Mission No. 9 for Cap'n. Dobson
(Note: the next 5-6 missions will follow Oberleutnant Von Pranz and his adventures in the Fokk. Eindecker E.IIa; will also run some future missions with ver. 1.3 of the GPU Tuner Patch, currently running ver. 1.2 and pleased with the fps and smoothness.)
This day our C.O. Sir Geoffrey Salmond was again visiting and we were chosen to go up on a bombing run, on his orders - the elder Salmond had a penchant for such missions. We were to be a tandem of Parasols, I and Henderson my observer in one, and the senior Salmond with his observer in the other. Both of us were carrying four 20 kg bombs, which made our ascent somewhat sluggish. The weather was mixed, with heavy clouds occasionally, mist, and then windy spells too that cast a strangely appropriate atmosphere over the dreary, shell-marked landscape of the front lines.
We took our standard route, proceeding towards our goal south of the River Lys - the enemy batteries near Neuve Chapelle. We entered the German area at an altitude of about 1200 m, because to go any higher risked losing what little visibility we had. Also making things difficult was the turbulence over and above the front near the batteries. I signalled to the other Parasol and it went in, flying several strafing runs until all of its bombs were dropped. We did not loiter but proceeded further south, and towards Lens, beyond our original flightpath for today - Salmond would later comment that he was most pleased with our consistent tendency towards "forward action."
Spotted below the clouds eventually, and to our left, was the city of Lens - and I knew that the Pfalz factory was getting nearer. We skirted around Lens and towards the meadows immediately south, with the facilities we had chosen as our second target slowly coming into view. I made a gesture towards the other Parasol that it circle above us, should some lumbering German aeroplane chance by and get the drop on us. In the meantime, I tinkered with fuel and air flow to the LeRhone, to lean power to about four-fifths, and we began a gradual descent towards the buildings. I at first made a couple of higher passes, dropping one, then the other bomb, and then the last two in quick succession. Explosions were heard and seen immediately below, in the vicinity of the main facilities - most likely the wind had pushed the bombs slightly off course. Nonetheless, some damage was noted, with sheds and other smaller structures receiving the brunt of the damage.
Being now more maneuverable without the extra weight of the bombs, I made several tighter turns, followed by a few dangerously low passes around the factory, whereupon Henderson opened up with his Lewis MG that consistently rattled away at the windows of the building, and also at several aircraft components, such as tails, rudders, and other pieces, seen in the courtyard of the factory. All of our drums of ammo. were exhausted before I did a wider turn and began an ascent towards the lines south of Bethune, a path that took us over the enemy's positions in the vicinity.
To make ourselves useful on the return flight, we made some photographs of German trench lines and dugouts in this sector of the front, since no enemy aircraft were spotted that would cause us trouble. Also observed was a convoy of four lorries near the lines south of Bethune - but we were in no position to descend lower to investigate - which would mean losing valuable alt. that we had managed to gain, of about 1100 m, as we passed back over onto our side of the lines. The winds here picked up considerably, with worsening visibility and darker clouds encroaching, and my fuel dropping rather low again - so I gestured to the other Parasol that we make for the French aerodrome immediately south of Bethune. We alighted well enough, although exhausted after the rather prickly mission.
'Well done chaps!,' was Sir Geoffrey's reply once we had all unbuckled and clambered out of our cockpits. 'Fine, adventurous flight today,' he commented further. We were soon greeted by Captain Lefebve who was most pleased that the English had dropped in for a while. 'And wat may wee do for you mine frends?,' he asked, 'un peu...how you say in your language, refueling, and then, voila...upsy daisy?' 'Indeed, petrol for us mon capitaine!,' roared Henderson with his burly laughter, 'and then upsy daisy.'
'We will of course stay for lunch if the captain requests,' I interjected into the dialogue already underway. 'Mais oui, Capitaine Dobson, with pleasure,' he responded - 'you are already known at the front, and Lady Harbury has zed good tings about you.' 'What's this?,' asked Henderson. 'You just have to know how to wink knowingly at the ladies, Henderson,' was my reply, 'and further, it doesn't hurt to wear a proper belt and make sure you've got a nice pair of polished, red buckskin shoes on you at all times - I shall tell you about it in more discreet circumstances, but first it's more marksmanship practice for you when we get back to our aerodrome.' 'Well, bother blow,' was Henderson's response, which in turn received a robust guffaw from us all.
By evening we would be at our 'drome north of Armentieres and were greeted with wonderful news, that several enemy positions were hit by us at Neuve Chapelle, and that the Pfalz factory south of Lens had received noticeable damage - hopefully to be out of commission for some time. Also possible, I speculated more ominously, was that the Germans would now plan their revenge, but in what form precisely we could not know.