Wulfe, Fullard’s story has had a great beginning. I am enjoying the character of Devienne especially. Congrats on the early victories – the photo of the flaming Eindekker is a gem.

Lederhosen, glad to hear your back is getting better.

Lou, East London meets Northern Minnesota. That’s a marriage made in heaven! Great sketch of Dirks.

Scout, Abeele seems to be bringing luck. Fine job on that balloon.

Fullofit, congratulations on Gaston’s promotion. There is a massive dose of confidence in his flying these days. The videos are real lessons in flying. And then to top it all off with getting injured. Take care of Gaston – I suspect he is about to become an icon of la patrie! I second Wulfe’s and MFair’s comments that his devil-may-care approach is at once inspiring and terrifying.

Hasse, it is so good to see Julius in his scout now. And here’s a toast to his first kill. Just watch for the Moranes overhead. Collins’s No 3 Squadron keeps getting sent to drop bombs on Bertincourt.

Carrick, Emile in the bag! Who is next?

MFair -- "I came into this world covered in someone else's blood, I damned sure don't mind goin' out that way!" – That’s a line you could build a whole movie script around.

An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins
Part Thirty-Five: In which the war begins to get lonely...

It struck me at the end of the week that we had been flying from Lahoussoye for five days and hadn’t been dry once. On Tuesday, 11 April, we flew twice to Bertincourt and dropped bombs through the mist in the general direction of the Hun aerodrome at Bertincourt-Vélu. During the first attack, three Fokkers sailed past us in the mirk and did not notice us at all despite the machine gun fire that danced about our Moranes.

That afternoon we were told the sad news that Swanson is leaving us. I thought back to the day last summer we took bets on how quickly he could chop down the tree at Long Branch, and the laughs on the long train ride to Saint John. And the SS Scandinavian, which we all joked was named for Swaney. And the cold mornings at Netheravon. And the first thrilling days together at Auchel. It had been a long and twisting road. Now he was off to England to join a new squadron that was working up. Before he embarked, he was to fly some trials at Candas against the Fokker he’d downed. Unlike the two I’d had a hand in putting down in our lines, Swaney’s hadn’t been picked apart by souvenir-hunters. Best of all, he’d gained a bar to his well-deserved MC.

On 12 April 1916 we took off in rain and darkness for a reconnaissance well north of the Somme. At one point I saw flashes from our Archie somewhere near Bouzincourt and went to inquire. The visibility was too poor to find the Huns responsible for this display and I spent another hour finding the Major again, eventually rejoining him only to arrive at the end of our allotted time over the lines. In the afternoon we dashed over to Vimy to hit a rail station behind the Hun lines and inched our way back into a headwind. My room-mate from Bruay, Dalton, and his observer Ethan Williams had been seen to put their crippled machine low east of Bapaume. Williams shared my billet with M. and Mme. Poidevin. To make matters worse, Lawley, the other observer at the Poidevin home, was missing along with his pilot, Embrey. I tried to remember what Lawley and Williams had told me about their families. I told the senior observer, Captain McNaughton, that I’d sort their kit. To the man’s eternal credit, he said to leave it to him.

I broke the news to the Poidevins and they were genuinely shaken by it. They insisted I accompany them to the little village church where they offered the priest a few francs to say a Mass for leurs enfants anglais. That night I managed a fresh loaf from Madame Defossez senior and brought it with a bottle of wine to share with the Poidevins in their little kitchen. They made me promise to be careful.

In the morning the drizzle and wet turned to a proper storm and all flying was scrubbed. The forecast was poor and the Major granted me permission to leave for a couple of nights in Amiens. I got on a tender heading west around ten and marvelled at the signs of war all along the straight Roman road to Amiens – horses gathered in churchyards, tents crowded under the trees in every field. The road was quiet by day, but at night there was a constant rumble of wheels and neighing and cursing and singing as the machinery and men of war passed, heading eastward on their way to history. It was a glorious feeling to be driving in the opposite direction this wet morning.

I was let off at the Carlton, across from the station, and headed upstairs to spend a good hour in a warm bath. From there it was off to the Hôtel du Rhin for a lunch of oysters and the best omelette I have had or am ever likely to have. I shared a table with a young Scots staff officer who pointed out a fellow a couple of tables over as Bairnsfeather, the brilliant cartoonist (and also a staff officer). Jericho was about town somewhere, I knew, but I did not see him and to be honest was not in the mood for company. First on my list of things to do was to drop a bag of dirty wash off at a proper laundry for a good scrub and starch and then find a barber for a good haircut and shave. Then I visited the cathedral, sat in a park and fed ducks, watched a Chaplin film, and retired for a nap before dinner, awakening at eleven at night in time for a dinner of red wine and frites.

Afterwards, I closed the curtains against the rain and slept again.