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Sopwiths Over Flanders Fields

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The famous aviation pioneer's aircraft come to life in Wings over Flanders Fields!



In between reporting on my current career in a certain other WW1 sim, I decided I would add a bit of variety within the same wire-and-fabric theme. So this is the first of what will be a series of reports on single player campaign missions flown in Wings over Flanders Fields in the aircraft of T.O.M. Sopwith.


Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith was one of the shining stars of early British aviation. Nearly everyone has heard of the Sopwith Camel, but as most aviation-minded people know, this was just one of the many great designs he's associated with. Many of these were mainstays of the British war effort in WW1, and consequently feature in most air combat simulators of that period.


As well as the One-and-a-half Strutter illustrated at the start of this thread, WoFF features the following Sopwith aircraft:


Single seat Strutter bomber:








Triplane (including a non-standard, two-gun version):












...and a Snipe the right way up:




So, we have a good deal of ground - or should that be, air? - to cover. Let's make a start with the Sopwith One-and-a-half Strutter, so called apparently because each set of centre-section struts consisted of one short and one long strut.



The campaign


This first report features two missions in what turned out to be a brief campaign flying two-seat Strutters with 45 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. This is the unit featured in Norman Macmillan's war memoir Into the Blue, which was the inspiration for parallel Strutter campaigns flown in First Eagles 2 and WoFF's predecessor Over Flanders Fields, which you can read about here. The Strutter is now also available in Rise of Flight, but that's a plane I don't yet have, in that sim.


I elected to start in April 1917, at the time of the lowest period in the RFC's fortunes. The previous year, it had been very different. The Strutter had helped to cement the air superiority gained, in time for the famous Battle of the Somme, after the Fokker Scourge had been weathered then countered. Even allowing for the use of crude speaking tubes, the Strutter's pilot and observer sat rather far apart for effective co-ordination. But they had a machine gun each, including a Vickers synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. And the observer sat in the rear, where his Lewis Gun had a much better field of fire than in the Royal Aircraft Factory's BE.2. WW1 British aircraft procurement policy is worth a book or two in its own right, but the Sopwith design seems so much more effective as a combat aeroplane that it's hard to understand why the RFC persevered with the BE types. Some say there was an antipathy against private companies rather than the state-owned Factory, others that it was more a case of ordering whatever could be built in sufficient numbers, or a failure to understand, anticipate or react quickly enough to front-line requirements.


The Admiralty seemed to have had less difficulties or hang-ups in this field and it was the Royal Naval Air Service that really saw the benefits of Sopwiths designs and placed its orders accordingly. The Army's RFC also got Strutters, though by the time of this campaign, they were - if still superior to the BEs - highly vulnerable to the new, powerful, twin-gunned German scouts. Despite this, Strutter sqaudrons were still expected to escort their own reconnaisance missions, and often flew the same sort of patrols as the single seat fighters, then called 'scouts'. It is into these difficult and dangerous times that I have plunged my virtual crew for this campaign.



The first mission


At this point in the war, 45 Squadron is based at St Marie Cappel, well north of the Battle of Arras but not immune to the same dangers faced down there. We are quite a way behind the lines. Checking the squadron orders for the day, I find that my first mission is to be a patrol up to the lines near Ypres, or 'Wipers' as the Tommies called it. I'm in 'B' Flight and there's just us and one other crew on this show. Four machines in 'A' Flight are said to be flying 'top cover' but in the cloudy conditions, maintaining touch will be next to impossible. I feel anxious about this but there's nothing I can do but start up, check my controls and take off; if I sit here any longer I will just 'get the wind up'. The chaps in 'A' Flight seem less bothered and get off ahead of us.



I'm soon off after them and climbing up. One nice thing about the Strutter is that she's got a decent set of instruments, though I won't be spending too much time looking at them on this flight.




