Mission No. 13 for Major Dobson & Company
(note: BB's ver. 3 clouds mod. activated, "full weather" variant; JJJ's MultiMod ver 2.1 in use; 1.4/1.2/1.1.1 WOFF GPU Tuner Patch combo. used; only change is horizontal winds being tested at full/default value, instead of moderate, in the Multimod; turbulence is still at moderate and vertical wind at low settings; max. fuel carried set to 80% in the sim. menu, to give about 2.5 hrs. max. flight in the Type C - will test OrbyxP's fuel consumption patch eventually)
Early on the morning of the 28th I was to follow two of our Parasols down across the lines, to an enemy 'drome south of Loos. The plan was that the two Parasols, flown by Sgts. Aldridge and Rowena, bomb the aerodrome, or, at any rate, inflict as much damage on it as possible. The standard procedure followed, with us taking a spot of tea and aged cheese in the mess, and then up into the fairly calm skies, to see what we could do. The ascent was routine enough, with broken clouds present but the winds manageable. We then, very soon, spotted our own Archie fire opening up a few miles to the left of us, as we completed our ascending spiral around our little 'drome at Bailleul Asylum - the tandem of Parasols were then waived off by me, to proceed with their mission, while I decided to investigate further towards the lines, flying southwest towards Messines.
At an alt. of about 1500 m there became visible one of those lumbering German types, an Aviatik, that had most likely done a wide circle above Armentieres and was now heading back towards its own lines. I used the speed of my Bristol slowly to tighten the divide between us, and positioned myself closer to the tail end of the enemy aeroplane, so as to block the observer from taking shots at me. He managed to get off a few rounds from his rifle but I again maneuvered slightly to position myself further below - and then opened up with the Lewis M.G., with an initial burst of about 20 rounds, and then another burst of 20 rounds or so while the Aviatik was already engaged in a gradual turn to the right. The result was immediately evident, with his engine on fire and the propeller stopped - soon followed by a maddening and speedy dive towards the lines below, where the 'crate ended up embedded in the mud, and in a plume of smoke and debris.
I here considered it practical, since I was already almost over and onto the German side of the lines, to proceed towards the area directly north of Lille, where, through the breaks in cloud, there was spotted a solitary balloon, hovering rather languidly in the reserved wind. The LeRhone was then cut to one-thirds throttle, and I easily motioned the Type C into a wonderfully stable and straight dive, directly towards the gasbag. Slight right rudder and opposite aileron allowed me to sideslip nicely, and in the vicinity of the enemy's sausage, to pepper it with a healthy volley of lead from the Lewis. It began to steam and hiss and puff bizzarely, reminding me of those old spinsters in fairy tales who grow red with rage if a waltz is declined them by a potential suitor. Here the balloon now roared and erupted in flames, as if to affirm my association of ideas - the remaining debris, now on fire, sinking below.
Not wishing to expose myself to enemy rifle fire, I put the Bristol into a good climb and turned further southwest, slightly towards our lines. I was at an alt. of about 800 m when I had my top left wing pinged by a bullet that also made a ringing sound since it managed to sever one of the strengthening cables too - I now climbed more cautiosly, but, noticing that no seriously permanent damage had been inflicted upon the scout - I opened the rotary and made my escape, to follow the lines of trenches immediately south of the River Lys, and to do some spotting of enemy positions. The clouds were by now slightly more congested, although with the winds still behaving well, when I pointed the nose of the Type C more to the west, and closer to the German 'drome near Loos.
Here I am sure that I loitered for a good 10 mins., observing the enemy 'drome carefully, at an alt. of about 1700 m, before entering a dive at half-throttle towards another German balloon that was now visible, and located immediately south. I let off no more than about 10 or 15 rounds, but this gasbag erupted in a tremendous ball of fire, the likes of which I had never seen before. Fortunately, the Bristol remained undamaged and I ascended again to safer altitudes, and did a few more wide circles in the area - during which Aldridge's and Rowena's Parasols were spotted, emerging from between a break in two large clouds, and about 300 m above me. Soon, eight bombs in total were dropping on and around the German 'drome - during which I observed several small plumes of smoke below, next to some of the tents, and also further behind, towards sheds in the vicinity. All three of us then joined up, with Aldridge leading the way and I following slightly behind, and below, to make certain that no enemy aeroplanes would surprise us this early in the morning.
