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The Pfalz DXII in Rise of Flight

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Taking on the RAF in the Fokker DVII's Bavarian competitor

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This campaign report is designed to do two things.

 

Primarily, it's intended to showcase the Rise of Flight Pfalz DXII, flown in career mode using (almost) the latest version of Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator (PWCG). I found out after flying this mission that PWCG's now up to Version 15.6, but the changes since my version (15.3) seem mostly cosmetic.

 

The second reason for this report is to celebrate the miraculous recovery of my trusty 8800GT graphics card, which had started displaying artifacts but was restored to health - I hope for some time - by literally 'baking' it in an oven to re-solder possible decayed connections. I'm not making this up - Google it and see for yourself!

 

To digress a little, the recent PWCG improvement of greatest interest to me is the increased flak.

 

In First Eagles/FE2,  fairly often, you get warning of the presence of other flights when you see flak bursts tracking them. So I find it is quite often possible to spot other planes at a respectable range, without resorting to visual aids like 'radar screens', target boxes/pointers or labels. Combined with decent rendering of more distant planes, this has two big benefits. First, I often see aircraft I might otherwise have missed. Second, I see them far enough away to make a plan to deal with them, following Mick Mannock's advice that all aircraft should be assumed to be enemies until proven otherwise. In OFF, the flak is also a good indicator of other aircraft, althoigh the planes themselves are not visible as far away as they generally should be.

 

In RoF, a big issue for me, flying 'aids off', has been how often enemies in the vicinity remained invisible unless our flight more-or-less blundered into them. If I didn't miss them altogether, I'd come upon them suddenly, with no opportunity to do any of that interesting patrol-leading stuff: stalking them, getting my flight into a good position, then timing and leading my attack.

 

PWCG not only enables you to select a rank high enough to lead patrols regularly, turning the player from drone to tactical decision-maker; recent versions have increased levels of flak, so that it can now provide the patrol-leading player with the target indicator that flak so often was, in real life. At least, that was what I was hoping I'd find out, flying this mission!

 

The plane

 

As for the Pfalz itself, though a competent design, the DXII inevitably suffered from being compared to the contemporary Fokker DVII. The sturdy, agile and easily-flown Fokker was the plane the German fighter pilots wanted, to replace their outnumbered and increasingly-inferior Albatros DVs or Pfalz DIIIs. Anything less was regarded with suspicion. In 'Wings of War', Baviarian Rudolph Stark - by then in charge of Jasta 35 - told it like this:

 

'1 September 1918. We are to have more new machines. Everyone is pleased...but their joy is soon damped down, for the machines...are not Fokkers, but Pfalz DXIIs. What is a Pfalz DXII? No one has ever heard of such a machine, no one knows anything about it. We decline to take these machines...we are told...there are no more Fokkers to be had. All right; we'll have the Pfalzs...the sight of them does not inspire confidence...with a multitude of bracing wires...the whole thing looks like a harp. We are spoilt for such machines. No one wanted to fly those Pfalzs except under compulsion. Later their pilots got on very well with them. They flew quite decently and could always keep pace with the Fokkers; in fact they dived even faster. But they were heavy for turns and fighting purposes, in which respect they were not to be compared with the Fokkers. The Fokker was a bloodstock animal that answered to the slightest movement of the hand...the Pfalz was a clumsy cart-horse that went heavy in the reins and obeyed nothing but the most brutal force.'

 

My own references on the type are the old but valuable Profile Publication and - highly recommended - the more recent Osprey 'Pfalz Aces of WW1' which features other types like the DIII of 'Blue Max' movie fame.

 

If I recall right, Pat Wilson's Western Front Patch for Red Baron 3d added a Pfalz DXII but if you want to fly one in a modern WW1 sim the choices are First Eagles or Rise of Flight. The FE Pfalz is from the A Team Skunkworks and it's a fine rendition, a great bird that looks the part (seen here with the fix that corrects the slightly offset wheel hubs and a great skin, by Quack I believe)

 

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Having read Rudolph Stark's book many years back, I was keen to add this plane to my Rise of Flight hangar and take her for a spin…literally, as it happened. While the Pfalz seemed a tractable enough mount, I found she was a bit more prone than , say, the albatros, to spin out of a tight turn...and to keep on spinning, all the way down, until stopped by something solid. I have to admit that spin recovery is a bit of a bugbear for me in RoF, generally. The classic advice for a WW1 pilot on spin recovery was to centralise all controls and pray. This doesn't work so well in RoF. For the DXII, even the classic modern technique - power off, opposite rudder, nose down - seemed not to work, quickly or at all, for the DXII. Happily, RoF pilot's notes are available on the sim's website and these include spin recovery. As described in the notes for the DXII, this is counter-intuitive - rudder (and aileron) INTO the direction of the spin. Practicing this in 'free flight' mode is recommended, before entrusting your virtual life to a campaign. Though PWCG by default renders your pilot less liable to be killed, best not to take chances, eh?  Anyway here's that handbook:

