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33LIMA

A bad day for a Kriegsberichter

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I finally come to grips with a classic, and realise what all the fuss is about!

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For some reason, train simulators do not make good subjects for combat reports.  Though getting into them at last has been a lot of fun, which together with stuff outside of sim-land have kept me from doing more than very casual air combat simming...until now. Hence the long gap in mission reports here at CombatAce.

For World War 1, I'm back with First Eagles 2, not least for its combination of good looks, very wide scope when modded, many very good features, and being fast to get back into, thanks to some of those aformentioned good features.

For World War 2, it was time for something I hadn't seriously tried before...which applies to more than it should of the titles I've accumulated over the years, the good, the not-so-good and the relatively awful - anyone else remember Nations - Fighter Command? Nice planeset, pity about the flight models...and a few other details.

The recent launch of OBD's follow-on to Wings over Flanders Fields, namely the first installment of Wings over the Reich, got me interested anew in one of my pet subjects of many years, the Battle of Britain. But not sadly in WotR, due to issues like very small German raids, limited comms including little or nothing from ground controllers (big raids and ground control should really be de rigeur for any self-respecting simulation of the Battle) and various lesser niggles, like some unmilitary scripting of what R/T traffic there is.

I still have European Air War on my system but while it covers the Battle, it's only fired up for very occasional nostalgia trips, these days. I actually moderately enjoyed the Warbirds-based History Channel Battle of Britain - ok it's not one of the greats, but as well as flying a reasonably historical mission-set campaign in many BoB types, you can shoot at the ones with crosses from a destroyer's Oerlikon Gun....

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And of course, I have played some missions from the Battle in modded Il-2 '46, this one being from the Spitfire Scramble campaign...

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But I have so far not invested in IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, with its strange planeset, strange-looking landscapes and most of all, limited single player content - coupled with high system requirements for what there is

So I decided it was time to make a serious effort to get into Rowan's Battle of Britain (I still have the original boxed version, printed manuals and all). Or rather its more recent incarnation, A2A formerly Shockwave's Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory, or BoB2 to its friends - who naturally include the Battle (of Britain) Development Group, who have done a great job ironing out wrinkles and adding features in a series of patches.

Despite making my own map-based Battle of Britain wargame in the 1970s, I never more than dabbled in BoB or BoB2. Not so much because of niggles like planes in close formation sort of jiggling at times, more because I wanted a conventional pilot career, not a combat sim within a wargame. Having since tried that approach with tanks in Steel Armour Blaze of War and found it not unrewarding, I decided it was time to give BoB2-WoV a serious go.

And so I discovered two things. First that all the good things they say about BoB2 are true, notably that it captures the Battle like no other sim before or since. In other sims, a German raid might be a staffel, so you're fighting the Minor Skirmish of Brtiain. In BoB2, a raid is typically and realistically at least a gruppe in strength - 20-30 bombers, like these boys from I Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 54, on their way to knock the spots off Portland Naval Dockyard, with II Gruppe for company and a large close escort of Bf110s. The latter about to be hit from behind by the Brylcreem Boys of the RAF.

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My second, less welcome discovery was  that I'd chosen a bad time to make the first discovery - having just got a replacement PC with Windows 10, which is fine with about every other sim I've tried it with, but with which BoB2 suffers CTDs when ending a mission, and sometimes earlier.

However, I have been able to play many training, historical and campaign missions up to the end, and so pleased am I with the experience that I plan a dual boot drive with Win 7. So that I can get proper debriefings and not have to re-start crashed campaign games every time I take to the air in one. And spend more time enjoying the authentic 1940s southern England landscapes and scenery, recreated with extreme attention to detail. For example the first time I saw Brighton Pier on a test flight in a Hurricane, I thought the 3d model had a problem, the pier head being unconnected with the coast. Then I remembered...they disconnected pier head from land during the invasion scare of 1940, so as not to provide the expected visitors with convenient ad hoc jetties.

