Alarums and excursions in a 'prehistoric packing case'!
A common British 'pet name' for an aeroplane, probably originating in WW1, was a 'kite'. New Zealand ace Keith 'Grid' Caldwell got his nickname from calling aircraft 'grids'. 'Packing cases' - perhaps in the sense of what in the UK we call tea chests, light and flimsy plywood boxes much sought after for moving house contents - is a common translation of a German equivalent from the same period. 'Prehistoric packing cases' seems to have been an uncomplimentary form of the term, attributed to Manfred von Richthofen and applied, generally, to single- or two-seat 'pusher' biplanes, like the Vickers F.B.2 'gun-bus', the F.E.2, and the D.H.2 that I'm flying in my current Wings over Flanders Fields RFC campaign. But this is March 1916, and the ascendancy of the new German fighter aircraft in the hands of Boelcke, Richthofen et al are some months away. Instead, our principal fighter opposition is the increasingly-obsolescent Fokker monoplane, which we in 'B' Flight, No. 24 Squadron, met and vanquished in my first operational flight.
Here's the briefing for my second show. The date is 2nd March, and I'm leading four D.H.s to provde an escort for three B.E.2c two-seaters on a reconnaisance mission to just over the lines.
As I've said before, this type of escort was relatively rare. The RFC's offensive doctrine preferred a system of timed patrols, what the Germans (in WW2 anyway) would have called free-booting frei jagd sweeps. 'Working aeroplanes' if they had an escort, were often provided it from within their own squadron (which sometimes had 'fast scouts' on its strength, useful for this purpose). This eliminated the difficulty in effecting a rendevous between slow machines flying in from different locations. In fact in January 1916, at the height of the 'Fokker Scourge', the RFC ordered that each recce machine be escorted by three others. Thus the Fokkers significantly reduced the RFC's sortie rate, never mind the aircraft and crews they actually shot down - 'virtual attrition' I think they call it.
Speaking of 2nd March 1916, I see the RFC's 'Comic Cuts' internal communiqué for that date recorded, as regards air combat, that '2Lt Fincham and 2Lt Price (B.E.2c. 2127, 8 Sqn) were persistently attacked by a Fokker biplane when doing artillery patrol in the Ypres salient. The result was indecisive. The pilot reports he distinctly saw the hostile machine using tracer bullets. Sgt Bayetto (Morane Scout, 3 Sqn) on escort duty to the Valenciennes reconnaisance, reports having been attacked by 5 Fokkers in the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. The reconnaisance machine dived to get clear, but was closely followed by the hostile machines. Sgt Bayetto opened fire on the nearest hostile machine and drove it down, apparently into the woods at Valenciennes. After the engagement he saw no more signs of the reconaisance machine and returned over Lille where he was again attacked by 3 Fokkers. These he eventually evaded and after circling around Lille for 15 minutes, returned to his landing ground.' The fate of the 'reconnaisance machine' is unrecorded, but may be deduced from being last reported as diving away, 'closely followed by the hostile machines.'
How will 2nd March be for me, Lt. Jock Higgins, from Stirling, Scotland? Would I have got a mention in 'Comic Cuts'? It's time to find out!
It's about 09:00 and the sun is having a bit of bother breaking through the fairly extensive cloud cover. Undaunted, we head off to the north-east, to meet up with the recce machines, giving me time to admire the effects of the low morning sunshine, filtered by the clouds.
I suddenly notice four aeroplanes slipping past above us, in a patch of open sky. I recognise them as 'pushers', confirming they are friendlies - the Huns had so few of this type it's more or less a given thing. I wonder if they might be our own squadron's 'A' Flight, which is supposed to be supporting us, but their more slender, less stubby appearance tells me they are the bigger F.E.2b general purpose two seaters, off on a mission of their own.
Gaining height as we press on, I see the town of Doullens to our left, which provides a welcome re-assurance that we haven't managed to get lost, yet. You know what they say, about an officer with a map ('The most dangerous thing in the Army').
Shortly after this, I spot three machines below and ahead, against some clouds, heading the same way. Doctor Livingstone, I presume.
