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Back-to-back missions in Sopwith's trend-setter!

 

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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...

 

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...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.

 

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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...

 

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...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...

 

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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!

 

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...to be continued!

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An unusual start

 

Both my Triplane campaigns are with No 1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, which was the Navy's assertion of its entitlement to its own aeroplanes, rather than relying on those provided by the Army's Royal Flying Corps. It took daylight Gotha attacks on London and the resultant Smutts report to get both air services merged into the RAF, from April 1918. In the meantime, one of the benefits of independence was that the RNAS often did better by buying designs from private industry, rather than sticking to the products of the Royal Aircraft Factory like the B.E.2 general purpose two-seater and the F.E.8 single-seat 'pusher' fighter. The Sopwith Triplane is one such example.

 

Both campaigns start on 1 May, in the immediate aftermath of Bloody April. This particularly suits Rise of Flight, because the latter lacks a B.E.2c, and thus suits the period when the B.E's replacement, the R.E.8, was taking over.

 

As is my wont, I used Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator to chose side, squadron and start date. Choosing 1 RNAS placed us at Villers Brettoneaux in Flanders; while the Channel Coast further north was the RNAS's main stomping ground, it transferred several squadrons to the south to help the RFC in the Battle of Arras and after. In PWCG, I neglected to chose a 'skin', for my own aircraft, and went straight to generating the first mission, which I would pick up when next launching RoF. The generated mission was an odd one - what today would be called close air support. Our stated target was enemy troops attacking our lines just south of a 'U' bend in a river which crossed the lines. I was tempted to scrub the mission and generate one more to my liking, as in, a patrol, but I decided to go for it. I did make sure I was the senior pilot and thus leading the flight, and I bumped up our numbers to my preferred four, by adding another pilot. Here we are, lined up and good to go.

 

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After take-off, our route took us north-east, then east, to the lines. Here I am on the first leg, with No Man's Land on my right. Given we're attacking ground targets, I haven't climbed too high. What I have done is forgotten to take a load of little 20 pound bombs - I suspect my Triplane could carry these, but I've got too used to flying German fighters, which don't carry bombs.

 

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About this time I noticed that my three flight-mates had fallen behind and below, so I throttled back for a spell, to let them catch up. This I find is not infrequent in RoF, with one or more flight-mates, unlike in WoFF, where formation-keeping was one of the really big improvements over the previous Over Flanders Fields. Here we are, after everyone is back where they should be.

 

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I really like the scenery in RoF. Perfect it ain't - the trenchlines are a bit too zipper-like, expecially where they cross unshelled countryside - but it's really rather nice, with the fields criss-crossed with realistic water, roads and tracks and dotted with towns, villages and airfields.

 

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There was a bit of a crosswind from the south, and after turning east, I could see my kite visibly crabbing as I applied rudder to maintain heading. Coming up to the lines, I picked out the meandering river which helpfully marked our target area, and then changed course to the right. I wanted to come in just to the south of the objective, so that it would not be hidden under my nose as I came in.

 

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Having got there, I wasn't at all sure how I was going to spot what it was, that I was supposed to be shooting at. What I could see was quite a lot of shellfire hitting our trenches, throwing up grey clouds of dust, or waterspouts, where the rounds fell.

 

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I banked around, trying to pick out something, anything, worth attacking, doubly anxious because our marked target seemed to be right on top of our own trenchlines. But looking back, I realised I was about to be spared further difficulties in that regard. Anti-aircraft fire was peppering the skies and my three flight mates were climbing up and away, going for whatever it was the gunners were shooting at.

 

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...to be continued!

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Let battle commence!

 

Turning around, I could see that the newcomers were a pair of enemy two-seaters, DFWs most likely. They were higher, about a thousand feet by the look of it, so I put my Triplane's high climb rate to good use.

 

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The Huns split up, and I continued to climb up under the nearest one, hoping to get my first crack at him from behind and below, out of the field of fire of the observer.

 

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My DFW was having none of it, though. Before I got into range, he started turning hard.

 

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He threw his big kite all over the sky like a real professional, and with a rather slow-fining single Vickers Gun, it was hard enough to get and keep him in my sights, let alone land many hits.

 

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Finally, I got into a good position, and let him have it.

