Moving house is great fun. I don't know why I don't do it more.
That's done and now I've got two weeks of family holiday to enjoy. Stewart is getting some home leave. All of the British pilots are due some now. Of the flying that Stewart did do in March and April, most was uneventful. I think that the nearby Moranes were having all the fun.
The stories have been excellent and there is far too much to comment on, so I will only say congratulations to Raine on the new addition to your family. My daughter is now 8 months old, so I have fresh evidence that girls are a handful!
Figures for March and April;
March 31st 2Lt William Arthur George Stanley 16 Squadron RFC La Gorgue 0 kills 43 combat hours
April 30th 2Lt William Arthur George Stanley 16 Squadron RFC La Gorgue 1 kill 59 combat hours
Two BE2cs of 16 squadron hung in the air over the lines near Loos. Robert Le Brasseur piloted the lead machine while his observer, Cyril Marshall was taking photograph after photograph with his C type camera. Arthur Stanley followed a little behind with Billy Budgen mindfully scanning the skies with his hands on his Lewis gun.
Budgen had good cause to be vigilant. Perhaps by chance, 3 German monoplanes emerged from a cloud nearby and at a higher altitude. It was soon clear that they were coming in to attack the reconnaissance flight. The lead eindekker was of a darker and greener hue than the others. This machine attached itself to Stewart's Quirk.
Even as he banked and skidded across the sky to throw off his attacker's aim, Stanley looked across to see if he could help Le Brasseur. Stanley was flying the escorting machine after all. Two Fokkers were pressing their attacks close to Le Brasseur. One was too close.
Even from so far away, Stanley imagined that he could feel the crunch as the two aeroplanes collided. Two wing tips striking each other in mid-air.
Both machines spun away from the impact. The second eindekker seemed to take fright and fled east from the dreadful scene. “Who killed Cock Robin?” Stanley thought to himself, remembering a childhood rhyme.*
There was no more time to think on the fate of Le Brasseur and Marshall. Above Stanley's head Budgen swung his Lewis and fired. The green Fokker was still attacking.
The German pilot was good, but Stanley's confidence with the BE2 was considerable and he could turn and skid across the sky in such a way that the German pilot never found his mark. Budgen could not get an effective shot in either, although he tried. The Lewis chattered every time that Stanley swerved the rudder to give his observer a shot at the trailing monoplane. After a good quarter of an hour of this, the German pilot apparently decided that he was not going to get this Britisher and turned away for home. Stanley swore that the dark figure in the cockpit was smiling and waving as he left them.
Landing at La Gorgue, Stanley trudged over to the recording officer. “Good flight, Wags?” Westcott asked him. “I wouldn't say so,” Stanley replied wearily. “We were attacked by three Huns. I escaped mine, but Robin collided with an Eindekker. He and the photographs are gone.” Westcott smiled, “I wouldn't say that. We had word from a forward landing field. La Brasseur and Marshall landed safely. Robin even claimed for an Eindekker going down out of control. Do you think that you can confirm that one?” Stanley laughed with relief. “I should say so! It's not a conventional method, but it worked!”
Loos Railyard burned. Or at least, a few buildings did. The Cooper bombs carried by the BE2c amounted to little more than a few hand grenades. Stanley knew that they might kill a few men, but the railway and rolling stock were completely safe. The Quirks were not quite as safe. As Stewart and Le Brasseur slowly turned for home a Fokker dived on Le Brasseur's machine.
Stanley had been watching and swept underneath and to the right of Robin's craft. Budgen was ready with his Vickers and fired a burst. The Fokker began to turn. Budgen pulled the trigger again. And again. Stanley was beginning to wonder if his gunner would have to reload soon when the Fokker tipped into a spin.
The movement was vicious and there was no way that the German pilot was in control. Stanley watched as the monoplane span without recovery until it suddenly erupted in a cloud of debris. Stanley looked up at Billy Budgen, who gave him a thumbs up sign with this thick flying gloves.
Two BE2s landed at La Gorge. The propellers slowed to a halt and Stanley could almost taste the sudden silence. Slowly voices and the sound of laughter emerged from the profound stillness. “Well done chaps!” Robin applauded them. “It's a little unsporting to use a machine gun, rather than a wing tip, but I don't think that Wing will mind much.”