Fullofit - Mon Dieu! Another wound for poor old Gaston - and Violette, too! I daresay both are looking worse for wear by this point...they both need a nice, long rest! Here's hoping Gaston has a speedy recovery. I wonder if that was the same Aviatik crew that saw off Ortoli and Devienne the other day...
Carrick - Nicely done! Scratch one more Eindecker. The bosche must be running low on them by now...love the shot of the three D.H.2s converging on their target.
77_Scout - two victories! Very well done! Interesting reaction from MacKinlay...seems like even those with the purest intentions aren't free of the war's influence. Bad luck about the third claim.
Sgt. James B. Fullard, Escadrille N.31 Ochey Aerodrome, France
May 11th 1916:
It was still dark as Georges gently shook me awake, the flicker of the lamp catching in the rough, aged lines of his face. Quinchez sat on the edge of his cot, nursing a tin mug of cocoa. “Sorry to wake you sir, but you are scheduled for the dawn patrol in an hour”, Georges informed me as he pressed a second mug into my hands. Groggily I thanked him, and he turned to leave, pausing by the door to tell us that “there are croissants and squeezed orange juice waiting in the mess”.
Jensen and little Devienne were lounging at the table. Croissant-in-hand, Devienne waved a hello at us. “Know where we’re going today?” I asked. “ɴᴏᴍᴇɴʏ” was Jensen’s answer. Quinchez couldn’t contain his smile. “My first war flight! Tell me about Nomeny - is it a hot shop? Do you think we’ll run into any Fokkers?”. I saw my and Victor’s eagerness in him. “ɪᴛ sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ǫᴜɪᴇᴛ, ᴛʜᴀɴᴋғᴜʟʟʏ”.
We made our way to the hangars and changed into our flying clothing, before heading out to the flight line. “Mon Dieu! Whose machine is that!” Quinchez cried as he spotted Devienne’s red-winged Nieuport at the end of the flight line. Swelling with pride, the youth replied “Which one? Oh, that one? Well, that’s mines!”. Jensen and I shot each other a look of amusement. “A fan of Navarre’s?” Quinchez asked, and Devienne’s face suddenly matched the colour of his wing. “Oh, er, yes”. I stifled a laugh. Jensen then turned to Quinchez. “ɪғ ᴡᴇ ʀᴜɴ ɪɴᴛᴏ ᴀɴʏ ʙᴏsᴄʜᴇ, sᴛᴀʏ ᴄʟᴇᴀʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴏʙsᴇʀᴠᴇ”. Quinchez raised an eyebrow, but reluctantly agreed.
As we clambered into our machines I peered upwards at the skies. The clouds were rolling swiftly towards the lines. High winds today I thought to myself. The call to ‘switch on’ came from Thierry at my nose, and I obliged. A moment later my motor roared into life in harmony with the others’ machines, before dying down to a smooth idling. Thierry made the motion of flicking water off his fingertips as he walked around to my side. “You hear that?” he cried over the engine. “Even with a replacement, she’s singing!”. I flashed a grin and waved him away. As he backed off, smirking back, he cried “Remember, Fullard! If you damage that Coucou again then the Bosche will be the last of your worries!”.
With our chocks away and our mechanics clear, Jensen led us on our take-off runs. His wheels came up, with me and Quinchez next. At the rear of the pack was Devienne. The long, uncomfortable climb out was harsh, with the winds buffeting us to and fro. We sat stiffly frozen into place by the unforgiving cold.
Jensen pointed us towards the lines, and we settled into formation. Over Toul I spotted a lone aeroplane circling, about 300 meters above us. As we approached it I got a good look at its side profile, and recognised it as an Aviatik. Hastily opening the throttle to catch up with Jensen, I pointed the machine out and he nodded once, pulling away to the side and steepening his climb angle. We watched the lone German closely as we slowly spiralled upwards. Suddenly, he snapped around to the West. He had seen us. Jensen opened his throttle to full, giving chase from below, with the rest of us in tow.
The German had a good head-start on us, but he was many miles behind our lines and slowly drawing nearer in our sights. We caught up to the fleeing Biplace over the Hasoy Forest, and I quickly closed in from under his tail, snapping upwards to fire a pensive burst at him. Just as I did so, an artillery round burst sickeningly close to my head, and in surprise I stalled on a wing, dropping back below the Aviatik. “Damned idiots!” I cried out in contempt for the A.A. gunners below. I climbed up again and fired a second, longer burst into the Aviatik, before looping around for a second attack. The flight stayed in position behind me, readying themselves to take over should I break off. I got in close again and fired off the rest of my ammunition into the Aviatik. As I curved away to the side, I watched as the observer wildly swung the gun to follow me. At the same time, the Aviatik’s propeller slowed to a halt, and the German machine slowly began to sink down into the clouds below.
I signalled to Jensen that I was turning for home., and swung my Nieuport back Southwards. Switching off the magnetos after landing, I made my way to the H.Q building to make my report. As I sat at the writing-desk, the door to de Villeneuve’s office swung open. “Oh, hello Fullard. Didn’t expect to see you back already. Engine trouble? Your coucou sounded okay as you were coming in”.
“No, no engine trouble, sir. We encountered an Aviatik and I fired off all of my ammunition at him. I thought it unwise to continue unarmed, sir”. “Là! Là! All of your ammunition?! Well, did you get him?” “Yes, sir. His engine stopped over Forêt de Hasoy. I saw him gliding down. There’s no way he could possibly have made it back. The others saw it, and there was an artillery battery firing at him, so they must have seen as well”. “Well, if it is how you say it is, then congratulations! I’ll telephone the battery at...Hasoy, you said?”. “Thank you, sir”.
I headed back to the mess where I found Ortoli, Chaput and Lemoine. The latter had his head buried firmly into his hands, and was groaning in agony. “Merde! Merde! Merde! I’ve killed myself! Why would you let me drink so much, tu Salauds!”. Ortoli let out a hearty laugh. “Don’t blame us, you drunkard! Nobody had a gun to your head!” Slumping forwards onto the desk with his face down, Lemoine let out another dramatic groan. “I want to go back to bed…” he muttered.
“Hey, Fullard! How did your patrol go?” Chaput asked. “I got a Bosche. An Aviatik, I stopped his engine for him”. “Congratulations, mon ami! Your fifth, no? l’As Americain!” “No, only my fourth. If it gets confirmed, at least”. “Mais oui. Well, here’s hoping!”
It was suppertime when Georges brought me the news that, indeed, the A.A company had watched me bring down the German machine. It had glided down through the clouds and become entangled in the trees below. Apparently, both German airmen were wounded, but alive, and after being retrieved via ladder from the tree they had chosen to inhabit, they were carted away to some prison camp or other. At the news, Quinchez cried out "Fullard got a Bosche? Mais, I didn't even see him!". The rest of the patrols had been quiet, except for Ortoli’s afternoon patrol, which as he explained, “I could hear Lemoine’s moaning over the drone of my engine!”.