Mission No. 8 for Cap'n. Dobson & Company
Later that morning our now useless Parasol was being inspected by the fitters at our 'drome, but we had been given a new one, recently arrived, to go up on one of our (by now) standard, long reconnoitering flights around the German batteries south of Lens. We were accompanied by another Parasol, piloted by Sergeant Aldridge, a good fellow who was fond of practical jokes and was also a skilled fortepiano player.
We ascended, with the LeRhone on this Parasol ticking over much more nicely than on the other one we had to bring back, and, pleased with how the crate was behaving, we plotted a course to the left, veering towards the German side of the lines already near Neuve Chapelle. I was carrying four 20 kg bombs but did not release them over the enemy positions there; instead, I restrained myself, hoping to attack the Pfalz factory south of Lens. It was nonetheless already challenging to keep the Parasol aloft, with the extra weight, and also with some horribly strong winds that, for some reason, are rather frequent around the Neuve Chapelle sector. We were slowly being pushed by the wind directly over Lens, when I spotted two gray specks to the back of the Parasol, and heading towards our lines.
I dropped all four of my bombs over some of the enemy's sheds that I noticed in the vicinity, and I signalled to Aldridge that we begin a wide turn towards the two specks that were spotted. We cautiously made our way towards these machines, not to be noticed, the over-hanging clouds also aiding us in our maneuvers. Eventually we had identified them - as two Aviatiks, cream-coloured, possibly unarmed, although Henderson would tell me later that one German observer was waving a revolver of some kind, while the one in the other Aviatik had taken a few shots at us with a rifle. I was too busy maneuvering the Parasol to notice such details - but I positioned the crate in such a way, often diagonally approaching the two Aviatiks, that Henderson was in a location, however briefly, to discharge his Lewis MG at them. Several rounds were seen to enter the Aviatik with the rifle-armed observer, but the Lewis then jammed, and I had to make several circles before Henderson could fire again, this time from a greater distance at which we were not able to notice if any further damage was inflicted on the Aviatik. Aldridge flew above us, on my signal, to spot for any other German aircraft. With our ammunition eventually exhausted, we had no choice but to proceed with some arty and trench spotting directly above the front lines that were nearby - making for a rather grotesque scene - since the Aviatiks were directly below us, spotting as we were spotting, and turning as we were turning!
Truth be told, we were probably as irritating to the German flyers as they were to us, but neither party could do anything about it. I briefly contemplated how perhaps to bring one of the Aviatiks down by slowly pressing on its top wing with the Parasol's undercarriage - but the experiment seemed impractical and was quickly abandoned. Eventually the duo of Aviatiks turned back towards Lens and disappeared into the drizzly mist that had crept up in the meantime, while we proceeded back over our lines through increasing winds and heavier weather, and with my fuel dropping awfully close to the 50% mark again. I signalled to Aldridge, as we passed the Lys, that he fly back to our 'drome, while I and Henderson alighted at the base just north of the river, to refuel, to wile away a few hours until the clouds dissipate, and, above all - to see if Lady Harbury was still there, with her burlesque accoutrements.