After HQ decided to send its' most expendable pilot after a balloon I was nominated for the task by the Adjutant. My Nieup was loaded up with Le Prieur rockets and I was wished good luck by all and sundry who were on hand to see me off. Kiffin pulled me aside before I set off and said "Look here fella, just have a snoop around, see what the Archie is like first. No use getting into strife for the sake of a silly sausage. If it's too hairy then fire your rockets into the Bosche trenches and head for home, just tell them you did your best, A flight will be around up there somewhere and they'll vouch for you." I nodded, my heart sinking at his words. I knew that I really must be in for it to receive this kind of pep talk.
It was a decent day, so far as the weather around here goes. Mostly cloudy but with the cloud base at around 8,000ft. I climbed to 6,000 and set off for the lines. Reaching the target I had only just sighted the balloon when the Archie started to come up. It was terribly accurate and Rockwell's words echoed in my mind as it boomed all around me. It was too late to turn back, that would just make me an easy target. I decided to at least commit to rocketing the thing and let loose at the gasbag with the Le Prieurs. Far too early, they sailed well beneath my target and I was hit by Archie to punish me for my poor aim. The crate seemed okay though so, "In for a penny, in for a pound" I muttered and closed to gun range, peppering the sausage good and proper before wheeling around for another pass to finish it off. I had a brief moment of satisfaction as it caught fire but even this momentary glimpse of redemption was cut short by the arrival of two Fokkers who had taken an interest in me and my hapless antics.
I wheeled around to meet their attack, knowing full well that I was caught red handed and about to be punished. The turn put me in a fair position but, before I was able to gain the advantage over either of them, fuel tank ran dry. It had been perforated by a shell fragment and I was treated to a symphony of comparative silence. Scanning desperately for a place to land I muttered and cursed as I was forced to decide between evading gun fire from the Fokkers who were all too eager to press home the attack, and then some sporting wretch with a machine gun on the ground decided to join the party. Tracers criss crossed uncomfortably close on all sides and I curled into the smallest possible shape I could. A small hillside clearing loomed ahead, seemingly my only hope at salvation and certainly the best I could manage under the circumstances. I pointed the nose at it, clearing a ridge and dipping down the other side with the last of my airspeed running out. A shuddering crash, quickly followed by another caused me to glance over my shoulder and to my amazement, both of the Fokkers slammed into the crest of the ridge! By this point I was somewhat hysterical and began laughing uncontrollably while attempting to line up for a landing while I prayed for the continuing support of the holy trinity during the remainder of my escapade.
The hillside clearing ahead rose up to meet me and I stalled my aircraft into it, hopping that the dropped wing would absorb enough of the impact to preserve my hide.
By some miracle got away with this as well. I freed myself from the wreckage of my poor Nieuport as fast as I could and lit out for the forest before the it caught alight, knowing full well that I must run or the Bosche would locate me anbd probably shoot me for the carnage I had wrought upon their ranks. A few hours of hiking later and I collapsed, exhausted and fell asleep in a bed of pine needles. I awoke later that night, chilled by the evening air and managed to sneak across No Man's Land and back to our lines where I was given the once over by a French medic who promptly issued me with a sedative and packed me into a tender bound for the rear. Two days after my crash I was home again where I found an inflated prophylactic pinned the entrance of my quarters with a note underneath reading "Boy" Roger Maurchand Esq, Balloon Hunter Extraoirinaire! Inside my quarters my comrades had packed themselves into ranks where they lay in ambush with several bottles of champagne which they had aimed at the doorway. A salvo of flying corks greeted me as I came through the door, red faced with embarrassment I flinched and almost threw myself to the ground in confusion, overexcited by my my travels as I was. Reeking of castor oil, urine, sweat and earth I began to grin like a maniac.
We all got soundly drunk. Nobody seemed to mind that I was somewhat worse for wear, they just poured that champagne into me until everything became a melange of happy, slightly concerned and increasingly blurry faces. I finally fell asleep, safe and sound for now..
Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.
Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein. "The best techniques are passed on by the survivors." - Gaiden Shinji