Lou - Excellent pic of the pyramids there. Another fine outing by Freddy.
OK, now it's time to get this thread back on topic after four, count 'em, pages of digression. It was fun, I do admit.
BTW, I received a courtesy memo from the relevant authority and should warn you Anglophile types that you may be facing a formal tsk-tsking for failing to recognize or comment when I dropped two of the most famous literary addresses in SW London. I even mentioned the Bellamy's next door in the first one. Untold minutes laying these Easter eggs... I had to cry in the shower briefly.
_________________________________________________________________________À la Recherche du Temps Perdu - Part 46 of many29 October 1917
56 Squadron RFC
Major Blomfield saw A-Flight off on the morning patrol for the last time. I made it a point to thank him again for bringing me to 56. I have no desire to command a squadron but should that fate befall me, his would be the example I would follow. I will miss our dapper little CO and his boundless energy.8.00
Line Patrol Neuve-Chapelle to Vimy Ridge. Exploded a plug after takeoff. Returned to Estree. 1.30
Afternoon amazingly clear. Distant Offensive Patrol from Wynghene Aerodrome NW to the Roulers/Ostend Road. Hoidge, Turnbull, Johnson, Dodds and Read. Still worried about Read but he looked positively enthusiastic this morning. I set Turnbull to look after him.
Lines at 8000 feet. Northeast of Roulers we tangled with a pack of six Pfalz. His left top plane folded after my second burst.
Found Dodds then grabbed west looking for the remainder of A Flight. Caught another Hun racing for home. The second Pfalz crashed into the trees but didn’t explode.
I circled the wreck and thought I saw the pilot drag himself from the cockpit. Another day, Fritz!
A flight was scattered all over Hunland. Low on ammunition and altitude Dodds and I headed west to our lines collecting Hoidge and Johnson along the way. Circling back we saw no sign of Turnbull or Read.
Passing NW of Ypres 3 Albatri attacked from height. Periwinkles again!
After a brief fight, one Alb fled east, Dodds and Hoidge saw to their man
I had the third in jeopardy when my Lewis jammed. The Vickers was empty. When I zoomed high to clear the stoppage, Herr Periwinkle seized his chance and made good his escape.
Turnbull and Read landed shortly after our return to Estrée. They’d scrapped inconclusively with some Albatri near Ypres. Turnbull reported that Read had sent one Hun east trailing smoke. Read appeared completely undone. He sat down on the grass shaking and remained completely unresponsive. Hoidge and I stood him up and got him into the Squadron hut where Grandpa Marson administered some medicinal whiskey. Read had done his duty but the poor bugger wasn’t cut out for combat flying. The CO sent him off to hospital.
Evening dispatch rider brought news from Wing confirming both Pfalz. 84 now.
Major Rainsford Balcombe-Brown, MC assumed command today. He was six months with No.1 Squadron last year, essentially the entire Somme battle. I don’t envy him. He has some huge shoes to fill succeeding ‘Dickie’ Blomfield. Change of Command. Rainsford Balcombe-Brown and Richard Blomfield30 October 1917
56 Squadron RFC
Patrol of Friendly lines this morning. Circling for altitude in our usual spot near Fruges, my radiator burst. Belching steam I headed back to Estrée-Blanche. Engine quit over the Lys with Estrée Blanche in sight. Landed safely.
Two days in a row! Flight Sgt Picket and Corporal Allyn put the proverbial bullet to the head of this Hispano. I’ll fly a spare this afternoon while they fit a new engine to B.35
Read’s replacement arrived this afternoon. Indra Roy. He is the first Indian pilot I’ve met. I liked him immediately.
Spent the late morning on the bag then the afternoon taking Roy up on Orientation and training flights. I do hope he lasts longer than poor Read. 31 October 1917
56 Squadron RFC
A-Flight would attack the Loos Rail junction and for the first time carry 4 Cooper bombs. Unopposed into the target which received a d@mned good thrashing.
