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CA-WW1 - Green-tails over Flanders Fields

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Jasta 5 at Cambrai - a 'Wings Over Flanders Fields' Campaign

 

The first mission - 20 November 1917

 

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A little while back, CA member Captain McMuffin suggested I report on the progress of a campaign or two. Seems like a good idea to me, so here's the first installment of the first campaign. If there's interest, I expect I'll feature different sims; but first up, it's back to the new kid on the WW1 block, Wings Over Flanders Fields.

 

My chosen unit for this campaign is Jagdstaffel 5, famous both for its Albatrosses' green-painted tails and as the unit of the 'Golden Triumvirate', the three famous NCO aces Rumey, Mai and Koennecke. It's also the unit of Leutnant Hans von Hippel, whose green-tailed Albatros DV with its prominent dragon marking (apparently borrowed from another pilot) was famously photographed after a lower wing broke off at altitude and the pilot was lucky to get down in one piece.

 

Hippel.jpg

 

It's late November 1917, the first day of a big British offensive, spearheaded by a large force of tanks. It looks like fate has picked an interesting time for me to arrive at the front! A rookie Leutnant on my first assignment to a combat unit, I'm glad to have been posted to a staffel with a decent reputation and some outstanding pilots - Jasta 5.

 

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We're based at Boistrancourt, near the town of Cambrai itself, right in the path of the new British offensive, although we pilots don't know this yet.

 

Greentails2.JPG

 

Our aircraft is the Albatros D V, the latest version of this sleek fighting machine, but by now, we all know its abilities are falling behind those of the latest enemy aircraft. And the lower wing troubles which first appeared with the D III model in early 1917 appear to have resurfaced. But in the hands of a good pilot it can hold its own and until better aircraft arrive from German factories, we must make do with what we have,

 

Greentails5.JPG

 

At least the flight I'll be with on my first mission is a good crowd, experienced pilots with a fine tally of victories between them. In fact the top scorer, Sikorski, has been detailed to fly on my wing, no doubt to keep a close eye on me and make sure I don't do anything silly...and also that I get home in one piece, I hope.

 

Greentails3.JPG

 

The day of my first combat flight has arrived! It's early morning and six of us have been detailed to patrol near Cambrai at about two thousand metres. I'll be flying in the leading 'vic', on the left of our leader, Hauptmann Bonin. Fortunately, the weather is good. In my excitement I have neglected to check the intelligence reports but I know that we can expect to face the enemy's best and that both French and British aircraft could be operating in our sector. As they fly offensively, I know that we can expect to meet them from the moment we are airborne.

 

On the grass at Boistrancourt in front of our canvas hangars, our lined-up aircraft make a fine sight, with their varnished plywood fuselages gleaming softly and our red-edged green tails proudly proclaiming our Jasta's identity. What will my first mission bring? It's time to find out!

 

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...to be continued!

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A surprise encounter!

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We took off together and headed first to the west. Our straggling group of aircraft slowly formed up on our leader, who stayed low until we were all with him.

 

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Checking my map which was marked with our patrol's intended course, I saw that we were still heading west, towards the front, which was not too far off, at this point.

 

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Finally our leader began a series of gentle, climbing turns which I expected would bring us onto our assigned track. With much adjusting of throttle, I managed to keep my position, more or less. Watching out for enemies while I was thus occupied was more or less out of the question.

 

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Without any warning, our formation broke up. At first, I thought it was just another course correction, but the turn tightened up and the other Albatrosses began ascending in a tight upward spiral. I knew this could only mean one thing - someone had seen the enemy!

 

Shot05-31-14-10-47-11.jpg

 

...to be continued!

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A tough nut to crack

 

As it turned out, our foe was a Frenchman in a SPAD, and he was alone. Above us, he could most likely have avoided us, but that seemed to be the last thing on his mind. As we spiraled up towards him, he banked around dropped upon us like a hawk.

 

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Our friend in the SPAD seemed to have an unerring nose for who was the rookie, for he decided I was the one. In no time he was behind me. I leveled off from my climb and steepened my turn, but this SPAD seemed to be flown by an expert for he seemed to be entirely unimpressed by the common consensus that my machine was - at least on paper - more manoeuvrable than his.

 

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It was fortunate indeed that I was not on my own! Soon my flight mates counterattacked, and drove off the intrepid Frenchman who turned away with two Albatrosses hot on his heels.

 

 

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Anxious not to miss out on the opportunity to show the enemy flier that even a rookie pilot of Jasta 5 does not take kindly to having his tail chased, I swung around and headed after the others.

 

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By great good fortune, the Frenchman's efforts to escape took him right across my path and I duly latched onto him. After several bursts, he flipped over and went down!

