Mission No. 11 for Cap'n. Johnny Dobson & Company
(note: WOFF GPU Tuner Patch in place, with combo 1.4/1.2/1.1.1; also in place is ver. 2.1 of JJJ's MultiMod; as well being tested is a beta ver. of BB's clouds mod. for WOFFpe, to be released later)
It was a pleasant couple of days, as if time was now standing still, the minutes having been elongated after our escapade of the 23rd - with Lady Harbury indeed visiting - and spending several lovely hours with me and the boys, discussing various burlesque shows and pantomimes that she would often perform in Paris, and that had caught the attention of myriads of journals and reviews. She urged me to visit her voluptuous residence, as soon as possible; although, I jokingly suggested that if our C.O. remained as strict as we had already become accustomed to - I would sooner join her after the war. 'War or no war, my brave Captain - I await you in my studio, and please, do call me Clarissa.' Such were her affectionate and parting words, uttered in a soothing manner and penetrating all of my fibers, for she had a fine mezzo-soprano voice that was like balm upon the ears.
Henderson was in the meantime on his two days' pass, in Paris, hopefully to forget about our hair-raising incident in which we had barely evaded capture - his shoulder wound was healing nicely, the local 'doc told us - although my damaged nether regions were proving more troublesome, not in and of themselves, the wound itself being not that serious - but it was dreadful to sit down in one spot for any period of time longer than about half of one hour. 'And, tell me good 'doc Brown,' I asked - 'how exactly am I to carry out our longer reconnoitering flights with this pesky wound? - be aware that we don't fly with upholstered furniture in our Parasols.' 'But have no fear, Captain,' was his overly confident response. 'You see, I recently wrote a voluminous research paper, in octavo size, outlining the benefits of light anesthetising injections to such wounds, which, if all was well and the wound kept clean, would hasten the process of recovery, also pleasantly numbing any unbecoming sensations emanating from around or within the wound. Consider, for example, the variety of injections I can administer in the field hospital not too far from the 'drome here: injections ranging from chloroform and diethyl ether to C.E. mixture, and also, what I personally recommend, A.C.E. mixture.'
'Bloody hell, 'doc!,' roared the young Ltn. Richard Rapheal who was nearby, and who would be my replacement observer until Henderson returned - 'give us all an injection of that A.C.E. mixture then - and we'll give the Germans a right proper thrashing, to be awarded five kills each, to boot.' Here we all broke into a rowdy laugh, although the tepid 'doc responded merely with a smirk, explaining that the mixture consisted of alcohol, chloroform, and ether - and was the latest in anesthetising in all reputable medical institutions. 'Very well,' I responded, 'give me a shot of that for a day or two and, hopefully, I'll be able to sit out our longer flights.'
And the injections were none too soon, for already, very early on the 26th of May, we were urged by HQ into a bombing mission relatively deep on the enemy's side of the lines - we were to do a run at one of the enemy's 'dromes located north of Sint-Eloois-Winckle, since our intuitive C.O., Salmond Sr., had concluded that this was likely the home of several Aviatiks that would often be seen harrassing our observation balloons, and aeroplanes, while the latter were off on reconnoitering flights. It was not yet 5:30 in the morning when we were roused from sleep and told to 'step lively,' by one of the night orderlies. I had barely a few minutes to splash some cold water onto my face from the basin in the corner of our room, and was simultaneously dressing and running towards the flight office, first to assemble the men, and then to retire, very briefly, to the mess - for an improvised breakfast of hot tea and a few salty biscuits. Proper nourishment would have to wait until we returned. 'You think we'll be back around 8, Cap'n.?,' was Rapheal's question, a query that helped to awaken me more thoroughly than the tea did. 'Why, I suppose so, even earlier, if we don't loiter for too long over our targets, which I don't recommend in any circumstance' - this was the only response I could muster so early in the morning.
Soon after we were already ascending into the fine spring air, a tandem of Parasols, the other piloted by Ltn. Strugnell, and with each of us carrying four 20 kg bombs. We proceeded, on my orders, directly towards the lines, and briefly to irritate some of the German batteries southeast of Ypres. The weather was beautiful, with hardly a cloud in the expansive sky, and with only a light southwesterly wind that was manageable even in our Parasols. Noticed around the lines below were a few explosions, but, for the most part, the entire trellis-work of trenches still seemed largely asleep at this early hour of the morning. I signalled to Strugnell and he went in first, dropping two of his bombs on some of the enemy's dugouts in the vicinity. I then followed and did the same, dropping two of my bombs. We here circled a couple of times, jotting down coordinates for some of the enemy's positions - and then we proceeded further east, and agonizingly deep into unknown territory. We however knew approximately where the 'drome, our main target, would be located, and so we took advantage of the fairly lengthy flight to gain as much alt. as possible. By the time the enemy 'drome became visible, we were near 2000 m alt., and did several circles above the enemy's tents - to make sure that we were not being followed by any enemy aeroplanes.
Realizing that all was clear, I signalled once again and Ltn. Strugnell entered a shallow dive, descending to about 1500 m alt., whereupon he dropped his remaining two bombs - and that exploded near one of the aeroplanes parked far below. I then entered a shallow dive as well, dropped my remaining bombs, and observed two explosions soon after, in proximity of some back-buildings and sheds located slightly to the east of the aerodrome. At this point, I spotted a convoy of 10 lorries on one of the roads not too far from the German 'drome - my observer had also noticed this and signalled in the affirmative that he was keen to try out the Lewis M.G.
Strugnell, in the other Parasol, noted our change of direction and also followed. I idled the LeRhone and we headed for the smaller of the two convoys below, with six lorries further behind, and four clumped together, in front. I dove several times, with Strugnell keeping watch from above, and with Rapheal, an excellent shot, getting several hits on the first and second lorries, with smoke and debris noticed thereafter. We then did a wide, ascending turn, and Rapheal emptied the Lewis' drum into the remaining six lorries. 'This would do,' I here thought - and, with our ammo. exhausted, we now turned back for our own 'drome above Armentieres. The sky was still clear, wonderfully sunny, with a representatively spring morning developing. And, not being pestered by any of the enemy's ground fire - and as well with hardly any flak in this sector - we concentrated on getting back in one piece, soundly, and also as assured by the well-timed purring of our rotary engines.
The lines were passed at an alt. of about 1200 m, and soon we were descending towards our 'drome. I first dropped in, and rolled nicely to my hangar. Ltn. Strugnell's Parasol followed soon after. Several minutes later we had already removed our flight gear and were waiting to be served a more thorough breakfast, with the cool spring air of the higher altitudes having opened our appetites. The rest of the day proved uneventful, with Salmond Sr. wiring in information that some of the German batteries south of Ypres had been damaged in our bombing run, and that there was also minor damage reported to the enemy 'drome further behind the lines. I was pleased enough with these details but did not dwell too much on them. Rapheal and Strugnell decided on an afternoon swim at a nearby pond since it became blisteringly hot later in the day. I, on the other hand, and as ordered by the 'doc previously - was not to get my wound wet - so I took the opportunity to lay out some flight plans for our next sortie, and also engaged in some comforting speculations as I intermittently dozed off in a rocking chair that had been placed in the sun next to our mess. The choice of topic for my daydreaming came easily enough - it would be Clarissa's tantalizing invitation to her studio.