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Yer Out!

Very entertaining baseball story, Raine. You really captured the rough and tumble nature of the game back at the turn of the century. Ty Cobb would be proud.

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Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS


Part 3

Kill 1.jpg

"He foolishly passed our machine without noticing us."


Wednesday, 13 September 1916

It has been wonderful to be back in the air again. The M.O. cleared me to fly on Sunday and I was slated for an afternoon show on Monday, 11th inst. The wing thus far has been equipped principally with “Strutters” of the single-seat variety. My machine, however, is one of our two that carry both a pilot and a gunlayer. I am newly assigned Petty Officer Hayden as my back seat wallah. He is a very posh sort and worked in an art gallery before joining up. Still, he has a terrific sense of humour and we are on a first name basis when nobody else is listening.

The first flight on Monday was up to the lines near St-Die. PO Hayden and I carried a few light bombs and were to trail our coats to attract any Huns that might be in the area. Meanwhile six single-seat Sopwith machines hid above, poised to attack. The ruse worked – such things scarcely happen in military life. Three Fokker monoplanes dived on us and we dodged about until, as in the pictures, the cavalry arrived to rescue us. At that point, I turned towards home. One unfortunate Hun decided to dive in the direction of our lines and try to hide himself against the backdrop of the hills and fields below before turning back toward his own territory. He foolishly passed our machine without noticing us.  The HA (“hostile aircraft”, as the Air Service terms it) immediately began to tumble out of control and crashed into a wooded hill. The whole thing was witnessed by Stearns and my first victory was formally recognised by the Wing Captain. We repaired to the Pomme d’Or Hotel that evening to celebrate. The Yanks were already there but were too drunk to smash the place up, so the evening was uncharacteristically relaxing.

The following day, Tuesday, we took a radio to spot for our guns. PO Hayden is very accomplished at Morse – much more so than I. But this time we were on our own and were once again interrupted by our Hunnish friends. Hayden hit one of them and I managed to get our machine behind it and sent it down, apparently out of control. Despite attempts to confirm the destruction of the HA, it seems that the Fokker jockey might have regained control. In any event, it was recorded officially as merely “driven down”.

Today we flew a long distance to the east, the longest patrol yet. Our machines carried bombs for a railyard near Mulhouse. And once again, Mr Hun made an appearance, this time in larger numbers. What a fine scrap it was! PO Hayden and I punched holes in one yellow Fokker, and then his friends punched holes in our machine. After about ten minutes of milling about, both sides became bored and went home.


Saturday, 16 September 1916

Another long patrol back in the direction of Mulhouse. We scattered bombs over the German frontline positions. Yet again our Hunnish opponents rose to interrupt our fun. At first we had the upper hand. There were eight Sopwith machines against five Fokkers. Just as we were feeling very pleased with ourselves, another six Fokkers appeared on the scene. This was a fight unlike any I have experienced to date. One could not aim. One could only point in the general direction of an HA and fire away. PO Hayden was turning his Lewis gun first one way and then the other. He expended three complete drums before we were done. I managed to get on the tail of a Fokker that was chasing one of our fellows and sent him down out of control. Flight Commander Draper saw the Hun crash, making this our second victory.

We had taken some damage in the fight and begun to head west towards home when I heard the Lewis gun firing behind me. One of the German machines had decided to follow us. I came about and, after a few minutes of diving and zooming and turning in a vertical bank, I got behind him and sent him down streaming smoke. Sometime during the morning’s events, a bullet had grazed PO Hayden’s back. He was bleeding and our engine was beginning to sound ill so I abandoned the chase of the HA and headed for the French aerodrome at Belfort. We landed safely. Thankfully, PO Hayden was not seriously hurt and was able to make light of the whole affair. Today’s second Hun went down in the books as another “driven down”.

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Thanks for the comment, Bob!


Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS

Part 4

Kiffin Rockwell funeral.jpg

Funeral of Kiffin Rockwell, 24 September 1916


21 September 1916

After a couple of days of rain we again took up operations. Today we bombed a railyard near Mulhouse. Archie was intense but there were no Huns about to interfere.

