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Wayfarer

Troop Contact Patrol

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I have reached June 1916 and, for the first time, got a Troop Contact Patrol mission (flying a two seater campaign using Bletchley's 1916 (1) mod). As I usually spend some time attaining a reasonable altitude before crossing enemy lines, this caused some mild unsettlement on my part (though some of that was probably a result of RAF Louvert's 4000th post Amiens bash).

I noticed that the average flight altitude given in the mission description was over 9000' and a guilty part of me wanted to go over at that height, but I felt that wasn't in the spirit of the thing.

I ended up circling the mission objective for a while at between 3000' to 3500' and then made a pass at about 1500'.

Checking through 'Sagittarius Rising' afterward, I noticed Cecil Lewis talking about circling at 1000' over the Somme. So I'm thinking I ducked out rather.

At what height do other people fly these missions (if you have them) and how long do you spend over the objective area?

 

 

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Hey, I'm flying a British campaign in July 1916. Contact patrols are definitely not high altitude, so I try to stay quite low, 1000 feet or so. As to time spend, I don't have any strict guidelines for that. Sometimes I stay there longer, especially if something interesting happens, sometimes I only do the obligatory maneuvers and then head back home.

Edited by Hasse Wind

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.

 

Wayfarer, somewhere between 800' and 1,200' is historically correct for such patrols, (so Hasse Wind you are right in there Sir), with the occasional swoop down to 500' or so to machine gun the trenches. Just remember, your primary task is to take note of troop locations and movements and the like, and get back with the needed information for the brass hats at HQ.

 

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with the occasional swoop down to 500' or so to machine gun the trenches

 

 

Maybe it's just me, but the trenches I encounter have a rather nasty habit of trying to machine-gun me and my observer. :grin:

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Thanks Hasse Wind and RAF_Louvert. It's that getting back bit that was of immediate concern to me!

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Bletchley's mods are great!

I have just made an escort for 3 Roland C.II with my early Jasta 2 Pilot, in September 1916.

Not sure if it was the mod, but the Rolands joined in to a scrap with FE2b, and even helped

us chasing the last Fee all the way from the lines to S. Quentin.

A mission with famous company - Böhme, Ritter von Müller, Reimann and von Richthofen

were all there with us. Despite the nasty weather, we felt invincible.

OFF can create these special moments!

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AFAIK the purpose of the Contact Patrol was to establish the positions held - eg limits of advance made, during an attack - by your OWN troops, not to recce, let alone engage, the enemy. So for one thing, flying a Contact Patrol should not generally or necessarily involve DELIBERATELY crossing the lines at all (except in the sense of lines your troops had moved past). Aircraft on a Contact Patrol would sound a klaxon (horn) and friendly troops were supposed to respond by signalling their presence in various ways. All very well nipping over and attacking targets of opportunity but you should be jolly-well court-martialled for doing anything which risks you not getting the gen you were sent out for, which could make the difference between life and death for the PBI. As regards height, as low as you need to go, to do the job; anything over 1000 feet is probably too high. Not sure how an OFF mission can encourage proper tactics on a contact Patrol, unless a critical, 'pass/fail' mission objective can be set to fly in the vicinity of a certain spot/waypoint, or series thereof, at no greater than a (rather low) minimum altitude; fly too high and you really should fail the mission, nine times out of ten.

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AFAIK the purpose of the Contact Patrol was to establish the positions held - eg limits of advance made, during an attack - by your OWN troops, not to recce, let alone engage, the enemy. So for one thing, flying a Contact Patrol should not generally or necessarily involve DELIBERATELY crossing the lines at all (except in the sense of lines your troops had moved past). Aircraft on a Contact Patrol would sound a klaxon (horn) and friendly troops were supposed to respond by signalling their presence in various ways. All very well nipping over and attacking targets of opportunity but you should be jolly-well court-martialled for doing anything which risks you not getting the gen you were sent out for, which could make the difference between life and death for the PBI. As regards height, as low as you need to go, to do the job; anything over 1000 feet is probably too high. Not sure how an OFF mission can encourage proper tactics on a contact Patrol, unless a critical, 'pass/fail' mission objective can be set to fly in the vicinity of a certain spot/waypoint, or series thereof, at no greater than a (rather low) minimum altitude; fly too high and you really should fail the mission, nine times out of ten.

 

LIMA, from what I've read over the years, the contact patrol was meant to locate your troops AND the enemy's. In fact, the first basic outline of instructions to pilots concerning the contact patrol was something along the lines of, "Fly low over the front, reconnoiter the situation, fly back and report immediately". As to nipping across and strafing enemy troops, while it may not have been in the official instructions, it appears to be something that was condoned, at least on occasion, as evidenced by numerous MID's for that very action during contact patrols.

