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DiD IV Campaign - Flight reports & Player instructions

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TK,

Are you using any of the Historical Weather mods or are you using the default weather? Also, make sure you have Historical Weather checked in Workshop. If you are using the default weather, it's rainy on March 21 and 22, nice for a few days, then eight straight days of rainy weather from March 26 until April 3.

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Unfortunately nothing helped, so I had to reinstall WOFF and then add Recon Wars on top of a fresh install. This time everything seems to be working as it should and I haven't received any error messages so far. Fingers crossed!

Now I have two options: either recreate my DID pilot and continue his career, adding the hours from the previous install to his log, or if the powers that be won't allow it, I'll have to start a new pilot.

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Hasse,

It would be perfectly fine to recreate your pilot and add the hours from the previous installation to his log manually. I have done that myself. When my pilot was commissioned from the ranks I needed to transfer him from 4 Squadron to 23 Squadron by 15 March 1916. Unfortunately, the in-game transfer process seemed to drag on for weeks and my hopes of a brief leave for the pilot before re-emerging at 23 Squadron as an officer were vanishing. In the end, and after discussion with epower, I simply created a new pilot with the same first name and family name, but nearly a middle initial. My new pilot began as a second lieutenant and had veteran status (as my old pilot had about 100 hours in the air). From now on, my stats will be computed manually. I did this as well as in the last campaign in order to allow my pilot to be transferred to Home Establishment.

Cheers,

Raine

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Sorry to interrupt this thread again.

TK, I noticed on the simhq forum that you were having some other technical problems with the Global layer. Perhaps a reinstall, such as like Hasse did, is needed?

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The poor weather has been interrupting Charles' flying as well! Nonetheless, he managed one sortie on the 26th. Here's the latest: 

The Story of Charles A. Fairclough, Part 3:
March 26th, 1916. No.10 Squadron RFC.

The usual bustle of life was present again on Chocques aerodrome on the morning of March 26th and, although the land still lay under a glimmering dust-sheet of frost, the wind remained still and peaceful and the sun brought sufficient warmth for Charles to decide upon getting some fresh air and visiting the communal wash-basins which stood beside the Quartermaster’s hut. His arrival seemed to mildly disturb the Squadron’s two Enlisted pilots, Winfrey and Rodland, who were there for their morning shaves, and who were not used to seeing Officers emerge from the comfort of the Chateau this early. A batman brought up some warm water for Charles to wash his face with (the taps only ran cold), and with a pleasant and carefree air he scooped it up in his hands, splashing it over his head and face, before letting out a sigh and pausing to listen to the birds sing.

Charles wondered for a moment about what birds must think of aeroplanes. Those damned humans! As if they hadn’t caused enough trouble already with their artillery and their gas, their trenches, barbed wire, and all the terrible din that now rumbled endlessly to the West, now they insisted on bringing their mayhem into the domain that they’d rightfully owned since the beginning of time with ugly little Aviatiks, B.E’s, Archie bursts and machine-guns. Or perhaps they thought the opposite, and saw the novelty of these great lumbering contraptions of wood and fabric, so large as to be certainly flightless, and yet here they were trundling cumbersomely among the clouds and upon the winds. Maybe the birds felt happy for the men who had taken up this strange new way of life, that they might feel the utter freedom of being atop the sky, wheeling below those mere mortals below whom could only dream of such revered privilege as being able to access heaven as the world slipped ever-further below into insignificance. 


Over breakfast, Wood revealed that it was to be a better-than-average day to be a B.E. pilot for the men of ‘B’ flight. According to the C.O., some brass hat or another had become concerned about a stretch of enemy trench just south of Arras, which had apparently seen busier activity than usual. Resultantly headquarters had telephoned Number 10 and had charged them with overflying the lines in question at one-hour intervals, having a quick look around, and flying back to report on troop positions and build-ups. The thought of not having to sit around for thirty minutes amidst Archie’s best efforts, as he had done yesterday, was a welcome one to Charles. In anticipation of a day’s easy work, O’Bannon suggested a night-raid to Bethune, to which several pilots agreed and to which Charles was coaxed into participating by his new peers. 

The first job, taken by Wood, seemed to deliver on the promise of an easy day’s work. However, as he was returning the winds had picked up considerably and ever-thickening clouds obscured the clean blue of the sky. By the time O’Bannon was returning from the 11 O’Clock show the picturesque clarity of the clear morning had been swallowed entirely by a dark, looming overcast. “These damned clouds won’t let you get much above Four Thousand.” O’Bannon had warned Charles as he readied himself for the Noon show - which would have been boring if not for the clouds finally breaking and letting forth a heavy downpour while Charles and Owen were overflying the German lines. The rain stung like fury as it whipped at his face, and neither he nor Owen could make out so much as a German trench-line, much less any drastic changes in troop positions, so irritatedly they made for home. 

At Five P.M Rogers sent for a chauffeur to drive them to the outskirts of Bethune. Captain Ness had promised to meet them at Le Vieux Moulin, the Squadron’s most regular haunt, after he had investigated the various odds-and-ends shops, in search of a Gramophone - the one thing, in his opinion, that had been all-too-conspicuously absent from the mess.

“...I, for one, did’unt see a bloody thing today. Yer rec’kon the brass hats only have the wind-up?” asked Sergeant Winfrey, to which Rogers scoffed. 

“You Welsh types are all comically optimistic. No, I think it’s quite the opposite, actually. If I were to harbor a guess, I’d say that G.H.Q has something big in store. A new offensive. And, naturally, with it not being at all out of the realm of possibility that one of us - that is to say, flyers - will come down on the wrong side of the lines, with a dud engine, or whatever, it would suit the brass hats much better to tell us that we’re looking out for a Hun offensive. That way if we’re captured and interrogated, the Hun doesn’t twig our impending assault”. 

“I can imagine that,” O’Bannon chimed in, “the brass hats have probably become bored of the static front by now”.

“What would we be doing, if there was a new offensive I mean?” asked Charles.

“Oh, the usual stuff. Photography, artillery ranging, the like. Just with a hell of a lot more Archie and, most likely, more damned Fokkers to bother us”.

“About said Fokkers. Do we get much trouble from them?”.

“Well, they don’t show up all that often. But you have to keep an eye out for them all the same. Lord, if one of those things catches our poor little B.E’s…” Rogers made a hand-gesture of an aeroplane crashing onto the table.

“...so, they do appear from time to time, then?” Charles asked, feeling a slight nervousness making itself apparent in the pit of his stomach. 

O’Bannon raised his eyebrows slightly at the question. “My lad, what do you think happened to the last occupant of your bunk?”. 

The barmaid brought over another bottle of Pinard, which was distributed between the glasses around the table by O’Bannon. At the same time, Ness appeared in the doorway of Le Vieux Moulin, scanning the various populated tables for a moment before locating the other airmen and coming over to join them.

“No luck with the gram’ophone hunt, then, ser?” Winfrey asked. “Nope. But I did spot a rather nice-looking couch that I’ll be keeping in mind for after the next time we smash up the mess” Ness responded. “Anyway, what’s the word?”.

“We were just talking about Fokkers”. O’Bannon explained. 

“How morbid. Here, pour me a drink, and let’s talk about something else instead”. 

“Oh! How abou’t that new De Havilland push’er? You lads heard abou’t it yet?” Winfrey asked. “Another pusher?” Rogers answered with an air of incredulity. “Single or twin seater?”. 

“Single. they say it’ll give those Fok’kers a run for their mon’ey, anyway.  I read abou’t it in Flight magazine, it has a forward-firing Lewis gun and a hun’dred horsepower engine”. 

“Single-seat, eh?” O’Bannon answered, “Well, there's something. I suppose it’s about time we had a proper fighting machine of our own. The froggies have their Nieuports to tackle the Hun, which, according to a RNAS chap I met, are a damn sight better than our F.B.5s”.

“What the manufacturers ought to be doing is coming up with something new for us Reconnaissance chaps, rather than leaving us in the lurch with a fleet of tired old bloody Quirks!” Rogers retorted.

“Quite right,” O’Bannon replied. “Hopefully they’ll do it before poor old Corporal Douglas has a breakdown over the state of my magnetos. They’re overdue to be replaced”. He turned to face the bartop. “Mademoiselle, plus de vin”. Another bottle was brought across. 

“Don’t you have the dawn patrol tomorrow? You’ll end up blotto at this rate”.

“Oh, stop your nagging, Raymond. Anyway, with any luck this storm will keep up and we can all get a peaceful morning. You know what the froggies call weather like this? Temps aéronautique parfait. A French flier told me that when I was last on leave in Paris”. 

“I’m inclined to agree with them,” Ness said with a grin.


 

 

Edited by Wulfe
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Glad to see all still up, technical problems or no. Lot of catch up or do! Be back soon gents!

