Raine - Great, but tragic, story. Poor, unlucky Moore. You wrote him excellently, and I was just looking forwards to hearing more from him when I read about his firey demise. C'est la Guerre, I suppose. I'm also very much enjoying your plot lines - Collins is such an expertly crafted character, you've done a stellar job of bringing him to life.
Hasse - Congratulations on the victory! And I thoroughly enjoyed Julius' speculations on the battle to come. I wonder how his story will be shaped with the upcoming Somme offensive...perhaps a Pour le Merite is in the cards for him as well?
HarryH - Boelcke, Kirmaier, Loerzer...quite the roster of pilots you're with, there! Congratulations on the victory! Who needs one of those silly old Halberstadts, anyway? But, just be careful with those spins! We wouldn't want to lose our favourite villainous Hun!
Added a couple more profiles to the DiD Aircraft Profiles thread - Swanson's Strutter, Stanley's D.H.2, and Fullard's N.11!
Adj. James B. Fullard, Esc. N.124 'Americaine', Bar-le-Duc, France.
June 26th, 1916
Thenault had looked tired as he issued our orders on the morning of the 26th. It was clear that the Squadron’s losses, the first he had experienced as its Commanding Officer, had taken their toll on him. The pilots, too, were in a funk, except for Bert Hall, who, with any mention of Balsley or Chapman, would simply sneer and remark “At least it wasn’t me”. However, when I heard mention of Michael, he seemed to suddenly be the picture of compassion - at least when I was present. I can only assume he took a similar diplomatic approach around the other two’s good friends.
As per the custom, we were to fly two patrols behind the lines with our two newcomers. I admit, I was excited to learn that Masson was assigned to my flight, which was to be led by Nimmie Prince. Lawrence Rumsey, our other newcomer, would be joining Thenault on his patrol. As our Nieuports were readied, the famed aviator approached me. “‘Allo! You are Fullard, no? l’As Americain? I heard you do good work in the air! Maybe you can teach me a thing or two about air fighting?”. I felt myself redden. “Ah, well. I do my part. But, surely there is nothing I could teach you! I’ve heard about your flying since before the war”. He shrugged. “Mon Ami, nobody was trying to kill each other in the flying circuses!”.
Prince arrived and presently cut our encounter short. “Come on, fellas! The Bosche won’t wait all day!”. We quickly climbed aboard our Nieuports, and Masson flashed me a grin as he pulled his goggles over his eyes. The sky was cloudy, its blue washed out, but thankfully there was no rain to contend with. We started our engines and Prince lurched forwards, and one by one we lifted. I noticed that my engine was only giving 1100 RPM, and before long I was starting to lag behind the patrol.
We climbed up past 2,000 meters when the fog started to roll in, obscuring the land below and casting us into an otherworldly realm of pure sky. Blanchon, whom had dropped back to stick close to me, looked over the side of his cockpit with a worried expression. No doubt he had a similar thought to my own - that, should one of us have to make a forced landing, we wouldn’t be able to see the deadly telephone wires below. I checked my RPM indicator again, and quietly pleaded with it not to drop further. To make matters worse, the wind had picked up significantly, and we were rocked around in the air like autumn leaves.
I had almost caught up to the patrol over the Argonne Forest when, ahead of me, Prince started furiously rocking his wings. I peered forwards and saw three Eindeckers on our level, charging at us headlong! There was almost no time to react - in an instant, we were in the furball.
I found myself behind one Bosche, who curled away as I fired a burst into him. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a second German turning to face me. I doubled back and begun to circle with him, slowly catching him in the turn. I got behind him and fired a burst at him as well, and he turned tail towards the front. Below me, Luf circled with a Bosche of his own. I spiralled down and hovered above him, leaving him to his work, when suddenly he looped away and turned back towards Behonne. The Bosche turned to follow, but I was on him before he could enact any revenge, and a long burst soon had his engine smoking. He attempted to make a desperate run for his own lines, but I was soon behind him again and lining up another attack. I fired for a second time and the Fokker shuddered violently. A moment later I saw his propeller come to a stop, the tip of one blade shot away. Flying ahead of him, I watched as the German’s head rocked left and right as he desperately looked for a place to land. Despite myself I felt a certain pity for him as he sunk lower and lower into the awaiting Argonne forest, before finally smashing heavily into a tree and splintering to pieces.