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The graphics aren't stellar - there are no dynamic shadows for example - but they are still pretty good. What still sets BoB2's visuals apart is more of that attention to detail. For example, aircraft not only carry accurate camouflage patterns, and the proper squadron codes (JX seen above is No.1 Squadron), but Spits and Hurris have realistic variations, including different fin flashes and undersurface treatments. And the weathered Dark Earth and Dark Green 'shadow shading' RAF day fighter camouflage is to my eye more authentic than the efforts of the flashier competitors. I'm not sure how, but the rather blurry aircraft textures I recall from the first time I installed BoB2-WoV are now sharp and satisfying, complete with readable stencils. Notably, the air-to-air AI is the best (most human-like) I have ever encountered, the flight models feel good (including controls becoming heavier at high speeds). The radio traffic is simply best of breed, complete with the use of authentic radio codes and, it seems, also realistic radio voice procedure, for both sides. Planes rattle like they should when near the stall (I have in front of me a Spit Mk1 Pilot's Notes facsimilie and it describes just that '...there is a violent shudder and clattering noise throughout the aeroplane'), there are clickable cockpits if you like to fiddle with knobs, and as well as flying the four major fighters, you can also go dive-bombing in a Stuka or man and switch between nose, dorsal and ventral gun positions on the three types of German twin-engine bombers. 

Which is what I'm doing in the mission featured in this report - one of the included historical missions, the major Luftwaffe raid on the Filton aircraft factory near Bristol, on 25th September 1940. This caught out Fighter Command's 10 Group, who had deployed their interceptors to defend the Westland works at Yeovil, instead. As the mission intro describes, this let the attackers in unmolested and probably doomed many of the 200-plus victims who died when the raid hit its real target (my parents-to-be were in a city badly bombed by Goering's boys, and I well remember the 'bomb sites' in the streets where I was brought up, where gaps in rows of houses still marked the effects of the raids; so I don't say any of that lightly, lest anyone think otherwise).

I could have opted to fly on any plane making, escorting or belatedly trying to catch the raid. But I opted to fly as an air gunner on the lead He111 of the second attacking gruppe, I/KG55. We had about fifteen aircraft - by mid September, some bomber gruppen were well below strength: the morning raid on London on Battle of Britain Day, 15th September, consisted of just 25 Dorniers which it took two gruppen to put up, an incredibly small number even allowing they were essentially lockvogel, bait to lure up 'the last fifty Spitfires'.

Anyhow, here we are approaching Bristol, having just flown through a noisy but for now, ineffective flak barrage. As I was soon to find out, enjoying the ride, taking pics like a good war correspondent and actually defending my aircraft, did not mix terribly well.

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...to be continued!

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Both BoB and MiG Alley were monumental sims for their time despite the bugs. BoB2 ensured the game would look good enough and run well enough for many more years. Unfortunately, MiG Alley did not get the same overhaul. Kudos to Rowan for releasing the source code for both sims allowing BDG to produce patches and ultimately deliver BoB2.

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Great review, Lima. Your personal history, and more particularly that of your parents, lends poignancy. This wonderful game isn't dead yet, with some good modding continuing to be done on it. On the other hand, there aren't so many modifications available that one is tempted to spend more time modding it than flying it.

[I note that you mentioned European Air War and also that you're considering a partitioned Win 7. Well, I've got fed up admiring the looks of certain simulators and have also decided to go retro and am currently enjoying the gameplay of European Air War. I have discovered that Win 7 is the most suitable for EAW if you've got an NVidia GPU. I currently have Mr Jelly's great 1.60 version running well under D3D in widescreen with 512x512 terrain, everything maxed out graphically and in terms of plane numbers and I have enabled DGVoodoo 2 to provide horizon fog (can't be done, apparently, in Win 8 or 10) and Reshade 4 effects (hard to tell if the latter makes any difference). I have also almost completely eliminated terrain shimmering with nVidia Inspector and built a (hopefully) historic set of gunsights for most of the German, British, US, Russian, Japanese and Italian fighters featured and I have set up my TrackIR in such a way that padlock can over-ride it. Bearing all that in mind, you might get time to have another look at it with your new partition. One great thing about both these games, and it also applies to FE/FE2, is the ability to get into the thick of it almost immediately].

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'Bomben auf Engeland!'

Here I am in our lead Heinkel's dorsal position. The RAF's Fighter Command's aircraft being elsewhere for now, its Anti-Aircraft Command is doing its best to get us. We are flying in three vics of five aircraft, stepped up from front to rear. Somewhat understrength gruppen of fifteen or twenty bombers seem to make up the basic building block of many raids in BoB2.

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Still no sign or warnings of fighters, so I drop down and move to the nose position. Below and ahead, lies the city of Bristol, with the Bristol Channel to our left...technically I suppose it's the estuary of the River Severn at about this point. I can't yet make out our target, which is on the city's northern outskirts somewhere.