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Hello everyone, this will be not only my first journal entry for DiD IV, but it will also be my first EVER DiD campaign. I am looking forward to reading through everyone's characters and getting to know them. I am a bit behind so will be playing catch up in the coming days.

 

Sergeant Thomas Alfred Watson, No. 12 Squadron RFC Part 1:
March 25th, 1916

Thomas was jolted awake by his driver. The nearby idling of multiple RAF V12 engines reverberated throughout the adjacent row of Bessonneau hangars to the right of the Crossley. Thomas exited the passenger seat in a daze, still half asleep from traversing the winding back roads of the French countryside for nearly an hour. Before him stood the row of olive drab Bessonneau hangars that lead up to a somewhat dilapidated barracks with various NCOs hanging around out front.

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Thomas stood there for a moment, hesitant on where exactly to report. Suddenly, the Crossley driver reassuringly called out to Thomas, “I hear the flying life isn’t such a bad deal sir, especially considering your previous circumstances.” The various daily images from the mud of Flanders flashed through Thomas’ mind, which he quickly repressed while formulating a polite reply to the driver.

“Thank you Corporal, try not to hit too many potholes on your way out of here.”

“Will do sir, good luck.”

Thomas walked along the backside of the hangars that led up to the nearby barracks, glimpsing a different BE2c every time a gap appeared between the pairs of adjoining hangars. Unlike the quirks at Hendon Aerodrome back home, these machines had a single Lewis gun attached to the observer’s seat via a strange mount.

Thomas approached another Sergeant casually leaning on the rotted wood slat wall of the Sergeant’s mess.

“Hello Sergeant, I’m the new arrival pilot, Sergeant Watson. Could you perhaps direct me towards the CO’s office?”

“You’re telling me you missed it on the way in? Surely you didn’t mistake this makeshift chicken coop behind me here as the CO’s office?”

Thomas, not wanting to admit that he had slept through the approach up to the aerodrome replied, “Ahh yes, I was quite preoccupied with observing the quirks idling up on the field as we approached I suppose. Absolutely beautiful machines they are!”

“I am quite unsure why you would be so keenly interested in such a pig of a machine in all honesty? Ahh well, one trip over the Hun lines will change your mind for good. Anyhow Sergeant Watson, the CO’s office is just behind the Sergeants mess here, adjacent to it you will also find the A through C flight huts.”

“Very good, thank you Sergeant…?”

“Lawrence Pope”

“Right then, I shall see you around Sergeant Pope.”

Thomas made his way around the Sergeant’s mess, nearly running into a gaggle of chickens on the backside of the structure. Evidently the Sergeant wasn’t being completely ironic when referring to the unkempt state of the Sergeant’s mess.

Thomas approached the obviously recently erected CO hut stood in front of him. In fact, the adjacent A, B, and C flight Armstrong huts were all in pristine condition as well. Thomas gave a stern knock on the CO office door, the nameplate read “Major Vance.”

“Yes, come in” answered a muffled but confident voice from behind the door. Thomas entered the spacious and well decorated office and immediately saluted and then stood to attention.

“Oh, you must be Sergeant Watson, splendid! Pleasure to meet you, Major Trent Vance Commanding Officer. I was just looking at your file before you arrived actually. Only one crash while training at Hendon and a total of 25 hours flying time? Very impressive indeed.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir. The quirk engine cut out on takeoff, and thanks to my flight instructor’s incessant remarks regarding engine failures, I made sure specifically to not attempt turning back to the aerodrome. Unfortunately that also drove me right into the tree line just two hundred meters in front.”

“Hmm I see, quick thinking on your part while instinctively reacting to training, that is quite rare in such a new pilot.”

Thomas eyed the distinctive German Iron Cross contrasted against a pure white canvas background hung up on the wall directly behind the Major. It seemed to have been cut from a German machine and great care was clearly taken when removing the souvenir from the fuselage. Major Vance noticed Thomas’ gaze hovering over the canvas trophy behind the CO’s desk.

“Ahh that thing? My first confirmed victory, shared between myself and my observer Lieutenant Robert. An Aviatik we caught out over Arras on a return trip from Hunland performing photo reconnaissance. The poor Boche hadn’t the faintest idea what had occurred until it was far too late. I managed to sneak in underneath the enemy machine’s tail as we were returning heading west. Once Robert and I were a good thirty meters out in front and underneath the Hun’s nose, I pitched down slightly as to give a proper firing window for my observer. Lieutenant Robert emptied the entire drum into the machine for good measure, and the old Hun was sent out of control, dead leaf. He was seen to crash just west of Arras where the mud meets the green. Quite an easy confirmation given the plethora of nearby archie chaps. Robert and I landed near the wreckage, or what was left of it. Quite an awful sight indeed, fortunately enough of the machine remained intact to preserve the cross.”

“Wonderful work sir, congratulations. How many victories is that in total for you and your observer then?”

“Oh just the one so far I’m afraid, but that soon shall change I am sure of it. Now, seeing as how you seem quite a capable pilot, you’re to come out with us on the big show tomorrow.”

“…Sir?”

“There is a Hun railyard just across the lines directly east of Arras that is dying to become acquainted with our good friend Mr. Cooper. Those damned boxcars have been moving shells up to German Artillery positions which have been cutting our boys to ribbons lately in our sector. Both A and B flights will be heading over the lines tomorrow at noon, and you my friend have been assigned to B flight.”

“Sir, would it not be wiser to allow me time to acclimate with the surrounding landmarks and tour the front from the safety of our own lines given that I have just arrived?

“There will be time for that rest assured my boy, but we will have a gaggle of ten quirks invading Germany tomorrow so not to worry. Oh, by the way have you met your observer yet? Lieutenant Douglas Carwin?”

“No sir, I cannot say I have.”

“Well go and have a chat with him in the B flight hut, I’m sure he will enlighten you about some of the finer details of penetrating Hunland for when we head over tomorrow.”

“Uhh… yes sir understood.”

Thomas now had a heavy lump in the pit of his stomach as he exited the Major’s office. Crossing into enemy lines on his first ever sortie? Surely this Major must be absolutely mad. His only solace was knowing that his efforts would aid those still trapped in the mud holes and rat nests of the Flander’s trenches, a helpless position Thomas was all too familiar with.

Thomas crossed the threshold of the Armstrong hut assigned to B flight. A row of cots on each side of the hut was accompanied by a single chest placed at the mattress foot board for storing personal belongings. A Lieutenant pilot was knelt over one of the chests, retrieving various belongings from the container. As Thomas walked towards the chest he noticed the Lieutenant holding a collection of personal trinkets, a couple pairs of clothes, as well as a family photograph of a son and his parents who stood proudly behind the young man.

“Hello sir, Sergeant Watson reporting for B flight. Major Vance requested that I report to Lieutenant Carwin, I am to be his pilot.”

“Well you’ve found him; he is in somewhat dreadful spirits at the moment unfortunately,” Carwin remarked as he stared at the young son in the family portrait.

“I see sir, a friend of yours I take it?”

“Yes, Sergeant Jake Wilbert, the best reconnaissance pilot I have ever had the privilege to fly with, and a loyal friend.”

“I am most sorry to hear that sir, may I help you with carrying some of those items?”

“No, that is quite all right thank you Sergeant. Why don’t you place your belongings in the container here that was occupied by Wilbert previously. I will be back shortly; I would like to hear about your meeting with Major Vance, but I need to ship these items back to his family.”

Carwin started towards the hut door, but Thomas worryingly called out to him first.

“Yes, that was one topic I had wished to bring up with you anyway sir. Major Vance believes it necessary to have me along on the bombing raid of the Hun rail yard tomorrow at noon despite it being my first ever sortie.”

Carwin stopped dead in his tracks with his back faced to Thomas. He paused for a moment, and then placed Wilbert’s belongings carefully and methodically on the cot next to him. Carwin quickly snapped around to face Thomas, then walked right up to him and grabbed him by both shoulders with an intense vice grip. His piercing blue eyes stared directly into Thomas with a gaze of genuine concern and absolute immediacy.

“Now listen here Watson, if at any moment during tomorrow’s sortie I give you a signal to turn tail and head home west, you do it without any questioning, got it?”

Carwin’s eyes started to subtly well up as his vice grip continued to tighten.

“I won’t lose another pilot to the blasted Hun, especially not one fresh from pilot training on his first mission. Ever since the Major scored a damned victory over that Aviatik last month he believes the squadron morale is adequately prepared to continue scoring more victories.”

Thomas, now somewhat visibly shaken, inquired about the Hun machines found in this sector.

“Sir, are there any notable differences between our machines and the Aviatiks that give them a particular advantage?”

“Aviatiks? Nothing noteworthy, in fact we tend to leave one another to our reconnaissance duties most of the time. It’s those God forsaken Fokker monoplanes that are murdering our poor quirks. They have us bested in every performance parameter imaginable. They can out climb, out turn, and out dive us in any situation. Also, due to their forward firing machine gun through the propeller arc, their armament is vastly superior as well. The best bet a BE has against a Fokker is hope to God we identify the Hun early on and dive west before they have a chance to notice us.

