An Airman’s Odyssey – by Lt James Arthur Collins, MC
Part Forty-Four: In which I enjoy a Scots interlude
Since the short while we had at Bruay I hadn’t seen much of Sergeant Wilson other than our times together in the air. It seemed odd to rely so much on a man and then to say toodle-oo and retire each to his own mess. But such is the way of the Army, and I suppose it’s all for the best. An hour of two spent decoding his Scots broth of an accent and my head aches and I’m ready for a long spell of staring out the window with my mouth open.
Our little arrangement in B Flight was convenient. The flight mess proper, with its bar and anteroom, was in a small house three doors down the main road from the Café du Progrès. We took our meals in a back room of the Café, so that room too was technically part of the mess and therefore officers’ territory. But the main room of the Café where the locals sat and smoked and drank coffee and muttered under their breath at the passing soldiery – that was No Man’s Land. I checked in with the Major before inviting the good sergeant to meet me there for coffee. He approved, provided we talked shop, didn’t drink liquor, didn’t make a habit of familiarity, and didn’t meet there when the other officers were eating.
“Become too familiar and you become an object of contempt. Do you not know that from home?” he said. I ventured that our retinue of household staff at home in Canada had been too slim and frighteningly female to teach me much about social norms.
Wilson was chatting away. “Ah’m no workin’ in the smithy’s shop since ah wis given the third stripe, ye see. So I found the wee Froggy smithy doon the lane. Except the Parlez-voos dinnae call them smithies. They say they’re ‘forgerin’. It has t’ dae wi’ the forge, like in the iron works at hame, see?”
I stared at the object on the table, its painted eyes slightly crossed.
“It’s a Teddy bear, see, surr? An’ solid cast iron it is. Ah made it doon at the Froggy forgerin’ shop. Aye, an’ it’s a bank for the wee bairns tae pit their bawbees in.”  He pointed out the slot in the crazed animal’s head. “Ah’m gonny make ‘em and sell ‘em efter the war.”
Momentarily, I planned to mention that if the thing ever fell over it was highly likely to kill a small child. I held back, searching for another way to express the concern. “It’s rather heavy,” I observed.
“Och aye, that’s so if some durty sod wis tae half-inch the bear he’d no rin awa’ frae the polis.” 
Wilson the entrepreneur! My wonder knew no bounds. He was up for leave soon and planned to go home to see his sainted mother. I envied him. He described the meal she’d make – which involved boiling something I didn’t understand. And he described how he’d visit his local and try to take the little Irish girl there to the pictures. Except he’d clearly picked up the slang of London in the sergeant’s mess and he referred to them as the “Dolly Mixtures.”
He obviously enjoyed his coffee and Mademoiselle Defossez refilled the cup, allowing enough room for another two fingers of Collins Yukon Gold to be added from my flask. I owed Sergeant Wilson. In the past two days we’d crossed the lines four times and each time we’d been intercepted by groups of Fokkers. This afternoon we’d held off three of them for nearly ten miles until we crossed the lines and, with the engine failing, put down in a field near Albert. Wilson wasn’t much of a shot, but he had a healthy habit of waiting until the Hun was 250 yards away and driving him off with short bursts that were close enough to be disconcerting. It had been a short drive home to Lahoussoye, leaving the Ack Emmas to their job of recovering the machine. The nerves had not yet settled.
"...we’d held off three of them for nearly ten miles until we crossed the lines..."
I could smell supper in the kitchen. It was time for him to go. We finished our coffees and I bade him enjoy his evening. I knew he would. It hadn’t been announced yet – that was up to the disciplinary sergeant-major – but at dinner Sergeant Wilson would learn he had been awarded the DCM.
 Just a guess, but Wilson is rendering the French “forgeron,” or blacksmith.
 “It’s a bank for the little kids to put their halfpennies in.”
 In the King’s English: “Indeed, that is so if some blackguard were to steal the bear he would be unable to run away from the police.”
 Dolly Mixtures were a popular candy and Cockney rhyming slang of the period for “motion pictures.” A little earlier, Wilson uses “half-inch” for “pinch,” another likely acquisition from his East London colleagues.
#4477821 - 06/12/1911:16 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Joined: Nov 2014 Posts: 3,696Fullofit
Fullofit, your man’s trip to eat in Chalons had me drooling – right up until poor James graced us with a pavement pizza.
Raine, sorry to have spoiled your drooling session. You can return the favour with Wilson mother's haggis. So, where are all those Fokkers coming from? Looks like Collins has his hands full being chased all over the sky and the escorts aren't much help. Also, thank you for translating Wilson's gibberish to English. But you know, he is on to something with those teddy banks. They would make very safe wallets. That is an interesting screenie with that magic bullet curving right into that Oberursel. Carrick, stop bothering the nurses. They need peace and quiet to make themselves pretty.
