Late afternoon found Captain Swanson sitting quietly at a table in the mess, nursing a cup of his ginger tea. Like every other pilot and G/O in the room he was utterly and completely clapped out. The day's events had taken a harsh toll on 70 Squadron: four men killed; four others missing, presumed dead or captured; six Strutters destroyed; all but two of the remaining damaged to varying degrees. Among the unaccounted for are Lt. Jones and 2nd Lt Beatty who had been flying right wing with Swanson when they'd gotten into a massive furball with four Halberstadts and two Rolands south of Bapaume during the morning sortie. Being the flight leader Swany felt personally responsible for their being absent, though he'd no idea what he could have done differently. It had been every man for himself in that swirling madness and the last he'd seen of Jones and Beatty they were being chased by two of the Halbs. Swanson would have gone after to help but he and Chatwick were engaged with a Roland and a Halb of their own. After managing to not only stay alive but sending down two Halberstadts and driving off a Roland in the process, the Captain completed the sortie by lighting up yet another Boche balloon near Delville Wood. The enemy were clearly desperate to get an idea of the situation on the ground to the north of there.
The second outing of the day revealed that there was now a new Hun scout to contend with, all sleek and shark-like, with twin guns. It had been a shock initially when a trio of the devils came diving down on A Flight as they were approaching Flers. The things were godtdam'd fearsome. However, Swany soon discovered that the Strutter could turn inside of them and match them in a climb. In fact, as he went round and round with one in an ascending right-hand turn it was the new Hun craft that stalled out first, dropping down in front of the Captain who immediately got on its tail and stuck there. After several more go-rounds Swany brought his gun to bear on the slippery looking plane and fired three volleys directly into it. The Hun rolled over on his back and fell earthward, righting himself just before he slammed into a small copse of trees. Feeling quite pleased about his victory over the latest the enemy had to offer the Captain climbed back up to altitude in search of the rest of A Flight. He only found one of the other two teams, that being Lt. K-C-Patrick and 2nd Lt. Stanley. Missing were Captain Cruikshank and Lt Preston. "Dammit!" Swany swore under his breath as he led the remnants of his flight home. "Dammit, dammit, dammit!" Upon returning to camp and making inquires as to the whereabouts of his lost crews, (about whom there was no news so far), the Captain submitted a brief report assessing what he saw as the capabilities and weaknesses of the new Hun scout plane, which Major Lawrence immediately shared with the rest of the squadron then forwarded along to HQ.
The last outing of the day found the two remaining crews of A Flight running into a pair of Aviatiks headed east near High Wood. They were made quick work of by the King's airmen with both Hun planes being sent down into the mud below. As the pair of Strutters were returning to camp and just about to land the Clerget in Swany's mount suddenly let go with a tremendous bang, spewing oil everywhere and bringing the prop to a grinding halt. The Captain quickly shut off the fuel and magnetos and glided his now-dead bus down into the pasture just east of Fienvillers. Somehow it seemed a fitting end to the brutal string of missions he and his G/O had just managed to survive. It was a short walk back to camp where Swany filled out his last AAR and claim form of the day, his final tally being two observation balloons, two Halberstadts, one of the new Hun scouts, and one Aviatik. The CO remarked on how his ace pilot had just repeated the trick he'd managed not but three days earlier, and if HQ was feeling as generous on this batch as they had on the last Swanson's victory count could jump by yet another five. Swany gave the Major a weak smile, he was simply too tired to care either way, and truth be told he would trade them all to have his missing flightmates back safe and sound.
After breakfast and a brief rest Captain Swanson led A Flight out on a contact patrol south of Bapaume.
Once across No Man's Land Swany and his crew were set upon by four Halberstandts who were quickly joined by a pair of the dam'namble Rolands. Archie crashed the party as well.
After a very lengthy battle the lads from 70 Squadron managed to get away. All four Halbs were destroyed, both Rolands had run off damaged and A Flight was missing one crew.
Heading home Captain Swanson saw that the Boche had sent up another observation balloon near Delville Wood. As the order of the day was to keep them down, he attacked it despite the fact that his Vickers was firing at a much reduced rate due to a Roland round that had slammed into the breechblock. Swany was thankful it was still firing at all.
Moments later the balloon exploded in a massive fireball. This would be the Captain's second balloon claim of the day, and before this he'd never even gone after one.
Fienvillers never looked so good.
Barely time for lunch and it was out again on another contact patrol around Bapaume.
After twenty-some minutes of patrolling A Flight was attacked by three Hun scout planes, a type they'd never seen before. Very sleek and deadly looking, with twin guns.
At first Captain Swanson was at a loss as to how to handle this latest threat, but he soon discovered that his Strutter could turn inside them and match them in a climb. The new machines could roll quicker though.
After several turns Swanson had the slippery, nasty looking plane in his sights and let fly with several bursts from the Vickers.
Following the crippled Hun down Swany watched as it crash into a copse of trees, afterwhich the Captain climbed back up to altitude to reform his flight, only to discover that another crew had gone missing.
Coming home for the sixth time in less than fifteen hours, and still not done.
Out on what would prove to be the final sortie of the very, very long day. Back to the same area, this time running across a pair of Aviatiks returning from a recce. K-C-Patrick jumps ahead and makes the first pass.
Swany takes his turn on the other plane, diving slightly to build speed then making a slashing pass as he climbs up and over the Hun to provide his G/O a shot while at the same time avoiding the Hun gunner.
Coming around for the second pass the Aviatik is now trailing smoke. The Captain laces the plane from tail to nose with a long burst from the Vickers.
Swany continues to take shots at his prey, following down and watching the Hun crash and flip over on the friendly side of No Man's Land.
A last bit of excitement as Swanson is approaching Fienvillers. Something in the bowels of the Clerget explodes bringing the prop to a dead halt and spewing oil everywhere. The Captain managed to set down safely in the field just east of camp.