Carrick, you’re getting perilously close to gong territory. Take care. Harry, congrats on the victory and promotion. I do hope Konrad isn’t going to mellow out in his old age. Fullofit, I hope many more chickens come home to roost! Great video of your last scrap. Those Nieuports were awfully persistent! Wulfe, good to see you back. Those Rolands are awfully tough. Keep Fullard well. MFair, again, I’m sorry to see your new man go so quickly, but new boys were the most vulnerable. Thanks for the PM and we’ll all look forward to seeing you back soon. I’m finally able to fly again, but have been impaired by joystick problems. Here is the latest from Collins...
31 July 1916 Lt James Arthur Collins, MC 3 Squadron RFC Lahoussoye, France Morane "L" 186 missions. 215.75 hours. 5 kills. 12 claims.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Lt James Arthur Collins, MC
Part Fifty-One: In which I get a hint of changes to come.
The days after my return to active duty blurred one into the other. The great assault had stalled and now was followed by a series of minor pushes to consolidate jumping-off positions for operations that would try to crack the second and third lines. For us it meant flying three or even four times a day, either spotting or conducting contract patrols. The latter were starting to prove a little more successful even though the PBI were still not too keen to show their positions by flares. Mainly we flew our little Parasols through the storm of iron our guns continued to pour on the enemy and tried from a few hundred feet up to distinguish mud on khaki from mud on grey.
Our days were spent entirely at the field. We would send a tender back to the village to pick up soup or sandwiches from the ladies Defossez and bring them to us. And at night, we staggered back to our billets with seldom a stop at the flight Mess.
On 22 July, I flew a contact patrol with Wilson and “Pete” Portal up to Pozières. We were climbing away to the southwest and heading home for breakfast when I heard Wilson’s Lewis gun firing away. I quickly banked to the right and only afterward glanced back just in time to see the blue streamlined blur of a Roland two-seater flash past in a dive. At least some of Wilson’s rounds must have found their mark, for the Hun turned east and was gone from view in mere seconds. Off to the southeast of us I saw a second Roland tumbling down as Portal’s machine plodded on its stately way. His observer, Lieut. Gollah, shared Portal’s first victory.
But my own adventure was not yet over. The loud crack of machine gun rounds began to pop around my head and I could smell the phosphorus from tracer, reminiscent of an old Lucifer in a closed room. One of the newer two-gun Fokkers had moved in behind and I had to hold the Morane in a steady shallow bank to give Wilson a crack at it. By this time we were over our lines and the Hun soon quenched his appetite for fighting and headed east to join the Roland. It was the first time in weeks we’d had a real scrap. I wondered if the air Huns were coming back to life.
On 24 July, the Major asked me if I’d join him for a walk after my second patrol. He asked about my impressions of the flight, especially Whistler and Portal. I told him I hadn’t seen Whistler in a real scrap yet, but he seemed solid and was a marvellous pilot. He was very mechanically inclined and forever working on little improvements for his machine. Portal oozed competence, I said, and had quickly won credibility with the airmen and respect from the technical staff. He then told me he was sending me to 2AD at Candas to provide some instruction to newly-arrived pilots. “Give them the information they’ll need to succeed and stay alive, Jim,” he said. You’re in charge, so design the program as you see fit.” And then he told me that I would be recommended for posting to HE soon. “You’ve been out seven months. It’s enough.” I tried to protest but he shut me down. “It might take a few weeks to come through, but expect it.”
I asked about Sergeant Wilson. “He’s a solid man. They are expanding the school at Hythe to produce more armourers, technical staff, and to train observers better. I’ve recommended him, although the General thinks postings to home schools are a bit of a dodge. We’ll see.”