Carwin could begin to tell he was frightening Thomas by the nervous look in his eyes, causing Carwin to release his grasp on Thomas’ shoulders.

“Sergeant, I tell you all this not to get the wind up, but to prepare you for what we are up against. For now, grab some food from the mess, and your cot is to be the one that Wilbert occupied previously.”

“Okay, thank you sir… Once again, I am sorry about Sergeant Wilbert.”

“Thank you Sergeant… I will be back in a minute.”

“…Uhm… Sir? One more thing if I may.”

Carwin turned around once again to face Thomas.

“About Sergeant Wilbert…? Do you instill this concern in me for Fokkers because of what happened to him? I mean… was it a Fokker monoplane that got him?”

Carwin resumed his stare at Thomas for another moment, and then quickly veered away just as Thomas noticed his lips beginning to quiver. Carwin walked out of the hut door without uttering a word.

Edited by Chives35
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Lederhosen – Enno has certainly put up some good numbers in a short period of time.

Wulfe – Enjoying Fairclough’s story so far. I expect you’ll be busy once the weather breaks.

Chives – A hearty welcome to Sergeant Watson! Best of luck on your first trip over the lines.

 

War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 15

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Sunday, 19 March 1916 – The Wing padre held a service outside B Flight shed at 9 AM. It was quite unlike Sunday at Saint Peter and Saint Paul back in Tring. For one, the padre had some pulpit. An FE2 was pulled up to the door of the shed and he officiated the entire service from the nacelle, looking down at us gathered about. After a few obligatory prayers and hymns, the old boy invited us to relax and have a smoke and then gave a most humorous rendition of the parable of the good Samaritan. The fellow had spent some time in Scotland and told the tale as if it were about a street robbery in Glasgow. We could not have been the most devout congregation he had preached to, but after a half hour of this we were eating out of the palm of his hand!

Hazard and I were then off on a photographic reconnaissance patrol. Once again, the German Archie was intense. We did the best we could, but there was a heavy ground haze, and I don’t suppose our prints were very good.

After that we had two days of heavy snow with no flying. Finally, on 25 March, we were sent back up to take more photographs of the Hun reserve lines. On our second pass over our objective, a shell burst very close, just ahead into our right. Hazard was grazed on his left upper arm and our petrol line was holed. We were at 7000 feet, and I immediately turned west. The engine gave out as we crossed our lines. We glided as far as a field near Warlus and put the machine down safely.

That was it for us the rest of the month. By afternoon, the snow had resumed and for the next week the cold cut to the bone. Flying was out of the question. The only consolation was that we were ordered to vacate our tents and billeted in the nearby village. Hazard and I were inflicted upon a poor old grandmother who, joyously, lived next door to one of the two estaminets, where we indulged in vin blanc with omelettes and chips. Some war!

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End of March stats

2Lt David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Le Hameau, France

FE2b

79 missions

99.21 hours

0 claims / 0 confirmed.

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The War Diary of Auguste Besson, Escadrille N.23, part 11.

Throughout March, while the battle raged at Verdun and the fate of our nation hung in the balance, we maintained a regular schedule of patrols in our quiet sector of the front. As days and then weeks went by, it became evident that the enemy had weakened his presence there. We had very little hostile activity in the air, and nothing happened on the ground either, with the exception of a few harassment barrages every now and then that were intended to keep up the appearance of a war being fought. One by one, more of our escadrilles were being sent to bolster the defenses of Verdun – but not us! We seemed destined to become forgotten in a sideshow theatre of war, infuriatingly close to the action at Verdun, and yet so disappointingly far from that city of heroes. This was beginning to have a negative impact of the morale of our men, and grumblings about the situation were commonly heard. Alas, there was nothing we could do while the army headquarters saw it fit to keep us where we were.

Then, on March 25, Captain de Rochambeau summoned us for a special briefing. New orders had been received from the Fourth Army – the escadrille was to be transferred to the Vadelaincourt aerodrome, a mere 15 km from the front at Verdun, by the end of the month! This news was welcomed by cheers and shouts of ”Vive la France!” So eager were we to do our part in the struggle at Verdun that even the sternest of us could not restrain their emotions.

Preparations for departure were made at a feverish pace, and when our column of cars and lorries finally began to lumber forward on its 100 km journey to Vadelaincourt, we were in high spirits, though also feeling sombre about the situation. For if things had been calm, almost peaceful, in our old sector, that would no longer be the case at Verdun.

Eventually we reached the road that runs from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun, a distance of about 70 km. This road became better known as ”La Voie Sacrée”, the Sacred Way, during the battle. It was the only road in the region wide and reliable enough to carry all the heavy traffic that was vital to supplying our forces at Verdun. All horse transports and troop movements by foot on the road had been forbidden since the end of February, leaving it open for motor vehicles only.

Our column reached Bar-le-Duc via the road from Ligny-en-Barrois, and then began proceeding towards Verdun among countless other cars and lorries. I had never witnessed such an incredible collection of various types of motor vehicles concentrated in one place at the same time. It seemed to me like a glimpse of mankind’s mechanized future, dominated by machines!

Traffic was kept in two lines, one going to Verdun and the other back to Bar-le-Duc. Occasionally we passed by vehicles that had suffered mechanical breakdowns. They were simply pushed to the side of the road to wait for repair crews so that the constant flow of men and materiel would not be interrupted by anything. A narrow-gauge railway had also been constructed parallel to the road to further improve the logistics of the troops at Verdun, and there was an additional standard-gauge railway being built in order to reconnect the city to the national railway network.

As we proceeded towards Vadelaincourt, we saw large groups of men working along the road, repairing the damage it had suffered from constant heavy traffic. Many of these men were Annamites from our Far Eastern colonies, hired to do work in labour battalions in Europe. Every now and then we also spotted men in boche uniforms with shovels in their hands – prisoners of war, doing the same work as the Annamites. Compared to the Asians, these men looked dirty and unhappy.

Night was already falling when we reached Vadelaincourt. It was a small commune about 15 km southwest of Verdun and more or less insignificant before the war. However, the German offensive had suddenly turned the place into a hub of activity. Aerodromes had been rapidly constructed in the area to house all the men and machines that were being sent in increasing numbers to help defend Verdun in the air. In the fading light, we saw big Bessonneau hangars, constructed of timber and canvas for easy transportation, lining the airfield. There was no time to waste, and after stretching our legs for a bit and getting our bearings, we all joined in with the ground crews to help them in making the escadrille operational again as quickly as possible.

That night, we were too busy to sleep and took full advantage of the cover of darkness to avoid any potential observation of our actions by the enemy. The front was so close to us that we no longer had the same luxuries as we had had in our previous aerodromes.

As dawn approached, we could hear the guns booming in the not-so-far distance.

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TO BE CONTINUED...

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Led,

Very sorry to hear about the Covid.  Best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to duty.

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The Story of Charles A. Fairclough: Part 4.
March 27th - April 4th, 1916.
No.10 Squadron R.F.C


“...Three hours? Is that all?” Charles’ face was screwed into a frown as he meticulously scanned over his pilots’ logbook. Outside the window of his and O’Bannon’s room in the Chateau, the muted grey-browns, greens and yellows of France’s wintry countryside had been blanketed by a brilliant dazzling white. As it happened, O’Bannon’s half-drunken hope had become reality and the storm which had put an end to Number 10’s operations had persisted overnight…and had continued to persist for the past week, covering France in a sheet of crisp, deep-set snow. Today was much the same, and the haze of snowfall drifted gently down to earth, carrying with it promises of another flightless day. In truth, Charles had started to feel perfectly redundant. 

“Three hours what? What are you talking about?” O’Bannon asked from his seat at the small writing-desk in the corner of their room; a new addition, procured on a whim during a day-trip to Oblinghem (borne of sheer boredom) two days prior. “My logbook,” Charles explained. “In the two weeks since I arrived, I’ve only flown three hours ”. O’Bannon chuckled lightly. “Yes, you’ve done rather well for yourself. The chaps are all very jealous” he teased.  Charles sighed deeply. “But that’s just it, you know!” he replied, failing to mask the frustration in his voice. “I rather feel like I’m not pulling my weight. And, if I’m being perfectly honest, I rather want to gain some experience in the air”. To this O’Bannon laughed a little harder, to Charles’ disdain. “My dear Charles,” he answered, “the war will still be here tomorrow! You’ll have ample opportunity to, as you say, ‘pull your weight’. But it’s not always advisable to be too keen, you know. Experience inherently requires danger, and the chaps who start out too bull-headed…well…” he drifted off, his smile fading into solemnity. “...anyway”.