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This is a broadside view of our aircraft. Like other planes in BoB2, it carries authentic markings - in this case, including the correct geschwader code letters - G1 - for KG55 'Greif', and our unit badge, a red, black-winged griffon on a white shield. The 3d models and textures are not of course up to the latest standards but more than good enough...although to my eye, while the splinter pattern is accurate, the upper surface colours are a little light for Schwarzgrun 70 and Dunkelgrun 71, even allowing for weathering and 'scale effect'. I recall my c.1970 Kookaburra Aircraft of the Battle of Britain said some bombers were field-repainted in lighter shades they call 'woods and meadows' for better summer airfield camouflage, but that may be an urban myth. Anyway we make a fine sight as we run in towards Filton.

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Ahead of us, the leading gruppe of Heinkels must be at the target by now. However, the English flak seems to be concentrating on what I believe is the leading part of our Bf110 fighter escort, as it turns away to port. I didn't notice at the time, but more worryingly, there's a gaggle of aircraft sliding across from the right in this picture, coming up from the south. You can also see the text at bottom indicating that the target has been sighted and called in. Filton's aero works is actually at an airfield, which is the large grassy area a few mils right of where the text string ends.

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Nearly there now! The leading gruppe has hit an area of buildings on the south-western edge of the target area. 

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At this point, a lot of things happen at once, not all of them good. Our bomb bay doors open, but we are near-missed by flak, while being suddenly attacked from head on by Spitfires!

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Where they came from I don't know, but they're gone as suddenly as they appeared. Belatedly, sighting reports come up on the intercom, of aircraft and air fights up ahead. It's hard to make much sense of what's going on up there. It looks like our lead gruppe may have got away on the left, but our 110 escort is hotly engaged with enemy fighters, slightly right of our current course. Possibly, the Spits who attacked us were a few who managed to break through. Hopefully, that will be the last we see of them.

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Meanwhile, more sticks of bombs can be seen to have fallen on the complex to the east of the airfield. Not from us, we haven't dropped yet.

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Finally it's our turn to let fly. Our bombs also fall on the buildings to the east, exploding as we make our turn to get away.

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Well, we have earned our Reichmarks for the day, flight pay included. Time to go home! The question now is, whether or not the Tommies will let us get away scot free.

...to be continued!

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Thanks for the comments guys, and the tips on EAW in Win 7, Skyhigh, my copy has arrived, the SSD it will live on is wired up and working so time to take the plunge.

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Glad to hear from you again, 33LIMA, and I'm anxious to read the ending of this action report!  I've also got a new rig running Win10, and while a little curious about BOB2's popularity (the current pricing certainly seems reasonable enough!), have not pursued it because of the compatibility issues.  However, there's plenty of case space and I've been thinking about a separate Win7 boot drive (for a couple of reasons) so perhaps that will resolve itself.  As thorough as you are in your reporting, you may have seen the trailing comment page regards running BOB2 in Win10:

https://a2asimulations.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=48817

 

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45 minutes ago, Silberpfeil said:

Glad to hear from you again, 33LIMA, and I'm anxious to read the ending of this action report! 

 

Spoiler : the day will be bad !!!

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Hi and thanks Silberpfeil, yes I think I must have read everything I could find on BoB2 and Win 10 including that thread. There may be a few who are running fine in Win 10 but the most common experience seems to be that you have a good run and think you're done, until the CTDs start happening again. I found they didn't stop me flying all the instant action missions and apart from the odd early CTD, campaign missions too, but I got a cheap but legit copy of Win 7 and a second 120GB SSD for it, now joined there by BoB2, after all the usual fun getting everything working after a clean O/S install. Anyhow, the end of mission CTD niggles seem a thing of the past. Having opted for a separate drive dual boot I am currently using the UEFI/BIOS to choose O/S which is fine but I'm also looking at ways of making that even less of a chore eg NeoSmart's Easy BCD; but I'm happy already to have got BoB 2 fully operational for less than the cost of many a new sim.  

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'Acthtung, Schpitfuer!'

Here we go, the gruppe reversing direction in formation, with the Bristol Channel behind us and the smoking airfield and factory complex at Fillton somewhere below. The flak has died away and the Spitfires which attacked us from the front, on the bomb run, seem now to be otherwise occupied.

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We have a long way to go, however. And the intercom begins to come alive with fresh reports of Indianer, enemy fighters. The Spitfires are back, and the flak as well! A bunch of the former come in from astern, and I can't get a decent shot till they break away after hitting the boys behind. Even then, trying to man the camera as well as my MG, I end up mostly drilling empty skies, caught out by the speed and suddenness of the attack.