Comfortable in my sturdy Bristol, I dove more quickly once I spotted our 'drome and alighted rather close to one of our hangars, rolling to a stop. The Parasols were soon to follow my example, but with a more subtle dive, so as not to lose their only set of wings. It was still not 6:00 am when I mentioned my claims in the flight office, for the Aviatik near the lines, and the two German balloons. 'And don't forget to list us as witnesses, Major,' was Sgt. Aldridge's remark - he was already in the flight office too, and removing his flight gear. 'Indeed, and you mean to say that you spotted the balloon north of Lille as well, once it lit up, Sgt.?' - I queried. 'Why, yes, Major, we were close to the lines as well by then and proceeding southwards,' he responded. A robust breakfast followed, made complete with Mother Purdy's Orange Marmalade
, and that Henderson had sent to us from Brighton, from which he was now enjoying a slightly extended leave, and to recuperate fully from his shoulder wound.
'Good thing that Ltn. Henderson is from Brighton, Major, otherwise we'd have to wait much longer for a normal supply of marmelade,' commented Sgt. Rowena. 'Yes, and his trip across the Channel was also favorable, with good weather prevailing,' I responded - 'hopefully, the return trip will be equally tame; I've also written to him that, if possible, he go up either to Farnborough or Hendon, to see if he can procure a couple of Be.2c types for us, since the 2b variant that our adjoining 'drome sometimes uses for spotting is a real clunker and horribly slow - and, besides, we could do with one or two extra two-seaters. I have found that the Parasols are rather tiring and pernicious to fly.' In this way I explained my reasoning to the Sgts., during our proper breakfast, and also informed them that a second Bristol Scout would arrive over the next day or two - an announcement that was received with great delight.
We were all to fly again, later in the day, and as we had planned out after breakfast - but the weather was now not cooperating as fully. More ominous-looking clouds had rolled in by the afternoon, although with slight breaks and favorable, soothing winds at times. Into one of these breaks Ltn. Aldridge and his observer ascended, to engage in some brief spotting of German batteries close to Messines. I, on the other hand, was rung up by our C.O., Salmond Sr., and told 'not to dare taking the Type C into the changing and worsening weather, or I would be the one worse for wear.' Fortunately, some mail came in for me around this time, and I was happy to see included in the small pile a perfumed letter from Lady Harbury.
She was planning a burlesque performance in Paris, at a date to be determined later, most likely either in June or July, and was informally, and already, inviting me. 'I do hope, however, Major, that you will do me the honor of visiting much earlier - for we have so many topics to touch upon. Most sincerely, Clarissa.' I read the letter again and again, and took in the pleasant nuance of the perfume as well, with its hint of myrrh, rosewood, something else too that I could not put my finger on. 'Most exotic, this ethereal woman,' I silently noted in my mind - 'I shall have to think up a bit of leave for myself, indubitably, but at a more opportune moment, perhaps once Henderson returns.'
With my rigger, I wiled away the remaining hrs. of the day, looking over the repairs on the wing of my Type C, and perusing the latest edition of Flight
, ever on the lookout for the enemy's tricks and developments. But, as evening fell, the telephone in our flight office began ringing again, and the day closed with a mixed set of developments - and a steady curtain of rain falling. I was delighted that all four of my claims had been confirmed, which included the balloon near Vimy, of the mission of the 27th of May. We were all glum, however, including our cook (who is usually in high spirits) - to learn that Sgt. Aldridge's Parasol had crashed on our side of the lines, after being hit by enemy flak.
The explosion, we were informed, took place slightly below and to the back of the fuselage, with Aldridge's observer, Cptn. Dickbury, taking it in rather deep - wounded in both legs from the shrapnel, and Aldridge suffering a broken shoulder in the ensuing and semi-controlled crash. They had already been transported to a field hospital and would most certainly be out of action for quite some time, with the observer, depending on how his wounds healed, most likely to fly only a desk in the future. The Parasol was largely destroyed, with nothing of value to salvage and repair, save for the rudder - and that would be transported to our 'drome, by lorry, on the 29th.
This peculiarity was owing to our somewhat eccentric C.O., who firmly believed that, among other things, a surplus of rudder assemblies was the best way of winning an aerial war with the Germans.