the ground near a bombed out church along the outskirts of Arras, a smoky column marking his final resting place. Swany immediately made best speed back to Bruay, wrestling with the controls all the way home.
Once safely on the ground the angry young pilot fairly leapt from the cockpit and stomped off towards the Major's office. Captain Rankin had to run to catch up with him.
"Wait up Swanson, wait up!"
Swany spun round and stepped right into Rankin as he approached. "If you know vat's good for you, you'll back off."
The Captain looked stunned, but blurted out, "Now see here Lieutenant, I am your senior officer and ..." He was cut short by Swanson's reply.
"You'll be a dead senior officer if you don't get the hell out of my sight and right gott dam'd NOW! If you tink I'm kidding yust try me. I'll drag you back over to our bus, rip the Lewis gun down, and beat you vit it til you stop breathing."
By this time Rankin had gone white as a sheet and was at a complete loss for words. He stood stone still as 2nd Lt. Swanson turned away and continued on to the CO's office where he reported the loss of Craig and the new man. He also informed the Major that he'd sooner fly with a bag of axe heads, as they'd each be twice as sharp as Rankin, plus he could throw them at the Hun and likely knock one down faster than the Captain did. By this point Rankin had made his way to the Major's office as well and the three men had a long discussion. It wrapped up with the CO concluding that while he too was saddened by the loss of the two men, and while he also understood Swanson's feelings on the whole affair, it was still none-the-less required that a 2nd Lieutenant show proper respect to a Captain, even if said Captain may well deserve to be beaten to death with a Lewis gun. That task would have to fall on someone of equal or higher rank and with the proper authority to carry out such an action; a Major, perhaps. Rankin and Swanson were dismissed and told to fill out their AARs and claim forms, then go to the mess and have some hot tea and a bite to eat and see if they couldn't sort things out between themselves as they would be flying as a team for at least the immediate foreseeable future.
Craig and Bayles fall to their deaths.
The useless G/O, and an Eindecker taking full advantage.