 


 

The man, the unit and the mission

 

First challenge is actually getting to fly a DXII. Unlike FE/FE2, RoF models mixed squadron establishments and in Beta Career, starting as a lowly NCO pilot, I was liable to get allocated a Pfalz for a mission or two, then get moved onto a Fokker. In real life this would have been most welcome, of course...but not for this mission!

 

Using PWCG, I decided to transfer my Jasta 11 Fokker triplane pilot, Richard Satchel, to Jasta 32b. Pfalz being a Bavarian firm, its products tended to go to Baviarian units such this. I opted to fly with it in August 1918, at which point Jasta 32b was based at Roucourt/Bohain airfield, between Cambrai to the south and Lille to the north. We seemed to be entirely equipped with the Pfalz so it was a simple matter to use PWCG to generate a mission. I was allocated a patrol up to the Lines, then north for a stretch. I was the leader and was allocated my preferred three flight-mates - Leutnants Wolf, Borngen and Balmer. So I accepted the mission and picked it up in RoF, in the usual PWCG fashion.

 

J32b brief3.JPG

 

There seem to be few skins available for the DXII so I just went with the default one and here were are, lined up and ready to go, with my machine bearing the blue leader's streamers.

 

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I don't bother with 'complex engine management' so it was a simple matter to check the controls and start up, at which point my virtual pilot gave a hand signal for the flight to do likewise. Once all props were turning I opened up the throttle and after an initial swing, my Pfalz bumped and rocked over the grass airfield and was soon airborne and climbing away.

 

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Our base was quite close to the front and for safety's sake, I climbed away from it initially, to gain some height. All seemed peaceful so I swung around and set course on the first leg of our patrol, which would take us west and into the thick of whatever might be waiting for us there.

 

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...to be continued!

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All quiet on the Western Front...?

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I throttled back briefly, to allow my flight to catch me up, then resumed my gradual climb west, to the front. Conditions seemed a little gusty as my machine bucked and swayed somewhat, but at least I no longer needed constant forward pressure on the stick to stop her trying to loop. I had discovered that you can use the RoF control profile facility to 'trim out' the usual tail-heaviness, and had done this for the Pfalz, in a previous test flight.

 

Formation-keeping can be a little variable in RoF but today, everybody was behaving themselves nicely.

 

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 As usual, RoF did a great job of creating the feel, sight and sounds of flying a WW1 plane, in a way that sets it above other sims. And the RoF DXII is beautifully rendered inside and out, including the 'lozenge' pre-printed fabric camouflage on the wings and the distinctive flat windscreen and central gun sight.

 

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RoF lets you order a decent variety of formations but as usual, I left the flight in the default echelon right, as we flew on past the town of Douai then onto the front over the German reserve trenches, where a smaller town marked the point where we were due to swing north and fly up the Lines.

 

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I had been keeping a careful lookout, watchful in particular for the flak bursts which - I hoped! - would soon reveal the presence of other aircraft. I switched between external and cockpit views, mouselooking all around while holding my machine steady. Our climb-out to the Lines had been uneventful and now, throttled bacl slightly and cruising north, there was still nothing to be seen, except some shellbursts amongst the trenches far below.

 

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'Wo ist der Royal Air Force?' I asked myself, mimimicking that line in the Battle of Britian movie where the Heinkel bomber leader cheekily notes that the 7 September 1940 switch to attacking London appears to have wrong-footed the opposition. But in this case, I was actually hoping for some contact with the enemy, not least as recent enhancements to PWCG incorporated changes to increase this possibility. Was this going to be another uneventful mission, with enemies either absent or unseen?

 

...to be continued!

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First blood!

 

We flew north over our reserve trenches. Still the skies around us seemed obstinately empty of other aircraft. As we neared the northern limit of our patrol leg, I decided to use the RoF view system to check if - as often seemed to happen before - there were enemies about, but not easily seen. If this revealed any foe-men, I would do my best to ignore my discovery and fly on as if I was unaware they were there. I wanted only to confirm whether there was still a dearth of flak, leading to enemies escaping observation who might otherwise have been spotted.

 

It didn't take me long to discover the answer. Unbothered by AA fire, there was an SE5 low down roughly over trenches. From the look of river behind him, he was just ahead and below us.