The Wing is two thirds composed of Canadians, and every single Canadian is a confirmed poker player. We have taught our British mates to play well enough to lose consistently, and the more serious of our number occasionally take on the Americans from across the way. Two of the Americans, Ned Parsons and Kiffin Rockwell, invited me over for a game this evening with several of their number and I left a hundred francs the poorer for the experience. Still, there was one benefit. Parsons produced a bottle of particularly fine bourbon whiskey, which had been acquired by Kiffin’s brother Paul on a trip to Paris. Parsons introduced me to a tradition of their escadrille. After each confirmed victory, the successful pilot would be welcome to take a swig of the bourbon. It was clear to me that they had already celebrated several confirmed claims. They had heard of my recent dispatch of a Fokker and suggested I celebrate dans le style americain. The first swig was remarkably good. I reminded them that I had downed another Fokker back on the eleventh and enjoyed a second helping. Rockwell told me that I would need to get my own bottle this rate.


23 September 1916

Back to Mulhouse. Saw my bombs and those of A Flight land amongst the standing carriages and warehouses of the railyard.

A planned baseball game against the Yanks was cancelled. Kiffin Rockwell was shot down today while chasing a Hun two-seater. Funeral is planned for tomorrow in Luxeuil.


24 September 1916

Rockwell was buried today, but I was unable to attend as we were sent off to bomb a Hun aerodrome at Ensisheim. This place is well over the lines and our patrol was the longest I have yet experienced. More Canadians have arrived. We have a new fellow in our hut named Ray Collishaw. He is a West Coaster who spent time on a federal survey ship before joining up.

We also have a new boss, Wing Commander Bell-Davies, VC, DSO. Very impressive man. He earned his VC against the Turks by landing in enemy territory to rescue another airman whose machine had been shot down. He has made it clear that we will be soon operating at a much higher tempo.

The regrettable part of all this is that having a Bell-Gordon and a Bell-Davies in the same unit has begged for nicknames. The lads have taken to calling the boss “King Gong” Bell (behind his back). I am left with the tag of “Ding Dong” Bell.


27 September 1916

Long flight to the north-east towards Saint-Die. We ran into a pair of Roland two-seaters on the way. These are remarkably agile machines and very dangerous to play with. The scrap was inconclusive, and several of us came back with holes in our machines.


28 September 1916

Back up to the north-east. I thought I had done a decent job of lining us up to bomb the German frontline positions, but by all reports my aim was off by a couple of hundred yards.

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September report

FSL Douglas Bell-Gordon

  • 3 Wing, RNAS
  • Luxeuil, France
  • Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter
  • 11 missions
  • 12.83 hr
  • 4 claims
  • 2 confirmed.

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Back from a quick trip to England to see my son and off again with 3 Wing...

Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS

Part 5


Sunday, 15 October 1916

Oh, but I am terrible at keeping a journal or, for that matter, any correspondence at all. But today being our third consecutive day of rain, I suppose it is time to buckle down. I have, after all, just succeeded in writing a four-page letter to my parents. In fact, I was ordered to do so. Last Tuesday we were sitting at dinner when the post arrived. My chums were somewhat concerned to see that I had received a telegram from Canada. My father had decided to prompt my correspondence. His message read: “IF ALIVE WRITE STOP IF DEAD DON’T BOTHER STOP DAD.” I can almost hear him giggling to himself in the telegraph office. Unfortunately for me, Jimmy Glen read the message over my shoulder, grabbed it, and passed around. Hilarity ensued. The Wing Commander got to read the thing and dressed me down for not being a dutiful son.

Hence, I have dashed off the brief note to my parents and a briefer one to my sister and turn now to the journal. To be honest, not a great deal has gone on for me personally. After some bad weather at the beginning of October, Mike Hayden and I flew over the lines and dropped bombs on a German aerodrome. Then we had more bad weather. Then we took photographs of the lines up north. This was a task we hadn’t done before and we made something of a mess of it. None of our plates were any good. In fact, the only thing of worth that day was the Hun Archie.