Ankor's latest DX9 mod's mouselook includes smooth scroll-wheel zoom, an excellent new feature.
I start zig-zagging above the two-seaters. Our D.H.2s aren't fast, but the B.E.s are climbing hard, so we are able to do this without falling behind. Soon, we can see the churned earth of shelled ground, slipping in ahead and on both sides, replacing the previously-unspoilt countryside as we near the front.
Looking down and over the side - another thing made easy without head-tracking, with Ankor's latest mod - I can make out one of our observation balloons, far below. You can see him close to my starboard wheel rim, in this next picture.
Serves me right for sight-seeing, for when I look around again, I can see neither head nor tail of the B.E's. Where the heck have they gone?
Have we got ahead of them, or are they out of sight somewhere beneath us, hidden by our airframes? I begin a wide turn to the right, confident that I will pick them up again pretty quickly. They can't have gone that far.
Or can they? The B.E.s are no-where to be seen. I circle around again, feeling increasingly desperate. Still no sign! At least, I don't see any indication of an air fight, no pillars of smoke marking the fall to earth of one of my charges. Well, if they're still in the air, they're most likely ahead of us by now, so I level out and race off towards our objective. I have lost some height and the B.E.s were climbing when last seen, but I fly straight and level, the faster to catch them up.
To my boundless relief, I soon spot the three B.E.s, ahead and above. A gentle climb enables me to continue to catch them up; I will worry about getting right up to their level, after I have done that.
But suddenly, I have other, more pressing things to worry about. I haven't slowed down to ensure my flight can keep up during my recent manoeuvres, and now, I pay the price, as rounds whack into my machine from behind. A lone Fokker has slipped in between me and my spread-out flight mates and what's more, the Hun is making a very determined effort at bringing my career to an early and violent end!
...to be continued!
View File WOFF Westen Front Airfield Maps
This is the second version of my airfield mapping for Wings: Over Flanders Fields. Credit goes to Rabu for his Flanders map that he has allowed me to use to map airfields on. The Paris map was created entirely by myself. The others were public domain and the airfield data came from WOFF itself. Please do not repost or change and distribute without crediting rabu and myself.
Submitter chrispdm1 Submitted 12/21/2013 Category Maps, Missions, and Campaigns
Back-to-back missions in Sopwith's trend-setter!
For most non-multiplayer combat flight simmers, can anything be more frustrating than losing the pilot you have been carefully guiding through the perils of a single player campaign? The answer, of course, is 'Yes' - losing two campaign pilots, one after the other.
It happened to me in Wings over Flanders Fields, yesterday. First to get the chop was my current German fighter pilot, who was flying an Albatros D.III with Jasta 5 in May 1917. The mission started normally, but soon after this picture was taken, shortly after take-off...
...I noticed friendly flak bursts behind, in the direction of the airfield we had just left. Their target was a marauding flight of S.E.5s, and although I got one of them after a tough dogfight, when I turned back in search of the rest of my own flight, all I found was two more S.E.s. I did not survive the wounds which resulted, despite managing a forced landing.
Turning for succor to my concurrent Roland C.II two-seater campaign, things went rather better...for a while.
We soon ran into a flight of our opposite numbers, in the form of some Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters, and although they started with a height advantage...
...we seemed to be getting the better of them. I forced down one with hits from my forward-firing gun, but then allowed myself to become distracted, watching while my observer had a crack as the Sopwith went down...
This lack of attention to where I was going caused me to commit a cardinal sin in the WoFF Roland, which is to say, I let the nose come up too high, in a turn. I only noticed and recovered from the resulting loss of height in time to clip some trees with a lower wingtip. The crash in a field which followed robbed me of my second campaign pilot in the space of an hour!
They say when you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is get straight back on, so that's what I did. Except this time, I was in the mood to fight for King and Country, rather than Kaiser and Fatherland. And replaced both pilots by parallel ones - one each in Rise of Flight and Wings over Flanders Fields.