 

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And  he wasn't alone. In fact, there seemed to be a flight of Camels, some bomb-laden, with a flight of SEs apparently in close escort and another lot who seemed to be nosing up towards us. They were flying south, on a more or less reciprocal course; and despite being roughly over the German reserve trenches, they were not being engaged by flak, nor had they been before I had 'unoficially' spotted them. Not good.

 

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This looked like getting awkward. I flew on as if I had not seen them - which I hadn't, officialy. I planned to fly up to the end of the leg, then turn 180 degrees and fly back south...unless I legitimately spotted the enemy. This seemed likely at some point, as the SE5 -top cover' - if that's what it was - seemed to be climbing up to meet us. One way or another, it looked like the crunch would come, sooner rather than later.

 

I carried on scanning, seeing nothing in any direction. Not even behind me; where my flight had been, the sky was now empty. Where the Devil had they gone, and what were they up to?

 

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Banking around to get a better view, I caught a glimpse of one of my comrades, spiralling down, as if in attack.

 

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And that's exactly what they were doing; they were attacking the lower-flying RAF machines, which they must somehow have spotted. The screenie below shows the fellow I saw, and you can make out one of the lower-flying SE5s ahead of him, between the Pfalz and the little circular pond.

 

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This isn't the first time I've seen flight-mates in RoF, of their own volition, break off and go for a distant enemy who's not an immediate threat. In other sims, your AI flight-mates usually won't do this, but will only attack either in pretty immediate self-defence or on your order as flight leader. The latter is, I think, preferable and more realistic. Flight-mates have to spend more time keeping formation than their leader so are less likely to see a 'bogey' before he does. And if they DO see something first, they should never, ever just hare off after it - they should alert the leader, typically by pulling ahead, waggling wings (or making some other pre-arranged signal) and pointing.

 

Anyway, from the (mis-)behaviour of my flight, I now knew that, despite the lack of flak, there were very likely enemies down there somewhere. I wheeled down and around in a tight spiral after my flight and sought them out. I picked out an aircraft, apparently alone, flying straight and level a short distance over our side of the Lines and heading roughly west, back home. I rolled out of my spiral into a shallow dive and onto an interception course, pushing the throttle fully open. You can just about see my target in the screenie below, as a light speck with the sun glinting off his wings, just below the little town I'd flown over on the way in.

 

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At this point, the German flak finally opened up, firing on my quarry! Better late than never; at least, this now confirmed that the other aircraft was indeed an enemy!

 

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With the speed I'd built up in my dive, the range rapidly wound down, to the point the lagging flak bursts seemed more a danger to me than to the Englishman at whom they were aimed. I ignored the danger, bored on in and started shooting. The SE, caught by surprise, lurched sideways in the air as one of his ailerons came off.

 

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...to be continued!

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'Those who flew the Pfalzs did so because there were no other machines for them. But they always gazed enviously at the Fokkers and prayed for the quick chance of an exchange'

Rudolph Stark, CO Jasta 35b, in Wings of War'

 

My speed in the dive swept me past my intended victim and I carried on for a bit, to take myself out of range of retaliation, even though the SE looked to be in serious trouble. But not fatal; I next saw him heading past me in the opposite direction, slightly above and still going strong.

 

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This would not do! I lost a bit of ground from having to swing around after him but was soon closing impatiently. A quick glance behind revealed what looked like other Plalzs not far behind. I pressed on at full throttle and opened fire as I came into range, ignoring the 'friendly' flak bursts still trailing my foe.

 

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As I closed right in, firing steadily in short bursts, I saw a flicker of orange fire from the cowling behind his engine. Got him! The SE reared up and his speed fell off. I pushed the stick gently forward, just enough to avoid crashing into him.

 

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Behind this little drama, the sky was filling up rapidly. Two of my flight-mates were now close behind me...but beyond them was a line of other aircraft, all undoubtedly Englishmen and certainly headed our way.  I hurriedly gave the signal for an attack and turned into the rapidly-approaching enemy phalanx. Evidently, this was the lower flight of SE5s and they had left the Sopwiths, the better to attend to us and avenge their comrade.

 

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Despite the tight turn, my trusty Plalz showed no sign of spinning out and I rolled into a head-on pass at the onrushing SE5s. I quickly lined up the one on the right-hand edge of the formation, then hesitated...there was another SE more or less directly below him and also coming at me. Turning away was out of the question...as Biggles himself wisely observed, 'It's just not done.' I kept my sights on my original target, the higher of the two SEs. The lower one quickly slipped out of sight somewhere under my nose. I was nervous about losing sight of him but the die was cast. Hopefully he could see me, and do whatever was needed to avoid a collision. I hosed my oncoming target with tracers as he rapidly grew in my sights.

