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Nels Albertson Writes a Letter

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20 July 1916

 

 

 

Oscar,

 

I find myself with a free hour this evening and decided to take the opportunity to write. I hope this letter finds you safe and well. I know you lads in the Fusiliers have been having a time of it at La Boisselle, but from what I've read it looks like you gave the Hun a real trouncing, so no doubt you'll be coming home with all sorts of souvenirs from that outing. Wouldn't Far be thrilled to have one of those picklehaubes as a paperweight on his desk!

 

I imagine by now the folks have caught you up about my being promoted to Squadron Commander of No. 5. Now isn't that a fine state of affairs. Headmaster Evans wouldn't have trusted me as class monitor, yet here I am in charge of a naval air wing! And Mor told me in her last letter that you are also sporting some new uniform trim, as a Captain in the 13th. Well done Ossie! Fate is a strange and funny bird, isn't she?

 

Let me tell you of our mission this morning, (though I know the censors will have field day with this when I send it, so I'm not sure how much of the story you'll get). HQ had handed down orders for an attack on the main rail yards at Cambrai, and as this was one of those missions that could well have proven to be an ender, I chose to take it upon myself to lead the flight. As the mechanicians prepared our planes, I briefed the lads on the target and route. We were lucky in that HQ allocated a group of Fee's from No. 22 RFC to provide us escort; a most welcome addition I must say. We have flown more than our share of unattended jaunts over the mud so I am always grateful for the extra help. Not that my boys can't hold their own and then some in the Strutters mind you, but the more guns the better when going up against a flock of Einies.

 

The day proved to be ideal in terms of weather. High thin clouds, warm, sunny, and only the slightest breeze blowing easterly. Ossie, you cannot imagine how strong the upper winds can blow, and always towards Hunland it seems. It makes for wonderful speed to the targets, but is the very devil to fly against when going back home. Add to that all the hate the enemy throws at you from the ground and the odd lot of hositle scouts that might cross your path and it makes for an exciting time. But today, we at least did not have to worry about the wind. We rolled from our aerodrome and proceeded southeasterly to join up with the RFC, who were spot on time at the designated rendezvous. As we climbed up through the wispy layers of white the whole of Flanders and beyond spread out before us and I could see all the way from Calais to Valenciennes. As we approached the front lines Archie got busy and began dotting the air with his spiteful puffs of smoke and shrapnel. They look harmless enough from a distance, but I can assure such is not the case when one comes calling near your bus. They will knock you about plenty, and punch some unwelcomed holes through your wings and tail feathers. But to be honest, that's about the best they ever do.

 

Nearing Cambrai, the Kaiser's ground crews stepped it up further and the sky was thick with AA bursts. Suddenly my observer tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to some specks above and off our starboard wing. They turned out to be enemy monoplanes, which the RFC boys quickly tore into, allowing us to continue on to the target. I lead my trio of B/R's on through the barrage and towards the rail yards, and we all leveled of at 7,000' to prepare for our run. Kenny, (that's my observer, Sgt. Kenneth Shewtum; outstanding lad to have guarding my six I might add, and I've put him up for the MM), readied the bombs whilst I made a final minor course adjustment, after which we let go all our eggs. It's a funny thing; even though it take but a few seconds for the bombs to reach the earth, it seems like an eternity as you hover above waiting to see the end results of your best attempts. Today we were not disappointed. I watched as the first pair of eggs bracketed the depot and it burst into flames. Immediately thereafter the next lot landed in the midst of the rolling stock, blowing several cars to bit. My wingmen had equally good success and we left the Hun below in a much sorrier state than we'd found them. I turned back towards the west and we headed post hast to the nearest section of the lines, dodging and dipping and rising to throw off the AA. That is the disconcerting part about a bomb run. You have to fly level and true long enough to get a good line on the target and Archie knows this, so he takes full advantage of that time to get a good line on you. Even though I despise them I do have to give them full marks on occasion for their accuracy, especially that crew around Cambrai.

 

We crossed back over into friendly territory without anything more to show for it than a few vents in our lower wing and a small chunk of shell casing that had jammed itself into my map case. The RFC had mixed it up with the Hun scouts nicely, sending a brace of them down out of control and the rest packing for home. I gave a wing waggle to the Fee's when they turned off for their own aerodrome near Armentieres, and my flight and I continued northward towards our own digs. Landed, and was back in time for a late lunch. A good morning's work for my boys and I.

 

Well, it is now nearly eight bells, so I best end this vignette and get some kip. Tomorrow morning will be coming early as we have a dawn appointment with another bit of Boche property. Take care of yourself Ossie, and write me when you can.

 

Your big brother, Nels

 

 

.

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Hey "Nels." You should post this in the Reports from the front sticky thread for posterity. Very good job of putting us in the situation.

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Glad you Gents liked it. And thanks for the suggestion griphos, consider it done...in fact, it is.

 

:yes:

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

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Superb job, both in the writing and in leaving Johnny Hun's train set in pieces. :good:

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Thanks Dej, I enjoyed writing it. And I love when all the tiny bits fly in the air and can't be put back together again. So satisfying...so very, very satisfying. :biggrin:

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

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