For a mount, I chose the Sopwith Triplane. I recall that my first serious knowledge of this machine came with one of the very first books I ever bought, the little Hippo Books Aircraft of World War 1, by well-known aviation writer JWR Taylor.This informed its readers that '...Triplanes were flown operationally only by Naval squadrons, who gained complete supremacy over the enemy in the spring and summer of 1917.' That's as may be, but the Triplane seems to have been a modest improvement over the delightful Pup and was soon overshadowed by the Camel. And it's not the most attractive of aircraft, to my eye - when RFC ace James McCudden wrote that he thought the reported Fokker Triplane was a rather quaint thing and expected that seeing one shot down would remind him of a Venetian blind collapsing, I suspect it was the earlier Sopwith Triplane he was picturing in his minds eye. Neverthess, the Germans were sufficiently impressed by the 'Tripehound' to embark on a serious bout of immitation, with many planemakers churning out triplanes, only Fokker's being particularly successful.
For both RoF and WoFF careers, I named my pilot Richard Collishaw, potentially a sibling of famous Triplane exponent Raymond Collishaw. Would the name bring me luck? Let's find out, starting with Rise of Flight!
...to be continued!
Flying the 'spinning incinerator' in Wings over Flanders Fields!
"Led by Lanoe Hawker, No.24 Squadron (DH2s), Britain's first single-seater scout squadron, arrived in France on 8 February 1916 in great excitement but was immediately absorbed in a crisis of its own. The day after their arrival, one of the flight commanders, on the first flight of a DH2 from a French airfield, got into a spin and failed to recover. Five days later, another pilot spun in, and this time the machine caught fire. It had happened before, earning the DH2 the grisly sobriquet of the 'spinning incinerator'...Hawker responded by taking up a DH2 and, according to his biographer, spinning it from every conceivable angle, engine on and engine off, and demonstrating how, with correct remedial action, and provided there was sufficient height, it always recovered."
Ralph Barker, 'A Brief History of the Royal Flying Corps', Constable & Robinson, 2002
Major Lanoe George Hawker, VC, DSO, deserves to be remembered not so much as a famous early victim of Manfred von Richthofen in November 1916, but rather, as the aggressive pioneer air fighter who won a VC for victories over three Germain aircraft - all I think machine-gun armed 2-seaters - on a single day in July 1915, flying a Bristol Scout with a Lewis Gun which had to be fixed to fire at an angle ahead to clear the prop disc - a real feat of arms. This is the actual machine he flew:
As a Flight Commander in those days, Hawker's motto, pinned to the notice board, was 'Attack EVERYTHING!' and it was certainly a dictum he lived up to. Later, he was a natural choice to lead the Royal Flying Corps' first real single-seat fighter squadron. Just as No.24 Squadron was a natural choice of unit, when I decided to fly an early-war British fighter campaign in Wings over Flanders Fields.
I had only just ended a 1916 campaign in another 'pusher', the two-seat F.E.2 - after one mission! We crashed after a dramatic collision with a Fokker...
...which didn't survive the encounter...
We lasted a bit longer, surviving further damage in another Fokker attack as we drifted down with a dead motor and elevator control gone, but didn't live through the ensuing crash landing...
So, you might say that I had a score to settle, when I chose to try my hand with another lattice-tailed aircraft, the De Havilland D.H.2, which was credited with a large part in ending the 'Fokker Scourge'. My new career starts in early March 1916, with 24 Squadron's first operations following its deployment to Bertangles in Flanders. You can see from the roster that the redoubtable Major Hawker is very much on the squadron roster - COs were forbidden to fly on ops due to the need to preserve experienced leaders, but Hawker still flew, letting one of the other flight commanders lead. One of whom is me, for my pilot, Lieutenant 'Jock' Higgins - no relation to famous pioneer RFC flier 'all bum and eyeglass' J.F.A. 'Josh' Higgins - is the leader of 'B' Flight.
Our first mission is a patrol up to the lines, more or less directly to the east. I'm leading no less that six machines, and 'A' flight are putting up another four, so we should be able to give any Huns we meet a run for their money. The C.O isn't flying with me today, but I see one or two other famous names in my flight, including the later Air Marshall Sir Robert Saundy, who wasn't a 'Sir' (knighted) in 1916, butI think should be an officer by that point, rather than the Sergeant he's recorded as...maybe the Recording Officer has made a bit of a mix-up in the squadron roster somewhere.