 

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That did the trick. He levelled out and ran east, back towards Hun-land. I ran after him - straight into the field of fire of his observer, who now had a nice, steady firing platform, and duly let me have it.

 

I broke away hard, but he seemed to have knocked out my padlock, for it promptly stopped working at just that point. I mouse-looked around and picked him up again, this time making my attack from the approved position, before slipping out slightly to one side, to see if he would now do the right thing and go down, like a good Hun.

 

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He did no such thing, but instead flew doggedly on, homewards.

 

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Another attack brought more return fire and more hits on my Triplane, after I again wandered into the observer's arc of fire. By the time I had extricated myself and resumed my pursuit, he was well to the east, and still going strong.

 

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At this point, I decided to look behind - just in time to see that I was at the head of a small conga line of aircraft. The last in the line was a Triplane, but the closer two were Huns - Albatros Scouts. The Triplane obligingly shot them off my tail, but as they broke, it was apparent that I was going to have to let the DFW get away. I now had more dangerous foes to worry about.

 

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...to be continued!

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Revenge of the green tails!

 

Having just lost my WoFF Jasta 5 campaign pilot, here I was up against what I soon found to be my 'former comrades' - the two Albatrosses had the distinctive red-edged green tail of that unit. I turned into them, but my motor didn't sound quite right by this stage, and my Triplane's handling seemed sluggish - in the pic at the end of the previous post, you can see that my fin is looking somewhat bent, for one thing. I went for the nearest Hun, but I was beginning to feel that not only had the DFW got away, but his observer had set me up for his friends in these V-strutters.

 

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Not only that, but I was fairly sure that I had shot off most of my ammo. After a few turns, it was clear that my engine was failing and I needed to get out of Dodge, as the saying goes, I was about the middle of No-Man's Land so I didn't have too far to go, and I took the earliest opportunity to nose down and run for it. I hadn't got very far, when one of the Huns caught me up.

 

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You can see that my engine cowling is looking bent, too, and there are some little holes that weren't there when I took off. So it was no wonder the power seemed to be fading away. I took some hits but managed to survive the first attack. I quickly looked for somewhere to put her down - the next attack would likely be the last one. Inconveniently, at that point I found myself above the widest part of the river that snaked through the shelled area. I didn't especially want to break my neck when my undercart caught in the water and flipped me over, nor chance an effort at a nose-high, tailskid-first ditching. So I kept on going.

 

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But not for long. Rounds slammed into me from behind and before I could get out of the way, I slumped forward and my machine nosed down, caught the tops of some stunted tree trunks and broke up as it somersaulted into the mud and craters.

 

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This is the fellow who got me. He hadn't entirely got away scot free - you can see that all his interplane bracing wires have been shot away. This unconvincing disappearing act is not one of the better features of RoF's damage model, but I was in no position to complain at that point.

 

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I think that the only thing that saved me was that I had left the PWCG setting in place, that limits the injury to the player to severe, rather than fatal.

 

To wrap up this part of this dual mission report, here's the PWCG summary, plus the combat report I filed after viewing the animated debriefing, but without yet having seen the screenshots.

 

 

This mission was flown by:

   Flt.Cdr Richard Collishaw
   Flt SLt Roderick S Dallas
   Flt Lt Delmar Ufford
   Flt SLt Oliver Thursby

The mission was flown from Villers Bretonneux aerodrome.

Pilots lost were:
    Flt SLt Roderick S Dallas: Killed in Action
    Flt SLt Oliver Thursby: Killed in Action
    Flt.Cdr Richard Collishaw: Injured

 

"At about 09:40 we reached the lines over the objective but due to heavy shelling, I could not see the ground troops we were supposed to attack. Instead we climbed to attack two enemy two-seaters who flew past, heading north at about 1500 feet. They split up and I attacked the nearest, a DFW, which turned hard but was eventually damaged by my fire and flew east. I pursued him, and was rejoined by two other triplanes, but we were then attacked from behind by at least two Albatros V-strutters with green tails. A dogfight developed but my machine had been damaged by return fire from the DFW and the motor became very sluggish, so that I lost much height trying to turn after the Albatrosses. As I was also very low on ammo I tried to disengage but was attacked from behind, hit again and crashed near the river in No Man's Land."

