"Welcome back Second Lieutenant". Major Winters had asked to see me on my return to Abeele yesterday. "We have had a rough go of it while you were away. O'Keefe and Bell are gone ... they simply never came back from a mission a few days after your injury. Edith, Cooper and Rowle are all off with injuries. We have been desperately short of pilots, and half the boys still in the air are fresh. What a mess."
"I hope to get back into action soon sir."
"Good, because you will be on the mornings roster. Yes, yes, I know your arm is not fully functional", he had seen my look of surprise, "but it can't be helped. As long as you can operate the fuel pressure pump you should be able to manage. A damnable sight better than some of these new chaps, I wager."
So off we went in the morning. At least I was flying with McHard and Safer; two of our most experienced pilots. Brilliant visibility in the blazing sun for a patrol of our own lines. I knew we would see no action ... any Hun would see us miles away and be safely away. But I was wrong ... McHard spotted two Aviatiks below us and signaled an attack. Safer went nose to tail with the trailing machine but then spiraled away in a hail of defensive fire. My turn. Another bloody Aviatik on my first flight back. I pressed in on his tail three times, expending every bullet I had, with no apparent effect. I was getting shredded in return and the engine died soon after my last bullet was fired. I glided down and landed in a tangle in a farmers fence. What an inglorious return ... a written off machine and nothing to show for it.
We got news later in the day that Safer was dead, shot down by the Aviatik. This is a great loss ... he was the second most experienced pilot in the squadron. The airwar is supposed to be turning in our favour, but RFC-29 seems to have not gotten the message yet.