As you can see, our aircraft are in clear doped linen finish, apart from khaki PC10 on the upper wings and rather colourful tailplanes, the latter excellent for mutual identification but compromising our camouflage rather badly. You can also see that our Lewis Guns are fitted onto French-designed Etevé mounts, rather than the more common and later universal Scarff gun rings.




Here's the in-flight map, with the little green aircraft icon showing our position on the first leg of our route up to the front, to the east. Our assigned altitude is, if I recall right, about 11,000 feet but I am reserving the right to vary that according to the conditions, most notably the weather.




The second Strutter is keeping formation nicely as we make the long climb to the east.




Up ahead and all around, there are impressive banks of cloud, and between this and the general gloom, visibility of the ground doesn't extend very far in any direction, even at this low level. If my trusty observer is bothered by this, or by the force of the slipstream against his back, he keeps it to himself. We may have worse things to worry about, soon enough.




...to be continued!

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Strutters -vs- Rumplers




We have not gone very far, nor climbed terribly high, when we spot the enemy. I fly with aircraft labels turned off - or more accurately, set to 'dot mode' with a 4,000 yard range, so that I can see other planes at that distance as specks, somewhat further away than they can otherwise be seen in WoFF, but still at a realistic spotting distance. As a habit from flying CFS3, in WoFF I also turn on the Tactical Display (or 'TAC') only at intervals, just to check my heading to the next waypoint (saving me the hassle of realistic navigation). To prevent this acting like an AWACS radar display, I have set the TAC's range to 1.1 miles. When I turn it on, should the TAC happen to display an enemy aircraft, well to me, that's fair enough - compensation for the huge limits of 'MonitorVision'. I rationalise this as myself - or in this case, my observer - or a flight-mate, making the sighting via routine scanning. After all, except in lone wolf missions, you have other friendly eyes watching the skies, as well as your own.


It is in this fashion - and still well on our own side of the lines - that to my surprise, I see two red enemy aircraft icons on the TAC, during one such navigational check.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-32-14-22.jpg


They are ahead and above us, well above. 'B' Flight has been no-where in sight for some time, so whatever happens next, will be down to me. I have a mission to perform, and its location is well to the east. But the enemy is here, now. And I feel that I must do something about it, rather than carry on with the mission. So far on our side of the lines, this is most likely a reconnaisance mission, less likely a bombing attack. Either way, it will be something that it is worth my time attempting to stop, while I can.


I swing around in a wide spiral towards the Huns, climbing as hard as I am able. Looking up through my Strutter's transparent centre section, I can see them fairly clearly. They seem to be rather slender machines, confirming my belief that they are two-seaters on a recce, and not scouts. Not that enemy single-seaters should be this far into our territory, but I'm comforted nevertheless that we are not about to be dived on. These fellows will have photographs to take and then get back to their side with.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-32-28-69.jpg


In fact, the Germans are in Rumplers, famous in 1917-18 as fast, high-flying photo recce machines, with later versions being able to operate at heights where few if any enemy aircraft could catch them. These planes are the earlier C.IV version, pretty well brand new in April 1917, but still a handful for a Strutter. Though this pair is well under 10,000 feet, their height advantage alone makes me doubtful if we can catch them. But the effort must be made!


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-32-41-29.jpg


...to be continued!

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The chase is on!

CFS3 2016-09-11 19-33-27-90.jpg


Had the Rumplers been higher, I expect they would easily have eluded us. As it is, and as the chase develops, it is very quickly obvious that there is no way we can overhaul them, as well as reaching their level. They are flying south, deeper into our territory, so I gain height and let them draw away. The plan is, keep them in sight, keep climbing, and hope to be high enough to catch them when they turn for home.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-34-40-66.jpg


The other Strutter has no difficulty staying with me, and I consider cutting him lose with an order to attack. But no, I'll keep my small force concentrated, and stake everything on the one roll of the dice that's all we're likely to get...if fortune smiles upon us.




