I know I've said this before, but this DiD challenge has to be one of the best (if not the best) simming experiences I've had so far. The level of immersion, the anticipation when reading the stories, the joy when someone gets a new gong, and the stab of misery when someone joins the Choir Eternal...terrific. Thanks to all for making it so enjoyable!
Lou - My word! I think Swany might need a rest! Perhaps a reunion with his old pal Collins, back in Blighty, is in order. That new bus is one mean looking machine, as if Swanson's devilish Strutter wasn't scary enough! I continue to thoroughly enjoy your man's story.
Fullofit - Squadron commander already! Mulberry's a flying prodigy! Small wonder with all the Fokkers he's been knocking down...
Raine - At the risk of parroting myself, I sincerely hope Collins' story gets made into a novel. All the elements required are present in your writing - danger, excitement, intrigue, adventure, and the list goes on. I love the historical details sprinkled in as well! A masterclass in writing. As for the latest episode in Collins' Epic, I really enjoyed his run-in with the King! I could picture it all vividly as I was reading through the descriptions, and the idea of poor old Collins awkwardly surrounded by royalty and high society gave me a good laugh.
HarryH - Lazlo has quickly become one of my favourites. The broken grammar is such a great touch to the character, and it makes me laugh every time! Hard luck about the balloon claim - I've accidentally missed out on some claims in the past. Irritating when it happens! I'm looking forward to Big Red's further exploits - he's one of the more unique characters at the front!
Sous Lt. James B. Fullard, Esc. N.124 'Americaine', Bar-le-Duc, France. September 11th, 1916
Blanchon stood by the door to the Villa, the Croix de Guerre proudly displayed on his breast and his 48-hour pass stuffed into the breast pocket of his tunic. “About time you got a rest, I think,” I said to him with a smile, and he laughed. “Rest? When I’m off to Paris? No, James, I think I’m in for an exciting couple of days! I think I’ll go and find myself a sweet young Mademoiselle to listen to my war stories”. With a laugh I helped him with his suitcase to the awaiting car outside. “Well, pal, I’ll see you in a couple of days. Bring us back some proper booze, eh? I’m starting to taste Pinard in everything I eat”. He grinned and promised to bring back the finest liquor in France. The same promise had been made by Lufbery, who had also secured himself a period of leave and now called impatiently after Blanchon.
After seeing my friend off, I headed to Behonne by car, arriving just before the afternoon briefing. I let out a heavy sigh as Thenault told us we were due for another Escort mission - 105’s Caudrons were scheduled to bomb the German lines at St. Mihiel. On the airfield I gathered my pilots, Prince and Masson. “Say, James, think we’ll finally get a chance at those Bosche biplanes today? We can’t let ol’ Luf and Masson have all the fun!” asked Prince, a foxlike grin on his face. I shrugged. “Well, it can’t be long, right? Apparently these new Fokkers have been popping up everywhere on the front, but I sure as hell haven’t seen ‘em. Not sure I want to in the old N.16, neither…”. With a smirk, Masson patted me on the back. “Don’t worry, James. You’ll get a new plane in the end”.
After going through the motions of our pre-flight ritual, sharing cigarettes as we stood and discussed the weather, we climbed aboard our machines and fired up the engines, wheeling up into the tense air. I found myself strangely apprehensive as we approached the rendez-vous point - the mysterious new German machines had been playing on my mind. I was anxious to find out their capabilities, so that I might know to avoid them in the future if needed.
We encountered the Caudron just south of St. Mihiel, and with a quick ‘hello’ wave we settled into our escorting position behind and above it, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of the Germans. Mercifully we had been granted fantastic flying conditions - the wind was low, and with not a cloud in sight the Bosche would have a harder time ambushing us. As we crossed into the front at uncomfortably low altitude, I took a quick look back at my wingmen, motioning at them to keep their eyes peeled.
