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DiD IV Campaign - Flight reports & Player instructions

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Flight Lieutenant Theodore Aloysius Andrews aka 'Runt' DSC                                                      

HQ Sqn 1 Wing RNAS in Flanders

St. Pol-Sur-Mer

Part 18 (Jan 13th- Feb 16th 1916)                       

The second half of January and the beginning of February was a hard month for flying. Patrols were mostly over enemy lines and we were often called to bomb or reconnoitre troop positions, the flying was long, cold and hard. I had two very near misses with death in January and one in February; all will long remain in my memory. The first of these was when we pounced on three Aviatik Cs we spotted while escorting Rodrick Dallas on a recon flight. After separating the threesome and scoring some great hits, I dived on one from above only to be hit by the observer’s accurate fire. My engine took the brunt of the damage but my goggles started filling with blood. Feeling faint from my wounds I pointed the trusty Babe home, and gratefully managed to put her down by an allied observation balloon.  I passed out in the cockpit and came to in hospital where I spent six days.  On one of those days, passing in and out of consciousness I was visited, I think, by Monique.  It may have been a dream of course I was pumped full of morphine … but I am sure, I think she held my hand and prayed. Monique was once again in my thoughts and on my heart. This was hard, after battling for so long to free myself from the yoke of her affections.

A near-death experience

A long patrol over enemy lines was my first flight back.  After an hour in the air while over the lines we spotted a solitary Fokker beneath us - it turned out to be an EIII - B flight was four strong but the little Fokker put up a heroic fight against us, bravely weaving and climbing.  A number of times he floated down to Earth falling like a leaf only to snap out of the dive at the last possible moment and ready to fight.  While attempting to fight, fly and dance with the enemy Tubby Granger’s Nieuport 10 and my Babe had a collision.  I'm not entirely sure what happened, I felt my wheels connect with something, and saw Tubby struggling to fly.  I seemed unharmed and Tubby flew west to safety. 

large.622247d8ccf01_Screenshot(385).png.

Plucky German flyer

We dispatched the Fokker and returned home expecting to find Tubby at his usual place at the bar ... he didn’t return home.  He had landed our side of the lines but was dead with a huge wound in his head - more than likely caused by my careless undercarriage.  I am beyond devastated to have caused the death of this fine young man.  I can see him smiling waving, enjoying life, loving flying, eager to take the battle to the Hun - only to die beneath my damned wheels.  Of course, I say young, he was three years older than me, but 5 months behind me in combat and that’s where my appreciation of age comes from nowadays.

The first two weeks of February were quiet - flying patrols, recon and escorting Dallas as well as fighting some lousy weather.  I had a third and final close call this morning.  Over Ghistelles airfield I spotted a lone EIII.  I engaged and forced it to crash into some nearby trees.  As I climbed I spotted two other Fokker who pounced on me!  I couldn’t see anyone from the squadron and felt utterly alone.  I fired a few shots but they were all over me.  I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and I dived for home.  I was hit a number of times and the port-wing of my Nieuport sheered away in the dive.  I thought I was as doomed as Tubby Granger - and would soon be able to give him my personal apologies at St. Peter’s Gates. But by nursing the stick and rudder I was able to flee in a straight line for home.  The Fokkers gave a half-hearted pursuit and left me alone as I crossed our lines.  I prayed all the way to the nearest airfield and gently, oh so gently, put her down.

large.622247de6dd19_Screenshot(386).png.

My 13th victory

I am haunted at night with thoughts of Tubby’s death and Monique's face, I am sure I have seen her once or twice around the airfield, I’ve smelt her sweet perfume and perhaps out the corner of my eye as if in mist, spotted her talking to a French pilot … I can’t be sure and I daren't investigate. The CO has noticed the strain around my eyes and the slight quiver in my arm when I hold my cane to walk and has awarded me two weeks home leave. I will be back the first week of March. 

large.6222463f0182a_Screenshot(383).png.

Damaged port-wing but safe

To be continued …

Edited by Sebtoombs
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As a BE2 jockey, the Aviatik C1 is more than I can handle. When the Roland arrives it will be time to join the Navy!

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9 hours ago, Sebtoombs said:

Flight Lieutenant Theodore Aloysius Andrews aka 'Runt' DSC                                                      

HQ Sqn 1 Wing RNAS in Flanders

St. Pol-Sur-Mer

...I am haunted at night with thoughts of Tubby’s death and Monique's face, I am sure I have seen her once or twice around the airfield, I’ve smelt her sweet perfume and perhaps out the corner of my eye as if in mist, spotted her talking to a French pilot … I can’t be sure and I daren't investigate.

 :yikes:

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Posted (edited)

Feldwebel Enno Alfons Bockhackler

FF(A) 18 Lb

Phalempin, Flanders

Aviatik CI , #123/15

 

End of Feb.1916 Stats:

          missions flown: 62

          Flying hours: 45

         Claims: 13

         Victories: 5 confirmed

Edited by lederhosen

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Flight Lieutenant Theodore Aloysius Andrews aka 'Runt' DSC                                                      

  • HQ Sqn 1 Wing RNAS in Flanders
  • St Pol-Sur Mer
  • Nieuport 11 'Bebe'

End of February Stats

  • 76 missions
  • 105.83 hours
  • 26 claims / 13 victories

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Well Seb, that video was rather manic to say the least!  :stars:

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2 hours ago, TROOPER117 said:

Well Seb, that video was rather manic to say the least!  

