Fullofit, your man’s trip to eat in Chalons had me drooling – right up until poor James graced us with a pavement pizza.

HarryH, Konrad will have to be careful in his Fokker until the pendulum swings sharply in the Central Powers’ favour in a few months. That was a close call.

Carrick, Mallory must have found the only cavalry on the front not behind the lines or down a hole without a horse! But I can’t understand why he seems more tired after a week in hospital than before.

MFair, another one of our pilots with a close call.

Lederhosen, really nice livery!

Hasse, I’m delighted you have managed to fix your PC and have installed UE. It really is worth it.

An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins

Part Forty-Three: In which the Hun comes back to life

We were blessed by three days of rain and high winds. On 5 June I managed a loan of one of the squadron motorcycles and visited Albert. Being only three miles behind the lines, the place had been heavily shelled for the past year. Despite its streets being strewn with bricks and broken glass, it was awash with soldiers, mainly Australians it seemed. I found a shop where I could buy some shaving soap and a block of alum, a pound of coffee for Jericho, and a chessboard for the B Flight mess bar and anteroom, a few doors down from the Café where we took our meals. The highlight of the visit was a small estaminet in a partially-collapsed house, tended over by a mother and daughter, where I spent a relaxing hour with two Australian captains. I laughed the whole while, and my head hurt with the strain of trying to catch everything they said. The Aussies’ wit was brilliant, caustic as lye. My personal favourite was when we were discussing the basilica with its well-known Virgin and Child. The statue had nearly toppled from the spire during a shelling the previous year, and now leaned precariously over the edge of the spire, parallel to the ground. The Virgin’s arms were outstretched above her head, holding the infant Jesus, and the Australians had quickly christened her Fanny, after Fanny Durack, the swimming champion.[1]

[Linked Image]
Notre-Dame de Brebières, Albert, with "Fanny" and Child

I found a photographer and sat for a portrait with my MC ribbon. The elderly photographer had me rest an arm on a small table he place beside my seat so that the rank showed. He’d done this a few times before, obviously.

Poor Jericho was brought down on the 4th and returned to the squadron on the 7th with a bandage around his head, having suffered a badly concussed ego. He has been in a foul mood and is swearing revenge on the Hun.

I received a lovely letter from Dorothy, who is very out of sorts with the disruption at home, but totally supportive of my stand. On 7 June I composed a long letter to Mummy, giving reconciliation by best shot. I drove back to Albert and picked up the portraits and a leather and silver frame, which I packaged to send with the letter.

The next two days were intensely busy with engine tests and two patrols each day. On 8 June we took off at first light, me leading the Major and Whistler to marry up with several De Havillands over Albert and then photograph enemy second and third line defences near La Boisselle. We approached Albert at 4000 feet and could make out three machines circling there, which we took for our escort. To our immense surprise we found three Fokkers behind our lines. A jolly dance began and it was all I could do to avoid several collisions. The wide parasol wing of the Morane invites disaster in a crowded turning fight. Wilson fired off two drums of ammunition and I suspect we damaged one. The Hun disappeared beneath us and by the time we found him, Whistler was flying alongside him and O’Brian, his observer, was hammering away. It was Whistler’s first confirmed kill.

In the middle of the scrap the De Havillands joined the party. But scarcely had the balance shifted so decisively in our favour than three more Fokkers dived on us. Oh, it was a rare dance! At length the affair ended abruptly, as these things often do. We gathered ourselves and continued north to our assigned objective. Unfortunately, I had to hand over to the major as my engine began to rattle and miss. I switched off and glided to Bellevue aerodrome, where we stalled and landed heavily, destroying the undercarriage.

We took a spare machine in the afternoon to patrol over Montauban and record activity. Again we were chased by several Fokkers. One machine in particular, green all over, was flown very aggressively. Wilson hit him and caused his engine to stop, but we lost him and could not confirm that he was downed.
The following day saw us dropping bombs on positions south of the river. Once again we were chased by Fokkers. This time we definitely hit one that spun several thousand feet straight down before we lost him. We put in the claim and are still waiting.

Afternoon saw an inconclusive scrap with more Fokkers as we tried to photograph the lines near La Boisselle. Wilson commented proudly that despite several scraps, we hadn’t been hit by a single round all week.


[1] Sarah Frances “Fanny” Durack (1889-1956) won Australia’s first women’s gold medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the Stockholm Olympics of 1912.

Attached Files Virgin.jpg