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The fighters seem to be queuing up to hit us, now. Next in are some Hurricanes. Tracers fly back and forth. Without warning, there's a shocking sight - an outer wing breaks clean off the Heinkel directly behind us. Down and away goes the plane. I can't see if anyone gets out. Was it flak or fighters? I can't tell.

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Where's our verdammter escort? No time to look for them, either. I snap off a series of short bursts at a Hurricane now coming up astern, more in the hope of putting him off than anything else. To my surprise, he breaks up and away early, trailing smoke. Who hit him, me or one of the others, I have no idea. But no matter, hopefully that one, at least, won't be back.

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Taking the opportunity to look out to my left, I can see an air fight going on, which seemingly answers my question as to the whereabouts of our absent kamaraden in the Bf110s. No help to be had from that quarter, then. More ominously, closer in, I can see a line of specks moving across left to right as if to come in behind us, to join the bunch that are already there. It seems that we must now face, alone, a constant stream of fighter attacks.

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Here they come! More Spitfires. Hits tinkle on our airframe, and my heart sinks as smoke begins to trail astern of us. But our fire returns the favour, sending one of our tormentors around and down in a sort of wide barrel roll. Got him!

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But he's got us, too! I get a nasty shock as, to the right of our fuselage, I get a sudden glimpse of a uniformed figure as he leaps from or past the plane and immediately slips down and away, out of my field of view. It was surreal and gone in a flash; did I imagine it? Where did he come from? Was it really from our plane? I look up and see that the bomb-bay doors of the Heinkel above and behind of us are open, and have the wild thought that somebody may have bailed from it through them. But then I realise they are overtaking us, all of them - hit hard in the last attack, we are dropping out of formation!

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I dread the thought that we will now straggle behind, easy pickings for the fighters queueing up back there to chop us down. But we're not even going to last that long. Our Heinkel's left wing dips, and down we go!

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Our downward spiral steepens. I try to bail out but nothing happens. The rest of the gruppe holds grimly on to its formation as more stern attacks come in. But we are done for; nobody gets out before our bomber, plunging ever more steeply, meets the ploughed fields of England.

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Crikey! That was an experience! And it is just one of the playable planes in just one of the many single missions that come with BoB2, on top of the many, many more that the campaign system generates as it takes you, day by day, through the various phases of the Battle, raid by raid, from start to end if you wish.

Truly, this is some package, a credit to all concerned, from the original Rowan crew to the current publishers who brought it back to life, to the chaps in BDG who have truly polished the gem. Above all else, Battle of Britain 2 - Wings of Victory recreates the real Battle with a respect for and attention to its history which no other sim I have played or seen even approaches, let alone surpasses. And I'll be enjoying it to the full, now that I have made the very modest investment needed to get Windows 7 up and running. Expect further mission reports - if not, sadly, from this particular crew! 

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On 1/3/2019 at 2:34 AM, 33LIMA said:

I finally come to grips with a classic...

I love to see someone having so much fun with an air combat sim! Nice reports and story!

Mind you: it must be "Kriegsberichterstatter" - that British rule "no i after e" doesn't count for German. And it's wrong anyway - there are words like "weird" or "their" or "heir" etc.

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Got it Olham! I usually remember that one, by the pronunciation - if it's an 'e' sound, like 'kreeegs', the second letter in the pair is 'e'; if the second letter is an 'i', it's an 'i' sound, like 'mein'. Usually works for me, anyhow!

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On 03/01/2019 at 2:34 AM, 33LIMA said:


For some reason, train simulators do not make good subjects for combat reports.  Though getting into them at last has been a lot of fun, which together with stuff outside of sim-land have kept me from doing more than very casual air combat simming...until now. Hence the long gap in mission reports here at CombatAce.

Fo

Slightly off topic, but what train simulator are you playing with ?

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1 hour ago, jeanba said:

Slightly off topic, but what train simulator are you playing with ?

Open Rails, mainly. 'Tis a train simulator without trains. Although now available with some trains, as in a sample route. Main reason for the interest is that it's designed so as to run the massive amount of content made for Microsoft Train Simulator (which it does with better realism, visuals and performance), including the UK routes, payware and freeware, that I favour. Like these:

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In the freeware category I have this one called appropriately enough, La Belle France:

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Also have Trainz 2009 and the London-Brighton route on TS201X.