Charles was thinking of a retort when there was a sharp knock at the door, which swung open without awaiting a reply. It was Arnold Morecombe, adorned in the hideous green-and-orange patterned cardigan (another spoil of war from the day-raid into Oblinghem), which had been a great point of contention in the Anteroom upon its first appearance.

“Hullo, Fairclough. Hullo, Kim”.
Kimball, if you please”.
“I don’t. Listen, Kim, some of the chaps are planning on making the most of the dud weather by heading to the Vieux Moulin tonight. What do you say?”. 

O’Bannon let out an exasperated sigh. “I’ve been making the most of the weather for the past week. I’m bored to death of it. Besides, there’s absolutely nothing to do at the Moulin besides getting tight, and there are a million better things to do with my time”. 

“...So, you’re in?” Morecombe asked with a sly smirk.
“Why not?” O’Bannon answered with a shrug. He turned to Charles. “Fancy it?”.
“Yes, okay. It beats sitting in here frozen stiff all night”. 

 

Throughout the day, word spread of the planned incursion to Le Vieux Moulin, and by early evening it had become a whole squadron affair. The Moulin’s proprietor, Madame Bussiere, looked perfectly horrified at the wave of khaki that rolled in through the front door. Bravely she tried to put on a smile, twinging slightly as Hill, one of the Observers, knocked clumsily into one of the tables, sending its flower-vase smashing upon the floor. He yelled a quick “Désolé!” in Madame’s general direction and went back to the heated debate he had been having with Buckston (which Charles had vaguely gathered was something to do with horses and motorcycles). 

Having crowded into the centre of the Moulin, the pilots and observers quickly organised themselves around the establishment’s various tables, and Madame’s three young daughters set to work supplying the horde of airmen with wine by the bottle. As they came and went, several pairs of eyes lustfully followed them. The eldest of the three apparently enjoyed the attention, her mannerisms and interactions becoming increasingly provocative throughout the evening (despite Madame’s hushed scorn each time she returned to the bar to fetch another bottle), but the other two were the perfect picture of shyness and misery. Charles felt quite sorry for one of them who was red as a beet as she brought his table their fourth bottle of wine.

Eventually, having had their fun and having caused slightly more damage to the Moulin’s furnishings than was reasonably permissible, the pilots poured back out into the ice-chill of the evening air. It was at that point that Charles realised he was completely Blotto. As if in answer to this revelation, his balance suddenly decided to abandon him and he was forced to cling to O’Bannon to prevent himself falling. “By god, you’re as tight as can be!” he exclaimed with a laugh. Charles also laughed, more at the absurdity of it all than anything else. Here he was, in the heart of France, only some seven miles from the frontline of history’s bloodiest war - and rather than flying and fighting as he’d expected, he’d spent the last week going on day-trips around French towns on various binges. He may as well be on holiday. 

Charles and O’Bannon’s laughter grew to drunken hysterics as the airmen of No.10 climbed back into the Bedford which had ferried them from the aerodrome, causing several of the men to look their way with confused grins. Eventually their laughter subsided, and O’Bannon began to sing merrily to himself.

“...Tight last night, and tight the night before…”
Several of the pilots quickly joined in.
“...Going to be tight tonight, like we’ve never been tight before!
When we’re tight, we’re happy as can be,

For we are the airmen of 10 RFC!”

 

Charles was roused the next morning against his will by the cry of “God! Just our bloody luck!” from the other side of the room. Squinting against the intense throb in his head, he looked over to see an apologetic batman standing beside the bed of an extremely irate O’Bannon, who was fumbling for his uniform with one hand while nursing his own headache with the other. “Whazzat?” Charles sleepily mumbled. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you” O’Bannon replied. “Bloody storm’s passed. I’ve got the damned dawn show. Can you believe it? God, my head. I was tight last night”. 

Charles had rolled over and gone back to sleep before O’Bannon was through the door, and mercifully he was afforded a few more precious hours before the batman returned to wake him at Ten O’Clock. “Sorry, sir” the batman said softly. ‘B’ Flight patrol. Off the ground in one hour”. Resigning himself to the inevitable headache, Charles reluctantly dragged himself out of bed and threw his uniform on, not bothering to button up his tunic. Slinging his flying coat and helmet under one arm, he made his way downstairs and into the mess, where he found Wood waiting for him. “g’Morning, sir” Charles muttered. Wood raised his eyebrows slightly, then glanced down at his wristwatch. 

“Yes, only just. God, Fairclough, you look dreadful”.
“I got a little carried away last night”. 
“It’s an epidemic this morning, it seems. Nobody expected the weather to clear up. We’re ranging for artillery at Arras later”.
“All of ‘B’ Flight?”.
“Just us. Buckston and Hill didn’t come back from the long reconnaissance this morning. Most likely got lost again. Aspirin?”. 
“Please”.

Wood produced a small pillbox from his breast pocket and threw it across to Charles. At the same time, Owen came into the mess. “So, who’s stupid idea was it to get blotto last night?” he asked with an air of pained annoyance. “Morning, sir. Morecombe’s idea originally, I believe”. Charles answered. Wood and Owen let out a Tch! in unison.

After having breakfast (which he struggled to force down), Charles made his way with Owen, Wood and Brown (Wood’s Observer) to the aerodrome, upon which sat two B.E.2s, quietly awaiting their masters. A mechanic clad in blue overalls rushed over to meet them as they approached. “Engines are as good as frozen, ser. You’ll have to warm them up a fair bit before they’ll go right” he explained to Wood. “Thank you, Corporal. Any sign of Mr. Buckston yet?”. 

“Not yet, ser”. 

After half an hour of idling the engines, with several intermittent prop-swings required, the two B.E’s opened their throttles and climbed up into a cold so cutting and bitter that it made Charles hunch his shoulders up to his chin and tighten his muscles to stop himself shivering enough to allow for somewhat level flight. Ahead of him, Owen was similarly afflicted, crossing his arms and tucking his hands into the collar of his flying coat. By the time they had reached 4,000 feet Charles was perfectly miserable, and already longed for the warmth of the Anteroom’s fireplace. It would have struck him as amusing, given how bored and apathetic the prior week’s lack of flying had made him, were it not for his current discomfort. 
 

As Charles had now come to expect, the moment they reached the point which marked the edge of the Front, where the fertile farmland abruptly melded into blasted mud and chaos, a sudden Whoof, Whoof, Whoof announced the arrival of Archie. As per usual, its sudden appearance disturbed him slightly, although he noted that it didn’t intimidate him quite as it had on his first trip to the front. He suddenly spotted, a few miles ahead and above of him, another grouping of black smudges in the sky and, craning his eyes, saw a lone F.E.2 ‘pusher’ roughly 1,000 feet above, ambling stoically towards ‘Hunland’. The lumbering pusher’s presence comforted him as he watched it sail Eastward. It was then that it dawned on him: He’d perceived another aeroplane in the sky! Somehow, it felt like a great achievement to him, like he was finally ‘Getting his Eyes’, as he had been promised he would do by his colleagues several times over when he’d confided the unhappiness of his inexperience to them during the storm. He allowed himself to relish in this accomplishment for a moment - he’d tell Owen about it when they landed - but then he reverted his attention to the task at hand. He followed Wood’s Quirk as they crept diagonally South-East across the Front, towards Arras. 

As they overflew the Bosche trenches, Archie’s voice suddenly elevated into a frantic crescendo. If Charles had thought before that he’d gotten over its terrors, such hopeful thinking was now obliterated as the sky around him seemed to be swallowed by the torrent of black ink blots that formed around him. It took all the nerve he had to sit still as Owen tapped away on the Radio Transmitter, periodically gazing over the side of the cockpit to watch the fall of the artillery’s shot. After what seemed like an eternity, Owen signalled that it was time to leave, and the two Quirks swung Westwards.

Back on the aerodrome, Charles inspected the several gashes that had been left in his B.E’s fabric by the archie. “Deary me, ser”, the mechanic beside him said after letting out a long, exaggerated whistle. “You’ve been fair lucky today. Looks like Archie had yer number proper-like”. Charles wondered how the pilots of No. 10 Squadron had coped with such a vicious onslaught each day for weeks, or even months, on end - but, as he found out when Wood approached him after de-planing, they hadn’t. “I’ve never seen Archie so accurate,” Wood exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief. “Took a chunk right out of one of my inboard struts!”. After a moment more of assessing the damage to their machines, the two pilots made for B-Flight office in the Chateau to make their reports. “Any word on Buckston yet, Holloway?” Wood asked a short, slightly overweight Sergeant, sat behind a desk piled high with assorted untidy stacks of paperwork. “Not yet, sir,” Sergeant Holloway answered. “Not even a phone call?” Wood asked annoyedly. “No, sir. Nothing” Holloway replied. “Damn him, where the hell’s he gone?” Wood muttered. 