On Tuesday 10 October, we took some bombs across the lines for a German rail yard near Mulhouse. En route we ran into a group of four Fokker biplanes. These are nimble machines a bit quicker than our own. Ever the hero, I let our bombs go somewhere over Hunland and dived for home. The HA chased us for a bit so we set course for a nearby French aerodrome where the ground fire encouraged our Hunnish friends to head home.

Thursday was a tough day for the boys. Hayden and I were grounded as the mechanics were fitting our machine with a new engine. Pretty much everyone else, however, mounted our biggest raid to date – all the way to Oberndorf on the River Neckar. The target was the Mauser arms works. The whole French bomber group from Luxeuil went, and the Americans provided an escort of four Nieuport scouts. The bombing was by all reports successful. The Huns materialised on the return trip. We lost three machines including Charlie Butterworth’s Sopwith bomber, last seen going down over Hun territory but under control; a Breguet piloted by FSL Newman with FSL Rockey in back; and another Breguet piloted by FSL Parker and gunlayer Allen.

The French hit the target well but lost a number of their machines in the raid. The Americans acquitted themselves well. Lufbery bagged two Huns, his fourth and fifth. Prince, who is seen as one of the founding fathers of the escadrille, bagged one. Because Oberndorf is so far away, they flew to a forward French aerodrome where they refuelled for the rest of the trip and to which they returned after re-crossing the lines. By the time they got back, however, it was quite dark. Lufbery landed first and safely. But as Prince attempted to settle in, his machine hit some telegraph wires and flipped in the air, throwing him several hundred yards. He suffered grievous injury. After clinging to life for three days, he died this afternoon at a hospital about twenty miles from here.

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Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS


Part 6



"Three bursts sent him down out of control. "


Saturday, 28 October 1916.


An eventful week. Last Sunday we received orders to pack up and move to a French aerodrome called Ochey, near the lovely cathedral town of Toul. We moved here along with the French bombardment group. Initially we were to be based closer to the city of Nancy, but that field proved too small. Ochey is closer to the German border, and I suspect we will be paying visits on the Kaiser before long. It is also much closer to the fighting around Verdun. Wing headquarters and much of our supply in major maintenance facilities will remain at Luxeuil.

We are housed in new wooden huts quite comfortably. I share a hut with Glen, Porter, Collishaw, Smith, and Redpath – all fellow Canadians. Collishaw is from the West Coast and has made rather a name for himself in the past week or so. While en route to Nancy, he flew a Sopwith fighter without a gunlayer in the back seat. He inadvertently drifted farther east than he planned and was set upon by two or three Fokkers. He downed two of the Huns with his Vickers gun. The whole affair was witnessed by thousands of men in the trenches, and he has been put up for a French decoration.

I have flown three times in the last three days, every time north towards a piece of Hunland that juts towards Verdun. There we have bombed rail lines and aerodromes. This morning’s flight was the most memorable I have experienced. Our target was a Hun aerodrome at Theiaucourt, scarcely a mile over the lines. Hayden and I had the only two-seat machine. The riggers had fitted us out with a pair of 40 lb bombs. We waded through a sea of Archie and released the bombs on target. Just as I banked to take in the sights below, Hayden fired three or four rounds to get my attention. He was jabbing his finger furiously toward the northwest. Five Halberstadt biplanes were diving on us and had already closed to about 500 yards’ distance. I completed my turn to the south and opened the throttle full. Hayden fired several warning bursts to encourage the Huns to keep their distance. Meanwhile, I scanned the sky ahead for some sign of the other machines from our Wing – there was a complete flight of Sopwith bombers several miles behind us and bound for the same target. Now phosphorus rounds began streaking past. There was nothing for it. We had to turn and engage the Halberstadts.

Three of the HA flashed past. I got a good crack at the third one, with whom we nearly collided. Now it became a turning battle. Each oncoming Hun earned a burst from the Vickers and then Hayden gave him another burst as he flashed behind us. Two turns one way and then two turns the other – if you kept turning in the same direction, one of the Huns would try to come up and shoot you in the belly. Suddenly I saw the red, white, and blue roundels of our friends, who had arrived not a moment too soon. A Halberstadt dived out of the scrap and I got on his tail. Three bursts sent him down out of control. Moments later, we saw “Army” Armstrong tangling with another Halberstadt. The Hun broke away from Army, but we managed to get behind him and fired until he fell tumbling in a vertical dive.