In-between scans I peered down at the bizarre landscape around the city of St. Mihiel, a peppered expanse of bombed-out shell holes and jagged hills. Curiously I looked down into the trenches, occasionally spotting the horizon-blue of the Poillus as they stood sentinel. North of the city, I saw the dirt kicked up as a halfhearted artillery barrage fell around one such trench, and felt pity for its occupants. What a hell of a life, I thought to myself, putting up with that every day…
The shimmering mass of the lake Madine glowed brilliantly against the mud as we crossed over the German frontlines and the Caudron dropped its bombs. I found myself mesmerised by its waters, shining like gold in the afternoon sun, missing the Caudron as it turned away having expended its payload. It was then that I noticed shapes dancing above the water. I strained my eyes in confusion, and then suddenly realised - it was a fight! Forgetting the Caudron, I turned my flight towards the battle and tried to identify its participants. As we got closer, I spotted two Nieuports heading back towards our lines. As I peered down at them, to my amazement, the rearmost machine opened fire on the leader! I blinked, thinking I must have seen it wrong - but, no, the rear machine was definitely shooting! I circled downwards in confusion, and then realised - it wasn’t a Nieuport - it was a Bosche Biplane!
Immediately I rocked my wings and dove down to attack. As I sped down at impossible speed, the flight stick began to quiver in my hands as my Nieuport approached its limit. Strangely, I found the sensation thrilling, relishing in towing the thin line between my machine’s top speed and it’s disintegration in flight. However, I relented and eased back on the stick, allowing my machine to slow slightly before re-initiating my dive. The Bosche, fully transfixed on the Nieuport ahead of it, failed to notice as I curved onto his tail, before firing a burst. Immediately he curved up and away to the left, but I had him squarely in front of me. Firing a second long burst, I saw the German start to quiver in flight as his engine coughed a sickly black plume of smoke. God, he’s on fire! I thought to myself, curving away to the side. The machine started to drift towards earth, still billowing thick smoke, but I saw no flame, thankfully. Even the Bosche don’t deserve to burn. I fired one more burst at him for good measure and then decided to let him land, circling overhead as I watched him fighting with his straps before launching himself out of the aircraft and into a nearby shell-hole. From his shelter I saw him press his hand to his forehead, shielding his eyes from the sun as he peered up at me.
I had done it! I’d gotten one of the new Bosche machines! Excitedly I turned back to my flight - and to my alarm I saw a second Fokker Biplane, caught in a twisting fight against Prince and Masson! I looped around and followed their fight. The Bosche airman was skilled, and he had quickly gotten above my two comrades. Hawk-like he circled on top of them, deliberating which one to pounce on first - but he hadn’t spotted me approaching him. I curled around onto his six and fired a short burst, watching in elation as the Fokker’s nose dropped forwards and it dove into the ground.
Back at the aerodrome, Prince was first to rush to my side. “Damned good stuff, James! I saw you get the pair of ‘em!” he cried, punching me on the arm. I laughed and pushed him away. “Wait ‘til the others hear!” I mused, as we stripped off our combinations and headed for the ready room. That evening, in the mess, I stood with a bottle of Pinard in my hand at the head of the room as the pilots excitedly organised the furniture into a makeshift audience’s seating area. Thenault, at his piano, played an introductory tune as the pilots settled into their seats, and I began to dramatically recount the tale of the battle. As I acted out the fight with my hands, with Masson dramatically making aeroplane and machine gun noises, Thenault played dramatic chords on the piano, much to everyone’s amusement. As I thrust my hand downwards to demonstrate the second Bosche crashing there was an almighty cheer as glasses clinked in cheers and cigarettes were passed out. Seamlessly, Thenault transitioned into the Escadrille’s mess song and our voices chorused the words.
Towards the end of the evening, as we were making for our beds, Thenault called upon me in my room. “James, bad news I’m afraid. It seems nobody on the ground saw your two Fokkers. All the same, you did well today”. I tried to mask my disappointment. “Oh well, nothing for it. Good night, sir”.
“Everybody up!” came Thenault’s cry from the hallway as we blearily scrambled to pull our uniforms on in a confused daze. Outside my window I heard a mass of cars and trucks starting up their engines. We stumbled out of our rooms and through our bloodshot, hungover eyes we looked questioningly at the Capitane, who stood with a telegram in his hand impatiently awaiting us. When we had all emerged, he promptly called out “Okay, my Americans. Get downstairs and have your breakfast, then report to me in the Mess. I have some news from H.Q!”.