Thanks ... I think! :drinks:

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Posted (edited)

Flight Lieutenant Theodore Aloysius Andrews aka 'Runt' DSC                                                      

HQ Sqn 1 Wing RNAS in Flanders

St. Pol-Sur-Mer

Part 19

2nd March 1916

“You looked rested Runt!” Beamed Red as I walked through the door, his soft Canadian drawl speaking of the deep affection built over countless hours in the air. Nine years my senior but with a boyish twinkle in his eyes and the energy of an 18-year-old. 

“I feel great Red, itching to get back into the air - I know I’m a sailor but that crossing was damned rough!”  I joked. It was good to be back at St. Pol-Sur-Mer.  The leave had been wonderful, warm and restful.  I went out and painted the town with Davies and Jefferson who are both now training as pilots in the RFC after a year of observing with us.  Jefferson was singing a new song called “47 Ginger Headed Sailors”, which I earnestly tried to remember to perhaps teach it to the lads in the mess.  Jefferson, bless him, even attempted to set me up with his sister Agnes a pretty nurse at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London with thick dark hair and delightful eyes.  It was very kind - in a way - but I found my thoughts returning again and again to Monique.

 

It was good to see and laugh with them both again as well as hear of their adventures in Farnham longhorns. Tamer by far than our days together in the BE2s and Moranes. It was a shame they were RFC chaps as I would love to fly with them both one day. As it is, it turns out there’s a bit of professional jealousy between the pilots of His Majesty's armed forces which I was fairly unaware of.  It seems the RFC are concerned that we in the Navy are getting all the good French planes before they can get a look in and it’s causing some bad blood.  However, they seem quite excited about the new DH2 and are watching 24 Squadron with great interest.  The prospect of new aircraft didn’t stop them from pausing at a Royal Navy recruitment poster and defacing it with the words “Join the Navy to feel a man”.  Very droll I’m sure! 

I also spent time with Archie and my family too - a good two weeks I am refreshed and keen once more!

Breguet surrounded by thick wonderful smelling clouds of pipe smoke joined us. Rodrick ‘Breguet’ Dallas is a giant of a man and towers over me at 6ft 2 in his stocking feet, his father a labourer and miner from Queensland brought his boy up tough and big. It always surprises me when he contorts his frame and substantial weight into his Caldron, huge hands gripping the controls that look like a child's toy in his massive paws.  “Good to have you back runt. It’s not been the same without you old man!”

Breguet and Red stood next to each other shuffling awkwardly and looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes as if communicating some secret.  “Here, have a cigarette Runt,” Red offered me his packet of ‘Players’.  

“No thanks Red, my breathing is better without them - what’s eating the pair of you?”

“Monique…” Breguet said, teeth tightly clamping the stem of his pipe jumping.

“Go on”

“We have seen her at the airfield, she asked about you.” Breguet continued.

“That’s nice,” I said in a clipped fashion. My stiff upper lip comes in handy now and again.

“Only" he continued, "We’ve seen her chatting to a French pilot, handsome chap, flys a green Nieuport with a dagger emblem on the fuselage used to be based here, got moved on in January. Quite an ace if we remember”

“I don’t see what any of this has to do with me chaps”, I wanted to get as far from this conversation as possible.

“We saw the Frenchie give her money, it’s not looking good for the old girl at all” Red mused.

“We all know Ackart was a toad” Breguet added “But for her to go on the game is too much.” 

I was silent.  I nodded to my companions and left the mess, out into the chill night.  Desolate.

3rd March

Heavy snow and a 0940hrs patrol over enemy front lines with Red and Keeble. 30 minutes in I developed problems with my engine and had to return to St Pol-sur-Mer.  A fine homecoming this!

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A fine homecoming!

4th March

My Nieuport's engine was being repaired - hopefully fit to fly tomorrow.  I caught up on paperwork- not wanting to think about Monique and what she’d become.  What on Earth had happened to her and was it any of my business?  I pondered hitching a lift to Dunkirk and paying the Fountaine’s at Le P'tit Dupont a visit.

A request from Admiralty for a report on fighting Aviatik Cs put pay to that - I dutifully responded and tried to ease my heart with some whiskey.  The snow is now thick on the ground.

5th March

Nieuport was still in for repairs so missed the morning patrol. Selby, my mechanic couldn’t apologise enough, and together we worked on it.  By lunchtime, the engine was purring like a cat.

1518hrs Artillery spotting with Breguet in his Cauldron between Menen and Loo.  I took three new chaps up with Red. They were Thomas, Adlam and Boscawen.  I thought of Tubby as guided our flight through the thick clouds and snow flurries and resolved to do better for these new boys.

No HA were spotted but we did locate several Hun batteries along the Lys.

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I thought of Tubby as guided our flight

This evening I'm too tired to contemplate a trip to the Le P'tit Dupont, but maybe it isn’t such a good idea after all.  

large.622378e0a2fb7_CFS32022-03-0514-42-

To be continued…..

