Lots of brilliant tales, again. Reading these yarns with a morning cuppa is one of the highlights of the day!
Lou - Great tune...but not so good for Freddy - either of them. Looks like Swany's back to his old tricks, bashing every Eindecker silly enough to think that a Morane might make for an easy victory. What could they be thinking?! Great shot of 'Odin' and the E.III in the field next to each other - but every time I see that Swany's mixing it up with Fokkers again I get panicky. Fortunately, seems like Rankin's 'getting the eye in'. By any means, I really enjoy reading about the pair's dynamic, both in the air and on the ground. I eagerly await to see what hijinks they get up to next.
Scout - Harrowing stuff - and the worst way to go for an airman. It's even worse knowing that it's your old squadron, but not knowing who was in the machine at the time. MacKinlay's been having a rough war - I hope he happens upon more fortunate times soon.
Fullofit - Dammit, man, are you trying to give me anxiety?! Gaston had just better be careful! I saw the screenshots before I'd started to read, and feared the worst!! That being said, congratulations on your victories...from the sounds of this Boillot chappie, Gaston's winning streak may be starting to rub off on some of his fellow pilots...
Raine - your accounts of the sorties are great, but your accounts of squadron life are stellar. The conversation about the dead airmen was chilling in how matter-of-fact it was. The supporting characters in Collins' Odyssey (such as Clarke) are also excellently written. Terrific stuff, and I eagerly await more. By the way, congratulations on your 3rd victory. Eindeckers aint no match for a No. 3 Parasol...
MFair - Speaking of No. 3 Parasols, a big congratulations on Jericho's first confirmed victory!! And what a delightfully evil joke to play! Jericho continues to be one of my favourite characters - he is superbly unique. I look forwards to reading about his next victory.
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, MC, No. 24 Squadron R.F.C, Bertangles West, France.
April 8th, 1916.
As I sat quietly over a cup of tea in the Mess, I stared into the wall, deep in thought. It didn’t seem real to me - in my head, I listed off all the members of the ‘Hounslow Gang’, our training group. Freddy Foster, Jacky-Boy Fisher, Hugo Lane, Albie Chapman, Dale Weston, all dead. Only Switch-Off and I remained. And Teddie Lawson, of course, although his injuries had cut his war short.
I had received a response to my letter from Switch-Off and Jimmy Reynard. They were trying to keep in high spirits, but No. 20 had fallen upon harsh times as of late. I sighed in misery as I read Switch-Off’s words - It’s a terrible shame, but poor old Ethan Tepes has been killed on April 2nd. Tepes had seen me off the day I took my leave to London, and had I known it were to be the last time I would see him, perhaps I would have tried to prolong the moment. It was then that I realised another item was enclosed in the envelope. Tipping it upside down on the table, I was shocked to see the small bag of tea, my lucky charm, flop down onto the wood. No bloody wonder I was shot down I thought to myself, pocketing the charm.
Taking a sip of my tea, I slumped down in my chair and tried to find a reason to distract myself from my misery. However, with my concussion I had been struck off of the squadron roster for today, and with the majority of the chaps out on patrol there was no conversation to divert my attention. It was then that the Old Man appeared at the entryway. “Campbell - a word,” he said, sitting opposite me. I looked up at him with a dull stare, and he frowned slightly. “Look. It’s no good to be in this funk of yours” he said, an unusual tone of sympathy in his voice. He paused to load his pipe, before striking a match and inhaling deeply, blowing out a thick cloud of grey-white smoke towards the ceiling. “You’ll need a new bus, as well as something to clear your head. So, I’ve arranged for you to pick up a new DeHav from Candas today. One of the chaps working on the machines in there is a pal of mines - he’ll see to it that you get a good bus”.
My mood lifted slightly at the thought of being able to fly, and I managed a weak smile. “Thanks, Old Man,” I said, slowly rising to my feet. “I’ll go just now, if that’s okay”. The Old Man gestured to the door, and I thanked him once more before leaving. Candas was only a short while to the North, and so I decided to walk through France’s country fields and clear my head, carrying my flying coat over my forearm. Up and down the sloped fields I went, taking in deep breaths of air, free of exhaust and castor oil fumes, and for a moment I felt quite peaceful. But, it wasn’t long before I berated myself for this feeling, as my thoughts flashed back to my friends that had been killed. I quickened my pace.