It seemed an exception to the rule of ‘Talking Shop’ was made that afternoon in the Anteroom, as each pilot seemed to have his own tale about Archie’s ferocity. Several pilots speculated that a new unit had moved into the sector. Several others speculated that they’d simply brought up more guns. The more hopeful pilots and observers chalked it up to Archie just having a particularly lucky day. At around Three O’Clock, Buckston’s absence began to become conspicuous, and several times Wood returned to his office to see if any word had been received. The day drew longer, and the pilots became more anxious. There was a solemnity and morbidity palpably in the air when they retired to the mess for dinner. Rogers checked his wristwatch. “...Quarter past Five” he said quietly. Silence befell the mess for a moment. “Well, I guess that’s that”. O’Bannon’s gaze dropped downward. “Poor old Buckston,” he muttered. 


 

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Wulfe and Raine, excellent entries from both of you! Really enjoying the stories.

Chives, welcome to DID! A great introduction chapter for your pilot. 

Lederhosen, I hope it's a mild form of covid. Doctors of 1916 will have some trouble with the diagnosis though...

***

Escadrille N.23 went straight into action after reaching their new aerodrome at Vadelaincourt. The German and French air services had both been concentrating large numbers of formations in the sector, and air activity was considerably heavier than what Auguste had been used to in their previous locations. However, trusting in their Nieuport scouts, the pilots of the escadrille were determined to chase the boche machines out of the skies.

On April 9, Capitaine de Beauchamp led his flight of six Nieuports to attack a group of German Aviatik two-seaters that had been bombing French positions around the city of Verdun. A battle ensued, and Auguste, following the captain, targeted one of the Aviatiks. Beauchamp made a first pass at the German machine, scoring some hits. He made way for Auguste, who quickly fired a long burst from his Lewis gun into the cockpit and engine of the Aviatik. Smoke erupted from the machine, a clear sign that the German two-seater would soon go down. As Auguste closed in for the kill - his first - the German observer desperately returned fire. A bullet smashed through the windshield of Auguste's Nieuport and hit him straight in the head. Auguste was already gone when his machine began to spiral out of control and finally crashed down on the outskirts of Verdun.

He received a full military burial the next day, becoming one of the millions of men who lost their lives in the War to End All Wars. 

On his simple cross, the words "MORT POUR LA FRANCE" marked his final resting place.

***

And so ends the career of sous-lieutenant Auguste Alaric Besson! Just when things were getting interesting! It's totally my own fault, of course. I should have been more careful.

Dead is Dead.

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Falling behind a little, but hoping to catch up before too long! 

Hasse - sorry to hear about your man. Always rough to lose a DiD pilot! Here's hoping the next one makes it through. 


Charles A. Fairclough,
No.10 R.F.C,
April 5th, 1916:

“Lieutenant Wood, are you done breakfasting?”. Wood made to reply to Captain Foss’ question, but the C.O. cut him off. “Good. Then come and see me in my office. Actually, Fairclough, you’d better come along too”. Not only had Charles arisen at the ungodly hour of half past five in the morning, in time to hear Sergeant Winfrey embarking on the dawn show, but now his breakfast had been interrupted before the Orderly had even managed to serve it. This was a bad omen for Charles - it invoked the one superstition he’d allowed himself to cultivate over the years: An interrupted breakfast preceded a rotten day. Hiding his mild annoyance, he obediently followed. Once the C.O’s back was turned, he tapped Wood on the shoulder, raising his palms and shaking his head slightly: What’s this about? Wood shrugged in response. Your guess is as good as mine. 

Charles had never been into Foss’ office before, although he had seen Wood and the other Flight Commanders often cross its mysterious threshold, having been summoned to the secrecy that lay within, and for a moment he felt a curious, almost schoolboy-like anticipation at finally discovering what lay in the room. The feeling vaguely reminded him of the time when he was a boy, when Michael had finally convinced him to sneak into their fathers’ study, to discover just to see what could be so secret that they had been so expressly forbidden from doing so. 

Whereas Charles had been filled with anxious wonder at the towering tightly-packed bookcases and the thin veil of tobacco smoke that hung around the paraffin desk lamp in his Father’s private writing lair, Captain Foss’ office offered only a mild, underwhelming disappointment. The office had nought in it but a large sector map mounted on the wall, a small, singular writing desk with a simple wooden chair behind it, and a half-full decanter of whiskey. Foss slid into his chair and produced a square tumbler from a desk drawer. Unstopping the decanter, he poured a more-than-generous amount out for himself. It couldn’t be later than half past seven. Charles tried not to show a reaction. After taking a long, measured sip from his glass, Foss leaned back and scanned the two pilots for a moment.

“...Number 3 Battery telephoned yesterday evening” he said coolly, allowing the sentence to hang just long enough for Wood and Charles to start beginning to guess at its implication. “They seem to think that ‘B’ Flight isn’t very good at its job. In fact, they say they wasted a good number of precious shells and hit nought but empty mud”. Wood betrayed a barely audible sigh. 

“Well, sir, if I may-” he started, but was abruptly cut off by Foss. 

“I disagree with them. And I told them as much. Incidentally, that’s why I wanted to see you two”.
“...sir?
“I told them we’d fly over yesterday’s target again this morning and take some aerial photographs. Not only to show them that our artillery spotting is just fine, thank you, but also to show the damned idiots that it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether or not they’re on target. The huns’ are a damned sight better at putting together trenches than our chaps, and any time we start potting away with our guns they all cosy up in their underground dugouts without a care in the world”. Foss finished his whiskey and poured out another.

“Right. Forgive me, sir, but…well, why exactly did you want to see us?” Wood asked, frowning slightly. 

Foss’ eyes glinted, and a thin smile appeared on his lips. “Well, I thought that, naturally, ‘B’ Flight would want to defend its honour from these accusations of incompetency, so you two can go and take the plates. I’ve instructed the mechanics to ready your machines for eight O’Clock”.
 

“...very well, sir”. 

 

Wood’s mood was sour throughout their second attempt at having breakfast, and remained so until he and Charles met their observers on the aerodrome at 8 O’Clock. Before climbing aboard his B.E, Wood pulled Charles to the side. “Now, make no mistake. What the C.O. was getting at, in his usual damned roundabout way, was that we made a meal of the spotting job yesterday. Your bus has the camera. Don’t give him another excuse to send us back tomorrow morning, Fairclough”. Charles agreed, feeling equal parts ashamed of yesterday’s failings and nervous at the idea of the impending show being similarly unsuccessful. The thought of Buckston, nagging away in the back of his mind, also bothered him. No. 10 had received no word of how he had died, and none of the pilots had thought it appropriate to openly speculate. This only served to allow Charles’ imagination to concoct his own ideas of what Ethan’s fate might have been. In the annals of his mind he revisited the torrential, deadly-accurate Archie of yesterday - and in a deeper recess still lurked the dark, distant silhouette of the dreaded Fokker. During the storm, O’Bannon assured Charles that there were no Fokkers in their sector anymore - that they’d all been hastened to the battle raging at Verdun - but Charles had resolved to take no chances all the same.

At quarter-past eight, the two machines tore down the aerodrome and lifted up into the blue-white of the clouded sky. As they climbed up to get their height, Charles was surprised by a flash of yellow-white, caught in his peripheral vision below his machine. Glancing down, he was happy to see that it was his lumbering friend, the F.E.2, from yesterday. This time he had brought a friend of his own along, and Charles enjoyed watching them for a moment before they disappeared quickly to the North. Wood continued to climb, until he had brought them up to higher than Charles had ever flown before - 9,000 feet - and together they made for Arras. Charles noticed that his old chum Archie was conspicuously absent as they overflew St. Vaast. Perhaps, he thought, the German gunners didn’t get out of bed until noon. 

Whoof-whoof-whoof.  That was that theory disproved. Despite its complaining, though, Archie wasn’t nearly as ferocious as it had been yesterday, and before long the two B.E’s had swung back around, having been left relatively unmolested during their work. 

Once landed, Charles headed with Wood to ‘B’ Flight office to make his report. Sergeant Holloway was in his usual place, behind his side-desk with his head buried in the paperwork Wood had deemed unworthy of his own time. At their arrival, he quickly saluted and handed Wood an official-looking envelope, marked with a Flying Corps insignia. It had already been opened.

“What’s this, Holloway?” Wood asked, taking the envelope and extracting its contents. 
“The new pilot, Sir. Buckston’s replacement. He’s arriving tomorrow”.
“Ah. Good. Anything notable about him?”.
“...he’s a Sergeant, Sir”.
“Oh, for crying out loud”.

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Hasse – Auguste in the thick of it! Splendid episode about his transfer to Vadelaincourt. Then, just as I was looking forward to the first of many Verdun stories, he earns his wooden cross. WOFF is sometimes too true to life. My condolences, and I hope to see you flying under a new name very soon.

Lederhosen – I hope you are feeling better and have no lingering side effects. Get well soon!