Confusedly we made our way down the ornate staircase and into the dining room, where the orderlies had already left out croissants and toast, as well as several pots of steaming hot coffee. “What the hell d’you think that’s about?” Bert Hall asked irritably, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “It’s gotta be a big infantry push, right? What, with all the bombing raid that have been going on?” Rockwell replied, grinning. “Erm, m-maybe it’s...” Pavelka started, in his usual stammering way. Although he had received a fond welcome, the newcomer always seemed nervous around us - especially around Bert, who had been successfully robbing him of all his money each night in their poker games. “...Maybe we’re being sent to the Somme?” he said, and there were agreed murmurings around the table.
“Yeah, the Somme...I bet that’s what it is...” “Sure, I mean it’s quietened down around Verdun, after all…” “...And they’re bound to send us sooner or later!”
As we snapped up our breakfast we deliberated, many of us now believing that we were bound for the great battle in the East. Sensing a chance to line his pockets, Bert started taking bets from the pilots. “Whaddaya think, Fullard? 5 Francs says we ain’t going anywhere!”. I quickly declined the bet. With our breakfasts finished, we eagerly rushed through into the Mess, our eyes shining in curious anticipation. There we found Thenault and De Laage patiently waiting. Taking up our various seats and passing around cigarettes, we settled down as Thenault cleared his throat, donned his reading spectacles and quickly scanned over the telegram again.
“Gentlemen,” he started, as we excitedly glanced at each other, “we have been ordered to relocate. Today”. The room broke into hushed murmurs. “The Somme!” Rockwell whispered to me, a great grin on his face. “Alright, alright,” cut Thenault’s voice above our chatter, “this is important, so let’s have quiet”.
“Firstly, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we aren’t going to the Somme just yet”. There were some stifled boos, and one or two irritated curses from the men that now owed Bert 5 Francs. “But, some of you will be pleased to know that we are, in fact, headed somewhere familiar!”.
He now read from the telegram.
“Escadrille N.124 is hereby ordered to relocate to the aerodrome at Luxeuil on the date of September 12, 1916. Quarters have been arranged on the aerodrome, but the pilots of N.124 are free to arrange billets as they see fit”. From the original Escadrille members came a great cheer. “Luxeiul again!” cried Prince, “Is the ol’ red pirate still there?”. Thenault smiled and nodded. “Oui, Capitane Happe’s bombing group is still at Luxeuil. I’ll forward him a telegram and let him know we’re coming back”. Confusedly, I turned to Rockwell. “The red pirate?” I asked with a confused grin. He laughed aloud.
“That would be Capitane Happe, the commander of the Luxeiul bombing group. Reason we call him the red pirate is that, when we were last over there, he attacked a train by himself some sixty miles inside the Bosche lines, and would you know it, the Bosches put a price on his head of 25,000 marks!” “What! 25,000! Goodness!” “I know! What an insult! He’s worth at least twice that!”
“Alright, you two, quiet please!” came Thenault’s cry, and we issued a quick apology. “Gentlemen, get back upstairs and make ready your things. We’ll be saying goodbye to this old Villa at the top of the hour”. A puzzled Chouteau Johnson raised his hand. “Yes?” Thenault prompted. “Are our things going in one of the trucks? It’s just, my suitcase won’t fit in my Nieuport”. Thenault smirked. “No need to worry, my friend. We’re leaving our machines at Behonne”.
We were all surprised, to say the least. “Leaving our machines? How come?” I asked. Thenault shrugged. “The telegram didn’t say. I presume we shall have new machines waiting for us at Luxeuil. Any other questions?”. We were silent.
“Well, in that case, I have some good news. After some negotiating, I’ve managed to secure the Escadrille a week’s rest. Make sure you look your best, Gentlemen…because we’re going to Paris!”
I've really enjoyed watching everyone's videos so far, and so I thought I'd have a crack at posting one of my own (from the battle on the 11th. You'd think at least one of those Bosches would be confirmed, right? Right?!). Enjoy!