Good day Gents! I've been so busy I don't know if I've lost my horse or found my rope. It will take me a while to catch up. In the mean time, may I introduce to you:
Flight Sub Lieutenant James Caudell Cameron St-Pol-sur-Mer August 13, 1916
James stood on the field ready for his first flight. He had time to think back of how a country boy from Mississippi had ended up in France in the middle of the biggest war the world had ever known. He was average height and weight with an athletic build. As his father was a Forman for Tatum Lumber Co. in south Mississippi he had farmed all his life and worked at the mill since he was 15. Tatum Lumber had begun in 1893 and soon grew to a large company cutting the virgin Long Leaf pine timber that grew there. He and his sister were very comfortable as their father made good wages. He had gone off to University at 18. After 2 years he wanted to see a bit of the world and found himself in Canada working as a draftsman for a local company in a nice town. One night, he and his friend from work, Douglas, were on the town looking for what most young men of that age were looking for. They had cornered 2 prospects and seemed to be making some headway when 2 men in uniform walked in. Well that was it, the two birds took off like a covey of quail, smitten by the men in uniform. After a few more beers he and Douglas had it all figured out. As James loved the new flying machines, by god they were going to be pilots! They joined the RNAS as both took off to the flying school in Dayton to get their ticket. They had to pay their own way but if it put them in a uniform, so be it. After getting their ticket they were to ship out to Glosgow in September of 1915. Before shipping out James found a telephone and called Tatum Lumber as they had the only telephone in the area. He talked to his father who surprisingly enough was very proud of him. His mother though, as his father said, will be another story.
He and Douglas got their initial training at Chingford, Essex. Right after qualifying James came down with pneumonia and was laid up for a few months. This is where he lost touch with Douglas. After he recovered he went through advance training at Eastchurch and was posted to C Squadron 1 Wing. (RNAS 3). Before shipping to France he cabled home to his family as to his condition and whereabouts. He had received a reply from his father and was shocked to find that his first cousin, Mark, was in France and also a pilot. James had only met Mark a few times. Mark was a bit older than him. He knew of the trouble that had happened and had not heard a word from him since he had left. As he put the cable in his pocket he said out loud. "Well I'll be damned."
His first flight was to be with Lt. Barker. He was to show James the front and it was clear that they were to avoid combat. This was not the glorious beginning that James had imagined. It was pouring rain and the clouds were heavy. They climbed up to altitude in the nimble Nieports and James was terrified he would loose his way in the clouds, fly out over the Channel and drown. Soon, Barker turned inland to the patrol area southeast of Nieuport. Over the mud they circled, not straying to far to the other side. James did his best to stay on his port quarter as instructed. After a half hour Barker turned for home and James did likewise. Nearing Dunkirk, keeping the coast to starboard James spotted 2 machines dead ahead and a 1000' above. Soon he could see the black crossed under their wings! The enemy! Barker pulled up to give chase. James did not know what to do. The Commander had said no combat. He hesitated a bit and said "to hell with it' and pulled back on the control column to follow. Barker was almost a mile ahead now. Soon he saw dark smoke and then a column of flame and smoke plummet to the ground. James looked left and was shocked to see the other 2 seater ahead to port!. He dove down and under and started to come up under the Hun. It seemed a very short time and he could see the big machine filling his windscreen. He fired off a long burst which took the machine amid ship. It staggered and to James amazement it started a slow spiral toward the ground. He saw it explode into a thousand pieces below. James could not believe his eyes! He had his first kill. Barker came alongside and they returned home.
The Commander was none to pleased with their reports as combat had been forbidden with the new pilot. Barker explained the best he could that it was "Unavoidable". The Commander would have none of it and really gave Barker what for. He saved most of his wrath for Barker but James was not spared. All he could say was "Yes Sir."
In the afternoon James was off again with 4 others to protect a Strutter doing Arty spotting. The 3 Pups and 2 Nieuports arrived at the patrol area near Passhendaele in the same rain and cloud. While patrolling, Flight Commander Keeble pulled up to port and James did his best to follow. The formation was lost in the maneuver and James found himself following the Commander and another Pup in a circle. As he looked around, there coming down on his stern was a Hun Monoplane. He immediately kicked rudder and pulled up as the Hun flashed below him. Once James recovered he could see the Commander and the other Pup following the Hun. Then he saw another Fokker to starboard and below and dove to attack. Getting in one burst the Hun disappeared below him. As he was looking around for him, bullets smacked into his machine. Again he skidded to port and climbed. The Hun was below him now and he dropped on his tail and started firing. He could see his bullets hitting the machine. He was pouring a steady stream of lead into him and finally emptied his last drum when the Hun rolled over and went down. Aware that others could be around James pulled up looking around but now he was alone. He could not see the sun. He was disoriented. "Which way home?" he thought. A chill hit him. Out of ammunition and lost. He could see both sides of the lines but which were his? He picked one and headed in that direction. Just on the edge of the mud he saw a faint shadow on the wing and realized he was headed in the wrong direction! He turned about and made a beeline for the other side. He breathed a sigh of relief as he crossed into friendly territory. He turned north to the coast and then east to home.
The flight soon came in 1 by 1. Flight Commander Keeble congratulated him on the Hun. "I didn't see it crash Sir. I was out of ammunition and climbed out." The Commander told him to file a claim. "Maybe some outfit in the trenches saw it crash." James did as the Commander suggested. James's joy was short lived as word came in that Barker was killed.
As he lay on his that night he thought to himself, "This has been one hell of a day."
Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from either end. BOC Member since....I can't remember!