After a long tail chase, I can see that we're slowly getting close to the Rumplers' level. At about this time, our gunners down below decide they'll have a crack. The grey-white bursts fall behind the two Huns, but not so far behind as to threaten us, happily. We continue to climb, biding our time. Softlee, softlee, catchee monkee...




The Archie stops, and we are still a few hundred feet too low when the Rumplers turn right for home. I bank right to cut across their turn, gently so as to be able to continue to climb. You can just about see the Huns in the picture below, roughly under the 'X' made by my right-hand interplane bracing wires....


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-37-02-87.jpg


...while in the next picture, taken looking back from one of the Rumplers, our two Strutters are the specks in the centre of the image.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-37-12-59.jpg


As the enemy machines settle onto their return course, the best I can do is fall in behind them. I have closed in quite a bit but am still below, and out of effective range. My observer is champing at the bit but he can't bring his Lewis to bear.




Soon, he gives up, and turns his back to the slipstream again.




This gives me an idea. I push my nose down to gain airspeed. Accepting the height loss, if I can get far enough below the nearest Rumpler, I hope my observer can fire upwards, into the enemy's belly.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-45-53-96.jpg


This seems to be going well for a time. Under the Rumpler's tail, we are in his observer's blind spot, and while his comrade can see us, we are not fired upon, probably because the range is a little long.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-45-37-36.jpg


But I can only dive so far, before I'm falling too far below the Rumpler. And as I pull up again, the loss of speed prevents me from bringing the enemy into my observer's field of fire.


Time to try something different! I nose down again to pick up speed once more, then pull up, intending to 'warm his hide with my Vickers', as Biggles put it.




As my speed falls up he draws ahead, naturally. By the time he's in my sights, the Hun is also at pretty extreme range. This could be the last chance I get, so I start shooting, adjusting my aim from the tracer smoke trails in between bursts.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-46-58-66.jpg


The Rumpler draws steadily ahead. I keep shooting, burst after burst. Finally, my gun packs in. The stoppage drill doesn't re-start the weapon so I'm probably out of rounds, already; either that, or the stoppage is one that can't be cleared in the air.


I have nothing to lose now, so I push down the nose again in a final effort to give my observer a crack at him. By this time, I have, inexcusably, forgotten about my flight-mate, who is still dutifully keeping formation.




I don't know why, but this time, it works! I hear the rattle of the Lewis as the observer opens up. I can see the enemy's counterpart, seemingly looking down at us, but he doesn't fire, perhaps because we are below his arc of fire.




Taking no chances, I slide to the right to get underneath him.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-49-39-09.jpg


But then, we are thwarted again, as the Rumplers suddenly turn off to the left...


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-50-22-63.jpg


..but unaccountably, instead of making good their escape, they reverse their turn and we converge. Perhaps they have decided that attack is the best form of defence.




We're still a bit low, but now, my observer gets another crack at the enemy. With my Vickers silent, all I can do is watch and cross my fingers. Well, with WoFF, I could have switched to the observer's position and hoped my AI pilot wouldn't do anything silly, but I decide to sit where I am, in the driving seat, as it were.


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-51-08-12.jpg


Got him! The Rumpler's lower left wing is shot off!


CFS3 2016-09-11 19-51-13-07.jpg


He flies on for a little while - really, both wings should have collapsed at the same time - but then he rolls over and dives headlong to earth, with that left upper wing continuing to defy the laws of physics.




I now find myself next to the second Rumpler, and our observers trade rounds.




I finally remember that I have another Strutter which could assist me in despatching the second Hun, but before I can act, perhaps anticipating my next move, the Rumpler rolls left and dives hard away, disappearing somewhere under my tail.


CFS3 2016-09-11 20-08-30-13.jpg


Has the Rumpler made an escape, or has he, too, fallen to my observer's fire? Either way, I am reluctant to be drawn into losing the height I have so painfully gained, and lose sight of the second enemy in the gloom below.


