A quick question for our historians ... did the DH2 have a throttle or was it blip switch? I would like to fly as appropriate, and assume it is blip switch like most rotaries, but would like to confirm. Also, any tidbits about RFC-29? I can find zilch info through Google.
Aleck A. MacKinlay April 1, 1916
Yesterday's trip to St. Omer was a difficult one due to thawing roads, badly cut up by lorry traffic. Stuck vehicles blocked our way at several points and the going was slow. We arrived around sunset; Sergeant Johnston decided to make his return to Abeele in the morning. St. Omer looks much as I remember it from three months ago, but bigger. The hub-bub of activity has only grown as more and more pilots, aircraft and supplies make their way to the front. RFC-29 is occupying an area at the far southwest corner of the complex, billeted entirely under canvas, albeit fresh and new.
The Major's adjutant showed me around this morning and introduced me to a few pilots and support crew that we met on our brief excursion. The other pilots all seem to be much younger than me, but keen. The air of enthusiasm to 'get at the enemy' is blatant, and I know I will have to carefully guard any reservations I have in this regard.
Later in the morning I was directed to the Major's office so he could greet me. I found out that we are only to remain here for a couple of weeks before moving closer to the front. "You might recognize a few familiar faces at our permanent airfield. We will be moving lock, stock, and barrel to Abeele, your old stomping ground."
"We have a good group of pilots here. None have the kind of hours in the air that you have, but enough to know what they are doing. I value steadiness and training, and you find my boys to be quiet and competent. Well , for the most part ... we do have a few hot-heads mixed in. Youngsters who don't know enough to not get themselves killed, but they are bloody skilled in the air, which I why I have agreed to take them on." I liked the sound of 'quiet and competent' and made a quick internal decision to avoid the hot-heads as much as possible.
"I plan to pair you up with Sergeant Edith. He will be your wingman. He is a wizard in the DH2 and our best pilot. You will find his insights into the machine very useful. We will try to get you up in the air tomorrow for a shake-down flight as it where." The squadrons best pilot as my wingman? Fantastic, but I wondered aloud as to why he would be subordinate to me on missions.
"Well Second Lieutenant, you see, Edith is one of those young hot-heads I mentioned. Three kills to his credit in only 16 missions, but no bloody discipline. I might have exaggerated his flying skill ... it's more of a a craziness he shows in the air really. He'll be dead before the month is out I fear. I am putting him with you, as an older and more experienced pilot, to corral that spirit and keep him alive. Coming from BE's you have the proper instincts ... stay together in a fight, cooperate, weight the odds before attacking. He can mentor you on the DH2 and you can mentor him on discipline and self-control. I expect big things from the both of you."
I left the Major's tent with a strong feeling of apprehension. I had been worried about how I would handle the enemy in a fight, and how I would handle a new tricky aircraft, but now I was worried about how I was going to handle my wingman.