Wulfe, thanks for the kind comments. Your new DH2 looks smashing! And it certainly did the job on those Fokkers, even if three of the four were – in Wing’s eyes – imaginary.
Fullofit, that was a touching move, escorting the Caudron – and a great photo, too.
Scout, I take the view that it’s their job to find me. After all, they are escorting me, not the other way around. And they can buy dinner and bring flowers while they’re at it.
Lou, congratulations on number 11! See you in Lahoussoye (please check your PMs – you may be out of message space on SimHQ).
Carrick, how are you finding the Np 11. I’m very jealous.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins Part Thirty-Three: In which we move once more...
During the week we noticed a slackening in the enemy air defence of the lines. The constant offensive patrols of our new scout squadrons roamed deep into Hunland and, for the most part, kept the Fokkers well away from our hard-working two-seater squadrons. Although we were primarily an artillery support squadron, C Flight (for so we were now designated) was often tasked with dropping bombs on enemy rail yards and stations. When we were escorted at all, it was by the Bristols of 11 Squadron, the DH2 artists being assigned the job of sweeping the Huns from the air farther afield.
On 8 April, however, we were shaken out of our complacency. That morning up before first light and off to drop some bombs on positions near Posières. I didn’t fancy night flying. The Morane was hard enough to keep on the level without being unable to see the horizon and, as it stalled so readily in a headwind, one had to keep the nose down on the unseen horizon or risk falling out of the sky. We arrived over the front just as the sun emerged above the eastern haze as a blinding red flare, so it was no surprise that my first indication that three Fokkers had dropped onto my tail was the ripping of machine gun rounds through the Morane’s fabric. Wilson opened fire, but wildly, and he soon had a bad stoppage. I spun our machine down as steeply as I dared, levelling off at 500 feet over our lines. There I made for a balloon I saw that shone orange in the sunlight north of Albert. Two of the Huns followed and there ensued a ten-minute scrap. One of the remaining green-grey Fokkers gave up after a few minutes, but the other circled with me over the treetops. We each hammered at the other in turn until, bored with the whole affair, my Hunnish dance partner pointed his machine toward the rising sun and quickly vanished into the distance. We brought our machine back gently, for a flying wire was shot away and the right side of the wing quivered in the most worrisome manner. The ack emmas did a masterful job getting us ready for an early afternoon jaunt. On that flight a lone Fokker dived on us and holed our machine several times. Wilson was unable to hold him in his sights for more than an instant and we speculated that it must have been Immelmann himself. When we returned, our machine was a great attraction. The compass was shot away, the windscreen holed, the map clips were shattered, and I found a hole in the side of my leather coat and a round on the floor of the cockpit. Wilson’s Lewis had the sights shot off and one of his discarded drums had stopped a round.
Still, there was no rest. 3 Squadron was on the move again, this time to a field called Lahoussoye, on the Roman road from Amiens to Albert. This field was somewhat closer to the front. After a long night of preparations, we slept under the stars, the tents having been already placed on lorries and departed. There was no need to rouse us in the morning, for the noise of machines being run up woke us at three-thirty. Captain Mealing and Sergeant Bayetto had gone with the advance party, so the Major asked Wilson and me to fly alongside his machine.
Lahoussoye village then...
Our squadron was part of the 3rd (Corps) Wing of the new 4th Brigade, under Brigadier General Ashmore. Also in the Wing were with 4 Squadron (BE2cs), 9 Squadron (BE2cs), and 15 Squadron (BE2cs), plus a kite balloon section. The Brigade also included 14 (Army) Wing with two scout squadrons, 22 with FE2bs and 24 – Lanoe Hawker’s crowd – with DH2s. Our brigade was to support General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army.
It was clear to us all that we would be front and centre in the summer’s push. All around us the fields were scribbled over with trench lines where new formations rehearsed and rehearsed. The roads, nearly empty by day, thrummed with traffic all night. Vast quantities of supplies were stockpiled in woods and barns, and new narrow gauge rail lines were being laid every day.
Lahoussoye was a new aerodrome, situated on the east side of a drab, stretched-out village of low farm sheds and low brick houses, each with its proudly-displayed midden. The field itself was wide and flat. A line of Bessoneaux was already taking shape, and our tents were being put up in the distant tree line. The rest of the day was spent finding our kit, stowing it, and sweating in a work party to get our mess tents and kitchen tents up. Dinner was tinned beef and crackers, but the Major had laid on two barrels of beer for the men and another for the officers and senior NCOs and we had an impromptu all-ranks binge under the trees before falling into our tents.