The 40th kill continues to elude Gaston. Both claims have been denied. This morning no other pilots were available. Voscadeaux was sent on a lone wolf patrol behind enemy lines over Thiaucourt aerodrome. With the thick clouds Gaston didn’t expect to find any targets, but as the luck would have it he noticed anti-aerienne exploding nearby. He knew someone else was around and following the explosions he found a pair of Aviatiks circling above. He stalked them from below and when the opportunity arose he attacked the trailing machine. He then quickly dove back below and circled around yet again for another go. He saw his target struggling to stay in formation. It was what Gaston was waiting for. With the two machines separated, it was much easier to take his victim apart. He continued to harass the limping Boche until the damage was too great and the lumbering two-seater went down shedding its wings. It was a difficult kill. No video, forgot to load film into the camera.
Gaston, with Dagonet in tow, were escorting the ‘A’ flight on recon to front lines north of Verdun when they were jumped by 3 maybe 4 Fokkers. There was always an Eindekker circling above them ready to attack, like a shark circling its prey. Dagonet was able to take one out while Gaston kept on the tail of another. The shark above turned out to be a minnow and left in a great hurry. Gaston's Pig was at the verge of stalling at all times during the fight and only by miracle was he able to shoot down his target. The Boche spiraled down into the No Man's Land trailing thick smoke. The two French pilots landed at Verdun aerodrome and put in a claim each.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."
#4477826 - 06/13/1912:51 AMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Joined: Nov 2014 Posts: 3,696Fullofit
Congrats, Fullofit! I can sympathize with you having to fly a mediocre plane. Julius is still equipped with the ancient Fokker E.III, which is by now entirely useless against anything but the Fees and Quirks. I can only hope he survives long enough to get one of those fancy new Halberstadt scouts...
12. HONOUR AND GLORY
“Of human virtues, patience is most great.”
- Cato the Elder
Bertincourt, June 11, 1916.
Julius was nervously pacing back and forth in the Abteilungführer’s office building. This had become a regular event in recent weeks. After a successful air combat, Julius would send a victory claim to the 2. Armee headquarters, where the claim would then be rejected with depressing certainty. Reasons of rejection varied, but the main argument against confirmation was typically the fact that Julius’s victim had gone down too far behind the wrong side of the lines, making it impossible for friendly ground troops to send a positive witness report. Julius was extremely frustrated by the situation, but he knew it was useless to struggle against the strict regulations of the Fliegertruppen.
Suddenly the telephone rang. The officer on duty picked up the receiver. Julius stopped his pacing and waited impatiently for the conversation to end. He didn’t have to wait for long. The expression on the face of the duty officer already told him what to expect from the call.
“Another rejection, right?”
“I’m afraid so. The forward observation post of the 52. Division did indeed saw a British two-seater descending towards southwest above the Bapaume-Albert road, but they didn’t actually see the machine crash.” The duty officer sounded apologetic, even though it wasn’t his fault that the army headquarters had again decided to reject Julius’s victory claim.
“Of course they didn’t! Now I did shoot its engine to pieces and even saw the propeller stop, but I suppose the observer then climbed on to the nose of the machine and repaired the engine, after which they both flew happily back home!”
“I’m sorry, Julius.” The duty officer replied to Julius’s outburst with a sympathetic voice, which made the frustrated aviator instantly regret his sudden loss of temper.
“No, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. This is just so very frustrating. But I’ll have to keep trying. And the British won’t run out of planes any time soon!” Julius managed to smile at the duty officer, despite his latest great disappointment.
Julius left the office building and walked back to his quarters in the brick house at a brisk pace. Weather was turning bad again, with dark clouds gathering above the field. The sky seemed like a reflection of his grim mood. Entering the building, Julius met two of his comrades, Leutnant Gustav Leffers and Offizierstellvertreter Martin Zander. The men were packing their backs in preparation for a trip to Berlin, where they had been ordered to test new fighter designs of Fokker and Halberstadt.
“How did it go?” Leffers was stuffing something into his pack and looked up as Julius entered the room.
“Business as usual. The ground observers saw the Blériot descend towards Albert, but that’s it. No positive confirmation.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. But don’t lose heart! Eventually, your luck has to turn.” Leffers spoke encouragingly to Julius.
“I can only hope it does! I’m starting to feel that the only way to get confirmation is to force an Englishman to land down next to the headquarters and then politely request him to write a letter of recommendation for me!" Julius sounded more dejected than he had intended.