Wulfe – You made me want to put on my coat and head for the Vieux Moulin myself. Great episode. I share Fairclough’s concern about the intensity of Archie these days. If we stay on photographic reconnaissance much longer, we will be certain to catch a packet.

 

War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 16

Putting down near Arras.jpg

"We had scarcely gained our own lines when the engine packed up totally and we glided and slipped into a field southwest of Arras."

 

After a week of filthy weather, we were back in action at last on 3 April. Several more cameras had arrived at the squadron, and we started a steady diet of photographic reconnaissance work over the lines. Our orders required photography of sectors from up near Lens all the way south to the Somme. Speculation in the mess suggested that our summer offensive would be in the south; two thirds of our patrols were taking us in that direction.

On 3 April, I flew with a new observer named King, Hazard being grounded with a case of conjunctivitis. We were down near Miraumont when we were closely bracketed by Archie. The engine began running roughly and we leaked fuel. I immediately headed northwest. We had scarcely gained our own lines when the engine packed up totally and we glided and slipped into a field southwest of Arras.

The two of us were back up the following day. This time we had good success and King was deservedly congratulated on the quality of his work. We could now obtain quick assessments of our photography jobs. Photographic development is being decentralised. Instead of running all our plates over to Wing or even Brigade, we now have a small hut at the edge of the field where two or three photo section troglodytes spend their days and nights developing prints. I passed some time there when the weather turned poor again later in the week. Quite apart from the chemical wizardry involved in producing prints, there is a real science to absorbing information about the enemy from good photographs. I learned how to identify narrow cable trenches that often led to enemy headquarter positions. Ammunition trolley lines are a focus of attention. Narrow and easy to miss, they help one determine possible jumping-off points for future attacks. Everything on the ground seems to tell a story to those with a practised eye.

On 7 April 1916, we flew twice, our work however hampered by low cloud and haze. Several more days of rain then grounded us until 10 April. It was during this time that I read in the papers from home about the nonsense in Parliament being preached about the Royal Flying Corps. The politicians would have one believe that we are being marched off to the slaughterhouse by ignorant generals and lazy civil servants, simply because the BE2 is now outclassed in air-to-air combat and because our fighting machines engage the Hun deep over their own territory.  For one, the Navy has locked up most of the aircraft production in England, leaving the RFC with the Royal Aircraft Factory. The BE2 was a splendid machine for its time and did exactly what it was asked to do when it was designed. The war is simply forcing us to develop new machines more quickly than our industry seems capable. As for engaging the Hun deep over their own lines, every soldier on the ground and every civilian looking to the skies in England wants their own personal de Havilland scout directly overhead. It’s an understandable feeling, but I tend to agree with the higher powers that want to keep the enemy buttoned down behind his own lines. Of course it makes life difficult for the RFC pilots, for whom a mechanical failure or even light damage can mean captivity, and who must make their way painfully homeward against the prevailing westerly wind. But our offensive strategy permits King and I to parade up and down the front line taking photographs and making notes and sending messages to the artillery, and we have scarcely seen a Fokker in the course of our duty.

On 10 April, we went up twice – morning and afternoon. The sector we were assigned to photograph was up north near Bethune. Given the pattern we have seen, it was hard not to think that we were being put in danger as a mere diversion. King did a fine job and kept his head despite some troublesome Archie. When we were back in the mess, I complimented him on his work.

“I jolly well hope I kept my wits about me,” he said. “The zephyr vertical does no one any good in this business.”

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War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 17

 

We were grounded by bad weather for more than a week. Major Hogg finally gave up trying to create nasty little jobs for us to do and decided to hit it for six by laying on an “escape and evasion” exercise. The concept was simple. We were issued boiler suits from a supply that was being taken out of service. The things were threadbare and smelled of oil, and their labels told us they were “Suits, Combination, Jean, Blue.” We were to be dropped off in pairs after dark all over the countryside and had to make our way back to the squadron without being “captured” by a marauding battalion of Canadian infantrymen equipped with electric torches. Our own NCOs and other ranks also played baddies and manned the perimeter of the aerodrome. Any man order to stop when a torch was shone in his face was considered in the bag. He would be bound and gagged and hauled off to a hangar at the aerodrome to be “interrogated” by the disciplinary sergeant major and the recording officer, both of whom had merrily donned German helmets and greatcoats for the occasion.

Hazard and I were paired for the show. We had very little time to prepare. I ran over to the blacksmith’s shop and found a couple of leather aprons hanging on a wall. These I tucked into my boiler suit.  Then it was back to the tenders and off into a cold, dark, drizzly night. The canvas was drawn shut as we bounced along the local roads. I tried to register and memorise each turn. The best Hazard and I could do was to estimate that we were somewhere north and probably west of the aerodrome. Every five or ten minutes, the tender slithered to a stop and two more of us were ordered down into the mud. Hazard and I were the last to dismount. We watched as the tender disappeared along a farm lane. After that there was just the patter of rain and the chill wind. We sought to get our bearings. Clouds obscured the stars.

“I recall that in Boy Scouts we were told moss grows on the north side of trees,” said Hazard. All we could make out were flat fields of potatoes or turnips or something agricultural. No trees. Definitely no moss.

“If there were a hill, we could climb it and get our bearings,” I ventured. But there were no hills. Hazard produced a cigarette case and a lighter. We huddled in a sodden ditch for a smoke. Far off in the distance we spotted the light of a torch and some furtive figures. A pair of our colleagues being put in the bag. We stubbed out cigarettes and discussed which way to walk.

Hazard kicked my foot and pointed to the sky off to our right. “It may be my imagination,” he said, “but are the clouds over in that direction just a little bit lighter than everywhere else?” I conceded that he had a point and that they may be reflecting the lights of a town. The only significant towns this distance from the aerodrome were Saint-Pol to the northwest and Doullens to the south-west. The road from Arras to Saint-Pol ran southeast and northwest. If we walked toward the reflective clouds we should hit it.

Sure enough, after about twenty minutes we heard the sound of motor vehicles a little ahead and to our left. We veered right and made our way through a wheatfield, eventually emerging onto a lane that led up a low rise. At the top, we saw a town about a mile off.

Getting into the town involved wading over a muddy brook, as we did not want to risk the main roads. A signpost confirmed that we were entering Saint-Pol. We passed close by an abattoir and I stopped to take out the blacksmith’s aprons I had been carrying.

“If we put these on, we might pass as tradesmen at first glance.” We removed our RFC split-arse caps and wandered into town bareheaded. We had not gone far before we encountered a working man’s café. Hazard had the presence of mind to keep his wallet with him, so in we went and ordered coffee and brandy. The locals eyed us suspiciously for a time, until Hazard explained in his good French that we were British aviators on a silly exercise. Then everyone became very friendly and we relaxed. Five minutes later, however, a local policeman showed up and said he had heard about two possible German spies. He demanded our identification. Hazard explained the circumstances as we showed our paybooks. The policeman advised us that we had no chance of making it through the town as there were British officers everywhere. He then sat down with us and accepted a coffee. The policeman suggested that we would blend in better if we wore caps, so Hazard coughed up a few francs to buy two blue workmen’s caps from the chaps at the next table. Now we looked a bit more the part. We discussed our options. Walking across country in the rain seemed a fine way to catch pneumonia. In the end, I promise to repay Hazard for my share of the expenses and we bought a bottle of brandy from the old woman who ran the bar.

With the bottle tucked into the pocket of my boiler suit, we made our way back outside, trying our best to look like two hard-working fellows heading home after an evening shift. But everywhere we turned, there were groups of British soldiers or officers. A column of artillery caissons and guns was halted in the street, their horses shivering and neighing. We crossed over. Suddenly, Hazard stepped into the road and climbed onto the running board of a Leyland lorry.

Our bottle of brandy turned the corporal-driver into a willing confederate. Hameau was just a little outside his route to Arras. Hazard and I huddled low in the passenger side of the front compartment until the lorry turned onto the side road through the village to the aerodrome. We rolled through the gate without interference, but a moment later were flagged down by two Canadians. Our driver was up to the challenge.

“Where do I find the kitchens for the officers’ mess?” he demanded. “These two Froggies are supposed to fix a sink that has backed up.”

Two minutes later I was signing a chit in the mess for a couple of double whiskies. Apparently, we were the first to make it back successfully.

Edited by Raine

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Wulfe and Raine - Great reports from master writers, as expected!

I've been distracted by real life, but I'm hoping to rejoin the fight with a new pilot soon.

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“When that April with his showers shoot...”


There hadn’t been much flying for 2 squadron in April 1916 as the heavy weather prevented any useful war work. A break in the rains led to a flurry of delayed jobs for the pilots and observers.

Le Mesurier's BE2c pottered over the lines. The pilot scanning the sky for danger while his observer, Lieutenant May was watching for the bursts of earth that would show how close their artillery gun was to the target – a German artillery position. 

