Yes! One step closer to the V.C, Mr. Swany!! Congratulations, and very well deserved!
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, No. 24 Squadron R.F.C, Bertangles West, France.
It was early evening when Major Hawker gathered us on the airfield, and he had a keen, serious look in his eye. “Okay, gentlemen,” he begun, as we tensely hung on his words, “here it is. We’re escorting a Quirk from 13. I want you all to stay close, and no mucking about when we’re in Hunland. Campbell’s leading ‘B’ again, and I’ll lead ‘A’. Let’s show those boys that they can count on 24, eh?”. We let out a quick cheer, and headed to our machines through the mud and rain.
Miller was waiting to swing my prop, and as I climbed into the nacelle he sighed. “I wish you bloody fools would stop flying my DeHavs through this damned rain - you’ll deteriorate the spars!”. I shrugged, and pointed to Hawker’s bus. “There’s the man to talk to about it…”. He laughed in defeat, and grabbed hold of a propeller blade. “Well, happy hunting,” he offered, and brought the blade down with a force. The engine purred into life, and I started blipping it while waiting for Hawker to lift off. Promptly he did, and the rest of us followed, heading to Doullens to climb.
Freddy dropped out with engine trouble as we got to Doullens, turning back for Bertangles, as the rest of us pressed on through the rain. Hawker’s flight had disappeared to the North to climb up themselves. I took us up to 7,000 feet and checked my map. We were to meet the B.E. over Albert. Fortunately, the wind seemed to be regretting its maltreatment of us, and by way of apology it caught under our wings and gently lifted us upwards, affording us an impressive climb rate. I thanked it under my breath as we turned towards our rendezvous point.
As we approached Albert, a large shape emerged from the clouds ahead of us. I waggled my wings to signal my flight, but as we drew nearer I realised that it wasn’t our B.E. Instead, it was a twin-engine Caudron, heading away from the lines. We circled Albert for a few minutes, weaving through the thick clouds, but there was no trace of our Quirk. Confusedly, I checked my dashboard clock, and looked over my map again. We were in the right spot, at the right time...but where was our B.E? And, come to think of it, where was ‘A’ flight? I thought that they must have headed to the lines together already, and so I pointed us East once more and begun to climb through the haze.
We could see nothing but cloud ahead, and almost missed the fact that we were crossing into the mud as we approached (what I thought to be) Bray. How the hell are we meant to find an aeroplane in all of this? I thought bitterly, as I tried to make sense of our position. Through a break in the clouds I spotted the de Haut Lake, and realised we were too far North. Cursing under my breath, I turned us south, wiping off my goggles and scanning the clouds for either the Quirk or ‘A’ flight. By this point I was utterly miserable, and would happily take either if it meant getting home sooner. Finally, the clouds gave way to open air, and with a start I realised that we were flying above the border of Hunland, where the untouched grass meets the first craters. I looked around, but still there was no sign of anything.
Suddenly - I spotted a shape, low, moving along the river. I squinted my eyes against the rain, and saw that it was an aeroplane. One of ours, perhaps? I slowly descended, trying to get a better look - and then noticed the black crosses on the wings. It was a Fokker, making his way West from his own lines. I made one last check for the B.E, which was still nowhere to be seen, and then begun to stalk the unaware Hun.
Suddenly, he started turning back for his own lines - he had seen us! I rocked my wings wildly and went into a dive, coming down on the lone Eindecker with my wingmen at my back. He tried to skid away to the left, but was too slow, and I saw my tracers cutting away the fabric from his wings. Desperately he made a full loop and then turned for Hunland again, but my wingmen were upon him now also - there was no escape for him. I curved off to a flank as Tidmarsh took his turn at the Eindecker. His fire was accurate, and I watched as more bullets impacted the helpless Fokker. Wilkie then came in from above, but he hadn’t seen Tidmarsh. For one agonising second it looked like they were about to collide - but then Tidmarsh saw Wilkie bearing down on him and dove steeply away. “For god’s sake, pay attention!” I cried out, as my voice was torn away by the wind and shredded to nothing in my propeller blades.
Wilkie’s tracers also found their mark - and the Hun fell into a spin. I thought then that he was for it, but the Hun righted himself and pulled up mere inches from the ground, again desperately trying to make for home. Wilkie wasn’t having any of it, however, and again he bore down on the Eindecker. Before he could fire, the Eindecker wallowed in the air, before slamming into a tree and coming to an abrupt stop. As I circled overhead, I could see the Hun pilot slumped over in his seat. Not a moment after he had crashed, a torrent of Archie begun to go up at us from Hunland, and we immediately swung around for our own lines.
Once the archie had stopped pestering us, we begun to climb again over no-mans-land. As we climbed North, another shape emerged high above us from the clouds. I tensed, readying myself for another fight, but as I looked over the new machine I could scarcely believe my eyes - it was the B.E! I shook my head in disbelief as we steepened our climb to catch up to the two-seater. As we popped up on his right side, the Observer gave a start and grabbed his gun, but quickly recognised our machines and loosened his grip, before angrily turning my way, tapping his watch and shrugging dramatically. Where the hell have you been?!. I gestured to the sky, and then returned the shrug. Look at the bloody weather! No wonder we couldn’t find you!. The observer seemed to ponder this for a moment, and then nodded his head to the side. Okay. Fair enough.
We escorted him back into our lines, seeing him off with a wave at Cappy before, finally, I fired the washout signal and we turned for home. Wilkie stuck with me as the others melded away into the clouds, making their own ways home. As we came in to land, we were shocked to see the crumpled wreck of a DeHav on the aerodrome. Quickly landing beside it, I jumped out and recognised it as Freddy’s bus. Dread crept up in me as I ran towards the mess with Wilkie, ducking into the tent, but we both breathed a sigh of relief as we found Freddy idly chatting away with the Major.
“Any luck, fellas?” Freddy asked us. “Never mind that - what the bloody hell have you done to your crate?!” I cried. He laughed, and threw his arms up. “My engine stopped and the wind hit me side-on as I was dead-sticking it in. Lucky to walk from that one, actually, but my poor bus is a write-off”. I shook my head as I took a seat. “So, Campbell, did you ever run into that Quirk?” the Major asked, and I nodded. “Yes, but only after we’d had a scrap with a Fokker”. The Major raised an eyebrow. “Did you get him?” “Wilkie did”. “Bloody good stuff!”.
Tidmarsh and Andrews arrived not long after us, just as we were preparing the mess dining table for our dinner. We had the usual ceremony, with the Old Man standing to his feet and clearing his throat. He looked over the telegram, and his eyes widened in faux-horror. “Wot’s this?! No confirmed victories! Have you all been sleeping up there?!”. There was a collective groan around the table. “Ah, but wait - there is something from H.Q!” the Old Man said, in an overdone surprised voice. Curiously, we turned our attention back to him. “It seems that H.Q is giving Campbell the M.C!”.
I sat in stunned silence as the rest of the chaps patted me on the back and held a toast. “To Graham’s M.C!” came the ear-splitting cry, as the alcohol was brought forth by the Batmen.
Oh - P.S: I've added two new profiles to the gallery - 2.Lt. Swanson's Morane 'L' and Vfw. Willi Rosenstein's blue Aviatik! I'll add the link to the thread to my signature at some point for easy reference, should anyone care to check out the profiles in the future!