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A shaky start with Seventy-Nine...

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Defending the convoys again, on Day 2 of the Battle of Britain

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This was my first mission on 11th July 1940, the day after the RAF traditionally considers that the Battle began. At this stage in the BoB2 RAF campaign, as in the real one, the Navy is still insisting - in the face of some German-supplied evidence to the contrary - that Britannia rules the waves. And that this being so, coastal convoys should carry on, rather than shifting everything they're lugging about onto the already-busy railways. So the principal commitment of Fighter Command at this stage is flying standing patrols to provide air cover, with additional fighter squadrons on standby, ready to scramble if an incoming raid is detected by the Chain Home radar network.

This is the balance sheet as of early that morning. From flying 252 sorties, many of which never saw a Hun, we have claimed eleven kills, all of them bombers, against seven Spitfires and one Hurricane definitely lost. Hopefully our over-claim rate is not high, as this is not a great exchange rate. However, having re-started my RAF campaign afresh, I am not so far seeing the very high and hugely imbalanced losses from first time around, possibly down to me messing up saves or something.

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You can see patrols 'changing shifts' over Convoy Bosom out to the west, while an incoming raid, marked up as Hostile seven zero one, strength sixty plus, has been detected over the French coast. As it happens, this raid's target is Convoy Whiskey, whose circular grey marker you can just about see to the centre right edge of the Review box, in the outer reaches of the Thames Estuary. Following the default Directives which I accepted, controllers soon scrambled four squadrons, a mix of Spits and Hurris, to join the one on patrol over Whiskey. Seventy-Nine Squadron - flying Hurricanes out of Biggin Hill south of London, squadron code NV - was the first to sight the enemy. So when offered, I accepted the chance to fly with them, opting to be Red 2 on the right of the squadron leader. This is me seen from his machine, in NV-B, as we climb gently in four, tight three-plane vics, going north over the coast near a town which might be Allhallows on Sea. I had hoped to be on the edge of the formation but mis-read the layout and ended up smack bang in the middle. Combined with the cloudy conditions, this was to have interesting consequences later.

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...to be continued!

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Tally ho!

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One of the things I have learned since starting seriously playing BoB2 is that if you don't opt to join a flight when it's taking off but instead do so for BoB2's equivalent of an air start, this generally happens at the moment the enemy is sighted. This is the point the leader gives the 'Tally ho!' report to the ground controller in the sector control room who is directing the interception. Anyhow it's a really good idea to pause things as soon as the 3d loads (or enable the setting which does that by default), and orient yourself - height, heading, location, position in formation, and of course, direction, numbers and heading of the enemy.

This is where one of the things I hadn't learned bit me - enough keyboard commands. Un-pausing the sim, I tried 'A' to turn on autopilot, so that I could watch what was going on while my alter ego kept my place in the very tight formation - I have friendly collisions turned off but wanted to stay with the chaps. Sadly, in BoB2, 'A' is the quick radio command for 'Break!' Issuing this needlessly literally got me a testy rebuke on the R/T from my leader. Suitably abashed, I edged out of formation but still headed for the enemy, instinctively climbing a bit harder. The others didn't match this and I soon found them falling away below, to port. You can see my empty position in the formation, just to the leader's right. Perhaps because he'd already told me off once, and I was making an effort to re-join, he didn't snap at me again.

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At this point, the cloudy conditions took a hand. The others started dipping into and out of cloud, and the next thing I knew, I was ahead of them and on a diverging course, before they slipped out of view again.

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When I emerged into clearer skies, I found I had entirely lost sight of the squadron. By now, I was well out over the Thames Estuary. The town visible below and to port is I think Southend - BoB2 is excellent for VFR-type navigation, when you can actually see the ground of course. And in the map view, while the map itself is like an unlabelled version of the 3d world, you conveniently get your position displayed as so many miles N, S, E or W of some prominent place or landmark.

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Incidentally both Spit and Hurri in BoB2 feature the B Scheme, the A Scheme having a reversed or mirror image dark green and dark earth 'shadow shading' camouflage pattern. Apparently A was applied to the first aircraft of a given production batch, and B to the next, alternating thereafter. Wings over the Reich has the B Scheme on its Hurricanes but unaccountably gets the port upper wing's pattern wrong, missing a prominent area of dark earth.

Having for the time being lost sight of my friends, perhaps I had better check on the whereabouts of my foes, I thought. There they were, just off Southend, a compact mass of dark specks. Instinctively, I steered in their general direction. As I watched, the compact mass expanded then began to break up. Some of the specks broke well off to the left. This all looked rather ominous, like a disturbed octopus spreading out its tentacles. I could feel the tension rising. What was happening? Stukas beginning to make their attacks on unseen targets down below? Their fighter escort, reacting to our presence?

