Lou, wonderful to see you off to a new squadron where you are sure to tear up the front. We’ll really miss Swany at No 3.
Wulfe, it’s gutting to read of Graham’s going west. A very touching episode. But here’s a hearty welcome to our gallant Legionnaire, Fuller! Victor’s fate was a real shocker.
Carrick, that’s a good-looking Nieuport. Is the camo a custom skin or a squadron default?
Fullofit, congratulations on what I trust will be #13! You are well on the way to being the darling of France. That kill was no more than five rounds.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins
Part Thirty-Four: In which I cater to the needs of C Flight, or at least me...
On the cold, wet morning of 10 April we received the good news that billets were being allotted in the village. Each flight was assigned a couple of dank but solid farmhouses, and the officers were each assigned a building that would become the flight mess. There was, however, a long and low brick and stucco building in the centre of town whose tiny sign proclaimed it the Café du Progrès. It was the place where the old men of the village gathered for coffee, cards, and a pipe while drinking pastis and bemoaning the prohibition on absinthe. The proprietress was a Madame Defossez, a stern-faced but affable widow whose equally widowed mother-in-law worked the kitchen and whose painfully plain (and also widowed!) daughter Jeannine served tables. We pooled our messing money and I added a few extra francs and, with much waving of hands, shrugging of shoulders, and speaking English loud (my father’s contribution to my knowledge of diplomacy) we negotiated three meals a day in a small room off the main part of the cafe. Meat was somewhat scarce, so we undertook to augment what Madame could buy in the markets or on the farms.
Unfortunately, our first lunch was delayed as we were to take off shortly after noon to bomb an enemy rail station at Monchy. We saw nothing in the air and delivered our packages, appearing to throw several carriages off the tracks.
Mesdames Defossez senior and junior served a wonderful stew of beef and kidneys, served with red wine and breathtaking bread, still warm from the oven. Captain Mealing and I called the ladies from the kitchen into the little room to receive a well-earned ovation. This gesture was rewarded with a couple of bottles of wine and a fine session of Vive la France and Vive l’Angleterre.
I shared a billet with two new observers, Lawley and Williams. Unfortunately the NCOs were still under canvas, and I hoped that Wilson still had some of his purloined whiskey to keep him warm. Our hosts were the elderly Monsieur et Madame Poidevin. The husband was deaf and his wife was blind, and I observed at dinner that this was the formula for a perfect marriage.
Madame Defossez had agreed to have a proper breakfast prepared no earlier than seven-thirty in the morning, but Jeannine would awake early and prepare tea and boiled eggs for the dawn patrol. With that to hold us, we took off shortly after six on 11 April to bomb the aerodrome at Bertincourt. The weather was poor and the winds threw us about for ninety minutes, but we managed to score a few hits on the field and buildings there. Three Fokkers flew under us near Bertincourt but chose not to engage us.
Waiting for second breakfast...
The second breakfast was a tremendous feed of black pudding and eggs, just the thing for a wet day. Captain Mealing had tried in his appalling French to request oatmeal, but Madame shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. Little with the flight commander know that I hate the stuff and gave particular instructions that it should never appear under any circumstance!
We went back to Bertincourt in the afternoon and were barely able to find it due to the clouds and drizzle. Archie was unusually heavy and accurate in this sector.