Le Mesurier was looking for Eindekkers in particular. He had only ever seen one at a distance personally, but they had been shooting down allied aeroplanes and so Edward wondered if he could hold out against one if it appeared.

Something Le Mesurier did not consider a threat was the bursts of black anti-aircraft fire that trailed behind the biplane like a lingering odour.  Archie had been a constant presence since he had arrived and now he considered the bursts to be a waste of the enemy's time and resources.

There was a flash and a deafening KRUMP as a shell burst close by.  May's head jerked as if it had hit something and the observer folded back into the cockpit in a slump.  There was a gash in the side of his brown leather flying helmet and a shock of red. 
There was a smell of petrol in the cockpit now and a definite change in the pitch of the RAF engine. The arty spot was definitely over.
Le Mesurier swept the BE2 to the right in a soaring bank and put her nose down to the British side of the lines. The Quirk was slow and steady, but if the pilot had the sheer will, then she could perform a few tricks.

Safely beyond the reach of Archie, Le Mesurier looked at his situation. May was unconscious at least and there was a lot of blood on the side of his flying helmet, and splattered about the cockpit generally.  The petrol smell was frightening. Le Mesurier cut the throttle and turned off the magnetos to avoid fire.

Now the Quirk was too low to glide far and they were still in the artillery blighted land behind the lines.  There was a wide road that was unoccupied by troops, so that was the best option.

The landing was good. The BE2 was good at slow flight and landed on the cobbles before shakily stumbling to the grass verge and a rest.
Unbuckling his seat belt, Edward reached forward to his stricken observer. “May? May? Are you alright?”
Lt May's face furrowed under the blood and whale grease. “Bloody hell!” he swore, his words slurred. “What happened?”
“Looks like Archie gave you a good slap,” le Mesurier replied as he looked May over.  May stared at the blood splatter. “Oh Christ! I’m going to die!”
“Not today old chap. You get a lot of blood from a headwind but you are awake and talking. Always a good sign. Can you walk?”
“Don’t think so. My legs are jelly.”
Le Mesurier got a bracing hold under May’s arms and began to pull him up. “Try if you can. I want us to look like conquering heroes when I get you to the CCS at Barlin.”
“Barlin?” May winced.  “why there?”
“It’s closer than any dressing stations” said Le Mesurier as he looked at the side of the Be2, wondering how best to lift his comrade down. “Plus there will be nurses.”
----------
Situated in school buildings at the centre of Barlin, the CCS was a relatively ordered place. The urgent work had usually already been done by the time the wounded reached the CCS, although the more serious cases might still see the attentions of the surgeons here.  Mostly the CCS was a sorting area where patients convalesced in rows of beds before being sent back to the lines, Boulougne or Blighty.

The quiet was disturbed with a bang as Le Mesurier kicked the front door open. Lt May was walking with his arm around his pilot's shoulder. The blood had dried now, but it still covered the side of May’s head and was literally splattered across both airmen. Le Mesurier’s brown leather flying coat was undone. The casual observer could see the young officer imagining it flapping dramatically as he moved.
“We were hit by anti-aircraft fire,” le Mesurier told the first doctor that he saw. “Lieutenant May here took a hit to the head. I think it was only glancing, but if you would have a look, I should be so grateful.  We are from 2 squadron RFC. Is there a telephone so I can report in? I'm Lieutenant Le Mesurier.”
As  Le Mesurier was waiting to be connected to Hesdigneul, a VAD nurse came into the office. Her beauty was captivating and the adjutant at 2 squadron had to say hello three times before Le Mesurier came to his senses and spoke.
“Ah yes, Captain Maitland,” he said, never taking his eyes off the young woman with pale olive skin and piercing dark eyes, “Le Mesurier here. We took a hit from Archie and the fuel line was cut. May took a bang to the head too, but I think he was lucky. The kite is beside the road from Nouvelle-Saint-Vaast to Souchez. I’ve got a guard posted on it, but I’m sure their CO would appreciate us picking it up.  Oh, I’m at the CCS at Barlin. Brought Maybin so they could check his bonce. Haha! yes he is. Thick skull.  Alright. Yes, I'll wait for a pick up.”
When he put the telephone ear phone back on the cradle the nurse, who had turned to look back at him spoke.
“I know a Lieutenant Le Mesurier,” she said in an accent that Edward didn’t know, but it sounded exotic. “you are not him.”
“I hope he is a nice chap,” Le Mesurier replied.  “I should feel aweful if someone was letting the good family name down. I’m Edward, by the way.”
“Katherine Antoniadis,” the nurse smiled. Edward was captivated by the way her eyes lit up as she did so. “My Lieutenant Le Mesurier is a nice chap.” She laughed, “so handsome! You are a lot like him.”
----------
Le Mesurier felt honoured. He was sat in the back of the CO's car with Lt May as they returned to Hesdigneul. May had indeed been lucky, with only a glancing blow that had slashed his flying helmet as it flew within grazing distance of his head. The doctor had told him that it was hitting the side of the cockpit that had knocked him out.  Now he was wearing a light bandage wrapped around his head that put Le Mesurier in mind of a nightcap.
“Thanks for getting me to hospital,” May said. “You spent more time with the nurse than I did.
Le Mesurier grinned, “She said I was handsome.”
“She said she had a boyfriend.” May pointed out.
Le Mesurier ignored him, repeating, “she said I was handsome. She's Greek you know.”

"I know! You told me!"

-----‐-----------------------------

There was a lot of rain in April, wasn’t there?
Has the location of screenshot changed with Recon Wars? I can’t find the shots from this mission or the next one.
 

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Maeran – good to see that Le Mesurier and May made it back alive, if not in one piece. Nurse Antoniadis is intriguing!

 

War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 18

 

We have lost our squadron commander, Major Hogg, who has been promoted and posted back to England as a Wing Commander. In his place for the past several days has been our new gaffer, Major Ross-Hume. The new “old man” has made quite the first impression. He ordered a full squadron parade on a day when the ack emmas were crushed with work thanks to the splendid shooting of the Hun Archie merchants on our regular beat. Then, to top it off, just as we were ordered to “fall in the officers”, a nasty black cloud emerged from the southwest. The skies opened and we damn nearly drowned while the silly sod strolled up and down the ranks inspecting the lads. When we finally marched off the field through the cloying mud, he retired to his office, but not before ordering the Recording Officer to ensure that we took all the mud off our shoes before entering the mess.

That evening at dinner, Major Ross-Hume informed us that we could expect to become much smarter and more effective under his leadership. It was announced that he would brook no excuse for failing to accomplish our assigned tasks. And then, just as we thought he would lighten the atmosphere by standing a round of after-dinner drinks, he announced that by the following week all officers currently billeted in the village would return to the aerodrome and be under canvas “now that spring is upon us.” Even as he spoke, we could hear from across the field canvas flapping in the unrelenting wind.

On 26 April 1916, we finally got back in action. The squadron commander has reassigned observers, and I have a new officer named Beckwith assigned to me. He is painfully quiet and shy. Because he has now occupied the space in my tent previously used by Hazard, it will be something of a project to bring him out of his shell. Anyway, Beckwith and I went out together for the first time to do a close observation of a new section of third line trenching near Boyelles. The local Archie gave us a warm reception and I thought Beckwith stood up reasonably well. He had a death grip on each side of the nacelle and stared straight ahead the whole time. Still, he came out of his trance when we turned and dived west to drop our notes.

Back up on 28 April. This time we got a perfunctory “good job” from the Major, as we delivered a number of good plates at the end of our patrol.

After that, the weather closed in again. Then on 30 April, the squadron got a call from Wing asking about conditions. Was a check of the area around Mory possible, they asked. We had a light ground mist and a solid blanket of cloud at 500 feet. Drizzle blew up into rain and faded back to drizzle. Even if we were able to find our way to Mory, it would be difficult to navigate back if conditions worsened at all, and our reconnaissance would have to be conducted at a ridiculously low level over the front. We were ordered to go up despite this. I protested to the RO that there was a great deal of risk for probably no reward. It did no good.

As we prepared to leave, I explained to Beckwith that we would follow orders but not spend a second more over the lines than was absolutely necessary. Be prepared, I told him, for my report upon our return to be – shall we say – enhanced.

The outbound flight was thoroughly miserable. The rain soaked us, and the wind buffeted the machine terribly. Beckwith stood up to it better than I, for I became violently airsick. The cockpit of the Fee is a bit too wide to vomit over the side when tightly strapped in. As a consequence, I came to appreciate the driving rain for its efficiency in cleaning my leather coat.

