Maeran, it's great to see Stanley back. That was a near run thing, though.
Fullofit, Obi we hardly knew ye. I hope you're working on a bio for Feldwebel Tscheubacha.
Lederhosen, your lot will have the Albatros too soon for my liking. Hold in there!
Harry, great story-telling again.
I am finally able to do some flying and have nearly caught up, assisted by Collins's week away from the front. He's been out 7 months and has more than 220 hours. He's due for a rest soon, so I'm planning a change. An Airman’s Odyssey – by Lt James Arthur Collins, MC
Part Fifty-Two: In which I enjoy a week of forced idleness
Candas. French for boredom, I believe. I was supposed to go and train new boys in the pilots’ pool on How To Stay Alive Over Hunland. After my morning patrol on 24 July 1916 I packed by kit bag and climbed aboard a tender bound for the commissary store in Doullens. We passed a Rolls on the way, which looked very much like General Trenchard’s. We stopped briefly in Amiens and I was able to get lunch at a fine little spot near the station. Then we proceeded north on the straight road past Vert Galant, where the DH2 boys live. A little farther up the road we turned off to the west and crested a high plateau studded with wheatsheaves. Several BEs circled languidly overhead. We quickly passed through Candas proper, emerging onto a broad plain where a railroad line twisted alongside us as it curved around the town to the cluster of huts and bell tents and sheds in the distance. Here, in a bleak kingdom of dust and oil and noise, was No. 2 A.D., my temporary home.
I reported to the orderly room where I sat and smoked for half an hour before the bespectacled corporal manning the counter was able to reach an officer by phone. From there I was instructed to present myself to the Training Officer in Building 12. No one could tell me clearly where Building 12 was, so I wandered about looking at bits of aeroplanes and towering piles of crates. Finally, I stumbled quite accidentally into the correct building, where the Training Officer, a captain, expressed annoyance at my existence. He demanded to know why I was here, who had sent me, and why he knew nothing of me. I presented my orders, signed off by Wing, and told him that I was dismayed that my reputation had not preceded me. The man had no sense of fun, I learned.
He was jabbing his pipe in my direction for emphasis. “Well, I have had no notice of all this and my pilots’ days are already fully accounted for. I can’t just have people popping up with orders to teach them God knows what.”
“It seems you can, sir,” I ventured. Before he could explode, I added, “But if my presence is an inconvenience, I should appreciate your recommendation about how I should spend my time here. My orders are quite specific, sir, and I’m supposed to be here for the next week.”
“I don’t give a #%&*$#,” said the Training Officer. “Just stay out of my sight and make sure the Orderly Room knows where to find you if I have any use of you.”
I saluted and left, and returned to the bespectacled corporal, who now had a little drawing showing me how to find the wooden hut where I had a bed. He then demanded seven shillings for the mess fees and gave me a chit for the steward to say I was to be fed from time to time.
There was nothing to do that day or the next, so on the 26th I bought two bottles of champagne and made my way on foot to nearby Fienvillers. RFC headquarters was now established there and I owed Captain Baring a thank you for helping me extricate myself from a premature return to Home Establishment. The good fellow was out, but returned in time for a late lunch. He confided that Major Harvey-Kelly thought highly of me but was determined to send me home for some rest at the first opportunity. I told him of my forced idleness at Candas and he said he might be able to help.
Two days later I began a series of lectures on the offensive tactics of Fokkers and Rolands, together with proper responses. I had the new boys go up in a BE2 and I attacked them in a Morane Bullet. Only 60 Squadron had this machine, I think, and I disliked it intensely.
Before long, my little interlude was over and I found myself back at Lahoussoye. Sergeant Wilson was up for leave, he’d learned, but did not know when he’d be off. We vowed to enjoy every flight in our Parasol, “Mother Goose.” Portal had officially taken over my flight, but good chap that he is, he deferred to me as often as was decently possible. It was an easy week as July eased into August and the slaughter below continued in fits and starts. We flew a number of artillery ranging patrols and, fitted with bomb racks, harassed the Huns in their front-line trenches. Only once did we run into any air-Huns. On 2 August we were returning from a contact patrol near Thiepval when we were attacked by a lone Roland, very keen. We were three: my machine, the Major’s, and Lewis’s. Our escorting DH2 was soon on him as well.
"Our escorting DH2 was on him as well."
The Hun had trouble avoiding a cross-fire and in our eagerness to get him, we overlooked a Fokker who dived on us. The Hun was new, for he opened fire far too early and Wilson chased him off with a long burst. Both hostile machines dived away before we could do any serious damage.