The 'anti-Richthofen squadron' is tested in battle!
My first show with No. 56 Squadron in France, flown in the superlative Wings over Flanders Fields, saw me wounded and hospitalised for nearly two weeks. My recovery complete, it's now 13th May 1917 ('Lucky for some', as they say) and I'm once again leading 'B' Flight. This time, there's three of us - my companions are Dixie and Prince, names it will help to remember if I need to identify witnesses to any victories I may manage (I have WoFF's victory claim form option turned on again). I'm glad to see the weather is once again cloudy but fine, though disappointed that our mission is a patrol behind our own lines, down to the town of Albert a short distance to the south east.
Albert was famous during World War 1 for the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the town's basilica. Knocked askew into a gravity-defying angle by shellfire in 1915, the legend grew that the statue's fall would signal the end of the war. It didn't, but the statue was still hanging on for dear life at the time of this mission, in mid-May 1917
I waste no time in leaving Vert Galand behind and as soon as the three of us are in formation, I begin to climb. I'm following the route indicated on the Tactical Display, which generally throws in some extra waypoints that are not indicated on the in-flight map, seemingly designed to enable you to gain height in a wide spiral before you settle onto your course for the patrol area.
This also helps stay reasonably close - for a while, anyway - to any supporting flight. Which we have on this show, as 'A' Flight is said to be flying top cover. For a while, I see them below and ahead of us, but our paths soon diverge and I'm not sure if we'll see them again. You can just about make out the four S.E.s of 'A' Flight at about eleven o'clock of my nose, in the pic below.
I'm soon turning onto the the last leg of our course down towards Albert, still climbing to the ten thousand feet I want to be at. This will give us a decent chance of spotting any Huns trying to slip in below us, but should be just about high enough to see, and hopefully intercept, any higher-flying customers, like the DFWs I ran into on the last show. In fact I'm rather hoping to renew my acquaintance with these gentlemen, two-seaters on a recce being the most likely trade I will get behind our own lines.
A few minutes more and I see a town ahead and left, which a glance at my map tells me is Doullens. It will be a useful landmark on the way home, too.
Visibility is rather hazy towards the horizon, but not too bad at altitude. Except for the longest hops, I enjoy flying my WoFF missions in real time - none of the WW1 air combat sims I have flown do such a good job of creating the sights, sounds and general ambience of WW1 in the air and the flight to and WoFF, for me, manages to make what in other sims is something I'd prefer to fast-forward through, an experience to savour rather than skip.
My reverie is cut short as I see a small group of specks in the sky ahead, slightly right and at about the same height. I have 'dot mode' turned on, set to 4,000 metres if I recall right. The specks are moving left to right, deeper into our territory. They aren't being shelled, so they could be friendlies, though the ample cloud cover may be the explanation for that.
I turn right and settle onto an intercepting course, keeping them just left of my nose and gaining a little height. It occurs to me that this could be the same five DFWs I met yesterday; if so, this time they'll have the three of us to reckon with, not just yours truly.
As I watch, something odd happens. One of the specks detaches itself from the rest and falls away. I can't work this out. Is it a member of a frindly formation, going down to land? Or an EA ('Enemy Aircraft') making a solo attack of some description?
The other specks hold their course, leaving me a bit worried about what it is the one who dived away is up to. I bank left to watch him but can't pick him out against the ground.
After A second or two I give ip, and look ahead again. Not a moment too soon, for the other specks are specks no more; they are four Albatros Scouts heading straight at us! Crikey!
...to be continued!