We make a fine sight on the grass before the sheds at Bertangles in the fine early morning March weather...
...and it's not long before we're off the ground and climbing away.
Those Huns had better watch out - 'Twenty-four' has opened shop and means to do some business this day!
...to be continued!
First mission in a new two-seater career in Wings over Flanders Fields
'Truly, this machine is a whale' ('walfisch' in German), one of the acceptance commission officials is reported to have said of LFG Roland's C.II two-seater, when it first flew about October 1915. Not the kindest of epithets, but it stuck - indeed, one famous flier of the type, Eduard von Schleich, made his Roland look even more whale-like by painting a mouth and eyes onto the nose of his machine, as people familiar with the old Airfix 1/72 kit will recall. Portly though it looked, the Roland was in its time an advanced machine, fast and well-armed, with superb view and fields of fire upwards, for a biplane. Less happily, the thin wings were reported to warp under front-line conditions, reducing climb rates, and the poor downward view and high approach speed made for rather a lot of landing crack-ups. Nevertheless, about the middle of 1916, RFC ace Albert Ball described the Roland as 'the best German machine now' and they type soldiered on over the Western Front till about mid-1917.
This isn't my first WoFF mission report in this type - that can be found here. However, it's been a while since I have flown the Roland. I decided it was time to break out of my traditional 1917 campaigns with one the year before, flying and fighting against an earlier generation of combat aircraft. For the German side of that experience, I was initially tempted to fly the neat Halberstadt D.II..
But instead for additional novelty, I thought I'd go for a two-seater, with the Roland being an obvious choice - like the RFC's Sopwith Strutter, it was no mere target, but more of an all-round combat aircraft, with a decent air-to-air capability.
To digress slightly, I'm still flying the original version of WoFF - my PC, though able to produce acceptable FPS (most of the time) with high graphics settings, has been left behind as the minimum specs have crept up. However, though I think it has introduced some stutter on my old rig at low level in graphically 'busy' situations, I am using the latest version of Ankor's DX9 mod, which to aircraft and ground shadows, has now added two really outstanding new features to Wings over Flanders Fields - subtle 'head bobbing' during manoeuvres, and mouse look. Marvellous stuff!
For my Roland campaign, I wanted a unit equipped with this type in the summer of 1916, based in the British sector - until the arrival of WoFF Ultimate Edition, the sim has somewhat limited coverage of French orders of battle, now pretty well remedied with the addition of the Caudron G.IV and Breguet 14. So I ended up with Feldflieger Abteilung 3, based at Menen in Flanders, starting in August 1916.
Here's the squadron roster, which shows me at the head of the second flight as usual in WoFF, in this case Kette Zwei; also as usual, I've enabled the 'Always lead' option to ensure that I fly at the head of my flight, every time, with no need for tedious formation flying. The unit still has some old Aviatik C.IIs. It was quite common for German two-seater units to operate a mix of aircraft types, helped no doubt by the fact that many had similar makes of engines, which probably shared many parts.
Our first mission was artillery observation, directing the fire of a battery. I believe Rise of Flight is the only WW1 sim which provides a game mechanism to simulate this activity; in the others as in WoFF, it's a case of flying to the objective, where you can orbit back and forth between the likely positions of target and battery, simulating your task (which was commonly flown in a back-and-forth figure of eight pattern).
'Art obs' planes generally operated alone, on the British side having escort only in the form of timed patrols; but the Germans often seem to have provided direct escorts. In fact, the 'CL' or light C-type two seater, though much employed later for ground attack, was intended to have just such an escort role. And the Roland C.II is arguably the immediate progenitor of the CL types that followed, like the Hannover CL.II and III and Halberstadt CL.III and IV.
For this job, four of us are detailed: three Rolands and an old Aviatik. I have accepted the unit's stock colour scheme for my kite, though with the now-free historical skin pack, I could have chosen something different, but all I did was reduce the flight's fuel load to 80%, more than enough for this operation.