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As I was soon to find out, what I was seeing was both of these things.

...to be continued!

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The shooting starts!

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As I approached the enemy, I wished I knew where the others were. I could have asked, but the R/T was silent and I didn't want to advertise my absence from formation. Some of the distant specks ahead started to descend steeply - Stukas! But I was too far away to help whatever it was they were dive bombing. So I kept my height and waded into the bunch who were by now twisting and turning up top,. This lot turned out to be the 109 escorts, who were in an air fight with some Spitfires, possibly from 54 Squadron which I recalled had also been scrambled against this raid. I went for a 109, only to see that he already had a Spit after him.

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By this point the airwaves were beginning to fill up with radio calls, so I reckoned that Seventy-Nine was in action now too, wherever they were. The skies below and all around me seemed to be filled with aeroplanes doing all kinds of things. It was all very disorienting. Every so often there was the roar of a Merlin as a Spit shot past somewhere, or the harsher whine of a 109's Daimler Benz, sending me into a break while I scanned to see where the beggar was and ideally, avoid being shot down. I latched onto this fellow as he flashed past on the tail of a Spitfire...

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I tried really hard to shoot the Hun off the Spit's tail, but his shells wacked into the RAF fighter, and down the latter went.

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I was furious of course and went for the yellow-nosed b*stard like a bat out of hell. However, one of the Spit pilot's mates got there first, and sent the 109 down in flames.

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Retribution having been meted out, I cleared my tail and got my bearings again, in a gentle spiral climb. I was well out over the Thames Estuary and the skies in my immediate vicinity seemed clear, but there was plenty of action going on. Time to get stuck back in.

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...to be continued!

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Please sir, can I have one?

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Looking up, I saw another group of specks wheeling and falling from the sky, one somewhat ahead of the others. Stukas diving, maybe? But there was no ack ack. Friendly fighters chasing a Hun? Huns chasing one of ours? Having failed to save the Spit earlier, I wasn't going to wait until it was too late, to find out if a friend needed help, even though I wasn't conscious of somebody calling for it - which they do, in BoB2.

Those aircraft seemed to drop like hail and as I tried to work out what I was flying into, the 'flying' bit nearly came unstuck. I suddenly realised I was diving steeply and the water was rushing up to meet me. I managed to pull out but lost track of the other aircraft. Instead, I now saw more specks at sea level, with another layer above, or perhaps further away. It took my brain a second or two to resolve what I was seeing. This was Convoy Whiskey, apparently at anchor. Of more immediate concern, a 109 was racing in from my left, skimming the wave tops. Here we go again!

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I tried to pick him up, but lost track of him as he slipped underneath me somewhere. Up ahead, a lot seemed to be happening - circles of white water where planes had gone in, others falling trailing smoke, and more specks, planes or AA fire I could not tell, further up ahead. I could have identified the planes by turning on labels, but I hate to clutter the virtual skies with the little beggars, and in BoB2, I find I can manage without them somewhat better than in IL-2, for example. Even if it leaves the element of confusion, that can help create the tension of uncertainly, that you're in a untidy air fight not playing a video game.

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Tracers off to my left revealed two 109s shooting up a Spitfire, which like the first one, went down before I could intervene!

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The 109s cut across me at an acute angle. Of course I went for them, but pulled up hard in a panic when something plinked noisily into my airframe. The 109, for of course that's what it was, had the cheek to come up after me. You can see on the bottom the text of an R/T message heard at that moment - Silvo squadron is us, so this is Blue Section's leader, stating the fairly obvious.

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How I got out of his way I have no idea, but I did, and then chased after another 109 that had yet another hapless Spitfire in his sights.

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This time I shot him off the Spit's tail. I should have knocked him down, too, but I was so keen to get a picture as my rounds delivered the coup de grace that I missed and overshot, leading to this interesting situation.

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More through luck than judgement I had rolled the same way as he did and I got onto him again. There was no visible sign of it but I fancy I had damaged him, which will have helped.

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Smoke and flames belched from the Messerschmitt. Got him!

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Or had I? At the last minute I'd noticed yellow tracers passing close to me and flying into the 109, as well as my own. Sure enough, I wasn't alone. Looks like I'll be sharing this kill.

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You can see that the other Hurricane is from a different squadron, no under wing roundels and code GZ - that'll be 32 Squadron. Oh well, this is a team game and they all count. Still, I do wish that, having gone to all this trouble, I'd got a 109 of my own. I'll need something to placate the boss when he tears strips of me back at base, for deserting my post. 