Edited by Sebtoombs
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3 hours ago, Sebtoombs said:

Thanks ... I think! :drinks:

In a good way of course... displaying the mayhem that can happen when you decide to become a pilot of the Great War in WoFF!

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End of February 1916 Stats:

  • Sous-lieutenant (in-game sergent) Auguste Alaric Besson, Escadrille N.23, Luneville aerodrome, Nieuport 10 & 12.
  • 33 missions
  • 47.72 hours
  • No claims or victories.
  • 1 wounding

The War Diary of Auguste Besson, Escadrille N.23, part 9.

Time passed slowly at the Chalons military hospital. Fortunately my head injury did not show any signs of infection and steadily improved. However, effects of the concussion prevented me from flying for several weeks. The only entertainment I had was thanks to my comrades from the escadrille paying me the occasional visit. They even managed to smuggle me a bottle of Spanish red wine – an amusing reference to my nickname.

While I was away, the escadrille received a new type of machine – the Nieuport 12 two-seater. With its excellent speed of 150 km/h, a powerful 110 hp Clerget rotary engine, a rear-facing Lewis machine gun for the observer on a mount designed to provide an improved field of fire, and the possibility of adding a forward-facing Lewis gun on the top wing for the pilot, the Nieuport was considered to offer more than adequate protection from the menacing boche Fokker monoplanes.

I returned to the escadrille at the end of the first week of February and was soon test flying the new machines. Despite the occasional headache, and a sore spot on my scalp, I felt well enough for combat duties again. With our combination of Nieuport 10’s and 12’s, we knew the escadrille was now equipped better than ever and fully capable of bringing the fight to the enemy.

Weather became terribly bad again in the middle of the month, so it was a relatively quiet period for us. There was also time for some leisure activities, the most memorable of which was a football game against the fellow aviators of Escadrille C.43 – sadly, we lost the game 5–4, though not without putting up a good fight first! I was not able to play for fear of injuring my still sore head again. Considering that I have never been much of a football player, I doubt my modest efforts would have influenced the outcome.

Everything changed on Monday, February 21. The meteorologists had finally predicted us some decent flying weather, and we were prepared to fly reconnaissance missions to find out what the boche had been up to in our sector in the preceding days of rain and high winds and poor visibility. After 7 o’clock in the morning, a deep rumbling sound suddenly became audible in the distance. It resembled thunder, except that it was an almost perfectly steady and constant noise, which thunder never really is, even during the worst of storms. Everybody gathered outside to listen. A few men suggested it was indeed thunder, but no one truly believed that. The sound was coming from the direction of Verdun – a distance of about 100 km from our aerodrome, as the crow flies. No, it was clearly an artillery barrage – and a massive one at that.

We had no information about what was happening, and flew our morning flights normally. However, I did have a bad feeling about the whole situation. I had seen and heard artillery fire many times before, but this barrage was something entirely different in its sheer intensity. It was still going on when we returned to the aerodrome. By then, the army headquarters had confirmed our suspicions in a telephone call to the Captain – the barrage was indeed happening at Verdun, evidently in preparation for a massive German attack.

We flew no more missions that day, as things were quiet in our sector and the boche had not made any suspicious moves during the days of bad weather. Most of us pilots gathered outside to listen to the steady rumble of guns. To me, it was a deeply surreal feeling to be standing there, trying to imagine what it must be like to face such fire in person. Then, after about ten hours of constant shelling, the noise stopped. The silence that followed felt dreadfully ominous to me.

A hundred kilometres from our peaceful airfield the future of France would then be decided.

Mc7bPiS.jpg

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Posted (edited)

27th October 1915
2nd Lieutentant Le Mesurier signed the last of a long stack of requisition forms and dropped them theatrically into a letter box. He looked across the squadron office to the Recording Officer, Captain Maitland, who was typing up a summary of the squadron's activities that day. It was raining again and the afternoon flights had been called off.
“That consignment of dope still hasn’t arrived,” Le Mesurier observed. “If it isn’t here by lunchtime I shall take a truck to St Omer myself. How do they expect us to finish off repairs?”
Mainland finished the page and released the catch on the typewriter, pulling the report out with a triumphant flourish.
“Don’t forget the King's visit,” he told Le Mesurier.  “Go first thing in the morning and be very nice to the quartermaster and you might be back in time.”
“Good point, Le Mesurier conceded. He stood up and straightened his tunic. “And now I’ll just see if the Old Man will see me.”
A look passed across the RO’s face. Whether it was concern or exasperation was unclear.  “You want to ask if you can fly again? What did the doctor say?”
Le Mesurier wrinkled his nose, “He wants me to build my constitution first. It was only a bout of ‘flu! I should be up there doing my part! Not sitting around here doing...sorry.” 
“It’s alright,” relied the RO. I'm not an airman myself, but I understand the appeal, compared to office work. You've made a real difference here keeping things running during the push, you know. The thing with the fixing fluid...”
“Fixing fluid this time, barbed wire last year,” Le Mesurier waved his hand dismissively. “It isn’t what I expected when I signed up. I left the Engineers to get away from this. The pilots have largely forgotten I can fly. I overhead one describing me as a penguin yesterday.”
“Penguin?”
“Has wings, can’t fly.”
“I hope he doesn’t call the Major that,” Maitland commented. “It would not go down well.”