Not an auspicious start - Jasta 5 had taken down 1 RNAS more than a peg or two, with just one machine out of four getting away, two pilots killed and no victories to show for any of it. Leaving aside the extent to which my own tactics, flying and shooting were to blame, I can certainly see why it's all very well having an aeroplane with a superior performance, but that only goes so far if the other fellow has two guns to your slow-firing one. Perhaps I should have started with a Camel squadron! Hopefully, even if I change the PWCG setting to 'dead is dead', I'll live long enough to see the squadron re-equipped!

 

...to be continued!

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Back on patrol!

 

My parallel Triplane campaign in Wings over Flanders Fields is not a new one – this mission is the second in a campaign started for ‘Sopwiths over Flanders Fields’, but left ‘on the shelf’ since that mission report. The show featured here took place later on the same day, 1 May 1917. It was a patrol over to the lines from our airfield at  la Bellevue, and my squadron was 'Naval Ten, rather than 'Naval One', as in Rise of Flight.

 

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I’m not yet using JJJ65's Mission Editor which enables you to do things like control the number and identify of flight-mates as Pat Wilson's Campaign Generato does in RoF. I was happy neverthelss to find that I was allocated three companions for the trip - not too many, not too few. I did use WoFF to reduce our fuel loads to 80%, to lighten our aircraft from the outset.

 

As is common in WoFF, ‘A’ Flight was taking off with us, supposedly to fly ‘top cover’ (one of those slightly jarring post-World War One terms, like ‘Intel’, that WoFF uses in a few places) although whether or not you see them after take off is doubtful, unless you conform to their movements. Which I usually disdain to do.

Having ticked the ‘Always lead’ option, I was in charge of ‘B’ Flight’s four Triplanes. For some reason, I had picked a ‘skin’ for a machine from 9 Naval, rather than from my own squadron.

 

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Unlike RoF, the WoFF weather is often dire, but today was bright and sunny, with little cloud cover. I’m experimenting with some of the settings in Ankor’s indispensable DX9 feature which accounts for my nice, glossy Triplane. The head-bobbing and mouselook Ankor has added to the original dynamic shadows make it much more attractive for me to spend more time in the virtual cockpit, as I do in RoF, and less time in the external view; so the shine wasn’t too distracting.

 

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Also as in RoF, the short flight times and pleasant visuals make flying the mission in real time a pleasure rather than a chore, although from la Bellevue, we had rather longer to go than in the RoF 'parallel' mission, to get to the front.

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On top of that, when we got there, nothing much seemed to be happening. All around us, the skies were clear of any sign whatever of other aircraft. As we reached the front, having got to somewhat under 10,000 feet, I turned right so as to fly east-south-east down the trenchlines, hoping we'd bump into something, sooner or later.

 

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Still the skies remained obstinately clear. The sun was behind and to our right, so I threw in a few random course changes to reduce the chance of somebody creeping up on us, unseen. But nobody did. I began to think that this was liable to be one of those parties the Huns weren’t going to join – a ‘milk run,’ to use another anachronism (one I haven’t seen in WoFF).

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One of my gentle zig-zags took us a little closer to Hun-Land, and this attracted the attention of Archie, as the RFC called AA fire. The black bursts seemed to be good for line and height and kept going, so I opened up and led us in a climb to put them off. No point tempting fate.

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Archie soon gave up, only for another battery to take over, just as we were coming to the southern limit of our assigned patrol line.

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At that point, scanning the blue skies all around, my gaze lingering in the direction of the sun, I noticed a group of specks above and behind us, to our right, on the friendly side of the lines.

 

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There seemed to be four of them, in a V formation. ‘A’ Flight has showed up after all, I thought to myself. But I kept a watchful eye on the newcomers, mindful of Mick Mannock’s tenet that sighted aircraft should be taken to be hostile, until proven otherwise. Sure enough, a closer look revealed that they were Hun two-seaters, possibly DFWs.

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While I was making up my mind whether to turn left or right to get at them, the decision was suddenly taken out of my hands. A small, fast biplane whipped in from our left, coming straight at us. He was a Hun in an Albatros V-strutter, and he wasn’t alone!

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Our attackers were at least two Albatrosses. What they may have lacked in numbers, they made up for in aggressiveness. Their red tails and noses seemed to explain their feistiness – they were from von Richthofen’s circus, no less.

