More incidents and accidents in my current Rise of Flight career
Stachel’s next two missions follow what’s becoming a familiar pattern – first, a patrol west to the front, turning south to fly down the trenchlines. Then another interception in the airspace a short distance to the south-east.
Both times, I used PWCG’s pilot selection screen to ensure I was leading a flight of four aircraft, with pilots I had led before. I appreciate the ability to do this in First Eagles 2 and prefer it to the random, changing flight allocations of Wings over Flanders Fields. It means I’m flying with people I can begin to identify with...and care about. I’ve chosen to bring along two inexperienced pilots and to balance that, I’m taking Hermann Fromherz in his distinctive Blaue Maus.
Despite being badly injured in the crash on Friday the 13th – saved only by a pilot injury limit set inadvertently in Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator – I’ve been off duty only a couple of days, till April 15th! Evidently, Richard Stachel has the constitution of a particularly indestructible ox.
By this time, the real-life Battle of Arras was in full swing, though the only sign of this in Rise of Flight is some scattered shellfire and a mantle of smoke and dust low over No-Man’s Land.
The line patrol was uneventful…for a while. The first bit of excitement came when I spotted another group of aircraft to our north, as we approached the lines. I watched this lot carefully for a while, before deciding that were friendly, probably another patrol of Albatrosses like our own.
The next excitement came when I saw my three flight-mates nosing up and slightly right. This was serious, the real thing. They’d spotted something, obviously! I do wish WW1 sims could come up with some way – other than on-screen aids – of letting you know a flight-mate had made a sighting. I don’t expect them to dive in front, waggle their wings and point, as per real life, but even a flash of red to simulate a warning flare, anything but just breaking formation without audible or visible warning! As I have said before, I prefer the First Eagles 2 way, where your flight won’t break formation unless attacked or ordered to.
Looking up and ahead in the direction my boys were climbing, I saw three aircraft above us, on a nearly reciprocal course. As they flew overhead, I identified them as tan-coloured SPADs, a type I haven’t met before in this campaign.
I gave the attack order and turned in under them, expecting them to drop onto us. But no! They just flew straight on. Perhaps they hadn’t seen us under their noses, or were put off their stride by our reaction. Anyway, around we came and went for them. One turned right, pursued by at least one Albatros; the other two banked left, moving fast, and I cut in after this pair.
I slipped in behind and below the nearest SPAD but could get no closer. Speedy little devils, these SPADs. And this fellow had enough sense to hold onto his height.
So, I had to go up to his level, which of course extended the range. This is where the firepower of two machine-guns can come in handy. I let the revs build up again after my climb - Rise of Flight is I think the only WW1 sim which links your rate of fire to your revolutions per minite - and cut loose. I hoped either to hit, damage and slow him, or to cause him to make a turn which I could cut across.
He opted to make the turn, so I opted to cut inside it.
A few more bursts did the trick. The Englishman rolled over and fell earthwards in a steep dive, trailing light grey smoke. I didn't dally to watch him crash, but something about the fixed, inexorable way he was going down told me that this was the end for him.
Behind and below me, the party was still in full swing. And our flak had joined in, just to make it that bit more interesting for all concerned.
I was wary of joining in a general melée for fear of a collision, so, as is my wont, I orbited above, waiting for an opportunity. This duly presented itself in the most common form: an enemy broke away from the fight. So I rolled over...
...and came down after him at full power...
The speed built up in my dive enabled me to catch him up quickly. He was probably damaged, for he was flying straight and level. But this was no time for restraint or any misplaced sense of chivalry.
I closed right in and blasted him, throttling back to stay in position. He just kept going so I just kept blasting him. He wasn’t taking any evasive action at all, but he wasn’t going down, either. He just sat there in front and soaked up my bullets. This was taking much too long. A look behind confirmed my tail was clear so I resumed shooting, shaking my head at my expenditure of ammunition on this one target, but unable to think of anything cleverer to do.
At long last, the SPAD's prop spun to a stop. That'll do, I decided, more from a desire to preseve what rounds I had left, than from any finer feelings for my foe. I last saw him gliding west, slowly losing height...very slowly. It occurred to me that he might well reach his own side of the lines, but for now, I was more concerned to see how my flight was getting on.
'Quite well, thank you very much', was the answer to that. If anyone was annoyed at me (probably) finishing off the SPAD that someone else had damaged in the earlier scrap, they didn't show it. They were too busy chasing the last SPAD back over the lines. As I watched, one of them had a crack at him from astern, then pulled up leaving the SPAD trailing black smoke as well as white - but still flying, wings level, and apaprently maintaining height.
I was pretty confident that Englishman wasnt going to make it home either, but I still gave him a long burst for good measure, before breaking off too. By now, we were well into No-Man's Land so rather than risk straying onto the enemy's side of the lines, I turned back east and ordered a recall. The others were soon wheeling around after me.
And they were all there! I love bringing back all my people at the end of the mission. If we have managed to knock down some of the other side, so much the better.
The RoF mission end screen credited me with two victories, so that is what I claimed in PWCG. However, the map debriefing gave me all three SPADs shot down!
They must have been from either 19 or 23 Squadrons, which were the only RFC units in France to operate this type.
Meanwhile, the news was bad for the French Army...
...but rather good for Richard Stachel, who is now the second highest scorer in Jasta Boelcke; although in private, even Satchel isn't convinced that his real score should be quite so high.
Anyhow, to cap it all, Stachel now has another 'gong' to add to his collection. No, not the Blue Max, not yet, but the Order of the House of Hohenzollern.
But as Richard is about to be reminded, you have to watch these aggressive English fliers; just when you think you have their measure, you learn that life isn't always so simple...
...to be continued!