Fullofit, that was a story right out of Boys Own Paper. Ripping yarn! I'm glad to see Gaston back to the side of the lines with good wine. And congrats on getting revenge for Dagonet's downing. It was a real surprise to hear he was able to land. And then for Gaston to welcome himself back with a trio of Huns, even if only two were confirmed. The man is outstanding.
Lederhosen, congratulations on your Nieuport. Some wonderful photos too.
Wulfe, I have thoroughly enjoyed Graham's leave and the terrific photos you found. And that Provision Box No. 14 will be just the ticket, thanks!
Hasse, terrible luck for Julius with that gun jam. But it read like so many wartime accounts. Very true to the period.
77_Scout, tell Aleck not to think so much. That thinking business will mess you up in wartime.
Carrick, Emile is certainly racking up the hours. Hope he get his Np 11 soon!
MFair, it's nice to get a milk run once in a while. And I really loved the touching interlude on the ride to Bertangles.
Lou, I'm very sorry about Craig, but curious how the Rankin saga will play out.
Here is the latest from Collins...
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins Part Thirty-One: In which we bid farewell to Bruay
In the next few days, the RFC waged a campaign of hatred against Hun railways. Despite some very wet weather, we flew twice to bomb stations around Loos. On 30 March, our attempts were disrupted by three Fokkers. Two attacked Captain Mealing’s machine and were driven off by Theobald, his observer. The third Fokker came straight for me. I was a little more distant and had time to release my bombs and turn west, yet the Hun kept coming for Wilson and me, following us some ten miles back across the lines almost to Béthune. Wilson fired a drum at the Fokker, but our Hun was very solid and difficult to get at. He dipped under our tail, emerging on one side and then the other while Sergeant Wilson struggled to bring his Lewis to bear. In one such exercise, the Hun bobbed up behind us and to our left and put about ten rounds into the Morane, fortunately hitting nothing of great import (such as us). I put down the nose and dived toward our balloon line and the HA decided it was time for his potatoes and sausage and headed east, none the worse for Wilson’s endeavours.
"Despite some very wet weather, we flew twice to bomb stations around Loos."
It was a mid morning patrol and I was back in good time for a poor lunch of bully beef and toast, made palatable by a liberal spread of HP sauce. Jericho was back from a wet and eventless jaunt to Haubordin. After our plates were picked up, we took our tea (or rather my tea and his coffee) to the anteroom. He was in a sombre mood, it seemed, and I asked him what was bothering him.
“Thinkin’ about my Ma,” he said. “I got no way to let her know where I am or what’s become of me, and every time I go into Injun territory like today, I figure there’s a chance I might not come back and she’ll never know what became of me.”
“You’ve never written?” I asked.
“Don’t dare, pard,” he said, and laid his mug on the floor beside the armchair. “I figure anybody who wants to bring me in for that little incident with my sonuvabitch uncle will be watching the post office and the Western Union.”
I lit another cigarette and thought for a while. “Maybe I can help,” I said. Jericho looked up skeptically. “There’s a man in New Orleans, an old friend of my father. Well, actually my Dad arrested him once for selling bathtub whiskey in the Yukon – back before my Dad started making his own stuff. The fellow is one of those guys who just know how to get things done. He’s worked with our business for years now, because he’s an agent for places in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas that – shall we say – can’t buy whiskey from other sources.”
I nodded. “Horrible concept, but yes. Heck, we sell to the same politicians and ministers who are leading the push for prohibition. Anyway, the man’s name is Sigurdsson, Mike Sigurdsson. If anyone can get a message to your mother, Mr. Sigurdsson can.”
“Can he be trusted with a parcel?” Jericho asked. “I’m sure Ma could use a bit of a hand with money.”
“If it comes from me, Mr. Sigurdsson won’t ask questions and he won’t take chances. He and my father were pretty tight in their later lives.”
“Thanks, pard,” Jericho said, and he stood and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You’re good people.” He lurched his way through the anteroom with his empty mug, and but for his uniform and Sam Browne, you’d have thought he was off to face the Earp brothers at the O.K. Corral.
On the last day of March we received orders to move from Bruay. Our new home was to be Bertangles, just a bit west of the road from Doullens to Amiens. It was, by all accounts, a huge field. From sunrise to four in the afternoon we worked in the rain to load trucks with everything we could move. I worked with a party of officers to empty the mess of everything we had bought or could pry away, loading a 20 hp Crossley tender with a mountain of furniture, bit of Hun machines, dirty pictures, cases of drinks, toasting forks, kitchen gear, and so forth. Captain McNaughton, the senior observer officer, was President of the Mess Committee, and as PMC fretted and insisted on an impossible degree of organisation and accounting.
Swanson came to me in the early afternoon, distraught that there was no time to rebuild an undercarriage for my shed that we had brought from Auchel. There was no chance of the old, jury-rig axles carrying the thing to Bertangles, nearly fifty miles away. It was sad, but it would have to remain at Bruay as our contribution to the RFC. I vowed to ask General Trenchard for a receipt.
We lifted off, Captain Mealing, Sergeant Bayetto, and me and Wilson in our “Mother Goose.” Our flight to Bertangles was without incident. Bertangles was a small village dominated by a stately chateau and the many outbuildings within its walls. Brigade offices were in the village with its messes in the chateau. Our aerodrome was situated in the broad fields south and west of the village. A rail line passed through the fields from north to south, just west of the village. The line ran through a sunken way line with trees and brush for much of its distance, emerging to cross the road that led southwest from Bertangles to Saint-Sauveur on the Somme. 24 Squadron and its Fees already occupied the part of the west field north of this road. We were relegated to the south side of the road. Our machines were housed in canvas hangars, and we set up our bell tents in the belt of trees that lined the rail cut. Comforts would come later. At least some good work had been done to erect a large two-section marquee tent with a wooden floor as a mess for the officers, and similar arrangements were underway for the NCOs and other ranks.
For us lowly squadron types, we had to make do with accommodation under canvas. I was thankful that the weather was turning warmer. Of course, that was why we were here. The speculation was that there would be a big push this summer to try to finish the war, and Fourth Army had just taken this sector along the Somme over from the French. Given the concentration of squadrons we were beginning to see, the betting men thought we’d be getting ready for the big show all spring.
Swanson’s flight arrived last of all, having run into some Fokkers that had strayed well over our lines. In the brief scrap we lost Craig, the highly-respected senior observer who had shared Swany’s victories. Craig had been paired with a brand new pilot this day and had been shot down. Swanson did not come to dinner that night and rumour had it that his own observer on that flight, Rankin, who had transferred in from the infantry with the rank of Captain, had got the wind up and nearly let a Fokker get to their Morane. But no one was talking, least of all Rankin.
After dinner I retired to the tent I shared with Clarke, an observer officer, to write a letter to Mr. Sigurdsson.