I picked out the nearest one, gave the order to attack – just in case anyone was in any doubt – and the fun began. I avoided the Hun’s first pass and after what today would be called a flat scissors,  with each of us turning into the other repeatedly to try to get the other out in front, I managed to get above him. I rolled over and into him and made several attacks, before zooming back up. From the bits and dust that flew from him, I could see that I was getting hits. After maybe my third pass, the V-strutter broke off and flew away, wings level, slowly losing height.

 

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After clearing my tail and seeing that the other Triplanes seemed to be holding their own, I went after my Hun and made another pass.

 

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As I broke away, I saw that his propeller had stopped turning, so I left to return to the fight, where I could see a solitary Triplane being pursued by another Albatros.

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So far, so good, but the fight wasn't over yet!

 

...to be continued!

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A fighting finalé...

 

I managed to get there in time and shot the Hun off my flight-mate’s tail.The latter then seemed to make himself scarce, leaving me to deal with the second red-tailed Albatros, who seemed a tad cross with me for interrupting his attack, not to mention for having seen off his friend.

 

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This fellow seemed if anything more detrmined than the other Hun not to get shot down. However, I had the better aeroplane for the turning fight that quickly developed.

 

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He was hot stuff, though, and he managed to turn inside me when I pulled around too hard to get my gun onto him in a hurry, without balancing the turn.

 

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By now we were quite low and being more patient, I tok it a bit easier, and allowed my better turning circle to bring him back around and into my sights, more gradually.

 

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I got some hits on him and he reversed his turn. This didn't do him a lot of good.

 

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I overhauled him steadily, snapping out short bursts - with head-bobbing active, it takes more skill to line up your shots, without going to the gunsight view, a feature I like as it seems much more like you're in a three-dimensional world sitting in a manoeuvring aircraft, not sitting at a bitmap superimposed rigidly upon a moving monitor image.

 

Sensing victory, I throttled back so as to stay behind him, rather than having to break and stop shooting. This did the trick. His wing structure suddenly collapsed and he disappeared somewhere under my nose.

 

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His friend might have well glided to safety, but this machine now had the gliding characteristics of a streamlined rock, and wasn't going anywhere, except down, down, down.

 

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Time to go home! There isn’t a fully-functional ‘recall’ command in WoFF and anyway, there was nothing to be seen of the rest of my flight. So I oriented myself and turned west, towards friendly territory. By this time, I had lost a fair bit of height and drifted over the enemy’s reserve trenchlines, happily still high enough to avoid ground MG fire. Behind me as I sped homewards, a smudge of dirt and dust near some trenches marked the spot where my erstwhile foe had crashed to earth.

 

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As I flew west, Archie did his best to stop me getting away. At which, glad to say, he failed. He did, however, play a part in deterring me from having a go at a nearby enemy kite balloon, which I left unmolested behind me.

 

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The excitement wasn't quite over yet, thought!

 

...to be continued!

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There was I...

 

...well on my way home, with two out of three flight-mates having managed to find me and tag on behind. Except that they weren't flight-mates. They had two wings, not three. More Huns! They were Albatrosses again, this time with blue tails. Now, I was in real trouble – alone against two, at under 5,000 feet and not quite yet over friendly territory. I ran for a bit...

 

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...but the Huns slowly gained on me, so I turned to meet them.

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I picked the nearest Boche and got into a turning fight, in an effort to get him quickly and even up the odds at the outset. This proved impossible, for the Hun kept up his speed and while his turning circle may have been wider, his rate of turn seemed just as good. And the longer I stayed in a turn, the more the drag of my three wings seemed to give the sleeker biplane a greater advantage, getting around the circumference of his outer circle faster than I could get around that of my smaller, inner one.

I tried to counter this by going vertical with a low yo-yo. That did the trick and I got some rounds into him. He sheered off, but now rounds whacked into my machine, in turn. I looked around for the second blue Albatros but could not find him, at which point I was hit again and realised that this time at least, I was under MG fire from the ground. I quickly re-oriented myself and fled westwards.

