Fullofit, Chesty certainly is getting his fill of those Fokkers. Eindeckers - no one can beat just one.

Carrick, nice floor show, think I caught that one in Atlantic City once.

MFair, congrats on Drogo's latest victory. Scary stuff this WWI flying business, and as you so rightly note WOFF does an excellent job of capturing it all.


9 September 1916
Fienvillers, France

Captain Swanson had made his return to camp by late in the afternoon of the 8th. With him he had carried Lieutenant Dent's personal belongings and flying kit which he'd collected before leaving the dressing station at Trones Wood. It had been awful, having to go through the pockets of his dead friend's clothing all the while seeing his sallow face, its once lively features now forever frozen into a ghastly death mask - eyes not quite fully shut, lips and teeth slightly parted, color faded from the cheeks. Swany kept trying to look away as he searched Chris's clothing but that face would pull his gaze back, over and over. With the pockets gone through the Captain next removed the flying coat, cap, goggles, gloves, blood-stained silk scarf, and muddied boots, the helpful Sergeant of the 56th Division advising such, otherwise the items may well be gone by the time the body was sent along. Swanson placed the few small personal things he'd gathered into the flying cap: several francs worth of coins; a small compass; a box of matches stuffed inside a pack of Murads with three cigarettes remaining; and a little "touchwood" charm with several inches of red string attached to it. The last item Swany had not seen before and it surprised him, he never took Chris for the superstitious type, but then so many of the men who flew were. Truth be told, while Swany did not carry a charm, he did have his own ritual before climbing up into the cockpit - he would pat the side of the plane three times and under his breath recite, "cry 'havoc' and let slip the dogs of war". Whether you believed in luck or fate or god or the devil, no one wanted to tempt or upset any of them, and if carrying a talisman or invoking a ritual might keep you even a wisp safer - well.

With the small items secured in the cap Swany place it, along with the rest of the kit, inside the long flying coat, folding it around everything and cross-tying it with a length of twine. With the horrid job done Swany stood and watched as his friend's body was placed onto several yards of drab canvas which was then pulled up around and quickly whip-stitched shut. The fellow with the needle and cord then checked with the Captain on the particulars of the body and where it should be sent along to, scribbling the information on a gusseted square of card-stock which he then stitched to the foot end of the "bag". Swany turned and walked away, the leather-wrapped parcel under his left arm, the canvas-wrapped body of his friend left behind. A short while later the Captain boarded the tender that would take him to Doullens. Being the senior officer out of the fifteen men that were crammed into the vehicle it was the assumption of all concerned that he would of course sit up front with the driver. Swany didn't care either way, but climbed up into the cab as it was clearly what was expected. He did not speak to his chauffeur, a young Corporal, during the entire ride despite the boy's repeated efforts to engage him in conversation. Instead Swany stared out at the landscape, awash in the morning's sunlight. He stared, as the little houses and farms and fields and tree lines slid by, oblivious to all of it. His mind was working, trying to recall just how many lads 70 Squadron had lost since the start of the Somme push in July. He ran through the past weeks in his head, straining to recall those no longer with them. He eventually decided on seven, counting Chris; three being killed in combat or dying shortly thereafter from their wounds, and four landing behind enemy lines and being captured. He wondered if that was a high number in terms of other outfits, then he wondered what the hell difference it made. It was seven men lost, and this latest offensive seemed far from over, much less the war itself. How many more would there be? Swany was fast reaching the conclusion that none of them were going to survive this.

By the morning of the 9th Captain Swanson was determined to get back to the task at hand, despite having gotten barely three hours of sleep over the last forty-eight. The headache centered above his right ear was fairly strong, no doubt due to the lack of rest. He had reported to the CO who had offered him the day off which Swany politely, but flatly, refused. Instead he asked for a new mount, seeing as how his Strutter had been shot and mortared into oblivion by the Hun as the battle for the field in which it was parked had continued throughout the night of the 7th.

"You can have 1907 Captain, it's been serviced, rigged, and trimmed, and is ready to go."

"Thank you Sir, I appreciate that", came Swanson's curt reply.

"And you will be taking 2nd Lieutenant Chatwick along", the CO added. "He's green so you'll be showing him the ropes."

"Thank you again Sir, I will do my best", the Captain answered with a forced smile, his response betraying little of how he actually felt about being saddled with a fresh G/O.

Shortly past morning tea Captain Swanson, his new partner planted nervously in the rear office of 1907, took off with two other crews of A Flight following, and headed east directly to Leuze Wood. They loitered there for nearly an hour, Swany leading them back and forth between Guillemont and Lechelle - watching - waiting. He was just about to give the signal to head back when he caught sight of a lone plane about 1,500' below, coming across the mud. It was a Hun biplane making its way home. Swany motioned for the rest of the flight to stay high, then pointed out the target to Chatwick who, not surprisingly, had missed it entirely. Down went the nose of the Strutter. Moments later the Captain was on the tail of the enemy plane, a Halberstadt, whose pilot was either as green as Swany's new G/O, or asleep at the stick. Either way, the Boche did not know he was in trouble until it was far too late. The Vickers barked as Swanson unleashed two long, deadly bursts directly into the back of the Hun pilot who instantly slumped forward, pushing his mount into its death dive. Swany grinned as he admired his handiwork, it was the first time he hadn't felt at least a twinge of remorse about sending another human being to his death. All he felt was hatred - pure, unadulterated hatred. Hatred of the Hun he'd just killed and of all like him. Hatred of this god-dam'd war. Hatred of himself. He'd quite suddenly and quite unexpectedly been made fully aware of the fact that, of his own free will, he'd become nothing more than a paid killer.