“Maul halten und weiter dienen, eh?” Zander said and grinned at Julius. If looks could kill, the one that Julius gave him would have been instantly fatal.
“Don’t push your luck, Martin! Now be a good lad and help me fix this strap. I haven’t used my pack in ages and it looks like something, or somebody, has eaten parts of it.”
“It must have been that mean-looking mechanic from Stuttgart. Let me see it…” Zander was distracted by Leffers’s request and didn’t try to annoy Julius any further. At that moment, the door opened and Hauptmann Viebig stepped inside. He was carrying a piece of paper in his left hand.
“At ease, gentlemen. Schreck, I have a telegram for you here. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting reading!” There was a curious look on the old eagle’s face.
Julius accepted the telegram. It had been sent from the Prussian Ministry of War in Berlin and contained only a few lines, which Julius quickly read. The message left him speechless for a while, so Martin eventually broke the silence. “Well, what does it say?”
Julius turned to look at him. “It says…” Julius paused for a moment. “It says that my brother has been awarded the Pour le Mérite.”
There was a stunned silence. Then the men burst out laughing and congratulated Julius for his brother’s great honour. Julius himself could only think of how impossible it would now be for him to live up to his father’s expectations.
 An old German and Austrian army saying, roughly translated as "Shut up and carry on." Reflects how a soldier is expected to display fortitude and stoicism in the face of adversity.  Julius's brother Hermann, who was a career officer in the Prussian army and currently leading a company of infantry at Verdun.
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps
#4478006 - 06/13/1910:23 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Hasse, great news on on the computer and a wonderful story. Glad Julius is still with us.
Fullofit, forty! Your victory total is getting out of hand.
Carrick, I believe I met those nurses at a Club in Atlanta Ga.! Oh wait, wrong life.
Raine, great stories with historical context as always Pard.
Lt. Mark A. Jericho No. 3 RFC June 13th, 1916
Jericho was sitting outside to get some fresh air. He was at 19 CCS at Beauval just south of Doullens. His shoulder was heavily bandaged. He was thinking back 2 days to the mission that landed him at this place. He was leading a flight of 3 machines to bomb Bertincourt. They had 2 Bristol scouts as escorts. When they had dropped their bombs on the Hun Airfield he could see 3 Eindeckers climbing to intercept. Obviously the escorts did not see them as they came in behind the Morans. The combined fire of 3 experienced gunners drove them off and woke up the escorts because they chased after the fleeing Huns. Jericho had cursed the escorts for chasing after them leaving the Moranes to fly 10 miles back alone. About halfway back Jericho was feeling a bit better as he could not see anything else in the sky. All of a sudden bullets ripped through the Morane and he dove hard right. Pulling level again in a turn he could see 2 Eindeckers when his Machine was hit again. A Roland zipped past the slow Morane and pulled up right in front of Jericho. G#dd#%n! Jericho shouted to no one in particular. He then saw another Roland in the distance going after Jordan. Jericho was not thinking, he was acting on instinct. Turn, climb, dive and dodge. He kept trying to get closer to the lines but there were just too many Huns around to do anything but stay out of the line of fire. He turned his head to the right just in time to see Wordon hit a Fokker coming in on them. It went into a death spin. Jericho had seen it before. This was no ruse. The pilot was dead at the controls. No time to celebrate now as more bullets tore into the Morane. Jericho was out of options. He put the nose west and put the Morane into a dive. He could see the lines a few miles ahead. Wordon was steady throwing fire to the rear as they dove but Jericho didn't dare turn around. In an instant he felt the impact of a bullet in his shoulder. It stunned him for a moment but he gained his wits and focused on flying the machine. Wordon's gun was silent. With all that was going on Jericho was amused that he noticed the wound did not hurt as much as he thought it would. The lines were getting closer now and he had to level off for fear of going over the enemy trenches too low. He heard Wordon open up again. "Son of a B*#tch" he thought but soon they went silent again and no return fire was coming their way. He could now see Bellevue in the distance and made for it. "They should make this my home field" he thought. As he was bringing the Morane in he started to feel faint. "Hold on Pard" he told himself. The next thing he knew, he was at a regimental aid post with The Newfoundland Regiment. He could not understand a word they were saying. "Ease up on the reins a bit Pard. Talk a little slower and in English!" He finally was made to understand he and Wordon, who was wounded in the shoulder also were being sent to Beauval. "Be sure to tell the Major we knocked one of the Bas@#rds down " he said before went passed out again.