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My chance would come soon enough.

...to be continued!

 

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Plink! Plink! BOOM! Plink!

At this point, I thought that maybe it was time to go home, with or without more than a Probable. While I was thinking this, someone else was thinking that perhaps I should do no such thing. My first warning of this was that plinking sound again, as his rounds hit me. Naturally, I did my level best to get out of his way.

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After a bit of obligatory whirling around at increasingly lower level, I managed to get out of his way so well that I was actually behind him, although quite a long way back.

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However, any thoughts I might have entertained that this, at last, might be MY 109 were rudely dispelled, when just as I was working my way closer, another Hurricane - possibly that chap from Thirty-Two again - decided that he could do better.

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Which he could, as it happened. After a few bursts from the other Hurri, the 109 started trailing smoke.

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Suddenly, the 109 blew up and disappeared into smoke and fragments!

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Thoughts of going home were put aside, knowing that we - if not necessarily me - seemed now to have the whip hand in this fight. Likely by now, the Huns were short of fuel and needing to make their own way home. I headed back out over the estuary, to where I could see an air fight in which I might be able to make myself useful, rather than leaving others to it.

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This turned out to be a deuced clever move, if I say so myself. I managed to do the sneaking up this time, catching an unsuspecting 109 and removing his port outer wing. He rolled left and fell like a stone right after this picture was taken. You'll do me!

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Looking around for any further trade, all I could see was a pretty serious ack ack barrage, quite a long way up and drifting away to the south. 

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I thought of trying to get up to it, but at last decided that honour had been satisfied. So I headed home, back to base. Below me you can see the Naval dockyard at Sheerness, one of many historical sites and targets recreated in BoB2 and refined by BDG.

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And here's a view of the BoB2 map, zoomed in. I think the yellow line is pointing to the south-east and not south west towards my base at Biggin Hill, where I'm now heading, is because a programmed waypoint I have not flown to lies in that direction.

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BoB2's Sheerness, realistically, has its very own balloon barrage, which may be why the Stukas haven't paid it a visit.

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Anyhow, the skies down here look clear now, so I hold my course for home.

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The 109 you can see in the next pic curving in from below and behind had other plans for me, however. I woke up to this when I heard that plinking sound again, of bullets striking airframe!

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...to be continued!

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Home, James, and don't spare the horses!

Needless to say, I made the best of my Hurricane's turning abilities to get out of the Hun's line of fire! BoB2 gives very good 'shake, rattle (but no roll)' audible stall warning when you're on the edge, so I was able to hold her there quite happily.

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Another few circles and I was gaining on him. He was faster but I could turn tighter.

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I was a bit alarmed when a completely different Hun whizzed past. I didn't fancy a sustained low-level dogfight against two or more 109s, especially as there seemed to be no friendly fighters about to come to my aid, this time. So as soon as I was able to put a bit of distance between myself and the 109s, I bravely ran away. Discretion being the better part of valour, he who fights and runs away, and all that.

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The railway lines in BoB2 can be a bit badly laid in places, and this was one of those places. However, the woods look a lot better with autogen trees turned on, which is a very simple hand edit of your BDG.txt configuration file.  And at low level, you can see that the lie of the land is reproduced, even though this is not so readily apparent from higher up.

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The red low fuel warning lights must have come on in those 109 instrument panels, for they made no effort to pursue me. So I was able to level off and call up Control, asking for my nearest landing ground. I could murder a cup of tea, I thought; no need to wait till I got all the way back to Biggin Hill.

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To be honest I'm not sure where it was, that got down. I just followed the bearing given, as it was only a few miles away.

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Compared to our sector airfield, the premises looked a bit on the Spartan side, and the grass field itself seemed a bit small. But I only bounced once, and then I was down and rolling up to the sheds, tapping the brakes with the elevators well up to keep the tail down till the speed came off, and wondering where the officers' mess was. Or even the NAAFI, if all else failed.

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If nothing else, the mission has got me hauling out the keycard (I have a copy of a 'big box' version of the Rowan original, which includes the old-style printed manual) and the modern BDG soft copy equivalent, which includes some new keystrokes and a tabular explanation of what each does. Not flying as a leader makes life a bit less busy, but there are still some basic skills and sim-specific drills I need to learn, to get the best of my BoB2 experience. Which so far - just in case you haven't noticed - I am finding lives up to the very best I've long heard about Rowan's classic in its A2A Wings of Victory form.

 

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