 

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As to nipping across and strafing enemy troops, while it may not have been in the official instructions, it appears to be something that was condoned, at least on occasion, as evidenced by numerous MID's for that very action during contact patrols.

 

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[/quote

My limited reading would support that too, Lou.

I can't remember which book but I do recall the pilot going out on scouting duties and on his return drop down and strafe the enemy simply because he could and, indeed, seemed to think it fun.

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Fair enough, tho accounts of Contact Patrols I've read seem generally to involve establishing contact with friendlies. in 'Bloody April' Sholto Douglas of 43 Sqdn refers to a new and different type of patrol designed to recce the enemy as '..orders that were specially devised for such an event, and which, new in conception, were known as counter-attack patrols. We were instructed to fly these patrols...low down behind the captured positions, and...concentrate on reporting immediately on the enemy preparations for counter-attacks'.

 

 

It's one thing defending yourself, but if it had been up to me, a pilot who risked not bringing back vital information through going out of his way for the sake of 'having a crack at Jerry' would have been mentioned in something, tho not in Despatches :)

 

Does anyone know if OFF can in any way 'encourage' you to fly any such missions low down, or does it make no difference if you fly them at several thousand feet, more like a photo recce mission? No CFS2-style 'interview without coffee" fwith the Old Man, I daresay, but do you get a 'mission fail' result or do your troops do less well in that sector?

Edited by 33LIMA

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To quote Lanoe Hawker as printed in Somme Success by Peter Hart.

 

"I had a very careful look at that bit of ground, circling and going over it again and again till I could make sure of the exact positions we held. It was while flying low over a big farm to the north of this bit that I received a bullet just above my left ankle that solved the problem as to who held the farm. ".

 

You have got to love dry matter of fact way that he explains it.

 

Wayfarer, that is my idea of a contact patrol, where you actually make contact with the enemy.

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Seems to me that the way you'd judge success would be if you pass over certain troop bodies - your own, definitely, the enemy's, at the mission's/Winder's discretion - under a certain altitude, otherwise it's a fail. Having said that, any mission you can fly back from alive is a success, even if you had to give up on the objective.

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I think I may have done it properly this time. Ended up below 500', everyone shot at me, engine got damaged, landed at an enemy airfield, took two days to escape and get back to the squadron.

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"LIMA, from what I've read over the years, the contact patrol was meant to locate your troops AND the enemy's."

 

Lou - given that you don't know where the enemy are (and friendly forces are often hard to pick out), it's almost inevitable that you'll find the enemy's troops as well as your own. I don't think it needs to be over-defined, if you see what I mean. Just get in, have a quick dekko, then get the hell out of there.

 

Wayfarer,

 

"I think I may have done it properly this time. Ended up below 500', everyone shot at me, engine got damaged, landed at an enemy airfield, took two days to escape and get back to the squadron."

 

That's the spirit: brain out, spit the Hun bullets back at them, shout abuse from the prison camp and then go back for more!

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A Cross and Cockade article on Contact Patrols (of which only the 1st page is readable online to non-members) describes them as "basically this was a means to find out where your own troops were during an advance and was performed by the Corps Wings of the RFC" which is in line with any accounts I've read, of what they usually did in practice.

 

Of course this involved recce-ing hot spots and you were presumably quite liable to find yourself finding out where the Bad Guys were too, the hard/painful way like Major Hawker, even if you didn't necessarily start out with that object in mind :) Anyhow, a realistic Contact Patrol in OFF ought I think to involve having to make a low-level flight over the objective(s) in question, at or very near your own troops' (expected) advanced positions, for the primary purpose of checking if said own troops were actually 'in possession', as opposed to 'trench strafing' and other more intrusive or unfriendly visitations. Clearly, 'contact' in this WW1 context does not mean what it does today, ie contact with the enemy only - with the side effect of requiring considerable care and not a little ingenuity on the part of anyone with a radio, to find ways of describing communicating with people, without using ''that word' and thereby getting right royally chewed off by The Powers That Be ("Hello 33 Lima this is Zero, DO NOT use that word, unless you mean it. Out!" Been there, done that)

 

Diverging from a Contact Patrol into the offensive would have been in military terms a serious and ill-advised departure from the cardinal principle of "Selection and Maintenance of the Aim" (as it was called in my days anyway) and in my book a cause for a brickbat rather than a bouquet, assuming you made it back in a condition to make either option genuinely meaningful. If I send you out in an expensive aeroplane to find out whether the Black Watch have made it into Gouzeaucourt so our own guns don't shell them, then that's the gen I want you to bring back, come what may. And if you fail because Jerry shot you down when you decided to 'have a crack' on the way home, and so much as a single Jock gets so much as a single avoidable 'friendly' shell splinter in his ar**, then you are lucky Jerry got you before I did. Youthful exuberance and agressiveness is acceptable as a supplement to, but not as a substitute for, a basic level of sound military judgement.

Edited by 33LIMA

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