After lunch the next day, the officers and men of 2 squadron were assembled in parade order at the north end of the landing field at Hesdigneul.  
The reason for this was no secret on the squadron. Indeed it couldn’t be. Preparations for the King’s visit had gone on all morning.  General Haig had arranged a specially trained horse, a chestnut mare, to carry the King during the visit. According to the attending grooms, the horse had become accustomed to lying next to a bass drum as the band practised.  Everyone agreed that she was a lovely horse.
His Majesty arrived by motor car, which stopped at the edge of the aerodrome field and the King mounted the horse with the assistance of General Haig.  Haig’s superior, Sir John French was present and tried to help, but the King waved him away.
His Majesty, the King rode forward toward the white picket rope that delineated the edge of the ‘parade ground’ that Major Becke had set out. As he approached, the men of the squadron let out a patriotic cheer.
The sudden roar startled the mare, who rocketed upwards, tripping on the picket rope as she did so.  In a moment the horse fell backwards and onto her rider.
Men and officers ran forward.  King George seemed curiously calm, Le Mesurier thought.  He was wincing from the pain, but did not cry out.
“Sergeant,” Le Mesurier called to Butcher, who was standing on the other side of scene.  “Get this horse lifted.  We need to get his Majesty free.”
Men and officers (mainly NCOs actually) worked to free the King from the horse and the slippery mud.  They pulled him up and headed for the car.
Sir John French hovered over the King without actually doing anything productive. “Your Majesty,” he said, “we must get you back to England.”
King George grunted as he was settled into the back seat.  “A long journey would seem, ah, unwise, Sir John.”
“The Germans, your Majesty. If they found out where you were...” but the King had had enough of French. He looked at General Haig, “tell Sir John to go to hell.”

A few days later, Major Becke called Le Mesurier to his office.  
“There has been a meeting back at St Omer,” Becke told him. “Usual stuff mainly, but the Wing have been instructed to release our ‘superfluous clerk.’ Which would be you, Le Mesurier. You are to return to flying duties immediately.  Nothing to strenuous, I’ll have you patrolling over the King’s chateau.  Make sure the Hun doesn’t get near him.

 

‐-------------------

And that’s my explanation of where Le Mesurier disappeared to.  The account of the King’s accident is put together from 3 different sources.  The King was definitely having problems with Sir John at this point.  The quote about telling Sir John where to go really happened a few days later while King George was under sedation in the chateau.

Maurice Baring records a meeting a few days later in which 1st Wing were told to release a superfluous clerk. It probably wasn’t a resting pilot though.

The real reason for my absence has been sickness. If it was in the normal part of the campaign, it would only be a few weeks, rather than the months I had to account for!
 

Edited by Maeran
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Posted (edited)

A report on Jean-Fidele's time off will be forthcoming. However, I did want to note that as of 1 March 1916, he is back in active duty with Escadrille N26 in St. Pol-sur-Mer.

Granted, it took him until his second mission to get rid of 6 weeks' worth of rust.

image.thumb.png.ed77732cea3de524bee2c2d728da9303.png

Edited by Albrecht_Kaseltzer
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12 hours ago, Maeran said:

The real reason for my absence has been sickness. If it was in the normal part of the campaign, it would only be a few weeks, rather than the months I had to account for!

I'm so sorry you have been ill my friend! A wonderful way to explain it all!  Truly hope you are fully well again! - Your writing hasn't suffered!

Warmest

Seb

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Flight Lieutenant Theodore Aloysius Andrews aka 'Runt' DSC                                                      

HQ Sqn 1 Wing RNAS in Flanders

St. Pol-Sur-Mer

Fin.

7th March 1916

Combat report

0940hrs mission was to bomb the Roulers railroad depot and junction. The C.O. said it was of great strategic importance. 

F/L Roderic Dallas - A Flight - Cauldron G4 - No. 1756

F/L TA Andrews - B Flight - Nieuport 11- No. 3940

F/L Noel Keeble - B Flight - Nieuport 11- No. 3984

F/L Redford Mulock- B Flight - Nieuport 11 - No. 3976

F/Sub Lieutenant Sid Hoskins- B Flight - Nieuport 10C- No. 2589

At 1000 Returned to St. Pol-sur-Mer with engine trouble.  Andrews leading B flight escorted Dallas to St. Pol-sur-Mer, then proceed to lead B flight to our target to attack any target of opportunity at the railyard.   We made several passes.  At 1047 during one such pass, Andrews's undercarriage struck two trees and he was seen to crash into the Railyard.  His Nieuport exploded in a fireball. It is unlikely he survived.

We made one final pass and returned to St. Pol-sur-Mer landing at 1115. No significant damage was done to the rail yard.

Signed

F/L N. Keeble DSC MC

Theodore Aloysius Andrews final stats

  • 1st June 1915 - 7 March 1916
  • Missions 80
  • Hours 110.57
  • Confirmed Victories 14
    • 5 Aviatik BI
    • 4 Fokker EI
    • 3 Aviatik CI
    • 2 Fokker EIII
  • Claims 27

" And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that Andrews lived happily ever after. For Andrews, it was only the beginning of the real story. All his life in this world ... had only been the cover and the title page: now, at last, he was beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Adapted from C.S.Lewis The Last Battle

Thanks for all your support chaps!

