Henri Patois Verdun April 13, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
It is my fault, of course. A dawn patrol, this morning. Over the lines, we were jumped by a flight of Albatros scouts swooping down from above us. How could I have missed them? My flight responded perfectly, splitting up to divide them and then turning around upon ourselves to bring them into each other's guns. Unfortunately, two of the Huns had latched onto the tail of my wingman, Sous Lieutenant Dreux. In his more fragile Nieuport, he could not dive away! I managed to chase off one of his pursuers, but it was too late, he went down smoking and burning to smash upon the broken earth below. I took down one of the enemy and almost had another before I was compelled to withdraw. I do not know if my synchronizer was damaged or malfunctioning, but my Vickers was barely firing! To fight another day, it must be then... until that time, I must write to M. and Mme. Dreux and bring the terrible news of their son to them.
Nice RR. Good victory and nice escape from the last Alby. I feel for your fitter though. Couldn't you have at least pulled a little closer to the shed mate?
Roadie job security...
Henri Patois Verdun April 15, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
Today was a rail yard attack. As we made our way low over the broken landscape, an occasional wave or cheer came up to us from the boys below. Across the line, all was quiet. Not a single round or shell was expended in our direction. As we approached our target, the enemy finally attacked from above! The rest of my flight kept them busy as I dove on the rail yard. My rockets tore through the warehouses as my Vickers barked holes in the line of rail cars and the locomotive. As I swing around, more enemy scouts swooped down. I turned with two them at low altitude. One of the pilots couldn't handle it and stalled out, crashing into the ground with a sickening crunch. I came around on the second scout and fired on him, chasing and firing on him until his wing came off and he fell away. I then expended the rest of my ammunition on the rail yard and we made our way back across the lines, quite pleased with ourselves...
Henri Patois Verdun April 21, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
I cannot wait for this month to end! Nothing but rain and death these last few weeks. I went up with my new ailier, Caporal Cousin, on a balloon bust. We snuck across the lines and climbed above the balloon on the east side, diving down towards our lines and firing as we went. By the time the drachen went up, we were already on our way home, the defending scouts left fuming behind us.
I should have known the sentiment would have to be repaid. After several days of weather washouts, we were up on a line patrol. To our amazement, we encountered a pair of German recce craft inside our lines! We were between them and escape! Moving to attack, we were beaten to it by A flight, who swooped down to dispatch one of the interlopers. As they went after the other however, Caporal Villars collided with the hun in a tremendous crash and his SPAD went down in a plume of smoke and flame. Minutes later, the tardy hun escorts dove on us, firing hard. I took a ball in the leg, which fortunately passed right through. After I had rapidly patched the bleeding with my scarf, I joined the fight in full. I gave as good as I got and after several minutes we had worked our way down to the trenches, where I finally dispatched one enemy. Deciding to head home and get my wound tended to, I broke south. Making my way back at low altitude, the Marquis finally caught up to me in his speedy SPAD. I continued to watch, but Caporal Cousin was shot down over the lines. Two ailiers in as many weeks! To add to my chagrin, we were surprised when Caporal Villars was driven into camp that night. It seems that he had only sustained minor injuries in the crash. I say it is very disheartening that we who fly the Nieuports are fated to die, while those who have SPADs survive! I can only wonder if it is my turn next...
Rick, take solace from the fact that it is only a few, chosen ones with this super power. Hmmm...Super Power - that's the first two letters of SPAD. Could it be? Super Powers After Death? Thank God for those thick ankles. Otherwise the bullet would have hit the bone for sure.
"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."
Henri Patois Verdun April 24, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
Much has happened since last I wrote. I was promoted to Adjutant. With my fifth confirmed kill, I was celebrated as an ace. And finally, I was given one of the escadrille's N24 scouts to fly. I find it not much of an upgrade, I must say. The upper wing visibility is a little better, the windscreen visibility a little worse. Also, the offset Vickers gun is harder to aim. Anyway, I had the craft painted with a set of lucky dice, which seems to describe my career so far! Today I really needed it as we were jumped by some Hun scouts while observing enemy artillery pieces hidden in the woods. Fortunately, my attacker was no better shot than me and I was able to survive the initial onslaught. Afterwards, we broke up into or usual twos and threes to begin the deadly dance. I climbed up to the top most enemy of the crowd. Sadly, he seemed to be a new flier, as he neither escaped, which he could have easily done, nor evaded. Instead, he circled around aimlessly, like a dog who waits for a master doomed never to return. I fired on him until his engine gave out and then I went away. Maybe he was able to pull out of his deep dive and survive. I kind of hope he did. As I made my way back to the front, I encountered two more Albatros scouts on more equal footing. I put rounds into both, but they dove away and I was in no mind to follow, alone and low over the lines. So I went back to ponder where this war would take us next.