 

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My excitement at a victory on my first mission was short-lived. Not far above the ground, I saw the SPAD pull out and fly off. Whether his dive had been a ruse or genuine, the fight was clearly still not over!

 

Shot05-31-14-10-52-19.jpg

 

...to be continued!

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Finis!

 

I rolled over and dived after the SPAD, being careful not to over-stress my aircraft, for fear of losing my lower wings. But I wasn't fast enough. Another Albatross was after him - it was my companion Sikorski, in fact. As he had likely been one of those who has chased the Frenchman off my tail and saved my neck, I was content to hang back while Sikorski attacked, ready to nip in for a shot should the opportunity arise.

 

It didn't. Sikorski sat on the Frenchman's tail and fired. The enemy took no evasive action, having obviously suffered at least some damage from my own hits. This time it was the end. The SPAD seemed to pull up briefly, then his nose dropped and he dived for the ground, trailing dark smoke. This time, he did not pull out.

 

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I checked my map and the time, just in case I was offered the opportunity to claim the victory; it was 8.42 am and I was a little south-east of Vitry.

 

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Looking around, the only other machine I could see now was Sikorski's. Of the rest of our formation, there was no sign. No friendly anti-aircraft bursts dotted the sky. All very mysterious! I contemplated flying on and picking up the patrol route but I had lost a lot of altitude, taken some hits in the Frenchman's first pass, and had only about half my ammunition left. So home I went, accompanied by Sikorski.

 

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Back at Boistrancourt, I wasn't surprised not to be considered for the victory claim, nor that my Albatros needed a bit of fixing. A small price to pay, that was, for the fact that we had knocked down a Frenchman who must surely have been an ace, so bravely and skilfully had he handled his machine. I was disappointed that I hadn't finished the SPAD while I had him under my guns but the damage I inflicted certainly set him up for Sikorski. For a first mission, I hadn't done too badly. I wondered what the next flight would bring.

 

Shot05-31-14-10-55-46.jpg

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Jasta 5 - the second mission

Shot06-03-14-21-58-34.jpg

 

This was originally planned to be the second in a series of separate mission reports from my new Jasta 5 Battle of Cambrai campaign but for reasons that will soon become apparent, I decided to tag this one on here.

 

First things first. Here's the mission briefing. Three of us, lead by Hauptman Bonin, are to make a late patrol - it's 20 November, so it gets dark early - on a short curcuit to the south-east. Not having set 'Always lead' in the WOFF 'Workshops' I'm not leading this patrol, which I was soon to regret.

 

Jasta 5 #2b 2.jpg

 

But never mind - here we are, on the grass at Boistrancourt, our green-tailed Albatros D Vs lined up and ready for the 'off'. The shadows are already lengthening and as soon as my leader took off, I sped after him.

 

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To relieve the tedium of formation keeping, I turned on the autopilot and was somewhat taken aback when, after a certain amount of wing-waggling, my machine took off on its own, away from the other two.

 

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Turning on the Tactical Display, which at this point would normally provide me with a nice little illustrated vector to get into my precise slot in the flight formation, confirmed that the AI pilot now flying my albatros had quite different plans.

 

What these plans were, seemed to be confirmed when I noticed first a dark, German flak burst then the light tan undersides of a manoeuvring and unmistakably British aeroplane, up ahead of me.

 

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I quickly identified the enemy as a two-seat Bristol Fighter, a dangerous opponent, even though he was evidently on his own...as was I, for of my flight-mates, there was not a sign.

 

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I managed to get a decent burst at the Englishman, at which point he seemed to decide that enough was enough. Having gained a little height on me, he leveled off and sped westwards. Damaged he may have been but he was still fast and I was unable to catch him, so I resorted to snapping out some long-range bursts, hoping to nick him and provoke a turn.

 

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This worked fairly well. I either clipped him or near-missed sufficiently close to spook him, for around he came.

 

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I managed to cut inside him and get in a decent firing pass as his wings came level, possibly to give his observer a shot at me. Unwilling to be caught thus I broke hard right at the last minute and managed to escape without being hit myself.

 

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Impatient and sensing victory, I let the distance open out only a little then banked left and went for him again, sliding in close behind him, under his tail.

 

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And that is where my mission ended. There was the sound of gunfire and one or more rounds hit my machine. I didn't appear to be wounded but the Albatros ceased responding to any input I made. It just gently nosed down into an ever steeper dive, hitting the ground close below in a near vertical attitude. Goodnight, Vienna!

 

I was a bit miffed that (i) the autopilot had led me away from the others (ii) the latter had left me in the lurch, perhaps unable to break their 'takeoff and climb' programming the way my autopilot had done and (iii) that I'd fallen victim to a 'magic bullet' which I could only conclude had been an instant pilot kill, hence no 'blood spatter' wound indication.

 

Such an early end to a promising career! Better luck next time!

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