Raine - shame to see our Parasol pals leave Bertangles, but they're not going too far. I'm sure No. 24 and No. 3 will cross paths again! Best of luck at the new field. Fullofit - Gaston strikes again! At this rate he'll have beat the Bad Baron's score by the end of 1916!! The German pilot was good - pity he ran into the wrong Nieuport.
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, MC, No. 24 Squadron R.F.C, Bertangles West, France. 6 Victories.
April 10th, 1916 (Part 1).
We were awoken in the darkness by the sound of No. 3’s Parasols - all of them - starting up. From two tents down I heard Saundby cry out “Again!”. As a handful of us sleepily made our way onto the Aerodrome, we could see 3 Squadron lifting off, one at a time, into the pitch blackness. On the ground, mechanics worked by lamplight to deconstruct their Bessoneaux and hastily pull down their bell tents. “They must be moving on” Wilkie said, as he appeared beside me, and I nodded. “A quiet sector, I hope. Those chaps could use a break”. Feeling sympathetic for the night-flying Moranes, I turned back for bed.
As it happened, I ought not to have bothered feeling sorry for No.3, as it wasn’t even an hour later that Johnstone appeared in my tent, rousing me from my sleep again. “Oh, what is it now?” I asked, as I was handed a cup of tea. “Awfie sorry, sir, but you’re due on the dawn patrol in half an hour”. I felt anxiety wash over me - it was still dark, and the image of Freddy’s DeHav crashing in the night flashed through my mind. “Thank you, Johnstone” I murmured, as the orderly nodded graciously and moved along to Andrews’ tent.
Hawker was stood beside his bus, dimly illuminated by the glow of an ack-emma’s lamp, and as we approached we could see on his legs a bizarre pair of fur-lined boots that stretched all the way up to his thighs. Through his laughter, Cowan asked “What the bloody hell are those?” and Hawker shrugged. “I call them Fug-Boots. Yes, they look a little silly, but I’ll be damned if they don’t keep you warm up there!”. “Can I get a pair?” “No chance. There’s only the one pair and they’re mines. But, I’ve spoken to H.Q. about making some more sets up. But, never mind all that, we’re off to Peronne”.
We climbed into the machine, and I nervously switched on the Magnetos, as 5986 jolted awake behind me, confusedly idling along as if to say what are we doing up so early?. “I don’t like it either, old girl” I told her. Mercifully, the sky had begun to lighten when Hawker’s bus rolled forwards and, although still shrouded in pre-dawn darkness, we were able to see each other. About ten minutes after we lifted, I realised that Osborn was missing - and I felt a sense of dread. Night flying was hard for the old hands, but for a green pilot, even with this much light, it was a near impossibility. Fortunately, the Scotsman had had the good sense to stay in the air, and we found him wheeling over the top of Doullens a few minutes later, circling overhead until he climbed up to us. Over Bray I had a strange moment of peace as I watched the sun rise, basking the land and clouds in a warm gold, and for a moment the war was forgotten.
But soon the trenches were flashing below us, and I was whisked back into reality. Filled with tension and anticipation, I watched the edges of every cloud for signs of the enemy. It wasn’t long before I sighted a pair of Fokkers, patrolling far below us over Cappy. I expectantly looked to Hawker, but he hadn’t seen them.We can get them both, easy! I thought to myself, but still Hawker flew on. Reluctantly, I stayed put in the formation as the Fokkers vanished beneath a cloud.
Our patrol was otherwise uneventful, and eventually Hawker fired the washout signal. We all split off in our own ways home, and I decided to make the most of the unusually good flying weather, turning off North and skirting the edge of our lines and planning to turn off home at Fricourt. I had flown for about five minutes when I suddenly caught a glimpse of four machines, approaching from the East. I gave a start and was about to dive for home when I noticed that they were Biplanes. A closer inspection revealed them to be Nieuports, and curiously I climbed up to get a better look at them. As I flew alongside them, the leader of their formation turned and gave me a cheery wave, which I returned. We flew South together as I enviously looked over their machines - Nieuport 10s. They looked sleek, fast, and elegant, and I desperately wanted the chance to fly one.
Eventually, I thought it best to leave them to their work - at any rate, I must be running low on fuel. I rocked my wings in farewell to my Gallic friends, and over Cappy I turned back towards Bertangles, arriving back in time for breakfast. Hawker raised his eyebrows as I arrived, an hour late as I was, but said nothing of it. I understood the subtle gesture completely - Don’t wander off again.