 

 

 

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Oh no! Andrews was doing so well, and I was enjoying his story a lot.

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good, that's one less Tommy to worry about.

 

settle down, just kidding (sort of). I'm gona be cringing when future missions involve ground attacks

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Posted (edited)

Sous Lieutenant Jean-Fidele Hierrot: on leave, part 1 (late January 1916)

Jean-Fidele took the train to Le Havre, with his Oncle Alphonse picking him up from the station late that night. A relatively successful businessman, Alphonse had long owned multiple properties in France and Algiers, and fled here to the coast to get away from the frontlines.

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Jean-Fidele was able to find Alphonse by following the sound of a very eager "Well hello there, my boy!" bellowing out from an Hispano-Suiza 15T Alfonso XIII - Alphonse was very quick to hop on the automotive bandwagon - and sure enough, there was Alphonse Gellée in all his stout, dapper, gregarious glory, waving from the driver's seat.

"You know, you could probably sell that thing right now for enough money to last most people through the decade, right?" 

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Alphonse just laughed. "Oh, mon fils, the war has made you turn rather austere now, hasn't it?"

"I mean, maybe, but don't you think...this thing, out in the middle of the night...it's a bit much, no?"

"Indeed, it's far too much! That's the point!"

"It feels like we're asking to get robbed or something."

"You go up in the sky every day to face men with guns, and you want to talk to me about living dangerously? Jean-Fidele, I'll have you remember my grand-mère and her family were all born in slavery - they could not have nice things or enjoy the good life. So the responsibility of the good life must fall upon me - and now, I shall share that burden with you."

"How noble."

*** 

Alphonse's home looked like the sort of building that was better suited to serve as a pub or tavern or even a library, sprawled out along the edge of Le Havre's city center. A grove of trees faced the windows on one side, a far cry from the site of military hospitals facing the other.

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Jean-Fidele was less concerned with Oncle Alphonse's house, though, and more concerned with what was inside it: his mother, whom Alphonse had taken on as a guest shortly after Jean-Fidele joined L'Aéronautique Militaire last summer. As a long-time friend of the Hierrot family - even business partners with Jean-Fidele's father back in Algiers - Alphonse extended a gracious invitation for Adélaïde to have a little buffer away from the frontline herself.

The woman Jean-Fidele discovered in Alphonse's guest room was but a ghost of the mother he left behind to enlist.

There were bottles strewn on the window sill, on the floor, along the headboard of the bed - some with some wine still sitting in side, most not. Jean-Fidele found his mother sitting in a rocking chair nursing a full glass in one hand, with a newspaper in the other; she looked as though she had aged several years in the past six or seven months.

Petit Sous tried to get her attention, only to realize she had fallen asleep that way.

***

Early the next morning, Jean-Fidele confronted Alphonse.

"Oncle?"

"Yes, Jean-Fidele?"

"How long has mother been like this?"

"Like what? How do you mean?"

"Like what? Are you serious? Like what? Aren't you paying even the slightest bit of attention?"

"Jean-Fidele Alphonse Hierrot, I will not tolerate having you address me in such a manner! And you certainly shouldn't talk about your mother that way!"

"She's not well, and you know it."

"She's a woman who's been through a lot, who's lost a lot - she just needs a little fun, a little drink to cope with it all..."

"If she'd been like this back in Algiers, we never would have made a single franc because she would have drunk up the entire vineyard herself - "

Jean-Fidele paused mid-sentence, realizing the significance of Alphonse's choice of words: "a little fun..."

"Never mind. I see how it is. Well, you two have your fun, I guess, and I hope nobody gets hurt."

"Jean-Fidele, mons fils, who are you to deliver such a self-righteous lecture to me under my roof?"

"Nobody."

On that note, Jean-Fidele walked out into the street, leaving Oncle Alphonse behind.

TO BE CONTINUED

Edited by Albrecht_Kaseltzer
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Posted (edited)

Jean-Fidele Hierrot On Leave, Part 2: Late January/Early February 1916

Jean-Fidele made his way from Le Havre to nearby Rouen to see one other person he'd intended to visit: Therese Sovremonte. Another long-time friend of the Hierrot family from their pre-war Parisian days, she was currently working as a nurse at one of the many military hospitals in the area.

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Their first meeting was purely pragmatic. They'd originally arranged to meet outside the hospital a couple days later after Therese's shift, but Jean-Fidele's sudden change of plans had him on site three days early. He'd set foot on the premises and was looking around for his friend until he caught her by surprise in a hallway. "Jean! What are you doing here? Did I get the time wrong? I thought we weren't going to meet for a few more hours! I am so sorry!"

"No no no, it's not like that, you didn't forget anything. I'm just a bit...uh...you know, change of plans."

"Is everything alright?"

"Better question: is anything alright?"

"What's going on?"

"Listen: I can tell you more later. But for right now, I need a place to stay. You know anybody? You know anybody who knows anybody?"

"I'll see what I can do..."