 

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Bang! My machine lurched drunkenly. I knew instantly that the lower SE had crashed into me, the idiot! The engine noise was suddenly gone and my nose swung up and around as my forward momentum drained rapidly away.

 

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The main damage was evidently to my prop and motor. The Englishman looked to have come off a good deal worse, not that it was much consolation.

 

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For a moment, we both seemed to hang nearly motionless in the sky, close together, like a pair of insects frozen in a block of blue ice.

 

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Then, slowly but inexorably, my nose swung around and down I went. I wrestled desperately with the controls, to no avail. As the speed built up, pieces started to depart from my battered Pfalz. First, my left lower mainplane broke off, taking the left elevator with it.

 

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I hoped even so to be able to regain some control and ease her out of this deadly nose-dive. But then, all but the centre section of my upper wing wrenched off and my machine rolled over onto its back.

 

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She quickly steadied herself but there was now clearly no arresting my downward plunge. Ironically, now that I no longer needed it, the skies seemed fairly filled with flak bursts!

 

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Down I went, to join the remains of what was possibly the SE I'd shot down, which was burning in No Man's Land.

 

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All that remained was to fire up PWCG again and review the mission results. I filed claims for two SE5s, knowing that my collision victim must have crashed too. Its destruction seemed to have been recorded, but I was only credited with one kill. Here's the excellent PWCG mission replay screen:

 

J32b debrief3.JPG

 

However, on viewing the various tabs in the debrief summary screens, I discovered that I had, after all, been credited with the second SE, and that one of my flight-mates had got credit for knocking one down, too.

 

J32b debrief3b.JPG

 

Though you can change settings so that 'dead is dead', by default and intention PWCG is fairly lenient with your virtual pilots' lives. Looking at the other debrief screen tabs, I fould out that not only had I been awarded the Wound Badge, but that I had been 'merely' injured and would be out of action for some weeks.

 

J32b debrief3c.JPGJ32b debrief3d.JPG

 

Overall, and despite the collision, this was a pretty satisfactory mission. The Pfalz is a nice change from the usual Albatros or Fokkers, and seems to be a reasonable match for the likes of the SE5; well worth adding to your RoF hangar. PWCG adds a lot of good stuff to the single player campaign experience and is looking better than ever - and sounding better too, with the addition of some background music from Matt Milne of OFF/WOFF fame. The significant negative for me is that flak is still too infrequent and too hard to see when it is there - certainly compared to FE2 and OFF anyway, and to the impression I have of real life, from the accounts I've read. This may be down to several issues. Perhaps enemy flights 'spawn' at rather close range, leaving little time for flak to engage them and/or for you to notice. I gather that some practical RoF limitations on ground objects means that flak coverage is not as extensive as it could be. With the latest versions of PWCG, there IS certainly more flak than there used to be, both in terms of the frequency of barrages and their intensity, which is great. But if recent missions are anything to go by, flak is still not as frequent as it should be and/or as visible as it should be (for gameplay, if not also for realism). Granted, I was above these particular enemies and looking down - but even so, they got really close without any flak, which only started after they were right below us.  Still, the flak is significantly better than it was and this was an enjoyable and engaging mission in another aircraft brought to life as only RoF can do it.

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      By this time, I had drawn away from the rest of my flight. All the Vickers flew back towards their side of the lines, diving slightly, which made them hard to catch.
       

       
      I finally got in range of the right-hand machine in the lower pair...
       

       
      ...and hit his engine after several bursts, causing white smoke to trail behind. The other enemies did not intervene and I stayed out of the arc of fire of the enemy observer, despite the aircraft weaving from side to side. Finally I appeared to have hit the enemy pilot and the Vickers fell away to the right and dived to the ground, about 3 Km on his side of the lines.
       

       
      I then spotted the second Englishman further west, still diving, and although I dived after him and hit him, my ammunition soon ran out and I had to turn east for friendly territory.
       

       
      As I crossed the lines I was rejoined by Oblt Bohme and Lt Tutschek. I claim one Vickers-type 2 seater shot down and another one damaged."
       
      The 'Vickers 2-seaters' are of course F.E.2bs, a type I haven't bought as a 'flyable' yet, but which still appears in-game as AI-flown.
       
      Not a bad morning's work, it was. And although only two reappeared initially, I brought all three of my comrades home with me, which is always a priority of mine. The next mission was to be rather more eventful.
       
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      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!
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