Destroying the observation balloon south of Monchy-Le-Preux
A bad night, it took me hours to sleep, images of Roland spinning to his death filled my thoughts. No sooner than I did finally reach the welcome oblivion of sleep Orace, my batman shook me awake. It was still dark outside and our hut was freezing. All the colder for the missing friend in the camp bed opposite. Orace came bearing gifts, a steaming coffee and a slice of toast, I think he’d laced the coffee with rum, he calls it ‘hair of the dog’. I have no idea where he gets it.
We were up with A flight on a balloon busting show. The Balloon south of Monchy has been causing a few headaches for HQ and they want it gone. B flight’s got the job. Just me and Reg Charley flying in ‘B’ this morning.
We took off without incident, it could be the rum but it doesn’t feel quite as cold today. More cloud than the last few days and the snow is definitely thawing. Hopefully we are now through the worst of winter.
As we fly my head is on a spindle checking the sky, I’m not going to lose anyone today. Not today. Thankfully it seem the heaven’s are quiet and we see nothing at all. The Skies are ours alone. Even the front is quiet as we sail over the lines. Maybe the war is mourning the loss of the great soul that was Roland Pennant. I certainly can’t get his face out of my head.
We were in good formation with ‘A’ flying cover above about 2 miles out from the balloon and I gave the order to attack. Reg is a great and competent pilot, I see great things for him if he can last (or I can just keep him alive) but today his rockets fall short. My first pass wasn’t worthy of letting the rockets off so I decided I would come on it low and fast.
I don't know if its the visions of Roland that keep flooding my mind or Orace’s ‘hair of the dog’ but I certainly wasn't thinking clearly as I approach the Ballon. I released my rockets far too close and was caught in the resulting blast as the ballon exploded, my fuel tank was hit again as was I. My face is blistered and red from the flash burn of the exploding ballon, what a chump! I’ve got to get my head back in the game or I’m not to make it myself. Worse still the pup was in a pretty rough shape as we crossed the lines, Reg saw me safely down several miles into our side of the lines and flew back to Chipilly without incident - I got transport home and the Pup was taken to Bapaume where she’ll be repaired.
To be honest I’m feeling pretty shaken up by the whole experience of the last few days, the CO’s given me a 24 hour pass. Tonight, I plan to get drunk as three sailors, join me if you can, no songs tonight my head is pounding and my face hurts.