By the end of the day, Jean-Fidele had gotten set up in a room with Therese's cousin Victor, a taciturn factory foreman. Therese herself stopped by in the evening after her shift, at which point Jean-Fidele revealed all.

"The way things are going, she's going to drink herself to death."

"And it sounds like Alphonse's motives are a bit on the impure side."

"Oh, I don't even care about all that. They can do as they like. You know, two days ago, before I knew how she was doing, I think I would have actually been happy about it. But just...she's not well, and I can't tell if he even cares. And he blows up at me for asking."

***

As a pair, Therese and Jean-Fidele became a common sight around town; these couple weeks were the closest thing to normalcy that Jean-Fidele had experienced since the start of the war.

Inside a local cafe, a visibly nervous Therese brought forth a question that she wanted to pose as innocently as possible. "You know, Jean, I could ask my parents about letting you stay with us for a time - I know it's a lot of back-and-forth from here back to Victor's."

Jean-Fidele was tempted.

"I mean, I'd love that..."

"Great! I can talk to them later today, and we can make some space for you - if nothing else, at least we have a couch..."

"No, Therese, no no no."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm about to leave town."

"But I thought you had until the end of the month."

"I do, but I have somebody I need to see."

"And who might that be?"

"It's not like that. You see, I'd promised my old flightmate Aldric that I'd come see him again if I ever got the chance. He was my observer back at the start of it all, took me under his wing. He's the closest I have to a brother anymore."

A momentary flash of jealousy in Therese's eyes softened into sympathy. "I understand. Jean, it's good of you to do that, to go see him. It's not a problem. Maybe you can stay with us next time you're on leave?"

Jean-Fidele took a deep breath. The next few sentences would be some of the most important in his life. "I can't have you do that, Therese."

"But I want to!"

"Wanting isn't everything."

"Jean - I thought - "

"Listen. I don't expect to come out of this alive. I can't promise you I'll ever come back, and I can't have you waiting for me in the meantime."

"I'm stronger than you think, Jean. Just give me the chance. I'll do that for you. That's what people do when they love each other."

Jean-Fidele was silent.

"...Right?"

"Therese..."

"Yes, Jean?"

"I don't love you."

Jean-Fidele went over that moment over and over again over the next 24 hours, on the way to the Pierrefonds airfield. He felt bad about lying to Therese, but in his mind, he had to do it. He wasn't going to be like his godfather Alphonse, taking advantage of his loved one's weakness with childish apathy. He wasn't going to have Therese holding on to a ghost in the making.

TO BE CONTINUED

Edited by Albrecht_Kaseltzer
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Sous Lieutenant Jean-Fidele Hierrot on leave, part 3: late February 1916

"Petit Sous! So good to see you!" Aldric had always been a more introverted fellow, but exuded a soft, natural warmth in the company of his not-so-old war buddy.

"Thank you, Aldric. It feels like a lifetime ago."

"Does it? I wouldn't know. Ha, each day just feels like the same - one day after the other."

"I mean, same here. But one day after the other has a way of changing you."

image.png.414e87d6a510bd9e470838d343f286be.png

Aldric shared how his duties with Escadrille C.4 were about to expand: how he and his pilot soon will be able to carry out proper reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions to gather intel and preserve the data via notes, photography or radio telegraphy; how air drops too have been implemented and at times he has to drop his intel off at HQ in a weighted bag at 100m or lower - which, needless to say, can be a harrowing experience for even seasoned pilots given the ever present flak and MG fire around the front lines. "Now we're fighting recon wars!"

Later on, as Aldric was showing Jean-Fidele the Caudron two-seater in which he presently served as an observer, Aldric asked "So how about you? What's life like up in Dunkirk?"

Jean-Fidele spilled out everything going on with his mother, his godfather, with Therese..."I look back at everything I knew before the war, and you know what? There's nothing left for me there."

"I know what you mean."

Jean-Fidele knew immediately what Aldric was talking about - his hometown was in Douai, presently occupied by Les Boches. "I guess we're all we have."

"God help us, Petit Sous."

"Listen, Aldric, there's one thing I need to ask of you."

"Oh?"

"I have a letter I wrote a few days ago, and I don't know what to do with it. I don't know if I ever will. I want you to have it."

"For me?"

"For you to decide what to do with. When something - if something happens to me, I want you to decide what to do with this letter."

Jean-Fidele handed a full envelope to Aldric. It was addressed to Therese.

***

Jean-Fidele's last few days on leave were spent back in the Dunkirk region, not too far from his squadron's airfield at St. Pol-sur-Mer. His uncle and his aunt (his mother's sister) still ran a charming coffee shop, Le P'tit Dupont, and he had to drop by to tend to some unfinished business with his cousin Monique.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Posted (edited)

Sous Lieutenant Jean-Fidele Hierrot on leave, Part 4: February 29, 1916

"Look, Monique, I haven't been stationed up here very long but the stories are already getting around - it's a good thing nobody knows we're related."

"Why do you think I care what anybody says about me?"

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"It's not that..."

"Then what is it?"

"Look, I know why you're doing what you're doing."

"Oh, let me guess, because I like the attention. Because I like having a bunch of men chase after me."

"No - no - "

"I'll have you know, every gift any man in a uniform ever gave me, I sold off every single piece as soon as I could - "

"I know - "

" - so I could send the money to you. To your mother."

