Fullofit – Congratulations on the Order of the Red Eagle! It was rare when von Richthofen, a mere captain, was awarded the order. But Ziggy is still lieutenant and yet the Kaiser is conferring such a noble honour on him. Beware the curse of the Gong Fairy! We need to keep Ziggy going.
Lou – you have left us all on the edges of our seats. For some reason, though, I am not fretting too much. God protects small children, drunks, and Freddie. I can't wait for the next instalment.
Epower – another wonderful catch up episode, and a milestone as the fiftieth one. Has the good major yet seen Oliver practising at the heavy bag? It might be a good thing to invite him to watch while you discuss his use of certain aircraft. Condolences on losing your Hisso-Hisso.
Carrick – congratulations on Sergeant Thorpe's first victory.
War Journal of Flight Sub-Lieutenant George Ewan MacAlister
8 Squadron, RNAS Mont-St-Eloi, France
"A few minutes later, the searchlight caught an Albatros at 1000 feet."
Friday, 14 December 1917. A day full of news. The newspapers are full of articles about the Bolshevik uprising in Russia. The Bolsheviks have made the cowardly decision to withdraw from the war and are willing to cede much of their land in order to obtain an armistice. We all know what this means for us. As soon as the ground firms up in the spring, the enemy will have troops fresh from the East to throw at us. The Americans are in, but thus far we have seen little of them and from what I hear it will be some time before they make their presence felt.
Further, there is much talk in London of creating a combined air force. It will do away with both the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service and we will be so much the poorer for it.
Hughes, our Welsh tenor, has been invalided home with a ruptured eardrum. His place in our cabin will be taken by Colton, the new man. Listen to me – three weeks in and I am claiming seniority!
This morning we took off laden with Cooper bombs to wish an early Christmas to a Hun railway station north of Loos. We did great damage. I saw my bombs set fire to two sheds and Squadron Commander Draper’s derailed a locomotive. We shot the place up and sent the little grey fellows scattering in all directions. Great fun!
At lunch, Draper informed me that I was now a flight commander and could put up my lieutenant’s rings. And to top it off, my pay is now up to £1/5/- a day, including flight pay and will go up an additional florin for each year as flight commander. One could almost begin to enjoy this war.
It continues to snow, making the roads difficult. Pity, because we are usually flying only once a day and could get away if only the roads were passable. We had a thought to walk to the village this afternoon but it was simply too miserable outside. Instead, White decided to teach us to play poker. We played for pennies yet he contrived to strip us of several days’ pay.
On 15 December I lead a line patrol south towards Cambrai. We engaged a very large group of Albatri west of Riencourt and had a hot time of it. After several minutes the melee broke up. I spotted a lone Albatros low over the lines northeast of Bethune and dived on it sending it down near the Hun lines. Unfortunately, the crash was not witnessed and remained on the record merely as “driven down.”
The following day, Sunday, we escorted a formation of Camels from 43 Squadron RFC. They were carrying bombs to drop on a Hun supply dump and we were their escort. We were itching to run into some Huns because, once the bombs were gone, we had fifteen Camels in a group. The enemy must have known this for they stayed away.
The wind blew hard all night and abated around five in the morning. Some nearby Australians were roasted out of bed to march up and down and pack the snow on our field. They had some choice words for us when we arrived at the hangars before dawn. Word came in that enemy aircraft were in the area and we took off in darkness, climbing as quickly as we could. There is a searchlight position on the ridge outside the village and the long tendril of light swept the sky and blinded us from time to time. At one point it briefly caught a German machine in its beam but the Hun was too high for us to reach and it quickly escaped back into the darkness. We patrolled about four nearly half-an-hour and then I fired the flare to signal a return to our aerodrome. We were surprised a minute later to be bounced by a large group of Albatros scouts diving out of the darkness. I realised my night vision is still rubbish. A Hun machine riddled my Camel with bullets before I was able to get away. Fortunately, nothing serious was damaged. A few minutes later, the searchlight caught an Albatros at 1000 feet. I was able to dive on it and send it down in pieces over the lines. Again, I had no witness and the victory remained unconfirmed.
White and I were able to get away in the afternoon and caught a drive into St-Pol-sur-Ternoise. It is a slightly larger town and seems to be a centre for rail supply. It was amusing to see German prisoners employed sweeping the street and picking up after horses. There is a stationary hospital at the edge of the town that stretches over a vast area. Shopping was a pleasure after the sparse offerings in our village. I was able to pick up several needed items, including a safety razor and blades, and oilcloth cover for our little table, some excellent chocolates, and a new pair of pyjamas. White’s shopping was of an entirely different nature. I prefer to take all my chances in the air. We had a fine tea at a place called Estaminet Fauquembergues. We tried to ask the origin of the name but neither of us could make ourselves well enough understood. They sold us a couple of bottles of excellent cognac to bring back to Mont-St-Eloi.