There were still more HA. I saw one land in a field just a bit into Hunland. Then I spotted another heading north with a thin trail of grey smoke behind. I dived on that one and closed to within twenty yards before firing. The Halberstadt listed to the left and crashed into a small wood.

By now we were soaked in sweat and nearly out of ammunition so we headed home. Back at Ochey, Hayden and I reported on our mission and claimed three Huns – one destroyed and two out of control. It seems that the French soldiers around Verdun are less attentive than the ones Collishaw performed for. None of the claims could be confirmed. It wasn’t the fault of any of our boys. They had their hands full. But I would have bet good money that the three we put down were witnessed from the trenches.

Still, one does this job for the honour of the thing, doesn’t one?


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Stats for end of October 1916

FSL Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS

3 Wing, Ochey, France

21 Missions

23.28 hours

7 claims, 2 confirmed

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Raine - Bravo Douglas!  Sounds like your man is finally hitting his stride.  Bloody claims wallahs notwithstanding he's done a man's job and so has Hayden.  Shame about the three unconfirmed.  That's just wrong.

Thoroughly enjoying a catchup of Bell-Gordon's tale.  Most evocative episode with Rockwell's funeral.  I'd not realized how many of those chaps went west in 1916.  You're carrying the fire alone for now but I think you'll have company soon.  o7

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Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS


Part 7


"We had a bit of adventure on the second patrol when we chased another Hun two-seater."


Tuesday, 14 November 1916. Vert Galant aerodrome. Raining.

Hayden and I took off mid-morning on Sunday, 29 October. The Wing padre was coming for service at eleven and I’d been looking forward to it. My family were ridiculously strict Calvinists back home and I had always dreaded being dragged to the kirk to be threatened with hellfire every weekend. But our Wing padre was the village vicar C of E type of God merchant and his occasional efforts to save us from perdition were lovely affairs – great and lusty hymn singing, brief and funny sermons, and a nod from the good man to light up our pipes and cigarettes as we saw fit. I’d begun to wonder if I was being called to the cloth after the war!

But war being war, here were the two of us heading north for the lines and armed with a bloody great camera to take the Kaiser’s photograph instead of singing Hymns Ancient and Modern. We were all alone in the chill sky and I wasn’t fancying the job. According to the latest intelligence, there were at least three squadrons of Albatros scouts around Verdun. We climbed to 3000 feet and turned north over Toul. A few minutes later the engine began to miss on one cylinder and a bit later a second cylinder went wobbly. Manfully suppressing a grin, I turned for home. We were too late for the service, but I had time to share a drink with the padre in our anteroom and catch up on the good bits I’d missed.

We had the day off on Monday and went into Toul to do a bit of shopping and have lunch. By the time we were picked up for our return it was raining, and the rain continued into the next day. Back at Ochey I was informed that Wing Captain Elder was about and looking for me. I found him in the main administration office. He bade me take a seat.

“We have received orders from the Fleet to dispatch a good Strutter pilot to Dunkirk. I have selected you because they specified experience on a two-seat machine. It seems you are to be drafted to a new squadron.” And with that it was over. Farewell to 3 Wing. Farewell to Ochey. Farewell to all my friends in our warm and well-decorated hut. Farewell to the “Canadian Club” and the promise of raids over Germany. I was back to living under the eye of every senior naval officer in France, or so it seemed.

I was fortunate enough to be able to fly to Dunkirk in the gunlayer’s seat of a superannuated Breguet that was being sent to the knacker’s yard. We landed at Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, just outside of Dunkirk. There I was handed an envelope with orders. There wasn’t even time to get into Dunkirk itself, not that I was really looking forward to that experience. The orders were to travel south and join a newly formed naval squadron, Number 8, that was working up north of Amiens at a place called Vert Galant.