"Monique - "

" - so a little gratitude would go a long way right now, because I've had it up to here with all the judgment and the gossip!"

"Monique."

"What?"

"I know." Jean-Fidele was trembling, holding back tears. "I know. You have the whole airfield saying horrible things about you, and it's because you've put yourself on the line for the family. What I'm saying is, you shouldn't have to. And you don't have to."

"It's what anybody would do."

"And you probably shouldn't."

"But Jean, it's your mother."

"I've seen her. She's stashed away in a wine cellar somewhere in Alphonse's pad in Le Havre."

"Oui, I know she's staying with your godfather. But she can't stay there forever, and she'll have to pay for herself somewhere somehow. That's the way it's been ever since your brother signed up for the army! The money has to come from somewhere!"

"Monique - if you keep sending her money, she's just going to drink it all away."

Jean-Fidele's cousin was stunned. "...It's that bad, you say."

"Yes. So you can stop picking up gifts and selling them off - I mean, unless you want to - "

"Want? Ha!"

" - and I also have to say, ever since that one time you made the money drop over at the airfield, the British airmen saw us together. One of their lieutenants, Theodore Andrews, has been giving me the evil eye ever since."

Monique let out a sigh. "I've always felt so bad for him."

"What do you mean?"

"He deserved better. I couldn't keep seeing him, of course."

"...because you couldn't use him like anybody else."

"Of course not."

"Maybe now's your chance to let him know."

"I don't know. I don't think so. I hope so. It's hard to say - he's gotten so upset, and I can't blame him."

"Well, you know what they say - time heals all wounds. Just give him a few days, maybe a week or two, try talking some Latin at him. I'm sure he'll understand."

"Of course. I'll just wait. Hopefully his Latin has gotten better."

"That's the spirit!"

Edited by Albrecht_Kaseltzer
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4 hours ago, Albrecht_Kaseltzer said:

" - and I also have to say, ever since that one time you made the money drop over at the airfield, the British airmen saw us together. One of their lieutenants, Theodore Andrews, has been giving me the evil eye ever since."

Monique let out a sigh. "I've always felt so bad for him."

"What do you mean?"

"He deserved better. I couldn't keep seeing him, of course."

"...because you couldn't use him like anybody else."

"Of course not."

"Maybe now's your chance to let him know."

"I don't know. I don't think so. I hope so. It's hard to say - he's gotten so upset, and I can't blame him."

"Well, you know what they say - time heals all wounds. Just give him a few days, maybe a week or two, try talking some Latin at him. I'm sure he'll understand."

"Of course. I'll just wait. Hopefully his Latin has gotten better."

"That's the spirit!"

Thank you Albrecht a superb way to finish Runt and Monique’s saga!  May Jean-Fidele live long and live to marry Therese!  I’m enjoying his tale! 

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Hasse – Verdun! Visited the place in 2018. Nowhere else on earth feels as haunted. Good luck in the coming fight.

Maeran – Delighted you are on the mend after a rough time. It is a joy to have you back and no longer a “superfluous clerk.”

Seb – Absolutely gutted at Runt’s demise. Watching the video, I can absolutely understand how easy it was to push that extra second to empty a 47-round drum. Please regroup and hurry back.

Albrecht – A rough homecoming of sorts for Jean-Fidele in Le Havre. And then to reject poor Therese. You can feel his life outside the squadron emptying out. At least he had Aldric to turn to. You did a marvellous job at tying up the loose ends of Seb’s story about Monique.

 

War Journal – Second Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

4 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Marieux, France (currently on leave)

 

Part 12

File:Dazzled Leave Ships, Boulogne Art.IWMART1346.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

On the first couple of days in March, winter flailed us with sleet and snow and piercing winds. Nonetheless, we flew our patrols from Arras down to Albert and spotted for the guns. Then the orders switched to reconnaissance, or “recco” as it is casually termed. Up through Monday, 6 March, life followed its usual routines. Then on that day, after we returned from yet another spotting show, the duty corporal informed me that I was to report to Major Todd as soon as I had cleaned up and eaten breakfast.

I announced myself at the squadron office and the RO motioned for me to come around the counter and report to the Major’s office. The office was simply a desk in the corner separated from the rest of the room by low partition. The CO straightened in his seat as I saluted in the “doorway.”

“Come in, come in,” he said and pointed to an empty chair. “I have some news for you.” He looked at me intently and then the ends of his moustache turned up as he smiled. “How long has it been since you arrived in France?”

“Nine months, sir,” I replied.

“Well then, you should likely have had at least two leaves in that period. Most of our officers get ten to fourteen days of leave after three months at the front. The system has not been kind to you.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I might have missed out on some leave, but I have managed to avoid the nastier types of Huns at least. And I have been blessed with an outstanding observer in Mr Clapp.”

“Very well said,” the major remarked. “Still, it’s time that the Royal Flying Corps gave you what is due. I have here your travel warrants and papers for your leave over the next fourteen days. Captain Palmer will ensure your pay is brought up-to-date as you will miss pay parade. And since you have no further patrols today, you are free to leave immediately if you wish. I will have a driver take you in my motor to the station in Doullens. There is a train to Boulogne at one o’clock. You could be enjoying breakfast in London by morning.”

