Casual campaigns rolling well...brief updates...novel-in-progress up to about 250 pages now, soon to switch over to the RFC 1 adventures again, but was tempted to try out a French career too in the meantime - with Esc. N 49, summer of '17. Full write-up for that first mission below, for my regular readers
- will think about expanding on this pilot and perhaps integrating it into the novel, as well. All of the standard mods. installed for the French campaign too, as per my other campaigns, including of course Xjouve's nice water mod. (with the "lite" tweak applied). No trouble with fps and smooth-running.
Mission No. 1 for Ltn. Chaps "Saulnier" Bouffant
I, Chaps "Saulnier" Bouffant - of no relation to the Monsieur Saulnier of Morane-Saulnier Aeroplanes,
hail from a reputable family, with my mother Irish and father French. Dadda is much older than mother who was a societal belle
in her best years and still has much of her beauty preserved, and he is owner of a fabrique de moutarde
that is located not too far south of Rheims, where I was born. Our premises are often in competition with those better-known producers of moutarde,
and that are present, in Dijon. I have had the pleasure of helping out, on several occasions, in our fabrique.
I myself am a civil engineer by profession, an only child, and believe in the benefits of regular exercise on the bicycle. Mother is a self-styled Theosophist and once studied under a student of Madame Blavatsky of New York. Father walks with a cane, out of no specific necessity but, rather, because it is now deemed fashionable - although of a shorter length than sported by dandies at the opening of the previous century, and in order not to embarrass us too directly.
With my own technical skills and dexterity, I have managed to improve efficiency of production of our moutarde.
I also considered it wholesome to volunteer my duties for the glory of France. I was, however, occupied with my work well into the period of the war and only in the middle of 1916 managed, with the help of relations in higher quarters and my handsome knowledge of what aeroplane fitters do, to procure for myself a role as Sous-Lieutenant
in the French Air Service,
with my air certificate being awarded slightly before then. I trained on a Bleriot Type XI with a 45 hp Anzani engine - which I found most meddlesome, through no fault of the Bleriot itself, but instead owing to the fact that two other fellows who were at flight school with me at the same time were offered upgraded Type XIs with seven-cylinder Gnome rotaries installed. I therefore literally fell behind while in training, with my more miserable climb rate, and only barely managed to pass 1000 metres of altitude. My companions, with the advantage of another half kilometre of height, would often laugh at me from above.
For those who may end up reading these brief, autobiographical reflections in the future, embedded in my various flight reports, all that you should be aware of is that rotary engines rotate, and inline ones stay stationary during flight, or should stay stationary. That is the general idea. My favorite aircraft currently in our air service is the Spad 7, for I have low gastric tolerance for reverberating and rickety two-seaters, or the earlier and underpowered Nieuports that are thrown about as if leaves in an autumn rain. Serving briefly with the Third Escadrille very late last year, I there flew the 150 hp Spad 7 and managed to bag two Albatros fighters, but unfortunately neither claim was confirmed since both fell on their side of the lines. I am now with the 49th Escadrille, freshly posted after having been promoted to Lieutenant, and I am based in an often lonesome sector of the front, namely, the Alsace region. Our 'drome is very close to the sleepy town of Belfon, the mechanics are jovial fellows and are often in regular supply of wine and champagne, or at least hock and selzer
pulled out from the fuselage of the rare German two-seater that is captured intact. Our local C.O., unaware of such activities, is a pleasant ignoramus.
This cloudy morning of the second of July, 1917, around eight o'clock, and with a steady southern wind blowing, our field was smothered by a flight of Albatros v-strutter types. There were at least six or seven of them encroaching, and roughly from the direction of Metzeral, which is northeast of us and immediately on the German side of the lines. The Albatroses had v-shaped white stripes painted on their top wings - that is all I remember clearly in terms of their appearance, for the mêlée
that followed was hot-headed and troublesome. I and two other characters newly arrived at the 49th, Georges Bouyer and De Belleville, had been assigned the mediocre Nieuport 23 for our morning patrol along the lines. Fortunately, one of the Germans dropped down horribly low over us and peppered the strut assembly profusely on my N23 with his lead, to such an extent that half of the bottom wing rolled off onto the grass. Bouyer and Belleville, already with engines roaring, ascended into the fray. I was left a fool, in the now useless N23, when I noticed an unoccupied, yellowish Spad 7 in one of our hangars.* This was in turn rolled out and started, by the ever-obliging mechanics. I was told that it was an over-tuned one exceeding 200 hp, and that it was usually avoided by airmen as an unsafe and bucking mount since not in keeping with factory recommendations. On this occasion, there was no choice, and up I went in it, with it reminding me considerably of previous Spads I had enjoyed, but with more power, and behaving most tingly upon manipulation of the stick, if I may describe its characteristics in such a way and with apologies to the psychoanalyst Dr. Freud of Vienna whom mamma mentions sometimes. It wished to accelerate indeed. I used the aeroplane to advantage, flying it through its better side, and avoiding its vices: of stall, snap spin, unexpected yaw and other profundities.
The other two fellows were not doing too well in the N23s against the enemy v-strutters, but I latched onto one, and then another of these Albatroses, and drove both down. Each crashed in the woods surrounding our 'drome. In the meantime both of our Nieuports had also crash-landed, and I was left alone to dance with another two German machines. The other two or three enemies seemed to have dispersed while all of this was happening. One enemy craft popped a few holes in my tail but I went into some inverted dives and came out underneath, and much faster, than the German. I used the power of the Hisso to advantage and often engaged along the vertical, with the Albatros clumsily attempting to climb behind me. This was accomplished several times before I eventually came down hard and busted his engine. Off he then went into a sideslip and a satisfying crunch below. This left one more fellow, possibly an expert ace or seasoned veteran of some kind, for he had taken his ballet lessons carefully. This man performed all sorts of maneuvers around my less nimble mount, but I was not terribly concerned, and was, to be frank, somewhat bored with his distractions. Up I went into a loop, came down with precision, and let loose a brief volley in the area of the pilot's head and shoulders. He seemed to slump down into the cockpit and his mount embedded itself between two pine trees, and joined the tops of the trees together with its still intact tail - a most odd spectacle to behold.
Upon landing, I was irritated to learn that this last, and artistically positioned, claim was being rejected by our two-dimensional C.O. since, at that moment, apparently all hands on deck had been preoccupied and were not observing the show taking place above. The other three Albatroses were indeed confirmed. Belleville and Bouyer, miraculously, both survived crashing their mounts, with the former receiving a minor cut on his hand, and the latter severing a part of his whiskers on the edge of his wind screen. I commented that they would grow back more thickly than before, and that he would then be doubly pleased. These words for some reason were not appreciated, although I offered the suggestion with the greatest of optimism and was surprised by his tepid reaction. All of us were, to be sure, pleased to have gotten rid of the Nieuports - rather, to have had the Nieuports gotten rid of by the enemy flyers, for this, we hoped, meant that more Spads would be sent to us. Although the C.O.'s facial expressions, somehow reminiscent of those of a stray feline, did not inspire us with confidence as to the outcome of our hidden wishes. We then rested, partook of luncheon, and awaited our next flight with a perverse combination of joy and trepidation - and with Bouyer looking most amusing with his half-moustachio.
It is surprising that Esc. N.49 was in possession of an engined-up Spad 7 at this point in time, during the summer of 1917.