Here I am hareing across the grass at Menen. The weather is good, Kette Eins is said to be flying in support, plus we have two Fokker eindekkers coming down from the north as additional cover. All in all, it's quite a big effort for an art obs mission, so perhaps the target is especially important.
Early on, I realise the Aviatik is going to struggle to keep up with our fast Rolands. I should perhaps play it as if he is the one with the morse transmitter plotting the fall of shot, and maintain formation with him so as to act as a close escort. But I decide instead to press on and sweep the skies clear, ahead of him.
Although WoFF doesn't have a functional 'warp to next event/waypoint' feature and has limited time acceleration, I generally prefer flying in real time. Even if the flight to the front is longer than this trip, the visuals are sufficiently impressive to make it a valued part of the experience, for me. The excellent cloudscapes are a major part of this, especially with Arisfuser's cloud mod.Love it!
For much of the trip down to the south-west towards the lines, I see neither Kette Eins nor the eindekker escort. But finally, nearing the front, I look up and behind, and there, hanging in the skies above, is a Fokker monoplane. The second one is lower down, but also catching us up...or trying to, not very successfully.
Soon, seen through the broken cloud, the green and yellow fields below us are giving way to the muddy earth brown of the shelled area. It won't be long now, till we are in the target zone.
At this point, we see the black smudges of German AA fire below and ahead. As I watch, I can see that the bursts are tracking towards us. Looking for their targets, I can just about make out two small specks close together, below and ahead of the flak bursts. They're on a roughly reciprocal course, but are not climbing as if to intercept us.
I watch the two enemy aircraft warily as they pass below and slightly right. I can see as they pass that they are 'pusher' types, probably F.E.2s, 'Vickers two seaters' as they Germans commonly knew them. If they'd been DH 2 fighters, they would likely be attacking us. I could ignore them, and possibly should. I hesitate, remembering that we have artillery fire to direct. But I decide that can wait, and pull around and down, after the two Englishmen, before they get too far away. Leaving the rest of my own flight lagging, I'm soon attacking their leader from his blind spot. Obligingly, my trusty observer starts shooting at the second F.E. to our left, even as I'm knocking bits off the first one.
My target turns right out of formation. I close the range, firing as I come and getting more hits.
At this point, the F.E.'s speed drops off, and a wisp of dark smoke begins to unravel in his wake. I weave but end up overshooting, giving his observer the chance to put some rounds into my machine, in return. I try a rolling scissors but he's going so slowly I just can't keep behind him, working hard as I have to, to control my Walfisch's tail-heavy tendency to push the angle of attack well up. The F.E's bobbing up and down now, like he's strugling to stay under control, but I know only too well that he's still dangerous. So I do what I should have done earlier and make a clean break, swerving away and then coming around in a wide arc to make a fresh attack. This at last has the desired effect. After some more short bursts from my forward-firing MG, the F.E. goes down with a stopped propeller.
I look around for the others, but see nothing of them. I recall noticing two of them flying close together straight and level, so perhaps they had decided to leave me to it, and go on with the mission (the WoFF AI will reportedly do this, if they conclude their leader is giving up or no longer able to fly the mission). My plans for my next move are interrupted, however, when the noise and revs of my motor drop back. The power dies too and I'm left to turn east and search for somewhere to force land. Evidently, the hits the F.E. did managed to land on my Roland are responsible for this unfortunate turn of events.
Happily, I'm well on our side of No Man's Land and almost clear of the ground torn up by shellfire. And there's an airfield nearby, but while I edge around in its direction, I haven't enough height to make it there. Instead, I manage a creditable forced landing in a big field that's fortunately bereft of the lethal fences which can bring many such a move to grief, in WoFF.
Well, my diversion meant that I failed to get to my artillery spotting location, which is not good; but my flight may have been able to carry on. In return, I've knocked down an Englishman, at the cost of a damaged motor. Not too bad a day's work, for my first day at the front!
Below, is my pilot logbook after this sortie, opened to show that I have made my victory claim, as yet unconfirmed...
A couple of pages further on, I can re-read the combat report which I typed up afterwards, against the entry for the claim.
So far, so reasonably good. Very early days yet, but I'm rather hoping that this will be the start of a long and successful career!