10 April, 1916
Lahoussoye, France
3 Squadron, R.F.C.
2nd Lt. Randolph Arvid Swanson, MC & Bar
11 confirmed victories, 2 pending claims

It was another day of fending off multiple Eindeckers for 2nd Lt. Swanson and Captain Rankin. B Flight was given a recce of the Guillemont area this morning, so two teams took off in the rain with Swany pulling lead again. Shortly before reaching their objective the second Morane dropped out with engine trouble leaving Swany and the Captain on their own. The reconnaissance went well and without interruptions, apart from the occasional "woomp woomp" from Archie. However, on the return trip the lone British bus was jumped by a pair of Eindeckers and a minor skirmish commenced over the mud. It did not last long. Rankin laced the side of the nearest Fokker in short order which sent it spinning down madly. This got the wind up of the other Hun who quickly turned away to the east. Swany continued on back towards Lahoussoye, trying to catch sight of the first Eindecker to see if it had crashed. It was nowhere to be seen which meant they could only claim it as an "out of control".

Some minutes later, as the city of Albert was slipping slowly beneath, Swanson was startled be the sound of bullets zipping through the wing cloth to his right. He immediately dropped the nose of his mount and brought it around just in time to see another Eindecker bearing down on them. Apparently Captain Rankin had been less-than-attentive, failing to see the threat until it began popping away at them. He quickly readied the Lewis and returned fire. The go-round lasted three minutes or more as the two planes dove and climbed and circled directly over Albert, giving those below quite a show. The AA guns from a nearby balloon position began blasting away as well, with no apparent regard for which of the two planes they were aiming at. The Morane was rocked violently when two shells went off dangerously close, sending shrapnel everywhere. Swany pressed on though and continued to jam up the Hun pilot, while Rankin took every shot he could. After what seemed like an eternity of looping about in the AA storm the Captain landed hits into the cockpit of their attacker. The enemy pilot immediately fell forward into the dash of his mount and within seconds it plowed straight down into a grassy square below, barely missing a row of houses in the process. Swany swooped low to get out of the hail of exploding shells, flying just above the housetops as he turned back on course towards camp. He could see dozens of people below, both soldiers and civilians, waving up at them and cheering as they flew over. The two British airman returned the waves enthusiastically, smiling down at their allies on the ground.

Upon returning to camp, Swany counted no less than fifteen rips and gashes in his bus from the AA shrapnel, along with another dozen holes caused by the Eindecker's bullets. He was amazed that neither he nor the Captain had been hit, (though upon further inspection Rankin discovered a fairly good slice to the back of his flying coat, no doubt caused by one of the razor-sharp shards that had been zipping about everywhere). After turning in their claims and filing their AARs, Swanson and Rankin went to the mess to grab a bite to eat and warm up. Major Harvey-Kelly was there as well, sipping on a cup of tea and when he spied the pair, he came over.

"Good job again you two, another fine show from the sounds of it", the CO said smilingly.

"Thank you Sir", the two men responded in unison.

"Swanson, when you've finished I need you to stop by my office, I've some things we must discuss." With that, the Major walked away giving no further clue, apart from a slight look of concern, as to what the "things" might be.

"Well Lieutenant", Captain Rankin began, as he finished off a slice of buttered toast, "something's afoot. You don't get called into the COs office for a chitchat."

"Yeah, dat's for sure", Swany replied in a slight edgy tone.

"No worries though. With your record I shan't imagine it will be anything too terribly awful." The G/O gave a strained smile. He still harbored a grudge towards his pilot from the stunting incident, but he was coming to appreciate the fellow's skill at keeping them alive.

"Thanks. Guess the only vay I'm gonna find out is to go over der." Swany excused himself and headed out to see what the Major had on his mind. As he did so he hoped Captain Rankin was right and that it would be good things being discussed, though the young ace had come to learn that "good" could be a very relative term, in particular when it came to the military's way of thinking.

(to be continued)

The battle above Albert.
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