Although smaller than the depot at St. Omer, No. 2 A.D. at Candas was a sight to behold - endless rows of hangars housed all kinds of machines - Moranes, Nieuports, Avros, Vickers, all divided and sorted into their own hangars. After checking in with the Adjutant, I found myself being led to two hangars at the farmost end of the aerodrome, in which several D.H.2s sat, lying in wait of a pilot to take them home. “Well then, here we are!” Said Corporal Davids, the Ack-Emma who had walked me over. “The Old Man said you’re a friend, and to give you a good one. I have one in mind, but see if any take your fancy first”. Fancying myself more expert than I was, I regarded the machines with a critical eye. Finally, I said “This one - she’s brand new, right?”, pointing to a machine with the tail number 6200. It was the highest number I had seen, informing my opinion. To my dismay, Davids chuckled and shook his head. “Oh, no, no, you don’t want that one…”.
“Well, why not?” I retorted, trying not to sound offended. “She’s got an old engine! A dud, as well, I might add. Cylinders have been re-bored twice already. This one’s surely going to end up giving some poor bugger a case of Cylindritis, but the Adjutant won’t write her off. ‘Nothing wrong with the engine’, he says. Ha!”. “What is Cylindritis, anyway?” I asked, and he flashed me a grin. “Oh, just you be thankful you get to ask, rather than find out for yourself! Once the Cylinders have been re-bored they have a nasty tendency to go flying out of the engine mid-flight. If you catch one in the tail…” he ran a finger across his throat. Flustered at the apparently terrible choice I had made, I pointed at random to another machine. “Okay, what about that one then?”. Davies shrugged. “About what you’d expect”. Before I could embarrass myself further, he put a hand on my shoulder, saying “Why don’t we have a look at this one?”.
He brought me to a DeHav that was tucked in at the back of the hangar, and held his arm out as if he were introducing a famous actress, or a dame. “Now this bus, this is about as good as you can get with a DeHav. No re-bored cylinders, magnetos work fine, even the piston rings are sturdier than the usual flimsy stuff Gnome sends us. Oh, and the airframe’s a peach, too!”. I looked over the DeHav - it was an unassuming machine, and almost looked civilian without its PC10 colouring. Doubtfully I read the tail number, 5986. “Tell you what,” Davies said behind me, “Take this one, and if you don’t like it come right back and I’ll give you another one”. I agreed, and he broke into a broad grin, before summoning a pair of Ack-Emmas to help him wheel the machine out, clearing the other DeHavs out of the way. On the airfield, I donned my flying gear and climbed into the cockpit, slowly feeling out the controls. They were smooth and light, but felt no different to my old bus. Promptly Davies swung my prop, and the engine roared awake, its voice dropping in staccato silences as I blipped it. The Chocks were removed and I let her roll forwards, lifting off slightly quicker than I had expected.
In the air, I had to admit that Davies had been absolutely sound in his judgement. 5986 responded eagerly to each and every slight movement of the controls, and she sang confidently to herself as I put her into an easy left turn, then a right. Becoming increasingly smitten with the new machine, I gained a few thousand feet before breaking into a grin, diving, and looping the machine twice. I laughed to myself as I swooped low over the Depot, seeing both Davies waving and grinning, and seeing the Adjutant rush out of his office, aghast, shaking his fist upwards at me in anger. I bid them both farewell with a cheery rock of my wings, and made for Bertangles.
On the ground again, I was in awe of how quickly I had gone from being dubious of 5986 to being enamoured with her. Miller came out to greet me, whistling as he looked over my new bus. “She sounds like a good one!” he remarked, as I de-planed and the Ack-Emmas wheeled her into the Bessoneau. It was then that I noticed that some of our boys had returned, and that Maj. Hawker was watching me from the side of the aerodrome. He came over to inspect my machine in the hangar, nodding his head in approval, before patting me on the back. “Very nice, but there’s one thing missing”. I shot him a nervous look, and he responded with his warm, booming laugh, pushing a paintbrush into my hand. “Get those struts painted!”. As he turned to leave, he stopped for a moment and looked back over his shoulder. “Oh, by the way, you’ll be in ‘C’ from now on. Blue, not black”. With that, he took off strolling towards the mess.
With his trademark yellowy grin, Miller placed two buckets of paint, blue and white, next to my machine. Thumbing my lip, I dipped the paintbrush into a bucket and got to work.
Introducing Graham's new Bus!
New Profiles added to the gallery - Willi Rosenstein's Roland C.II & Emile Benoit La Mont's Nieuport 11.