As Captain Swanson led A Flight up into a beautiful fall morning he was feeling quite fine. His headaches were all but gone now, thanks to the regimen he'd been following for the last two weeks. And his left leg was nearly back to its strong limber self, so much so in fact that after his dawn jog around the south field he'd actually gone to the woods beyond the camp's watch tower and climbed one of the larger birch trees just to test things out. Doing so brought back a flood of memories from his days working with his uncle in the forests of northern Minnesota. Days that seemed so long ago now even though he'd only been away from home for little more than a year. Time was a slippery thing in war, had it really only been fourteen or so months? And when did he leave his friends at Number 3 Squadron and those outdated Moranes? Not even six months ago at this point, yet that too seemed to be a lifetime ago somehow. 3 Squadron suddenly reminded him of what he'd learned through the Comic Cuts last night, that his good friend James Collins had bagged himself yet another Zeppelin! "There will be no living with the hero now", Swany chuckled to himself, though truth be told he was royally chuffed for his pal.
While the four Strutters made their way towards the front, passing the city of Doullens along the route, the Captain caught a glimpse of something far off, low and to the southeast - a glint of wings. He turned and began a shallow dive to investigate. As he did so the anti-aircraft guns west of Albert started popping away at the intruders, which soon revealed themselves to be a flight of three Halberstadt biplanes. Swanson gave the signal and dove with two of his wing-men onto the enemy, while the remaining Strutter stayed high to act as look-out. As the fur-ball commenced the Sopwith off to Swany's right, occupied by his friend Lt. "Patty" K-C-Patrick and G/O 2nd Lt. Stanley, merged with one of the Huns, each plane banging away at the other as they did so. As they skimmed passed their wings touched and both went spinning down out of control. The Boche did not recover and slammed into the ground, bursting into flames on impact. Patty was luckier and managed to right his mount just in time to set down hard in a clearing near a small farmhouse. The Strutter was belching black smoke as Swany watched with relief to see his mates scramble from the wreck just before it burst into full flames. Thank God for small miracles.
Captain Cruikshank and Lt. Walsh were tied up with the second Halberstadt so Swanson and Dent went after the third Hun, who apparently had decided retreat was the better option and was scampering past the field near Baizieux, the ground gunners there firing away like mad at the fellow as he did so. After several minutes Swany had at last gotten within range of the fleeing enemy who had been clawing for altitude throughout the chase. A short burst from the forward-facing Vickers enticed the Boche to turn and fight his attacker. It was a short fight, the Halberstadt soon falling out of control into a pasture below. A nearby herd of sheep seemed little affected by the smoldering remains that now marred their grazing rights and went about their ovine business quite uninterested in the affairs of man.
The three planes of A Flight that were still in the air regrouped and finished the assigned sortie, a patrol of the lines between Courcelette and Guillemont. Apart from a pair of Rolands that were spotted racing east over Delville Wood no other sky Huns were seen and after thirty-some minutes of loitering about over No Man's Land Captain Swanson turned and brought his team back to camp. As they were landing Swany noticed a pair of B.E.12s from 19 Squadron at the far end of the field that had just returned from one of their outings as well. The group had joined 70 Squadron several weeks ago at Fienvillers and was now sharing space with them. They seemed a fine bunch of fellows. Shortly after landing and filling out AARs and claims Swany was pleased to see the two wayward lads of his flight returning to camp, sans Strutter of course. Patty and Stanley had caught a ride from Baizieux on a tender and appeared none the worse for wear for their excitement, apart from a large knot on the young G/Os head. When asked how it happened, K-C-Patrick chimed in before his gunner could answer. "He's claiming he hit his head on the cockpit edge due to my hard landing, but he really got it when he jumped from his office and smacked his skull on the gun mount on the way out. The lying buggar!" Stanley tried to defend his version of events but his sheepish grin gave him away.
"Ah well", the Captain replied cheerily, "either way I'll buy both of you a drink in da mess after dinner for your efforts." Swany was simply glad his two flight mates had been graced with enough time to escape, a few seconds longer and they would have burned to death with their plane. Time - it really was a slippery thing.
A Flight about to take off into a beautiful fall morning.
Diving into a trio of Halberstadts.
Relived to see his mates escape the wrecked Strutter, Swany goes after a fleeing Hun.
Another enemy about to fall.
A smoldering crater in the pasture, an uninterested herd of sheep nearby.
Returning to Fienvillers Swany spots two of the B.E.12s of 19 Squadron parked at the end of the field.