Mission No. 14 for Major Dobson
(note: BB's ver. 3.0 clouds installed, "full weather" variant; JJJ's MultiMod ver. 2.1 in use; 1.4/1.2/1.1.1 WOFF GPU Tuner Patch combo. installed; wind settings in MultiMod being tested are currently at horizontal full, turbulence medium, vertical low; also in use now finally is JJJ's latest Mission Editor - with the weather setting tweaked to "manual/and apply settings," as per BB's cloud type loaded, to get full weather and wind effects - no other settings are being used in the Mission Ed.)
On the morning of the 29th, around 7 am, we were rung up and it was urged, by our C.O., that we undertake a bombing run on some of the German batteries close to Neuve-Chapelle, also further south and parallel to Lens. I begrudgingly accepted the advice, although the weather was somewhat unstable after the rain of the night before, and I would have preferred that our men do a shorter, routine observation of the lines closer to our 'drome. A trio of Parasols was soon made ready, each one to carry four 20 kg bombs, and with their pilots to be Ltn. Knight, Sgt. Rowena, who went up with me the previous day, and a new fellow, Sgt. Thompson, who, though fresh from flight school and training, seemed a natural flyer. Thompson's observer was also a new character, an N.C.O. called George "Tweely" Johnson, who was rather keen to go on a mission and to try out the Lewis M.G. He was also most interested in becoming a flyer himself, but I suggested that he first remain, for a time, posted as observer, to improve his skill at marksmanship before we pondered over the question of his being enrolled for flight training. 'I can always use more airmen, Tweely,' was my response - 'but they are doubly valuable as skilled gunners.' I would, as per standard established procedure by now, keep company in my Bristol Scout, with freedom given to roam in case I observed any sporting action, as offered by the enemy.
The winds picked up slightly by the time all four of us ascended, but the situation was still manageable. The Bristol retained good control in the sombre weather - although, I was sure, the Parasols would now be a handful to fly, for the other three fellows. I cut throttle to four-fifths power, so as to allow the Parasols to overtake me - and I followed them down, slightly, to below Armentieres - whereupon they were signalled to proceed with their bombing run, while I swung the scout's nose eastwards and passed over the lines immediately south of the River Lys. The idea was that I rejoin them around the German batteries closer to Lens - and that we then proceed back, en masse,
to Bailleul Asylum, for I was certain that in the increasingly cloudy weather they would be well-hidden from any enemy aeroplanes, if there were any in the vicinity today. I also took advantage of the cloud cover, and chose, as my first target, a German observation balloon above Lille. I would thereby, by disrupting enemy balloons behind the lines, divert attention away from our Parasols that were moving south towards their destination around the enemy batteries. And besides, I would rather have any enemy aeroplanes try to chase me - for I could attempt to escape with my superior speed, and to engage at will - while the Parasols would have no choice but to defend themselves as best they could.
And so I proceeded forth, diving on the balloon above Lille, at about half-throttle, and doing a nice sideslip near it, peppering it handsomely with several rounds from my Lewis M.G. Soon it lit up, with its fragments scattering above the red-colored roofs of various houses below. I then made my way as quickly as possible to the German 'drome south of Loos, and that we had attacked the previous day. All was still quiet and sleepy at this 'drome, and I buzzed over it at an alt. of about 1000 m, doing a slight turn to the left, and a direct descent on the observation balloon there. A new one had already sprung up since our escapade of the day before, and now this one came crashing down in an inferno, too - with occasional rifle fire heard from below, but of no significance since I was again climbing steeply, and pointing the Bristol's nose further south - towards two other enemy 'dromes that were in the vicinity. I went dangerously low above the meadows, to remain out of sight for as long as possible, and flew over the westernmost of these two aerodromes, and at full throttle, emptying several rounds from the M.G. at a few of the German aeroplanes that were parked below. They appeared to be some experimental types, single-seaters, with equal span wings, two sets of them, and a fairly thin tail and rudder assembly. Never before had I seen such types and would report this to HQ upon arrival at Bailleul Asylum.
I did not remain to investigate more thoroughly but escaped in a wide, ascending turn to the left - which brought a third balloon directly into my sights. This one was soon on fire as well, and descending at a fine rate. Still at full throttle, and with the Bristol displaying wonderful flying characteristics even with the increasing winds, I continued directly towards Lens and dropped on a fourth observation balloon that was near the northern edge of the town. I passed this one at half-throttle, applying left rudder when necessary, and damaging it with several volleys from my M.G. before exiting the sector. Turning back, I could see that this balloon was on fire as well, emitting black smoke, but I did not bother to stay for the explosion.
Instead, I was already climbing steadily, soon to pass over the lines close to Lens, where several of the enemy's batteries, and our own, were located. I did remain on the German side of the lines for about 10 mins., however, flying through several ascending circles, to wait for the arrival of my trio of Parasols - but the clouds were quickly becoming heavier and even more congested. Not a single Parasol was spotted; but I still remained for several mins. in the vicinity - and, again, nothing. Realising that it was now most prudent to leave, I proceeded directly towards the lines and made my way at maddening speeds, of close to 180 kph in a gradual descent, towards the small French 'drome located slightly southwest of Bethune - and that I had visited several missions ago. Cap.'n Lefebve was on leave; but he had left the 'drome in the capable hands of Ltn. Fortenant, who cordially greeted me and suggested that I stay for some coffee and freshly baked Crêpes Suzette D'Au Revoir,
as well as to discuss, briefly, the Bristol Scout Type C - since my crate was now ogled wherever it alighted. I promised to drop by for several hours on one of my future runs, but that now, owing to the continuously worsening weather, it was best that I refuel and return to our own 'drome as soon as possible.
An hour or so later I was back at Bailleul Asylum, as were the trio of Parasols. They had indeed become disoriented in the clouds - particularly the new fellow, Sgt. Thompson, but I was in a good mood and did not chastise them. Salmond Sr., on the other hand, was much more irritated and rang us up, suggesting that we do a 'jolly better job next time' with our bombing runs because only a few structures, of no significance really, were reported as having been hit near the German batteries further south. I somehow managed to calm him down, and the telephone conversation was not a prolonged one on this occasion.
'Soon it would be time for lunch and some reading of technical journals,' I thought to myself - but first to remove this flight gear, also the whale oil from my face, and to wire in my claims while still in the flight office, for four enemy gasbags. Also eagerly awaiting me was the latrine. The exhalation from natural oils of the LeRhone is good, I embarrassingly admitted to myself - at making a man most punctual, usually at the same hour, and every day. The more RPMs on the engine, and the greater the duration of such maximal RPMs, the thinner the vapor of oil being emitted, and in this manner the more regular you become - right proper and synchronized as a trench watch, by Tissot.