Raine - you can make any aspect of James' story thoroughly fascinating - be it a desperate duel in a Morane or a run-in with Mrs. Winthrop. Fantastic, sir!
MFair - Man, sounds like the Jasta has it rough! First the run-in with Lufbery and now three pilots lost! Hopefully things will look up soon for Drogo and his pals!
Fullofit - uh-oh, Toby's first moral crisis...Gladf to see that the Captain set him straight. It would be bad news for the war effort if Mr. Mulberry packed it in...
Sous. Lieutenant James B. Fullard, Esc. N.124 'Américaine', Bar-le-Duc, France.
September 8th, 1916 (Part 2)
“Tell me again about this new machine” Blanchon urged, as we awaited our Nieuports being made ready on the field. There were stars in the Frenchman’s eyes, as he hungrily awaited my explanation of the new type for the third time this morning. “It’s just like any other Nieuport 17, except with a synchronised gun. It holds 500 rounds, and you don’t have to reload the gun in the air”. Blanchon took on the air of an excited schoolboy. “Ah, magnificent!” he crooned to himself, “I must have one! And you said they are already arriving at the Escadrilles?”. “Well, so they tell me”.
“Okay, gather round” called Thenault, and we joined Luf and Masson in front of the Capitane. “Today we’re escorting a Caudron from 105 on another reconnaissance. We’ll meet at the Argonne and fly to Etain. Now, reports suggest the new Bosche scout is appearing in larger numbers in our sector. We think more than one enemy Escadrille has them now. So, keep a sharp eye out for trouble! If I’m forced to break off then Fullard’s in charge”. With that, we made for our machines and, after the chocks were pulled away and the props swung, we lifted up into a tumultuous cloudy sky.
Soaring above the clouds, we came to the rendez-vous point, but not a single French machine could be seen. Checking my wristwatch, I thought that perhaps the Caudrons had already headed towards the front. We loitered for a few minutes more before Thenault turned us towards the lines to look for the recon machines, and before long we spotted a Caudron overflying Verdun, headed for Etain. Above it were two biplanes, and for a moment I stiffened. Bosches, about to attack? but, a thorough glance revealed the two scouts to be Nieuports. The two Frenchmen joined us as we caught up to the Caudron, and we waved a cheery hello to them. They looked puzzled to see us, but waved back. We pulled into formation beside the caudron - and that’s when I noticed the insignia on the side of its engine nacelle. It was the emblem of Escadrille C.13 - this was the wrong Caudron! I gained Thenault’s attention by rocking my wings and pointed to the nacelle. After a quick inspection he nodded once and we curved back towards Verdun.
We never did encounter ‘our’ Caudrons, and after a frustrating hunt we turned for home.
September 9th, 1916
Yesterday had been a disaster. As we had later learned, the Caudrons of Escadrille 105 had indeed headed towards their objective without us. En route they encountered a large group of Eindeckers and Rolands, losing both machines in the following attack. Today, as Thenault had told us, was our chance at redemption.
The Caudrons of Esc. 105 were heading back to the same stretch of the lines, this time on a bombing raid, and we were again to escort them. I was given command of the flight, which consisted of Blanchon, Johnson, Rockwell and Lufbery. Naturally, we spent our morning listening to Rockwells promises of “Payin’ those damned Fokkers back”. Lufbery contented himself with loading his Lewis drums with the least crooked bullets.
Upon Thenault’s command we took off at 10 O’Clock in the morning, our tanks full on gasoline, to arrive ahead of the Caudrons taking off. It was no secret that their opinion of us had soured, owing to the deaths of their friends, and so our Capitane thought we should make extra efforts to reconcile. We circled above the airfield as the two lumbering giants lifted into the air, before turning out towards the lines. Apparently the hungry pack of Eindeckers had had their fill - that, or they knew not to attempt the same trap for two days in a row - for our flight across the lines was uneventful. At Spincourt, however, the Flak was surprisingly heavy, and as we lazily weaved to and fro I saw Rockwell drop a few flechettes from out of the side of his cockpit. Before we could become too uncomfortable, however, the Caudrons dropped their bombs into the infantry encampment below, and as one we turned for home. As we did so, I spotted three biplanes approaching from our side of the lines. I tensed for a moment, but was then happy to see Thenault’s flight cheerily rocking their wings at us. They joined us for a little while and together we flew over the Caudrons’ heads, before with another wing rock Thenault suddenly peeled away. Laughing, I waved to him from out the side of the cockpit as he went.
We flew onwards with the Caudrons beneath us, and were crossing our own lines at Verdun when I looked back. I gasped as I spotted a large furball, whirling around the edges of a cloud like an inferno. It was Thenault’s flight against a group of Eindeckers! Immediately I curved to the right, dropping my nose and curling underneath a startled Blanchon before pointing my nose at the fight. The rest of my flight cottoned on quickly and together we dove into the fray, On all sides Eindeckers and Nieuports twisted and whirled, but it seemed that our guys were sticking it to the Bosche. Just then, however, I spotted an Eindecker circling hungrily above a Nieuport. Immediately I threw my machine at the Bosche, firing a short burst at him as he circled. The alarmed German slipped away and fell into the clutches of my wingman below. Together we jostled for position, each trying to get the finishing blow, but as more Nieuports came in I reluctantly broke off my attack. Christ, boys! You’ll cause a crash! I thought, watching three other Nieuports chase the Fokker.
The fight fizzled out, but as it did so I caught sight of another monoplane, running home at low altitude. Immediately I dove down for the German, getting onto his tail and firing wildly at him. There was nowhere he could escape - this Bosche was mines! I saw the German frantically look back, then forward, then back again. To my amazement, he didn’t break! It was at that point that I realised how close we were to the Bosche’s aerodrome - it was within spitting distance. Cursing, I closed in and fired one final lengthy burst. Ahead of me, the German jolted in his seat, before the Eindecker nosed down, tearing itself apart in the trees of Spincourt forest. Looking upwards, I saw Rockwell wheeling above me, looking down with a grin on his face.
That night we celebrated my 11th official victory.