I circled back towards home, overflying the road to Verdun, upon which was a mile-long convoy of infantry trucks, all of which had stopped and their inhabitants piled out onto the roadside to watch our dogfight. As I flew overhead I was astounded to see hundreds of blue-clad figures, waving and cheering. I rocked my wings at them and flew over low, dipping my wing and waving back. As I did so, I heard my revolutions fluctuate slightly, and decided that I should perhaps land at a closer aerodrome. I turned East and took my ship in a shallow climb out over the edge of the forest. Checking my map, I decided to head to Senard.
Above me I noticed another Nieuport - it was Blanchon. I assumed he must also be making for Senard. He noticed me below and swooped down, forming up beside me with a large grin on his face. We landed at the aerodrome, switching off our engines and climbing out. Excitedly, Blanchon ran over to my side. “Merde! But that was exciting! Did you see me? I got one!”. I was astounded. “You got another! I’m afraid I didn’t see”. Blanchon shrugged.
“Oh well. Perhaps it won’t be confirmed, unless one of the others saw it. But, Nimmie and Masson fell out of the fight quite quickly, chasing that first Bosche you scared off. I saw you and Luf chasing another, did you get him?” he asked, his eyes shining. “Yeah, I got him. Luf ran out of ammunition, I think, but I chased him over the Argonne and his engine stopped. Poor Bosche went straight into a tree”. At this, Blanchon laughed aloud.
Just then, a mechanic strode up to us, looking over our machines. “Engine trouble?” he casually asked. I nodded. “The revolutions were dropping. I thought it better to put in here, rather than trying my luck”. The mechanic smirked. “Oui. I would do the same if I was mad enough to fly”.
I helped the mechanic wheel my machine towards a hangar at the end of the flight line. As we got to its entrance, I peered inside to see a Nieuport 11, painted in a striking purple. “Sacre! But that’s Voscadeaux’s machine!” cried Blanchon, and the mechanic broke into a grin. “Gentlemen! Bienvenue à l’Escadrille 37!”.
Before long, a Lieutenant had been drawn out by the noise of us coming in to land. As he strode over to us, there was a vague, implacable familiarity in his face. The mechanic stood to attention. “Lieutenant Dagonet! These two gentlemen have landed with engine trouble. We’re already seeing to their Coucous. The Lieutenant thanked the mechanic, and turned to us with a look of interest in his face. He seemed to frown slightly when he looked at me, as if he was trying to place me. “Engine trouble, eh? Hard luck. Not Bosche-related, I hope!”. “No,” I replied, “but we did just have a scrap over the Argonne”. “Oh? Get any Bosches?”. Immediately Blanchon’s chest swelled. “Oui, we both got a Fokker each!”. “Fantastique! Well, come on then. I’ll let your C.O know you’re here, and then we can have a spot of breakfast”.
We were led into the Squadron mess, in which a couple of pilots were scattered, idly chatting among themselves. “Who’s this?” called one pilot, from his reclined position in an armchair. “They just came in with engine trouble. They’re from...er…” Lt. Dagonet looked over at us. “Who did you say you were with?”.
“Oh, sorry. We didn’t. We’re from the Escadrille Americaine” I replied. Suddenly, Dagonet’s eyes widened, and he broke into a wide grin. “Mais, oui! I knew I recognised your face! You were the drunken Americain at Chalons!”. I blinked. “Er…?”. “Yes! You nearly flattened poor Gaston when you came around that corner!”. Realisation washed over me, and I felt my face flush. “Oh, right. I’m terribly sorry about that…” I started, but Dagonet waved away my apology with a laugh.
After Dagonet had called the Villa, we were treated to Croissants, hot Coffee and buttered toast as our machines were repaired. Unfortunately for us, Le Violet had gone out on patrol not long before we had come in to land (much to Blanchon’s bitter disappointment). However, the crowd at Escadrille 37 was an interesting mix of fellows. We dined with two other pilots, as well as Dagonet. There was Etienne Tsu, born in Shanghai and of Chinese heritage, who was one of the first air fighters in 1915, and Andre Boillot, who had been a racecar driver before the war. We didn’t stay for long, and after a pleasant chat in which the fascinated Frenchmen asked me about life in America (“What’s San Francisco like? Are the Americans going to come into the war yet? What do they think of the war in general?”), we boarded our Nieuports and headed back to Behonne.
Back at the villa, I was pleased to learn that Luf had seen my Bosche fall, and I was awarded my eighth victory. Poor Blanchon had no such luck, however.