Vert Galant was actually the name of a farm and crossroads hamlet on the main road running north from Amiens to Doullens. I arrived there on 31 October and reported to the Records Officer, Lieutenant D’Albiac. He welcomed me and told me that the Squadron Commander, whose name was Bromet, would be returning shortly from a conference at 5 Brigade, Royal Flying Corps, to which we were attached under an arrangement between the Admiralty and the RFC. We were to be part of 22 Wing RFC, whose headquarters were in a cluster of farm buildings called Le Rosel, only a short walk away and visible across the fields. Our sheds faced a wide-open field south of the east-west crossroad on the east side of the Amiens-Doullens road. The field itself was marvellous, without obstacles or obstructions and stretching a long distance to the south. On the north side of the crossroad stood a L-shaped farm. We met the owner, Georges Bossu, and one of his daughters. He had turned over his front parlour as our dining room for the moment, at least until we got ourselves properly sorted out. Lieutenant D’Albiac explained that we had three flights of aircraft, each with a different type of machine. 1 Wing had provided us with a flight of the new Sopwith “Pups” (although only four were currently operational); 4 Wing had provided a flight of Nieuport scouts; and 5 Wing had yielded us a flight of Sopwith Strutters. That is where I came in, apparently. There were rumours about that we would all be flying the new Sopwiths before too long, said D’Albiac. I expressed boyish enthusiasm at the idea of piloting a single-seat scout. Frankly, the idea terrified me.

Squadron Commander Bromet approached us across the field and, after returning my salute, shook my hand and gave me a very genuine welcome to “Naval Eight.” He warned me that we would have a dinner guest in General Gough this evening and laughed that we had only that afternoon obtained enough cutlery for all the officers and that dinner would consist of bully beef and Farmer Bossu’s eggs until our messing arrangements were properly set up.

Naval Eight shares the aerodrome with 23 Squadron RFC. They fly FE2s, big but nimble pushers. 23 Squadron uses the field opposite ours on the west side of the main road. I met several of their officers that day, although the names escape me for the moment. They have been great help to us naval types and actually fed us for a few days when our supplies couldn’t find us after our removal to Vert Galant.

Anyway, back to my first day here. I was shown to my quarters, a room on the upper floor of a house on the main road across from and a few doors down from the Vert Galant farm. I shared the room with two other officers, FSL Grange and FSL Hope, both Nieuport pilots. They informed me that the dinner with the General was only for our HQ group. There was simply not enough room yet for the whole squadron to mess together. We ate our bully beef from tins while sitting on the floor of our room and passing about a bottle of red wine.

On Thursday, 2 November, the skies cleared enough that I was finally able to take up one of the Strutters. A mechanic named Quigley volunteered to join me as a gunlayer, telling me that it was unsafe to stroll about the sky without one. It was purely a familiarisation flight. We circled about a bit so that I could get my bearings and look for landmarks from the air. The north-south road was an obvious one. I noted the smoke haze over the roofs of Doullens and the aerodrome at Marieux, just south of the town. There were one or two distinctive church spires about.

We had gone about eight miles east towards the lines and climbed to 8000 feet. A little to the south, puffs of white smoke from anti-aircraft fire signal the presence of an intruding Hun. Off we went to explore and soon found a lone Aviatik at 9000 feet, heading home. We chased it some distance until I saw the ugly brown smear of the front loom up ahead. I gave up on the Hun and mused instead at the unusual appearance of the trenches in this sector. The ground was chalky here and any digging or new crump-holes showed up white against the surrounding mud. But this was dangerous territory to a lone Strutter with a spanner merchant for a gunlayer so I turned home.

The weather continued wet and overcast until a few decent days between the 9th and the 11th. In those days I flew three photographic reconnaissance patrols with PO Donaldson as gunlayer. The first two patrols were unsuccessful because of low cloud over the section of the lines we were to photograph. We had a bit of adventure on the second patrol when we chased another Hun two-seater. The Hun observer was alert and a surprisingly good shot. He put a number of holes in our machine and we were forced to land at Bellevue, an RFC aerodrome just little behind our own lines.

The Squadron bagged its first Hun on 9 November, when FSL Galbraith downed a Roland with one of our Sopwiths.

The rain returned on 13 November and persisted for a couple of days.

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Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS


Part 8


Screenshot 2022-11-25 152330.jpg

Saturday 25 November 1916. Vert Galant aerodrome.