Contemplating my next move, I rule out diving down to check on the fate or whereabouts of the Rumplers, one of which is definitely kaput. I also rule out continuing with the patrol, citing my useless Vickers and my observer's significant expenditure of ammunition. Realising what that leaves me with, I check my position on the map. Finding that the pursuit and combat has left me closer to home than at the start and well short of the lines, seals my decision. I lead my flight-mate back to St Marie Cappel.




I never did find out what happened, for sure. Alt-tabbing out to check my screenshots were saving, CFS3.exe crashed, leaving me able to exit the flight normally in WoFF, but unable to get to the debrief. Oh well, I know what happened, and even though my victory (or victories) will never be confirmed, to adapt that well-known line from The Blue Max, I have the great satisfaction of knowing that I have served King and Country.


The second mission was to be more dramatic, but this time, I would make a decision which would crash more than a program.


...to be continued!

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Trouble...with a capital 'A'...




My second mission is similar to the first: consistent with my 'new arrival' status, I find that I am to lead another patrol up to the front lines, commonly known, for obvious enough reasons, as a line patrol; Norman Macmillan in Into the Blue lists the other types of patrols flown by 45 Squadron's Strutters in Spring 1917 as defensive patrols (flown up to about 4 miles beyond the lines) and offenvive patrols (10-12 miles into enemy territory).


One difference is that it's raining, as we leave St Marie Cappel behind. Another rather more important difference is that I have been allocated a nicely beefed up 'B' Flight, with five aircraft, compared to the usual three or four for a one-flight patrol.


I am unable to choose with whom I fly, but I try to be clever by selecting at least our formation, which I can do. This comes somewhat unstuck, because I choose echelon right, forgetting that in WoFF, this sandwiches me somewhat uncomfortably in the middle of our five aircraft, and not as I had intended, on the left.




After the long haul to the east through thick weather, we find ourselves over the shelled area at a point where it's crossed by a river, which makes a nice landmark. We'll soon be at our designated patrol point, from which our next move will be up to me. The general idea seems to be that we will orbit the vicinity, perhaps flying up and down the lines a little way in either direction. We'll want to watch out for any Hun 'working aeroplanes' who have come out to take photographs or direct artillery fire, despite the poor visibility. And of course for his own scouts, free-booting in search of some easy victims. From this point on, I'm very conscious that the enemy could appear at any time.




The first sign that the Huns have in fact appeared comes when I see my neat formation unravel. It's like that scene from The Blue Max where first Stachel, then the others, leave Heidemann, their leader, to attack the enemy, breaking formation contrary to orders. Except that in the movie, Stachel at least does Heidemann the professional courtesy of point out the sighting, first. With no radios, and with on-screen aids turned off, flight-mates indicating sightings to the leader is one routine action that I don't think any WW1 flightsim has cracked. The glare of a red flare would be better than nothing, but at the moment, nothing's what we've got.


Except for those on-screen aids. Turning on the Tactical Display, I see a red enemy aircraft icon behind, evidently being engaged by the others.




By the time I have come about, the Hun seems to have disappeared somewhere, presumably below or into the clouds which are banked up on all sides. All I can see are three aircraft which I think are Strutters, off to my right. Black shellbursts show that Archie thinks they are Strutters too, and has decided to enter the fray. But the German gunners down below seem well off target and the rate of fire is rather desultory, as if they can't wait to get back out of the rain and into a nice warm dugout or billet.




Looking down, I am surprised to see what may be the source of this Archie, an airfield right at the margin of the shelled area, where no airfield - no operational airfield, anyway - should really be. No point setting up a lot of planes, personnel and facilities where the gunners can readily blow them to oblivion.




Looking up, towards a rare patch of blue sky, I see a single aircraft which doesn't look like a Strutter. Because he isn't one. He's a big fat Hun, an Albatros D.II in fact. Not the latest V-strutted model, but with two machine guns and plenty of ammo, he's trouble with a capital 'A', all right.




And from the way he seems to be banking around to watch me, I get the impression that it is I, for whom he intends to make the trouble.




Sure enough, down he comes...