I found myself grinning like a fool and spluttering thanks.

“Oh, and there’s one more thing,” said the Major. “Tomorrow’s Supplement to the London Gazette will confirm the commissioning of one David Armstrong Hawkwood as a second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps with effect from today’s date. Please allow me to be the first to congratulate you, Mr Hawkwood.” With that, the splendid gentleman rose from his seat and extended a hand. The handshake over, he called for Captain Palmer, the recording officer, to bring three glasses and he produced a bottle of Bell’s finest. He proposed a toast.  “I’m something of a renegade in my family. All the other men are Royal Navy and here am I. So here’s the old Navy toast – ‘To a bloody war and quick promotion!’”

I scarcely had a chance to talk to Ned over at the B Flight sheds before I had to pack my kit. I arrived back at our hut in time to meet again with the duty corporal who had a package for me.

“It is a spare uniform from poor Mr Morgan’s hut. Major Todd thought you were about the same size and said that you should travel as an officer.” I had scarcely met Lieutenant Morgan. He had lasted less than a fortnight.  I mumbled my thanks.

“He also instructed me to have you consolidate any kit you are not travelling with, as there is a good chance that you will be posted to another squadron at the end of your leave. We’ll want to send everything along to you if that happens.”

When the duty corporal left, I unwrapped the folded breeches and tunic. The tunic was a standard RFC “maternity jacket”. There was a Sam Browne belt as well, which required a fair bit of adjustment to fit properly. I retained my own field boots and putties.

Thus, clad in a dead man’s clothes and with my NCO’s greatcoat over my officer’s tunic, I took my valise over to the Major’s car, where the driver put my kit in the front seat and held the rear door open. I was headed for a new life. But first, I was headed home.

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Albrecht, what a great story!

Raine, good to see Hawkwood finally getting a well-deserved promotion. As a "temporary gentleman", some things should be easier for him now. A fine read!

The real world seems to have gone crazy again. Some escapism in the form of this flight sim hobby is more than welcome, though I confess having a somewhat uneasy feeling writing about past wars when a real one is being now fought so close to my homeland.

Anyway, here's the latest chapter from Auguste!

The War Diary of Auguste Besson, Escadrille N.23, part 10.

The German offensive at Verdun began after the massive preparatory bombardment ended in the evening of February 21. We were not in the Verdun sector, but naturally the battle attracted most of our attention. Nothing whatsoever was happening in our corner of the front, and we were anxious to hear any news from the fortress city on the Meuse. There were hopes that the boche attack would be stopped right away before any serious progress could be made. After all, Verdun was heavily fortified and could be expected to hold against heavy attacks. However, a few months earlier we had witnessed from the air how artillery pieces had been transported from the city for use in the Champagne offensive. The effects of this weakening of the defenses became evident after three days of fighting, when the mighty Fort Douaumont fell into enemy hands. This blow was a huge shock to everybody, and we began to feel increasingly frustrated by being stuck in a sector that was missing all the action. A few days later our former army commander, General Pétain, was appointed to lead the defense of Verdun. We knew the General was a highly competent officer, and believed that if anybody could put a stop to the German advance, it was surely him.

By the first week of March, it became obvious that the danger of the immediate collapse of the Verdun defenses had passed. Stiff resistance by our brave poilus had turned the boche offensive into yet another massive battle of attrition. Many escadrilles were also being sent to bolster the city’s defense – but not ours! We could see even the Captain was frustrated by this state of affairs, but there was nothing we could do about it. Our escadrille remained attached to the Fourth Army, which was not responsible for the defense Verdun. We also understood that it was not possible to strip the whole Western front of our aviation units and send them all to Verdun. It would have been logistically impossible and would have also endangered the defenses of other sectors of the front. Still, our frustration over the situation was palpable and seemed to became worse with each passing day the fighting went on at Verdun.

The only exciting thing to happen to us in early March was the delivery of the first of the Nieuport 11 C.1 scout machines. We had been expecting this new type for some time, and were eager to put it to good use against the boche. This Nieuport, nicknamed the Bébé, was a small-sized, fast and extremely manoeuvrable sesquiplane design powered by an 80 hp Le Rhône rotary engine and carrying one British-made Lewis machine gun mounted on the top wing, firing over the propeller. Performance-wise, the Bébé was greatly superior to the Fokker monoplanes in every way, and we were confident that it would allow us to finally achieve air superiority over the front.

We did not have to wait for long to have success with the new machine. In his second flight with the Bébé, Captain de Beauchamp surprised and shot down a lone Aviatik two-seater. The enemy machine came down quite close to our forward positions and we were hoping to capture its crew as prisoners of war, but eager poilus shot the unlucky Germans dead before we managed to contact them. It was a disappointment, but we could hardly blame the infantrymen, for the Aviatik had been guiding the fire of boche batteries upon their necks. The Captain’s success was celebrated that night and we were all eagerly waiting for more Bébés to arrive so that more of us would be given the opportunity to use this deadly new weapon against the enemy.

Unable to directly support the defenders of Verdun, we were determined to make life miserable for the boche in our front.

dYoBLsU.jpg

TO BE CONTINUED...

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