So. Any ideas on the new fellow yet? I need some stories to take my mind off the loss of Gaston...
Adj. James B. Fullard, Esc. N.124 'Americaine' Bar-le-Duc, France.
July 17th, 1916.
The last few days had been hard . On the 13th, we attacked the Spurline junction at Stenay, just off the Woevre Forest. Through low cloud and rain we cruised across the lines to the artillery-fortress that was the junction to set about our work. I had developed a hatred of ground-level work - it was suicidally dangerous and seldom had any effect. We crossed the lines at Verdun and headed towards the German side. As we were overflying the rear trenches, a flash of light caught my eye to the right. It was a burst of tracer. I squinted, and made out the shape of a Nieuport - no, two - dancing among a group of Fokkers. Without a second thought I circled away from my patrol and coursed towards the furball. With a lurch, I realised that I recognised the machines. It was Thenault’s patrol. I dove into the Melee and singled out an opponent. Getting onto his tail, I fired a burst into his engine. Immediately the machine slowed, and I got in another burst. The machine pitched sharply up, and in alarm I lifted my own nose, but there was a sickening jolt as my undercarriage caught the German machine. Alarmed, I circled away and turned for the lines. There was a flash as I saw the Eindecker, its pilot streaked in crimson and slumped over in his cockpit. A moment later and it had fallen down and out of my vision.
When I landed at Behonne, I only remember the sensation of feeling my undercarriage touch the ground. Without knowing what had happened, I woke up in the medical tent on the aerodrome with my head bandaged. As I later found out from Bert Hall, who had followed me back after the fight, my undercarriage had buckled as I landed and my head had been whipped into the dashboard, knocking me out-cold. The injury would ground me for three days, and I struggled with my frustration as the pilots discussed the battles they had gotten into each night. Nungesser had shot down two in one scrap, but neither could be confirmed. Nor could my Fokker.
When my undercarriage had collapsed, my Nieuport had been shattered in the ensuing smash. Despite my mechanic’s best efforts, the aircraft had been written off. And so, on the 16th, the Nieuport company sent a replacement machine to Behonne, for my allocation. My new ship was a Nieuport 16 - 30hp more powerful that the Nieuport 11 but, as Prince had told me before, considerably nose-heavy.
On the morning of the 17th, we seldom spoke among ourselves. Terrible news had arrived in the post, and in our mute shock we read the headline of the day’s paper. Printed in bold, funeral-black letters were the words “VOSCADEAUX KILLED IN CRASH”. Blanchon, ever the idealist, refused to believe the headline, but the rest of us could almost detect in the air, the staleness of the morning, that it was true. There was not a cloud in the sky, and yet the morning felt chill.
The news had stunned me. Even in the world of blood we existed in, we had never suspected that Le Violet could die. The story went that he and a wingman had collided in the air. I remembered the day I arrived at N.37’s aerodrome, and wondered if any of the pilots I had met were the one that shared in the fatal mistake. Before his death, Voscadeaux had downed more than fifty Bosches. Some idealistic rumour-mongers claimed he had gotten over 100. How could we not think he was invincible?