Lou - great shots of the captured Fokker doing battle with Swany! And nice story about Trenchard. I'm sure Cpt. Thomas is glad he's not a Hun after duking it out with the R.F.C's Star Turn! But - more importantly - I am eagerly awaiting news of Swany's new posting - and his new bus!! I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for a copy of Flying Corps Headquarters 1914-1918.
loftyc - Trackir can be a real pain on a sunny day. Luckily your guardian angel was looking out for you this time! Graham A. Campbell (rest his soul) had trouble with Fee gunners sleeping on the job as well. Hopefully your observer wakes up for the next scrap! Looking forwards to hear more from Bert.
Carrick - sorry to hear about Emile. Rotten luck to be captured due to a dud engine. Best of luck with Keith - 29 Squadron's a good posting to get! I wonder if he'll bump into Aleck MacKinlay in the near future... MFair - Sounds like Jericho is going through a mixed bag of emotions at the moment. I'm glad to see that he can rely on Christian, though. Lovely vignette about Skillit. I hope he had a wonderful 100th(!!!) birthday.
Sgt. James B. Fullard, Esc. N31, Ochey Aerodrome, France.
April 17th, 1916.
We nursed our thunderous headaches over breakfast, listening to the rain as it continued its offensive of our roof. “I hope this rain lasts forever” Ortoli muttered, earning a grunt of approval from Lemoine. “Not me, I’m keen to get back up at the Bosche. But, man, not with this headache!” said little Devienne, one hand on his forehead as he slouched over the table. Lemoine smirked. “Emile Devienne: l'Enfant Ivre”.
Word had arrived from Michael. I found comfort in his familiar rough-edged handwriting as I read his letter. His Escadrille had been as affected by the weather as our own, and since his arrival he had only managed seven hours of flying. Being so close to Verdun, however, he had already seen his fair share of combats, and more than once had come back with his bus holed up by an unseen enemy.
‘I found it quite bizarre! One moment we were flying along peacefully, and the next minute I could taste the phosphor of the tracers in the air and I saw little holes appearing in my planes. I didn’t hang around to see who the culprit was, instead I threw my ship into all manner of mad twists and turns, looping and rolling around like the devil.
Before I knew what was what, the sky was totally empty! My patrol had vanished, and the bullets at my back had stopped, so I flew home on my own. The rest of the patrol landed ten minutes later and told me what had happened. We (or, rather, they) had mixed it up with three Fokkers. I didn’t even see any of the devils! Since then I have become more attentive in a scrap, and have even sent a Bosche running for home with smoke trailing from his engine.
Enough about me, though. How about you? Have you had your first scrap yet? I hope we both get leave at the same time so that we can catch up over a beer.
Miss you Kiddo,
Excitedly I fetched paper and pen to write back, telling him of my encounters with the Bosche and the two planes I had downed. I also wrote of the fellows at my Escadrille, citing them as ‘as good a bunch as I could hope for’. Sealing the envelope, I stored it in my room, planning to leave it with Georges at suppertime.
As I walked back into the mess, which was heavy with boredom, Ortoli turned to me from the half-hearted card game that he, Lemoine, Chaput and little Devienne were playing. “Oh, Fullard, I meant to ask earlier. Have you heard about that Americain outfit that’s being assembled at Luxeuil? It turns out there’s quite the collection of Yanks in France, now!”. I looked at him in puzzlement. “American outfit? How do you mean?”.
As he explained, the Aeronautique Militaire was assembling an Escadrille specifically for American airmen. The unit would be staffed by French Officers and be led by a French C.O, and would be flying old hand-me-down Nieuport 10s. As it turned out, Dr. Edmund L. Gros, whom Michael and I had encountered in Paris when we had volunteered, had a hand in the creation of the unit. In truth, I had feared the encounter - for my mother, by a bizarre twist, was a friend of Madame Gros, the Doctor's mother. Madame Gros was, as rumour stated, the most beautiful woman in all of San Francisco, and the de-facto 'queen' of the French Colony there. Michael and I had feared that Dr. Gros may send us back home owing to the family connection.
“Do you think they’ll offer you a spot?” Ortoli asked. “Well, maybe! I’m not sure! But, imagine that, an Escadrille of Americans!” I responded, “Oh! Maybe Michael will be given a place as well!”. Ortoli raised an eyebrow. “qui?”. “Oh - my brother. He’s a pilot, too”. “Ah, mais oui. You’ve said before”.
“ɪ ᴡᴏɴᴅᴇʀ ɪғ ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴀssᴇᴍʙʟᴇ ᴀ ᴅᴀɴɪsʜ ᴇsᴄᴀᴅʀɪʟʟᴇ” Jensen pondered. Little Devienne, who had been half-listening, bit back a grin. “A whole Escadrille of Vikings? But you must be the only Danish pilote in all of France!”.
Over dinner, we discussed the rumours of a British push at the Somme - a move that would alleviate the pressure off of Verdun. “Hopefully all the air Bosches are whisked away when the English make their offensive. It would be a nice rest for us!” Lemoine ventured, taking a swig from his ever-faithful hip flask. Chaput shrugged. “No concern to me either way. Those Fokkers can’t hold a candle to our coucous”. Devienne added that if two brand-new pilots such as Metayer and myself can bring down two Fokkers each in a day, we scarcely had any reason to worry where the Bosches were on the lines.
We retired early that night, trying to escape the boredom of another flightless day through sleep. I lay awake in my cot for a while, thinking of the American Escadrille at Luxeuil.