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Siggi

Frank's Diary.

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Furnes, France. Belgium. 11th Dec 1916.

 

I meant to be on top of this diary from day one, but what with one thing and another this has been my first chance to make an entry. What ho.

 

I arrived here on the 6th (dec 1916). The weather was atrocious and there was no flying until yesterday, which gave me a good chance to get settled into my quarters and meet all the chaps.

I was also introduced to my machine, a rather worn, much patched and generally decrepit looking thing (Nieuport 17 scout).

 

Yesterday morning was my first operational flight and I was rather left behind as the chaps in my flight climbed higher and faster than I was able. So for the second flight they put me in front, where they could keep an eye on me, and that will be the procedure from now on.

 

This morning I bagged a hun, much to the suprise of everyone. We were given the job of patrolling over the lines, just a few miles from our field. We spotted various hun planes going about their business, and the chaps engaged a group of two-seaters strafing and bombing our boys in the trenches. I was under orders to stay high and out of it and learn what I could from observation.

Shortly after that I spotted a hun scout, also engaged in the sport of strafing our chaps in the trenches. I felt obliged to disobey my orders and go after the blighter, as the others were still engaged with the two-seaters a good couple of miles further along the lines.

I dived carefully towards him, and I don't mind admitting I was in a bit of a state, heart thumping and all that stuff. I got behind him and I don't think he can have noticed me, as he made another pass towards our trenches and began firing again. I closed the gap and as he levelled out, not much higher than a hundred feet or so, I gave him a good squirt. He noticed me then! He pulled to the left and went into a shallow climb, which made it easier than it could have been to stay on his tail. I continued firing into him until his engine set alight. Then he went down, pouring flames and smoke, and landed on a grassy patch just in front of our trenches. He was still burning as he rolled to a stop and I've been informed he remained in his cockpit and burned to a crisp.

 

I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's not long to Christmas, and I'm sure he had a family somewhere who loved him and will now miss him dreadfully, and all the more so at this time of year. But then he was giving it to our boys in the trenches, and they have families too.

 

I'm not sure how it will be over the Christmas period. I don't think I should like to be fighting on our Lord's birthday, it wouldn't seem right somehow. Maybe there will be a truce, one can but hope.

 

Other notes...it's very cold and there are extensive patches of snow around and about. We are billeted in large tents, very damp and they don't hold the heat we make in the stoves very well. But we have it far better than the poor boys in the trenches. The flying itself is ok, the plane I have handles very well, though I'm told it can lose it's lower wings if given too much stress. That is a bit of a worry in fact, if it should come to having a hun on one's tail and needing to throw things around to get him off. I suppose that's a bridge I shall have to cross when I meet it. The CO and one of the other officer's have triplanes, and they are very nice. Hopefully we will get some ourselves.

Edited by Siggi

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Great post Siggi. Is he any relation to Sir Frank Williams of F1 fame?

 

No, I've named him after my uncle (who was actually named Valdimar, but hated that so he changed it to Frank). That side of the family (my mother's) are Icelandic.

 

Thanks chaps. Hopefully I'll get a good run out of this one.

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12th December 1916. Furnes.

 

What a blasted waste of time last night. I and my mechanics were up until 5am this morning, desperately trying to get my engine running correctly in time for operations today. We had it out on the bench in bits at one point. We got it done, only to have all flights grounded due to the weather. And it will probably be like this for the next few days, according to the weather wallahs. It's coming down hard, slushy snow that isn't settling properly, but damnedly cold never the less.

 

The C.O. is having red stripes painted on the nose of my machine and a big blue 1 on the fuselage, so they can all keep an eye on me more easily in the air. I rather feel like it will make me stick out like a sore thumb to the hun though.

 

There has been some tree-felling going on around our aerodrome, making it safer for our chaps while taking off and landing, and the wood is much needed at the front also. We have managed to bag a fair bit for our stoves but it's a bugger to get it burning well.

 

What else can I wtite. Had a letter from the old mater, there is a parcel to follow with Christmas goodies. It would be nice to go home for Christmas but there is no chance of it I'm afraid.

 

I'm not sure what we are going to do for the next few days. Kick our heels probably. We have more Sopwith Triplanes on the field, a total of three now. The more experienced pilots are going to get them first, so I expect I will have to wait a good while for one. I did think if my machine became 'broken' I might be in with an earlier chance, but the chaps tell me all I'd get is another hand-me-down Nupe.

 

Well, I shall toodle along to the mess and see what's up.

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21st December 1916.