...but 'B' Flight has no intention of allowing this nasty man to snap up their leader. They cut across and drive him off. Bravo!




They catch him up, box him in and down he goes, leaving behind a slim trail of dark smoke.




It's a good start! But I know that where there is one Hun, there's likely to be at least another. We're not done here yet.


...to be continued!

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End of the line!


My flight spirals earthwards and looking down and left, I can see a fight is developing with another Albatros, near the enemy airfield.



I stay above and watch. There are at least two Sopwiths down there; I can't see any sign of the others. But the Hun gives them the slip and manages to speed away. So I decide it's time to intervene, and drop down onto the enemy's tail.




My first burst doesn't succeed in knocking him down so I use the speed accumulated in my dive to pull back up, rolling right as I do so, to keep him in sight.




As we go by him, my observer has a crack at the Hun, too. My Strutter is proving itself a decent fighting aeroplane and there are times when it helps to have a sting in the tail, too.




I bank around for another go, as the Albatros slides past below us.






Once again, my single Vickers isn't quite up to the task of knocking him down in a single pass. The Hun turns and flies over the airfield. I am fired at from the ground, machinegun fire from the airfield. I am suddenly conscious that shooting down this beggar isn't the only thing I need to worry about.




It's too late to do much about those ground MGs this time so I can only hope to weather their storm, which we do. Then I drop in behind the Hun and once more let him have it...




...and once more, break away, low this time, leaving the Hun still flying, though his airspeed seems to be falling off.




This is where it all begins to go pear-shaped. I find that my turn has taken me back over that bally airfield. Again I am fired on, and this time I'm hit, but not seriously. Despite its location within range of our guns, it seems to be fully operational. These Huns have some cheek!




The good news is that the Albatros succumbs to the damage, nosing down in what looks an attempt at a forced landing. He flops onto the ground, rolls into a row of shattered trees, then flips over. That will do nicely! I ignore the Archie which I now realise is bursting nearby and swing around, watching out for that pesky airfield and its MGs.




This is where I really come unstuck. I am fully aware that I have been spending an unhealthy amount of time at low level chasing this Hun, often under ground fire. I also know that I have become target fixated, relying on the fact that at least two other Strutters are in the vicinity and hopefully keeping any other Huns occupied. But not all of them. One Albatros has slipped onto my tail and the first I know of it is when his rounds are whacking into my machine. My observer seems to be as surprised as I am and doesn't return fire; I think he is wounded.




I bank left and head for home. Ahead lines No-Man's Land, looking all the more unfriendly from the fierce artillery barrage that is now landing between me and safety. As if I didn't have enough troubles!




Next moment, blood spatters my goggles as I am hit. I can sense our forward momentum fading as the engine loses power. What's worse, my efforts to level the wings are ineffective as the ground comes up to meet us. I desperately work the stick and rudder and just about manage to prevent the bus rolling interved by crossing the controls. My right wingtip fractures as it dips into the ground, but somehow we don't cartwheel. Instead, I get the wings level at the last moment. We flop onto the ground and roll to a stop.




With this force landing behind enemy lines, I know that for me and my observer, the war is over. But we are to be spared the indignity of a Prisoner of War camp. Both of us are mortally wounded. I feel the sadness, that we made it down, only to end thus. A common enough outcome, shared by von Richthofen's first victims, Lieutenants Morris and Rees, in September 1916, and indeed by the Red Baron himself, who is reported to have died immediately after force landing his triplane in April 1918. The first RFC pilot to arrive in France in August 1914, the irrepressible Hubert 'HK' Harvey-Kelly, said to be 'mad as a hawk', died three days after being shot down in his SPAD 7 by the Red Baron's Jasta 11, along with two flight mates fron 19 Squadron, Applin (killed by von Richthofen) and Hamilton (shot down by Manfred's brother, Lothar, but surviving). Like 'HK', my pilot and observer have become victims of Bloody April.