It's where the beer holder was supposed to go, but you know the higher-ups; "You can't have a beer holder in a fighter plane! It will spill all over you when you invert and waste good beer!" I...well...ok, they were right this time but.....GRRRR!
Henri Patois Verdun April 26, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
Having been badly ambushed the last couple of flights, I determined that only nosebleed-inducing altitudes would be considered for today's trip over the lines. So we took our leisurely time climbing up as high as I could stand. I would say it is as likely as not we were over 4200 meters! And it seemed to work! We found a pair of Albatros scouts that we were able to dive down upon. They themselves dove away and we felt inclined to follow. I have to admit with all the creaking my Nieuport does, I am waiting for that fateful day comes when the creak becomes a CRACK! and the spar breaks and I tumble down wingless, so I did not follow them as quickly as I might have. Anyway, we chased them down to the ground and I dropped one right on the edge of his aerodrome! The rest of my flight finished off the other.
Being in good condition, we climbed all the way back up and resumed our patrol. Further behind the lines, we came out above a flight of seven of the Albatros scouts. They spotted us before I could get in the sun and since the Marquis had already gone home with a trick engine, I decided not to attack with just the three of us remaining. Returning to the front, we spied two more scouts below us and eagerly engaged. Again in a series of descending turns, I was able to finish off the lead craft, although these two put up a better fight than the earlier pair. Feeling pleased with ourselves, we returned home.
Needless to say that since it was me and we were over the lines and despite the fact that my entire flight was present, both kills were denied...
Henri Patois Verdun April 30, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
It's been three days that I've been grounded with a shoulder wound. They say I can go back up in a few more. Apparently my lucky dice held, for if the wound was a few inches over, it would have been the heart or lungs! Painful still, and to think we were only patrolling our side of the lines! We went up to about 3500 meters and began looking for trouble. I saw it in a flight of Huns off to the south. Turning towards them, we were overpassed by a flight of German recce craft. We drove at the recon craft and split them apart with our pass. The rest of my flight stalled the escorts while I continued the attack. I closed on one a/c and fired from such a close range that I saw the observer slump over in his seat, wounded or dead. I must have got the pilot with the same burst, for the entire craft spiraled down and was seen to crash far below. Moving on to the second Hun, I fired and fired until his engine died. He thought he would just coast across the lines and be safe! Having none of that, I pursued my attack. As I closed and fired, I hoped for a repeat of my first victory. It was not to be as I felt a burning sensation in my left shoulder that jerked me back in my seat. Properly chastised, and with minimal cursing, I retired from the field, maybe to meet again in some future engagement!
Henri Patois Verdun May 1st, 1917 Escadrille3 No. 23
Patrol over the lines yesterday... Up to around 4500m. There were three of us: my wingman, St. Pierre, Caporal Villars in his SPAD and myself. We first encountered a couple of two-seaters. It was so cold at this height, they should have each worn two sweaters! Anyway, I dove on one and after a long burst he rolled over, spun down and was not seen again. St. Pierre finished off the second. When we came back together again, Villars was not with us. We later found out that he had returned to base with a minor wound inflicted by the second recce craft. Unscathed and with plenty of ammunition left, St. Pierre and I continued on our patrol. Further behind the lines, we saw a flight of three scouts below us. After watching them for a while, I noticed that they were the older D II model Albatros. Even thought they had the advantage of numbers, it seemed worthwhile to go down and put them through the paces. I looked over to St. Pierre and he enthusiastically waved me on. We dove on the three and one of them immediately fled the area. The other two started turning with me. It turned out that they were actually piloted quite well. I looked over to see my wingman circling in the distance while I bore the brunt of the fight. It turns out that he was waving to me that his gun was jammed, not that I should press the attack! After several minutes, all parties broke off, I none the worse for wear after having put at least a few rounds into my enemies. Once my wingman saw me get clear, he dove down and snuck back across the lines safely. I followed but at altitude. Moments later, I caught the other Albatros trying to sneak up on me! We twisted into a knife fight and I was able to get behind him and fire over and over again. He fluttered down as if mortally wounded but I kept after him and caught him as he pulled up at ground level. The only question at this point was if he would ever go down for good! I fired and fired and fired and finally he crashed into some trees, his plane igniting as he did.
Making my way back, I was good and fairly jumped by a pair of the V-Strut Albatros scouts. Outnumbered and lacking any height advantage, I decided to flee the field as soon as I could manage. After a few minutes, the opportunity presented itself as both my opponents had dove down. We parted company, no one having convincingly harmed the other.
This morning I woke to learn that my kills were confirmed and that I was being awarded the Croix de Guerre for my actions. Lucky dice indeed!