 

It looks like we're to have a few days of decent weather, though yesterday was nearly my last and I have no more confidence with my perfectly horrid little plane. While chasing an Albatross low over the lines the lower left plane buckled and broke and I was barely able to set the machine down before it turned completely over. The carriage is smashed and the rest of it isn't in much better shape. I now have another hand me down. I got away with it scott free somehow. A horrid plane with a horrid gun and a horrid sight, which I'm forbidden to remove. The hun has one thousand rounds in his Albatross, five hundred for each gun, firing directly from the nose. Both fed from continuous belts. I have one on the top wing with two hundred and fifty rounds, split over five drums, and aren't they an absolute bugger to change. Yesterday I emptied the lot into an Albatross, and if it hadn't been for the pair of DH2s behind me who were also pouring it into him he would have got away.

 

My claim has been rejected, apparently there was a queue of gunners on the ground who claimed for him too, and as they need anything they can get to bolster their morale they've been given him. I don't mind, they probably did shoot him full of holes.

 

I shall be going up again in a while. I've been chastised for breaking my plane by flying it "too aggressively". Well, don't worry about that, from now on I shall be flying it like it's made of matchsticks. Oh, it is.

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13th January 1917.

 

They've had me on liason duties with the artillery chaps the last couple of weeks, which has been a godsend as it means I've avoided flying that horrible little plane. But I'm back at the field now and it looks like I'll be back on flying duties as soon as I'm found a plane. Rumour has it the Tripe is due any day now.

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Ah well, I'm just a young English lad abroad for his first time and doesn't know his arse from his elbow. :this:

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Ah well, I'm just a young English lad abroad for his first time and doesn't know his arse from his elbow. this.gif

 

Oh, but there's a great way to 'go local'. Get acquainted with the local Veurne female sex and they'll tell you the difference! grin.gif

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14th Jan 1917. Furnes.

 

Went up this afternoon on a balloon raid, in absolutely horrendous weather. I hit the gasbag with two rockets on my first pass and the blighter went down in flames. We were re-grouping when a bunch of Albs came in and we got stuck in. I latched onto one but he would just keep climbing in a circle and I could never get close enough.

Then his pal joined in and I decided to make a run for the lines. I got over ok and the chap behind looked to be a fair way off. I then saw a plane a couple of miles ahead and decided to look him over and he turned out to be another Alb. I got nice and close behind him, he was oblivious to my presence. Put a long burst into him and then got the fright of my life when the chap who had been chasing me did likewise to me. A shower of hits all over and I put the nose down hard and cork-screwed to the ground.

I was then chased for a good couple of miles until I turned around and went at him. Got behind him, pulled the trigger and nothing, the blasted gun had jammed. Nose down and run for it again, flying between trees and making for the nearest freindly field. Old hun couldn't get his guns to bear on me so I was feeling quite chipper, until the engine coughed and then burst into flames! I was only a few feet from the ground at that point, so I cut the ignition, put her down and jumped out before she'd even stopped rolling. The fire went out but the plane is in pretty poor shape. Hoorah! I doubt they'll find me another before the Tripes arrive. I was jolly tempted to set the bugger alight again.

 

Well, after that I trudged through a couple of miles of rotten snow until I reached a road and cadged a lift. The CO sent the Sq bus out to pick me up, congratulated me on my gasbag and gave me a bit of a stare when I told him I'd written off another Nupe. He asked me if I have shares in the company, whatever that means.

 

I'm going to get proper tiddly now.

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16th Jan 1917.

 

What a morning! We have our new Tripes and what a whizzo little bird she is! Just got back from our first patrol and it was a real wing ding. A bunch of Albs took us on and soon wished they hadn't. I was all over mine but I somehow managed to fly in front of him as he stalled during a sharp climb and he sprayed some rounds in my direction, a few of which hit and damaged the engine. I made off but there were planes all around me, and as the engine was still pulling strongly, despite coughing and spluttering, I went after another Alb. Well wouldn't you know it, it seems the hun has been given a new type also, it was an Alb but it had rounded tips on the main-planes. And this bugger had an all-green tail and didn't he know how to fly. I managed to get behind him but I couldn't stay there long enough to get a decent burst into him. And then I had to let him go as another DII got behind me and chased me off. I got behind him after a couple of turns and let him have it. And such joy, a decent gun with a decent number of rounds and a clear view over the sights. I went around on my hun a few times and pasted him on each pass until he went down into the lines.

 

I made off after that and got back home without further incident, to be informed two of my claims have been rejected. Well try this one I thought. I shall try to find out who the chaps are with the green tails, or if the one I encountered is a known ace. Would have been a coup to have brought him down, whoever he was, in his shiny new plane.

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