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Thank you

 

I used to play trainz2009 and have atrainz2016 steam key, which I did not install

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      Anyhow now that I've made a start with a BoB2 campaign, I'm wondering why I didn't take to it years ago, when I first got Rowan's original, or A2A's remake. Especially since both are so much better with the BDG updates. Now, you can even play a more conventional campaign, as described in the comprehensive BoB2/BDG manual, which enables you to have a log book-carrying, squadron-based pilot persona. This uses the underlying dynamic campaign 'wargame' to generate your missions. But for now I'm doing a conventional BoB2 'commander' (not 'pilot') campaign. The main difference is that the commander version allows you to act as any and all of the Air Vice-Marshals commanding 10, 11 and 12 Groups, Fighter Command, plus jump in and fly any squadron scrambled or tasked to patrol, either on takeoff or on meeting the enemy. Also at other points but the latter is the most interesting, and enables the player to jump in just before the start of any air fight, in any of the aircraft in the squadron about to engage.   
      I opted to start at the beginning of the first phase into which the Battle is conventionally divided - the channel convoy phase, starting 10 July 1940, just after the fall of France. Among the many options, you can set things so that the AI Luftwaffe you will be facing starts the battle mainly by attacking British coastal convoys ('historical' tactics), or using 'optimal' ones - which likely involves going for more beneficial targets earlier, like your airfields or aircraft factories. I opted for 'historical' and as expected, ended up with the RAF campaign AI flying standing patrols to protect convoys, plus scrambling squadrons to intercept raids as they come in. This campaign AI presents you with 'directives' which set rules your deployed forces will follow, and allows you both to vary these or create your own. It also takes decisions on what and when to scramble, abiding by these directives. The BDG manual gives excellent, detailed and illustrated advice on how to do all this, but the AI is quite good for the RAF anyway. I opted to accept all the defaults and let the AI fight the Battle, so that all I had to do was wait for something to happen and then dive in to any action that developed. As each campaign day accelerates and decelerates time as needed, you are not kept waiting staring at the map for long. And even while you are, it's a not uninteresting experience; you can watch convoys moving, patrols orbiting, raids developing and squadrons scrambling, while listening to reports as they come in. 'Hostile seven zero one is now a hundred plus' sounds positively sinister, even though spoken softly in the polite tones of an invisible but obviously efficient and very possibly pretty virtual 1940s WAAF at the plotting table.

      Above is my campaign map near the end of the first of three sections the campaign day is broken into - morning, afternoon and early evening. The aforementioned raid Hostile 701 is near bottom right, returning to base after attacking Convoy Jaunty (authentic convoy and squadron reporting names are a feature), which is the grey ship marker in the Channel between the headlands at Beachy Head to the west and Dungeness to the east. The blue and white markers are RAF fighter squadrons, either the convoy's standing patrols or those scrambled as the raid came in and now heading home. During this raid I jumped in with 79 Squadron as the leader (the top right blue/white marker) when it intercepted Hostile 701. Here I am contemplating the incoming raid, from a not-terribly favourable position...

      ...and here I am dealing with a Messerschmitt 110 which objected to our presence...

      But this mission report is about a sortie I flew the following day, 11th July. A convoy had left the dangers of the channel behind and sought safety off the North Sea port of Felixstowe. Not so safe, as it turned out, for Luftflotte 2 decided to have a go at them. Once again, we were up against a raid reported as 'a hundred plus'. Being keen, I accepted the first offer of combat that the campaign AI offered me, for the first squadron to sight the enemy in the air. This was no less than 242 (Canadian) Squadron, commanded by no less than Squadron Leader Douglas Bader. BoB2 being the stickler for unit-level historical detail that it is, it was no surprise when I therefore found myself in the cockpit not only of a Hurricane, and not only of one bearing authentic squadron codes ('LE') with each aircraft in the squadron with its own unique individual aircraft letter; but my mount was no less than the boss's own machine, LE-D, with my blue and red leader's flash below my starboard cockpit and the unofficial unit emblem, Adolph getting a kicking, adorning the nose. My Corgi diecast 1/72 has the leader's flash on the opposite side, the mirror image A (camouflage) Scheme,  and is serial V7467 not P1966, but such minor details apart, BoB2's version is a pretty good replica.
       
        Would I do the illustrious pilot justice, whose flying boots this sortie had found me filling? Well, yes and no...
      ...to be continued!
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