It was a busy night for the lads of 70 Squadron and it was going to be a busy day as well. The many dark hour sorties having been completed the crews are now gobbling down breakfast, drinking scads of hot tea, and sneaking in a few minutes of rest while their mounts are being repaired and prepared for the first outings of the long day ahead. The big push towards Courcelette and Flers has begun and the RFC will be providing all the support it can for the brave men on the ground. Support in the form of recce flights, bombing runs, contact patrols, gun-ranging duties - the entire gamut. Plus, the order to attack Hun observation balloons and keep the enemy blind at all cost still stands. There would be no rest for the weary today.
To the previous night's work done by Captain Swanson and 2nd Lt. Chatwick, the following is a brief summary:
Preparing for the first sortie of the night, a bombing of the enemy trenches near Pozières, though the real purpose of all the night's missions was to mask the noise of the British tanks being moved into position for the morning's big push.
Light winds, few clouds, and a waning gibbous moon allowed for excellent nocturnal flight conditions. Out on the second mission, again to drop more hate on the Hun troops in an effort to disturb their slumbers.
The British big guns were working tonight as well, laying down numerous barrages on the enemy to soften them up, this one northwest of Combles, (no doubt this is keeping Fritz awake too).
During the third sortie Captain Swanson strafed a long column of Hun trucks on their way to the supply lines near Bouleaux Wood.
Pulling up sharply, Swany provided his G/O an opportunity to get his licks in on the convoy.
After a second pass the young ace broke off the attack as the Boche were now returning fire with a vengeance.
By the time Swanson and Chatwick were returning from their fourth egg delivery the eastern horizion was beginning to brighten and against it a Hun balloon was spotted going up.
Swany swung his mount around and flew directly towards the sausage as standing orders were to attack any and all of them on sight.
The Captain began firing as he closed and after several volleys smoke began rising from the gasbag.
Seconds later and the thing went up in a tremendous explosion buffeting the Sopwith and its occupants and washing them in a wave of heat.
Swany carved away immediately and climbed to the west at best speed, the Hun ground gunners none to happy with him.
As the weary pair of airmen passed along the northern edge of Albert the sun crested, casting a beautiful glow across the city. The idyllic scene belied the carnage that was about to begin but a few miles away. The first of the new British tanks, along with tens of thousands of the King's troops, would soon be on the move and wreaking havoc upon the enemy.
NOTE: Last night I set up and flew four sorties in a row, following along with what our RL counterparts actually did back then. Due to time constraints I was forced to use 4x compression to get to and from the front, but I flew the patrols and missions in real time. I was exhausted! I don't know how these boys did it time after time after time. And now I have to fly a day's worth of missions as well. These guys were supermen.