My first ever escort mission. And the bombers we were to escort? .... good old RFC-6. I would be flying again with the boys from Abeele only a few days after leaving. I wondered who would be flying and if they might know it was me (they wouldn't of course).
We were not able to find the BE2s at the rendezvous point despite clear skies and great visibility. I decided to proceed on to the target (Phalempin airfield) and puffs of Archie ahead told us that the RFC-6 boys were there. They dropped bombs just as we arrived and we accompanied them as they turned for home.
Then horror. The trailing BE2's engine suddenly erupted in spurts of flame and a long oily trail of black smoke appeared. Down they went in a slow burning decline. The gunner fled the flames ... jumping in a weird slow motion cartwheel. The pilot continued to struggle with the doomed craft until I lost sight of him behind and far below me. I didn't want to know who the two doomed men where ... they would be friends of mine that I had seen only days ago. I made the call to RFC-6 anyway; I had to. Fredricks and Taylor. I won't sleep tonight, and maybe not for some time.