Mission No. 12 for Major Dobson & Company
(note: BB's clouds ver. 3 installed, "full weather" package; ver. 2.1 of JJJ's MultiMod in use; combo. 1.4/1.2/1.1.1 of the WOFF GPU Tuner patch active)
The morning of the 27th of May was marked by various excitements, the first being that I was again roused from sleep very early, around 4:30 am, by one of our noisy orderlies. Still in a half-slumber and barely having enough time to dress into uniform, I was soon greeted by Sir Salmond Sr., who was giving us a look-over this day (a habit of his on occasion, to surprise us with such unannounced visits). I now envied Henderson whose leave had been extended from his initial 48 hrs.' pass to Paris, but we all held ourselves well enough, I thought, giving a positive overall impression of a well-functioning and disciplined 'drome - and in the anticipatory atmosphere I was as well informed that I had been promoted to Major.
This information came rather unexpectedly; I enquired as to why this was - with Salmond Sr. laughing off my comment and referencing the bombing of the German 'drome, the previous day, and well over enemy territory. Also cited was one of my previous escapades, with Salmond himself, and in which we afflicted the Pfalz factory south of Lens with considerable damage. 'Forward action and consistently so, as recommended!,' were Salmond's own words, which rang rather pleasantly in my ears this early in the morning. 'You will also find that a new aeroplane has been delivered, Major - and please do try your best not to wreck it - there is only a limited number of these Bristol Scouts, Type C, I think that is what they call them, but we hope that HQ will see value in them shortly. There is after all only so much that can be done with a Parasol, and we would much prefer to bring the fight closer to the enemy.' With these words Salmond was off to inspect our other 'drome in the vicinity of Armentieres, promising to visit again, and unexpectedly.
And, truth be told, my new 'crate was a thing of beauty indeed, with tight linen, the smell of lacquer still present, and a fresh coat of paint visible, to protect from the elements. According to reports, she was fast and with a good rate of climb, also easier to control than the sometimes cumbersome, sometimes wild, and idiosyncratic, Parasol. I engaged in some brief inspection, with my fitter and rigger, to see that all was sound - and then it was off to the mess for a spot of tea and biscuits before ascending into the fragrant morning air. Today I was to accompany Sgt. Aldridge and his observer, in their Parasol, to the German batteries north of Vimy, and I was assigned to loiter there briefly while the Parasol noted positions of the enemy's dugouts and direction of fall of shot. All seemed simple enough, and the flight began rather well, with my Scout climbing beautifully and displaying no noticeable difficulty in control. It was a much sportier bird than the Parasol and I frequently found myself flying at four-fifths throttle, so that Aldridge would not fall too far behind, or below.
A touch north of the River Lys, however, and at an alt. of about 1500 m, the Sgt. fired a yellow Verey light, to inform me of trouble with his LeRhone. I circled for a while in the vicinity, with Aldridge again signalling that he would remain in the area for some time, to ascertain further the condition of the rotary - before deciding on a more direct course of action. This appeared sufficient enough for me and I kindly waived them off - proceeding further south on what had by now become a lone flight - although, I must admit, I was not terribly concerned with the solitary nature of the mission from this point on, considering that the Bristol was proving an absolute joy to fly. I floated south and entered onto the German side of the lines slightly east of Neuve-Chapelle, to head towards the enemy's batteries that were below. Already I was near 2000 m alt., with the still, morning air providing for a comfortable flight. Although there were scattered clouds, hardly any winds were felt or noticed, and, with the sun glistening on the dew-covered meadows below - one could very easily begin to daydream.
I nonetheless remembered to crane my neck at regular intervals, to observe for enemy aeroplanes, but there was nothing to be seen for miles on end. Most likely the German flyers were still soundly asleep - I grudgingly thought - although the continuously well-tamed behavior of my Scout quickly extinguished any further, negative thoughts on my part and I focused on the area south of Lens, being aware, from previous flights to this sector, that it would often be populated by gasbags. I idled the rotary at about one-third power and descended quickly, testing the Scout's robustness and finding that it dove rather well, much more effectively and with greater stability than the Parasol. Soon, I was below the layer of scattered clouds and made my way cautiously even further south - whereupon was spotted a German balloon near Vimy and that looked like those white sausages the enemy is often fond of eating, with a plentiful supply of pickled cabbages. This would be an excellent test of the Scout, I here thought, for its armament was interestingly positioned, the Lewis M.G. jutting out slightly from the cockpit and to my left at 25 degrees or so, to clear the outer disc of the revolving propeller. Somewhat odd to aim, but I was ready for a challenge and found that with liberal application of rudder, and opposite aileron, one could give the enemy a good peppering from the M.G. In this way I attacked the balloon - with it lighting up rather quickly and smoking profusely, before deflating and sinking onto the pock-marked ground below.
Satisfied with this experiment, I immediately plotted for our lines and went over at an alt. of about 1500 m, and slightly northeast of Arras. Soon I entered a gradual, descending turn to the right and alighted, about 15 minutes later, at a small aerodrome, full of RFC Parasols, and slightly south and to the west of Mont-St-Eloi. It had proven wise to land here for I was somewhat short on petrol after the lengthy flight south, and, while the Bristol was being refueled and ogled by the local fitters - I wired in my balloon claim to Bailleul Asylum. The local C.O. here was currently on leave and was being replaced by a good-natured Ltn., Simonson, who invited me for a hearty and late breakfast in the mess. Kindly I obliged, for I had some time to spare before returning to our own 'drome, and, besides, Simonson was eager to discuss my initial impressions of the Scout Type C.
He had some brief experience in the Type B, earlier in the year, and remembered well its favorable characteristics - although he found the rudder somewhat sluggish and ineffective. 'The rudder is just fine now, Ltn., most sensitive,' I commented - 'the Type C is an improvement.' Several hours were in this way spent, discussing the Scout and Parasol, and comparing them to various other works of motoring and natural art, for Simonson was an amateur painter - and our topics ranged from sporting automobiles such as the Mercer Raceabout
and thoroughbred race horses to the latest developments in aerofoil design, and how such improvements would hopefully push us ahead of our perpetually crafty and inventive enemy.