Carrick, ouch. That was a rough one for Keith and 29 Squadron. Thanks for the kudos on my new paint.
Raine, it's official now. Loved the bit where James suggests he return the VC to the King in exchange for a posting back in France - classic Collins. Also, the fearsome Norseman is about to be less fearsome for a short spell.
Harry, good work on Lazlo's part, lighting up the balloon. Too bad he had to contend with that greedy Halb flieger, here's hoping your man gets the credit. Nice vids by the way. And thanks, glad you like Swany's new mount.
Fullofit, great telling of the gathering in the mess and the interchange between Toby and the drunk Whealy. I swear I've been to parties just like that. As to my man's new mascot - more teeth you say?
Lederhosen, thanks, I'm rather fond of that livery myself.
12 September 1916 Fienvillers, France
It was late afternoon, the shadows outside were beginning to lengthen as the sun inched its way down along a blue-gray autumn sky. Its light slanted through the six-pane window of the CO's office and sliced across Major Lawrence's desk. Captain Swanson sat in the hard, wooden chair on the other side of the sun-washed, cluttered worktop as his commander looked over the AARs and claims from the day's sorties. In particular, he had pulled out those of the Captain's and his new G/O, 2nd Lt. Richard Chatwick. He'd already read through them once and was now reviewing them a second time.
"Six?", the senior officer inquired.
"Six, Sir", came the matter-of-fact reply.
"I can see how you and Chatwick managed it, but...", the Major trailed off and shuffled through the reports a final time before finishing. "My lord. Six claims in one day. There will be questions about this when they see it up the line."
"I assume so Sir", Swany smiled with satisfaction. "But I can assure you they are all rock-solid, with confirmations from da rest of my flight. Also, as I've stated, our balloon south of Arras saw da fights with da two groups of Halbs. And if you can track down where those Caudrons were from they can vouch for da Eindeckers near Bapaume as well. We kept them busy so they would leave da Frenchmen alone."
"Well, it is impressive Swanson - dam'd impressive", the senior officer noted before letting the other shoe drop. "However, I am concerned you are getting careless. To Bapaume - why did you allow yourselves to get so close to the Hun aerodrome there? Trying to show off your new livery? Dam'd foolish. You know better than that Captain, and you're lucky everyone came home in one piece."
Swanson's hackles went up at the CO's remarks, but he kept proper demeanor as he responded. "With all due respect Major, I don't believe it was careless. I had assessed da situation on da ground and in da air and da only threats were from da Eindeckers, which we all took care of PDQ." The Captain thought for a moment, then added, "Well, there was Archie of course, but you know that's just a bunch of noise anyway."
The Major shot his ace pilot a stern look. "There were ground gunners as well Captain, and from the way these read you were well within reach of them. And Archie is hardly nothing but noise. I've been told by Sergeant Thomas over at the repair sheds that two of A Flight's buses had no small amount of venting on returning from Bapaume, thanks to the shrapnel from the AA over there." The Major set the papers down and pulled a cigarette from the pack on his desk, offering one to Swany as he did so. The Captain waved it off as the CO lit up and took a long draw before continuing. "Look Swanson, you're a fine fellow and a hell of a pilot, and until now you've always shown extraordinarily good sense. I know Dent's death has hit you hard, he was your G/O and mate a good long while. But I won't allow you to continue this apparent crusade you've taken up on his behalf, it will only end one way if it goes on. Tell me you understand this."
Swany shifted uneasily in his chair, leaning forward as he did so. He looked at the Major, then to the reports on his desk, his voice catching in his throat for an instance as he replied. "Yes Major, I understand - but it's da Hun - it this gotdam'dt war. I just want to kill them all and have it done with." The young Captain felt his eyes beginning to glisten and immediately looked out the window and blinked hard to halt the tears. He clenched his jaw, allowing his anger to push aside the sadness and grief that haunted him. And the hopelessness - that was the worse - he needed to keep that at bay by any means.
The Major studied the young man across from him for a long moment, taking another draw on his cigarette as he did so. "Captain, you're a stout lad, and you're smart enough to know you can't end this war single-handedly. You need to get yourself back on course. To that end I am giving you 48 hours leave. Go away somewhere, forget about this madness for a bit, as much as any of us can do that. Have some fun man!"
"Is that an order Sir?", Swany asked with a look of concern. "Da Hun have been up more and it's been busy with..."
"Which is precisely why I need you at your best and back here by the evening of the 14th", the Major interrupted. "Big things afoot, but you keep that to yourself Captain. So go somewhere and unwind, use that French you've gotten so bloody good at to woo the mademoiselles down in Amiens or over at Abbeville. Whatever, just get away."
By this point the CO had snuffed out his cigarette, come around the desk, and put a hand of encouragement on the Captain's shoulder before sending him out the door. Swany forced a smile and thanked the Major for the pass and for his advice, though the young pilot was less than convinced that two days away would do much other than make him anxious to get back to the job at hand. But he decided he would make the best of it.
The morning sortie, watching a brutal barrage being laid down near Courcelette.
The first victory of the day, a nice fat juicy Halberstadt.
The next Halb falls under the combined efforts of Swanson and his new 2nd.
The third Halb was caught along the way back to Fienvillers and downed with one long burst from the Vickers.
The afternoon outing about to commence.
Eindeckers everywhere. Hard to imagine the Huns are still suffering with these outmoded kites.
The first E.IV falls under Swany's gun. By the end of the furball two more would succumb to the Captain's vindictive and deadly aim.
Out of the six Eindeckers that engaged A Flight only one survived to tell the tale.
Archie spewing all the hate it can muster at the retreating Strutters.