No sooner had I reformed A Flight when a Boche gunner scored a lucky shot and holed my petrol tank. I could smell the fuel as I climbed frantically for the lines, some 5 miles distant. Switching to the gravity tank I was above No Man’s Land when the Hispano died. Fortunately, I had sufficient altitude to glide into friendly territory.
Landed in a field near Bethune. Grandpa dispatched a repair crew, and I was airborne and back to Estrée-Blanche for lunch.14.30
Afternoon Patrol with Hoidge, Turnbull, Dodds and Cawson escorting 2 R.E.8s from RFC-34 on a mission to bomb Hun positions NE of Marcoing. After three bombing passes, we saw the Harry Tates toward then scrapped with a flight of seven silver Pfalz DIIIs. Chased one Hun then broke off to clear Cawson’s tail. Many hits. The final burst separated his right wing. I caught Pfalz number 2 at lower altitude. He fell just south of Riencourt.
The Boche gunners at Riencourt expressed their displeasure and ventilated B.35.
Crossing back to our lines a third Pfalz flew right past me headed for Hunland. Vickers was empty and I had barely half a drum of Lewis. He may have been damaged since he didn’t maneuver much. I emptied the drum of Lewis at 30 yards but he flew on, belching black smoke. I’d hit his controls and he flew in wide circles as I followed. I pulled alongside pointing down, but he refused. After 3 minutes circling, he lost control, went into a steep dive, and crashed 1 mile north of the Advanced Landing Ground at Bapaume.
Maybery borrowed McCudden’s machine (B’4863) this afternoon and almost came to grief. After several abortive attacks he finally latched onto and downed a black and blue Albatros before he was set upon by the fellow’s companions, one of whom holed his petrol tank. At the last moment he remembered his gravity tank and made it over the lines, landing at Ballieul.
Two of the three Pfalz confirmed. 861 November 1917
56 Squadron RFC
Weather rainy but Major B-B went up early and found it clearing over the lines. Flyable.9.45
– A flight would go 20 miles into Hunland to attack the aerodrome at Varsenaere – Hoidge, Turnbull, Johnson, Dodds and Cawson.
Howling winds and intermittent squalls all the way to target.
Heading home we overflew 4 low Albatri. I was on the verge of waggling my wings and leading us down when I saw the flight of 7 Huns emerge from the clouds 4000 feet above. We continued for the lines.
Weather closed in come afternoon cancelling the afternoon patrol. I finally played my first match of Rugby football. A sloppy affair which our side won 13-8. After all the anticipation it was an anti-climax with Arthur gone. Still no news. We all keep up the pretense that he is a prisoner and will soon make good his escape, but if he were alive the Huns would not be silent about capturing one of the RFC’s finest. 2 November 1917
56 Squadron RFC
Rain. No war flying today. Weather cleared late afternoon. Slingsby went to Ballieul to retrieve B’4863 but got lost on his way back to Estrée-Blanche and landing in darkness he hit a house. He was unharmed but B’4863 was a complete write off. Mac will be furious. Hundreds of hours he’d lavished on that machine. I’d not want to be Slingsby when Mac returns from leave.3 November 1917
56 Squadron RFC
Estrée-Blanche, FranceThe plane lay crumpled. I found myself strangely fixated on the blue and white quartered wheels of B Flight sticking up from the inverted undercarriage that was the only recognizable part of the wreck. Then I saw him, or what was left of him.
His head and shoulders lay visible peeking out from under the wreckage, facing me. A head ever so slightly misshapen from the impact of his fall. That beatific childlike face whose laugh and light and wonder shone so brightly, now gone sickly white and lifeless. I wanted to turn away, but I couldn’t. Arthur! No!
Drawn in by some unseen force, I braced my feet to arrest my slide, but they kept slipping. I tried to call out, but no sound came...
The trapped groaning cry loosed itself at last and wrenched me from the dream as Hubert my tent mate shook me awake, speaking words of calm.
Was it starting? I’d seen this happen with other long-serving pilots, some of whom I’d dragged from their nightmares. More often than not they were going down in flames. I never dreamed of my own death, only my dead, and those ghosts were increasingly restless of late.