 I'm disappointed that my own lack of caution ended a career I was relishing, but I took a chance I knew better than to take, and paid the price. Still, I have learned to appreciate WoFF's Strutter, which has made a worthy start to 'Sopwiths over Flander's Fields'. Next up, will be the aircraft it is said to have 'pupped'.

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Thanks dogfighter, glad you liked it!


Yes, the current WoFF visuals do not leave much to be desired, the latest Ankor DX9 mod making a great contribution, as others have said. And the historical skins pack, featuring over 4500 aircraft textures, is now free and also makes a big difference, with both mods at work in this pic of a Pup in the markings of 46 Squadron, which will feature in the next 'Sopwiths over Flanders Fields':




Before leaving the Strutter campaign, here's how my pilot's logbook (first pages only shown) ended up. The first mission was unlisted because I crashed cfs3, but I got credited with two kills, the Rumpler from the first one and the Albatros from the second. And I got a medal, the Military Cross, as well! It's a sad and premature end to what had been a promising career, all down to carelessness on my own part.


45 Sqn logbook.jpg


Looking forward to seeing if I can do better on Pups!

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      View File FM Tweaks for WOFFue
      Hello fellow flyers of WOFFue,
      You will find enclosed in the attached zip file 19 tweaked FMs for engined-up aircraft currently not present in WOFFue: a 150hp Fokker Dr.1, a late Albatros D.II 180hp, a Nieuport 25/27 165hp variant, a tuned up late Sopwith Tripe, a tweaked Nieu. 28, a tuned up Fokk. Eindecker IIa, a late Sopwith Pup, the rare Nieu. 23bis, a field mod of the Alb. D.I, and three variants of the SPAD 7 (150/180/220hp). Also included is a tweaked two-gun Tripe, Camel and Fokk. D.VII variants. Please read the enclosed "Read Me" file for more info. on the FM tweaks. The FM tweaks are JSGME program enabled, for convenience. Simply move the aircraft folders that you will find into the MODS folder of your WOFF user directory, toggle on/off with the JSGME enabler, and go fly. A big thank you to all the WOFFue modders and the good folks at OBD Software for making such an enjoyable sim. Those who fly these 19 and similar models in First Eagles 2 will become comfortable quickly with the FM tweaks, since they are similar across both sims.
      Von S
      NOTE: Only load one of the SPAD 7 variants at a time via the JSGME enabler, since WOFFue only holds one SPAD 7 folder that can be modded. The same rule applies to the 110 and 130hp Camel variants.
      Submitter VonS Submitted 08/08/2018 Category Modding Tools and Add-on Software  
    • By VonS
      Hello fellow flyers of WOFFue,
      You will find enclosed in the attached zip file 19 tweaked FMs for engined-up aircraft currently not present in WOFFue: a 150hp Fokker Dr.1, a late Albatros D.II 180hp, a Nieuport 25/27 165hp variant, a tuned up late Sopwith Tripe, a tweaked Nieu. 28, a tuned up Fokk. Eindecker IIa, a late Sopwith Pup, the rare Nieu. 23bis, a field mod of the Alb. D.I, and three variants of the SPAD 7 (150/180/220hp). Also included is a tweaked two-gun Tripe, Camel and Fokk. D.VII variants. Please read the enclosed "Read Me" file for more info. on the FM tweaks. The FM tweaks are JSGME program enabled, for convenience. Simply move the aircraft folders that you will find into the MODS folder of your WOFF user directory, toggle on/off with the JSGME enabler, and go fly. A big thank you to all the WOFFue modders and the good folks at OBD Software for making such an enjoyable sim. Those who fly these 19 and similar models in First Eagles 2 will become comfortable quickly with the FM tweaks, since they are similar across both sims.
      Von S
      NOTE: Only load one of the SPAD 7 variants at a time via the JSGME enabler, since WOFFue only holds one SPAD 7 folder that can be modded. The same rule applies to the 110 and 130hp Camel variants.
    • By chrispdm1

      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  

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