As he sat a shadow crossed over his eyes and when he looked up he was stunned when he saw the Major standing next to him. He started to stand up when the Major put a hand to his shoulder and said "at ease Lt." With that the Major pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. Jericho grimaced as he turned to face the Major. "It sure is good to see you Major. You here to take me back? Jericho said forcing a smile. The Major laughed, "not just yet Lt. It will be a few days before you can return to the squadron." Jericho frowned "I sure wish you were, this here sure is a foul place." The Major looked at the Jericho, "All in good time Lt. All in good time. Are you being treated well?" He asked. Jericho answered "Oh just fine Major, just fine. There are a lot of boys here need a lot more than me." The Major pulled out some paper from his briefcase. "I need one thing from you. Lt Griffen observed the Eindecker you brought down and all I need is your signature to make it official. Good thing your right arm is good." Jericho looked at the Major. "Sure thing Major. I sure am glad someone saw it. May be they will confirm this one." The Major patted Jericho on the back. "Oh its been confirmed Lt. I just needed your signature to make it official." He smiled as he stood up. "You take care of yourself here Lt. and I'm sure you will be back in a few days and don't worry, you will be back in the air as soon as the Doctors say you can fly and not one day later. Jericho was shocked! Victory N0. 5. "Sure thing Major. I'll be ready in no time."
Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from either end. BOC Member since....I can't remember!
#4478010 - 06/13/1911:13 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Well gentlemen, I find myself with a little more time now. And that happily means that I can write more. I hope you didn't groan when you read that.
This is really the first of a three part introduction to Stanley's new squadron, because otherwise it would be very long indeed.
Figures for the end of May. 2Lt William AG Stanley 16 squadron RFC La Gorgue 1 victory 65.03 hours of active duty. ---------------------------- 2nd Lieutenant Stanley knocked on the door of Major Powells' office in the farmhouse at Beaupré. “Come in.” “You asked to see me sir?” “So I did Stanley,” Powell indicated the the chair opposite his desk. William Stanley sat down. “How did your art obs go?” His CO asked in a genial tone. Stanley smiled in relief. It wasn't a dressing down then. “It went well sir. All guns zeroed in in forty minutes. The Hun didn't interfere.” “Glad to hear it.” Powell pulled an envelope to the centre of his desk. “I have received orders for you to report to 32 squadron at St Omer. They are a new DH2 squadron that have just come out. It seems that they have already lost a flight commander and you are to replace him.”
“Sir,” Stanley objected, “I'm only a second lieutenant. I cannot lead a flight!” “Well, someone seems to think that you can. The appointment comes with a temporary rank of captain. Without the pay, naturally.” “Well sir, the money isn't the thing.” “This is an excellent opportunity for you... Captain Stanley*. Congratulations! You leave in the morning, so I have instructed Nesbitt to put together a dinner and a binge.” Powell smiled and shook Stanley's hand.
The first of June was a Thursday, and William Stanley was in the tender as it drove into St Omer. Every jolt of the road enraged the headache that he was nursing and he twisted his head in an effort to stave it off.
The congratulations from the officers in the mess had been sincere. Once the alcohol was flowing freely, the pilots teased Stanley about his temporary rank.
Allcock even came up with a song, which was quickly taken up by the others. It went to the tune of They were only playing leapfrog.
“He is not a proper captain! No! He's not a proper captain. He is not a proper captain, but he's a proper toff!”
Not the wittiest production of the RFC messes, but it stung Stanley a little too much. “I say! I'm sure 32 squadron will be twice what 16 is.”
Stanley regretted this instantly. Not least because of the HP sauce bottle that flew past his head, smashing on the wall in an explosion of glass and brown goop.** 16 squadron was a fine collection of brave men and he succeeded in settling things down with a generous three rounds of drinks.
Obliged by three scotches to leave Stanley alone but still in a mood to tease, Allcock decided to pick on Thayre. The ditty was not a new one, but was popular with everyone but Thayre himself, who complimented the recital with a series of rude noises.
“There was a young pilot called Thayre who went for a ride in the air When his petrol was spent He landed in Kent And surrendered at once to the mayor!”***
Stanley decided to get some lunch before reporting with 32 squadron. He instructed the driver to drop him at a likely looking hotel.
As his food arrived, a couple of pilots came from upstairs. Stanley wondered if this hotel was some sort of bordello. His thoughts were quickly corrected.
“I'm glad we're getting out of these digs soon. Bill; you speak French better than we do. Order us some lunch,” a bright faced lieutenant told the youngest in the party. Bill waved at the waitress and the group sat down on the table next to Stanley.”
“Oeufs, bacon et pomme du terres pour quatre, s'il vous plaît madame.” “Oui, petit noir. Voulez vous quelque-chose pour boire?” “Um,” the slick haired young pilot hesitated and looked at his colleagues. “Tea?” There was a general assent. “Thé, s'il vous plaît.”