Archie was absolutely horrifying. When a shell bursts very close, one sees the flash and hears the buzz of shrapnel. The smell of cordite penetrates one’s nostrils. And shells were bursting right in front and beside us for about two minutes. As soon as we crossed the Huns’ second line, I climbed into the cloud above and gingerly began a leisurely turn with very little bank until I was fairly sure we were pointed westward again. When the compass settled at last, we were in fact heading southwest. We continued for fifteen minutes, then descended and found the terrain unfamiliar. I turned due west and flew for ten more minutes while searching for landmarks. Beckwith spotted a town off to our left and we approached it at 300 feet. The closer we drew, the larger the town seemed. Then I noticed the nearby hills, which seemed familiar. On one of the hills bordering the town there were earthworks and stone walls – the citadel of Doullens! We change course for the north and followed trusted landmarks to find Le Hameau again. The ground mist had not intensified, and we put the machine down about ninety minutes after we had left.

That afternoon, Captain Wyllie sought me out and we took a stroll in the rain to have tea in the village. Wyllie has had a run-in with the new boss and swears he has the worst eye for weather of any man in the RFC.

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Things have gotten quiet here with all the bad weather in April and May. Hope to hear from you all soon! I'm sure we will be getting much busier as summer approaches and the offensive looms.

 

War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 19

 The foul weather of April became the foul weather of May. Even Major Ross-Hume conceded that the conditions precluded flight for several days at the beginning of the month. Finally, on 4 May, we were given the task of photographing a section of the lines well south of Arras. Edmund Beckwith, my new observer, seemed up for the task. He had busied himself for several days practising with the camera and our few available wratten filters. This morning, however, proved difficult. Layers of cloud and haze obscured the ground, and we were required to circle about at length until there was enough of an opening to get our exposures. All this while the Hun Archie was making himself thoroughly unpleasant.

Upon our return, the photography section informed us that our plates were too indistinct to be of much use. The Major caught wind of this and sent us back up shortly after noon – in fact, just in time to miss our luncheon. So we spent another lovely couple of hours circling about and waiting for a gap in the clouds. We got one good chance at it, but again the plates proved to be of little value. We returned to Le Hameau and gave a report, only to have a strip torn off us.

Then the rain returned. It continued through until 9 May 1916. On that day we were ordered out to do a low-level reconnaissance despite rain, gusty winds, and a 500-foot ceiling. We patrolled the rail lines around Bapaume and took some heavy ground fire. After one particularly nasty burst of machine-gun fire from a hillside position, I muttered “Bugger this for a game of soldiers” to myself and climbed into the cloud. The next five minutes were nerve-wracking. I stared at the bubble on the attitude indicator and watched my speed carefully to ensure that we continue to climb. If we got a wing down in this position or slipped into a stall, there would not be enough time to correct the mistake after we fell into clear air beneath the clouds. At length, we climbed out above the bottom layer of clouds, but still below another layer higher up.

I turned north. Scarcely had we levelled off when three aeroplanes appeared no more than a thousand yards away, ahead of us into the right – Fokker monoplanes! Back into the cloud we went, levelling off when it seemed that we would no longer be visible.  When the compass settled, I turned just north of northwest and held course for twenty minutes before beginning a descent. The descent was a nightmare – moisture running off the windscreen and the edge of my goggles with nothing but grey in front. Suddenly a line of trees appeared directly ahead. I hauled back on the stick. The Fee staggered over a small wood that crowned a hillock and dipped down the other side. After about another three minutes at treetop height, we passed over a rail line running roughly east and west. On the off chance that it was the line that ran south of Hameau, I decided to follow it. Our good fortune held, and we soon found our way home.

When we landed, I learned that Beckwith had not seen the Fokkers at all. He seemed a bit shaken by the experience. To my surprise, the squadron commander accepted our explanation for abandoning the patrol near Bapaume. Our machine had about twenty holes in it, so I suppose they stood as evidence in support of our report.

Having missed lunch, I suggested to Beckwith that we wash up and take a wander into town for a bite. No sooner had we left the aerodrome then he turned to me nervously.

“I’m not like you, Hawkwood. I’m not at all sure I am up for this sport.” I looked at him quizzically. He continued. “It’s not at all as I thought it would be. I fancied that the excitement of flying would overwhelm the fear. But I’m afraid, Hawkwood.”

“Everyone is afraid,” I offered.

“No. What I’m saying is that I’m scared to death all the time. For men I knew killed themselves just in the past week by flying into the ground in bad weather. And the Archie last week – we had no fewer than four very near misses. And then today when the machine guns splattered us with rounds, not to mention coming face-to-face with three Fokkers. And I didn’t see them, Hawkwood! I didn’t see them at all. We could have been shot down in flames and I would go to my grave not knowing what had happened. Then we damn near the hit those trees on the hillside. It’s all too rotten. It really is.”

“I suppose I should tell you that you’ll get used to it,” I said. “But that’s a lie. I have been out here since last June and I’m still not used to it at all. There is no way that you lose the fear. You simply learn to tame it. You put it in a box. You lock the box. Then you hide the box under your bed. If it starts to peek out you make a joke, take a walk with a friend, but you kick the box back under the bed. That’s all you can do if you want to live with yourself.”

Beckwith was silent for a long time. We arrived at the estaminet, ordered a vin blanc with an omelette and chips and smoked cigarettes while we waited. I could see that Beckwith had tears welling up in his eyes. He took out a handkerchief and pretended to blow his nose while surreptitiously daubing his eyes.

“I’ll try,” he said.

“I know you will. Good man. Oh, I say, here come our omelettes.”

We flew twice during the next three days, and Beckwith held up well. On one day, we were told at dinner that the corps commander had relayed his appreciation for our work over his sector. Major Ross-Hume even made a point of mentioning that at dinner.

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War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood

23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

Izel-lès-Hameau, France

 

Part 20

 Heavy Archie in the rain.jpg

 

“Bloody hell!” Syd Harris jumped up from his cot, snatched his blanket bag, and ran outside the tent. There he stood, shaking the bag and cursing. “Earwigs, bloody earwigs. They’re everywhere.”

Jamieson, his observer, was sitting outside and was convulsed in laughter. “Glad you’re enjoying the wildlife, old boy. Now that it’s cockchafer season, the creatures with whom we share our billet come in airborne models as well. All we need now are some genuine trench rats to complete the menagerie.”

The sun was going down on another wet day in France, and the frogs in the low-lying sections of the wood behind the sheds had begun their evening serenade. Beckwith spoke up. “I’m not enjoying this war at all.”

It was mid-May and we had flown only twice in the past week. Day after day, the rain fell in sheets and the wind blew hard and cold from the north. The four of us huddled in our circular tent, escaping from a mess that was no longer relaxed and collegial. There were tensions in the squadron. My flight commander, Captain Wyllie, harboured a special distaste for the squadron commander. In turn, Major Ross-Hume reciprocated the feeling, and it seemed to colour his view of all Wyllie’s C Flight. Beckwith and I had done some good work this week, but it passed without notice.

On 17 May, we were ordered up despite low cloud and rain. There was no point in bringing a camera. Instead we patrolled our assigned sector and looked for anything of interest. It did not take long for the German Archie and ground gunners to make their presence felt. Twice I turned away toward our lines to get a brief respite from the hundreds of greasy black shell bursts that welcomed us. On my third attempt to patrol over the German reserve trenches, our Fee was nearly thrown on its side by a near miss. Beckwith caught himself just in time to avoid an involuntary departure from the nacelle. Then our engine began clanking and groaning. I turned toward home, and not a moment too soon. Very soon afterward, the engine gave up the ghost and we glided westward into a headwind, just managing to find a field behind our lines and southeast of Bethune. I clambered down and called for Beckwith to join me. For a minute or two he sat like a sphinx in the front of the machine. When he finally appeared, I could see that he had tears running down his face. We found a nearby battalion of the Glosters. They posted a guard on the aeroplane while we walked to the nearest village, where the parish priest let us use a telephone to call the squadron. Then we found an estaminet and I plied Beckwith with brandy until he was quite recovered.

We flew again on 19 and 20 May, both times doing photography over the Hunnish lines. On the latter date, we managed to get excellent images on nearly all our plates. It was enough to receive an appreciative grunt from the commanding officer.

After that, we were grounded for about a week by bad weather. We have been given our share of busywork. I pulled duty officer twice and took my turn cutting grass in the rain. We treasure the nights when the Major is away at a conference or something. Then we have a true “binge.” Spratt is our squadron pianist and we have a number of good voices and comic personalities.

Back in the tent, Harris, Jamieson, Beckwith, and I attempt to drive off the insects with cigarette smoke and tell stories until sleep overtakes. Harris is the most interesting personality. He went to Canada to prospect for gold and, finding none, wandered down to the United States and joined their army in time to fight in the Philippines and in China. So now he is onto his third war.

I plan to enquire about my leave. Everyone seems to have forgotten that my first home leave was cancelled after only three days when I was transferred to 23 Squadron. At the time, Major Hogg, our old commander, promised it would be made up to me. No one seems to have written that down anywhere.

Edited by Raine

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