 

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Over No-Man’s Land the second blue-tailed Albatros caught up with me and round and around we went again. This time, though, it was his turn to be hit by ground fire! As I watched, I saw his nose drop and down he went, in a vertical dive from under 500 feet. Did he pull out? I didn’t hang around to find out, but sped away to the west. I’ve been re-reading from my books of RFC and RAF daily communiqués – ‘Comic Cuts’ as they were known – and I know well enough that many a hostile machine reported optimistically as 'going down vertically' wasn’t actually shot down, but I have a feeling that particular Hun had fought his last battle. Serves him right!

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I was soon leaving the shelled area behind me, with the unspoilt countryside of northern France opening out again below and around me. The sense of relief was very real – from the point we spotted the two-seaters, the transition from a cross country flight to a fight for survival had been rapid and unsettling.

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Behind my tail, all was now clear...

 

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...but looking out ahead and to the right for the nearest friendly airfield my map revealed, I saw two specks, low down and about a mile off. At first I thought they were making a bee-line for me. But as I watched, I was relieved to find that they appeared to be making a gentle approach to the same airfield I was making for. The fact that no-one on the ground was shooting at them was a further indication they weren't more Huns up to no good. In fact, they might have been from my own flight.

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I was soon making my own approach, keeping an eye out for traffic. The other two aircraft may have been making a circuit or coud have flown on, for I didn’t see them again.

 

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I was soon back on terra firma, switching off in front of the canvas hangars.Time to introduce myself to my hosts and call Squadron to report my whereabouts and seek news of the others, before asking the fitters to check my machine before I set off on the last lap back to la Bellevue.

 

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Back at base, I claimed one Hun definitely shot down, and left it at that, on the basis that the Albatros with the dud motor was high enough to have glided back into Hun-land. I was, however, much relieved to find that all three of the others had made it back, and had in fact claimed another Hun. All in all, not a bad show and an all together more satisfactory one, than I'd had flying a very similar mission in the alternative Rise of Flight universe. That's no reflection on the relative merits of two great WW1 combat flightsims - I just put it down to the fortunes of war!

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Awesome! I enjoy your flying tales. This reminds me the adventures of Biggles. :pilotfly:

I play usually Rise of Flight, but I dont have WOFF yet. I think it is time to give it a try.

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Glad you like the reports, and trust you will also like WoFF if/when you take the plunge!

 

Gotta get back to earth for a while now, I've still got missions to make for Panzer Elite's upcoming Britpack '44-x mod.

 

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      Making good use of one of the many features of Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator!
       

       
      One of the many good things that PWGC lets you do in Rise of Flight - apart from create and change RoF campaign settings in about as much detail as most would want - is write detailed combat reports. Some may regard this as tedious paperwork, but to me, it can be highly immersive. And while Wings over Flanders Fields will also let you describe your achievements for later review (as well as giving you the option of making acceptance of your victory claims dependent on your reports thereof), the equivalent PWCG facility lets you type onto a decent sized page, rather than into a single, short window; this encourages a fuller description.
       
      As I'm still spending much of my sim time working on scenarios for the upcoming Panzer Elite Britpack '44-x mod, and just dipping into actually playing other sims for a change of scenery, I thought I might relieve the break in mission reports here on CombatAce by reproducing some of my RoF/PWCG combat reports, illustrated by screenshots taken at the time.  These are from my Richard Stachel campaign, flying the Albatros D.III with Jasta 2 in the heady days of Spring, 1917.
       
      First off, here's one I see dates from a patrol up to the lines on 27 April. We took off at 10:30 and as usual, I had used PWCG to ensure that I was leading the flight (hence the blue streamer that's attached to my left upper mainplane) and had three other flight-mates with me, usually the same fellows each time. To 'get in character', I try to replicate some of the language of the time in these reports, complete with references to 'Englishmen' (or 'Huns' when flying for the British) and incorrect identifications - for example, the Germans tended to describe British 'pusher' aircraft as Vickers types, regardless of the correct manufacturer. Anyway, here's the report, as I recorded it immediately after looking at the handy animated mission 'debriefing' in PWCG.
       
      "At about 10:40 I spotted five aircraft heading east over the lines at about 3000m, slightly above us. Although they were not being engaged by our flak, I observed that they were Vickers 2-seaters. One of the Englishmen broke off to the north-west and the others swung around to the south-west, flying in two pairs, one pair below and slightly behind the other.
       

       
      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!
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