As they were waiting, the lieutenant looked across at Stanley. “I say, you look like you have seen better days.” Stanley took a sip of his tea. “I have. Farewell gift from my old squadron.” “Oh, you've been out for a while then? Heading for Blighty?” “Oh no! A new squadron has come out and I've been sent for.” “New? That'll be us I'll bet!” The man held out his hand, “Lieutenant Thomas, of thirty-two. This is Robb, Lewis and the very Prussian sounding von Poellnitz.” “Quite English, I assure you.” Poellnitz smiled. “I'm from Kent.****” “So I can hear,” Stanley grinned warmly. “My name is Stanley. So pleased to make your acquaintances. I am indeed being posted to thirty-two. What is the old man like?”
Gwilym Lewis (known to his friends as Bill)***** said, “Major Rees is an absolute prince of a man. He has been out here since the start of it all and has been teaching us all important lessons about war flying.” “I look forward to making his acquaintance then.” Stanley took another sip of his tea. “Which I shall be doing this afternoon.”
------------- * Stanley is still a 2nd Lieutenant, but due to the squadron ranks being off in the game, he has been made flight leader most of the time (3 flights so far). This is my solution.
** There are several bottles of HP sauce in the material collected by archaeological digs at Beaupré.
*** The month after Stanley leaves, 16 squadron produce a humorous pamphlet called the Beaupré song book. This limerick survives in there. Probably to Fred Thayre's annoyance.
**** Actually, Herman von Poellnitz was born in Italy, but that wouldn't really help. His grandfather was a Bavarian baron who emigrated to Britain.
*****I think it's in the credits of WOFF, but here is a recording of Gwilym Lewis. He describes himself as Welsh, but he doesn't speak with a Welsh accent.
Raine, I love your Scottish characters! Another wonderful chapter. Wulfe, you're writing another masterpiece. It amazes me you still find some time to fly in addition to all the storytelling! I wish you a speedy recovery. I was recently quite ill and couldn't even think about DID flying. MFair, I'm happy to see Jericho keeps doing so well. He's a real character and I always enjoy reading about his adventures. carrick, your pilots always seem to find the prettiest nurses. Who would ever want to leave a hospital like that? Maeran, a fantastic introduction to Stanley! I love those corny jokes: "32 squadron will be twice what 16 is".
My apologies if I missed somebody's recent entry. I try to read everything, but sometimes there are so many new stories that it's possible to accidentally ignore one or two of them.
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps
#4478153 - 06/14/1907:51 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Raine: Dolly Mixtures were still a thing when I was at school in London in the 60's. I preferred blackjacks but they made your lips go black. Great detail!
MFair: Congrats to Jericho on #5 but be careful up there!
Wulfe: Get well soon!
Fullofit: Over 40 victories. Very impressive!
Hasse: Congrats to Julius's brother!
Carrick: #%&*$# you, lucky devil with those pinup nurses at your bedside all the time.
Maeran: Welcome back in, good dittys
CHAPTER FOUR - RAIN, STORMS, AND AN UNEXPECTED VISIT.
Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal June 14th, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun. KEK Sivry
KEK Sivry had not managed to fly too many sorties due to the weather. Those that they had made were blighted by thick cloud and stiff winds. Konrad was tired of getting lost in the clouds and even more tired of being reprimanded for it. To make matters worse, that dreadful man Strunze had managed to knock down one of those observation balloons. He now had nine victories and a damned medal to go with them! However, Konrad was slightly more cheerful today, since Strunze had had a close call yesterday and ended up in hospital with his wounds. Konrad wasn't sure how badly he'd been hurt and he wasn't planning to visit him to find out. Instead, he was enjoying having the cabin to himself, listening to the rain beat down upon the tin roof, and reading from his collection of saucy magazines. Well, a man has his needs, he thought to himself, smiling lasciviously at the images of young ladies in various states of undress.
Suddenly, a knock at the door had him scrambling to tuck his "literature" under the cot.
"Enter!", he called out. In walked Hptmn. Boelcke, his eyes immediately scanning the room.
"Von Blumenthal, a quick word".
"Sir!", said Konrad, rising to salute.
"Once the weather changes for the better, I want you flying on my right wing. I'm tired of returning to find that you lost your way, or had engine troubles. It seems to be one thing after another. So, from now on you will stick to me like glue, do you understand? This way you will learn how to hunt and to survive. You will watch and learn!". His last few words were barked out, and hung in the air even after he had left the cabin. Konrad cursed under his breath. He suspected he was in for an uncomfortable time ahead.