We are back in business, chaps!

Adj. James B. Fullard,
Esc. N.124 'Americaine',
Bar-le-Duc, France.

July 31st, 1916:

I couldn’t control the shaking in my hands as I tried to light a cigarette, standing beside the wreckage of my Nieuport. Exhausted, I looked over the twisted and disfigured wings with fearful eyes. It was supposed to be an easy patrol - behind our lines over Verdun, early morning, back in time for a late breakfast. However, we didn’t anticipate what would happen.

As we overflew the great ruined city, a single aeroplane appeared, wheeling down from above us intently. Our formation scattered and awaited to see who would be so brave as to challenge five of us alone. As the Bosche descended, I suddenly understood his confidence. It was a Roland. Walfisch, some of us call it. A Bosche Biplace that flies like a scout.

Blanchon and I rushed at our attacker, and immediately we got into a turning battle with him. I pulled in to get onto his six, but the beastly Nieuport’s nose-heaviness pulled me into a spin and I dropped away. Above, I watched as Blanchon did what he could to evade his pursuer. In a dive they dropped past me again, and once more I was on the tail of the Roland. Bullets spat past me from the Observer, as a second stream of tracer snapped at Blanchon’s heels from the pilot. I responded, firing a burst into the German machine, but with its incredible turn I couldn’t get a good shot away. The Roland diverted its full attention to me, and Blanchon dove away. I was alone against the beast.

I circled onto its tail, the gunner and myself each firing inaccurate bursts, until my machine betrayed me again and fell into a second spin. The Bosche was quick to capitalise, and soon he was behind me. Thankfully, the German machine is heavy, and so I quickly climbed away and above, as he flew directly beneath me like a shark, waiting for me to dip my toes, waiting for my mistake. I steeled myself and prepared for another attack, but before I could do so, the Roland rolled onto its side. The manoeuvre was premeditated. Suddenly, tracer fire tore through my left planes, splintering spars and wrecking canvas. In an instant I was falling, in a left-hand corkscrew, out of control.

Strangely, I was calm. Level-headed. Kicking the rudder to the right and wrenching the stick to follow, I leveled out my stricken machine and floated down into a field. However, I could not fully rectify the left-hand lean, and the lower wing dug into the ground. As it sunk deeper, a portion suddenly snapped off and the machine righted itself onto both wheels, before looping to a stop.

My god. I thought to myself, If anything’s to kill me, it’ll be a damned Roland.