A wonderful end to the week!

I suppose I should pick up where I left off. After two days of rain, I flew with PO Donaldson on Tuesday, 21 November, to spot for the guns north and east of Albert. PO Donaldson had assured me that he had been fully trained for this task, but I found it took him a long while to find the targets even though I flew close to them at little more than 4000 feet. Further, he struggled with his Morse work. All of this is to say that the Hun Archie merchants had a wonderful time scattering great volumes of Herr Krupp’s finest iron across the sky for thirty or forty minutes. We returned very gratefully to Vert Galant Farm, where the mechanics patched numerous holes in our machine, and I had a few stern words with my gunlayer.

The rain returned with heavy overcast the following day but did not stay long. On Thursday, PO Donaldson and I were packed off to the lines south of Arras to take photographs of a new enemy reserve trench system. Any hope that the good PO would be better with the camera that he was with a Morse key were soon dashed. Archie threw us all about the sky while we paraded up and down our assigned sector and he messed about with the camera and plates. To my intense shock, we managed to produce some acceptable work.

For the past week, we have played host to a work party from the Royal Engineers who are erecting a number of buildings for our use, including several of the new “Nissen” huts. These are odd-looking buildings, shaped like half-barrels cut lengthwise. The two end walls are made of wood, each with two windows (which flank a door at one end). They will be heated after a fashion by an iron stove in the middle of the long enclosed room. The roofs of these buildings are corrugated iron. Most delightfully, a large wood and canvas building with a metal roof is being constructed for our wardroom. After the next few days, we shall be able to eat all together for the first time.

Today, Saturday, is a red-letter day. We had a new batch of machines arrive about a week and a half ago. They are more of the new Sopwith scouts. Our mechanics have been working on them since their arrival, fitting them with some missing instrumentation and with their Vickers guns. Yesterday, when the weather cleared in the afternoon, we flew our Strutters up to Dunkirk and endured the long drive back. We also bade farewell to a number of ratings who had served as gunlayers.

This morning I was able for the first time this morning to try my hand at the new machine. How do I describe this wonderful toy? It bears a familial resemblance to the Strutter, but it is more petite and likely more lethal. The engine is an 80 horsepower Le Rhône. It is less powerful than the engine of the Strutter, which had the 110 horsepower Clerget, but the Scout is significantly smaller and lighter and is far nimbler and quicker. The experience of sitting as the sole proprietor of a single-seat machine tingled my nerves, whether in fear or happy expectation I did not know. The starting procedure was much the same as the Strutter’s. The balance of throttle and mixture required to keep the engine running smoothly would challenge a circus high wire artist. When I finally waved away the chocks and bounded out onto the field, the little Scout felt like a racehorse anxious for the gate to part. I turned into the wind and eased the throttle and mixture levers to the points I had mentally noted during the brief minute I had spent waiting for the engine to warm. Within a few yards the tail came up and I was cautious with the joystick, as there was little room to spare between the tips of the propeller and the ground hurtling beneath. Then we were aloft, climbing quickly into a frigid blue sky dotted with puffy cloud.

I did not turn for a minute or two, not wishing to test my luck with a new machine until I had a couple of thousand feet beneath me. Then I gave it some gentle left rudder and bank. The little machine fairly snapped about into a turn. Its ailerons were linked together so that it rolled willingly, quite unlike its big brother, the two-seater. The rate of climb surprised. I tried a roll to the right and it turned even more quickly. If I merely thought about climbing, it climbed. If I thought about diving, it dived. I found myself laughing hysterically and then an evil plan formed in my brain. In front of me lay the Vickers gun, connected to the engine by a Sopwith-Kauper synchronising device. It would not be on to test the gun over Doullens, so eastward I climbed.

By the time I passed north of Albert, the Sopwith was climbing through 10,000 feet. Its broad wing chords let it perform well even at altitude. Over the British lines I turned north. A few bursts of muddy brown-black Archie puffed out nearby, tossed over from Hunland by some ambitious enemy gunners. The Sopwith reached 11,000 feet. I thinned the mixture yet again and studied the instrument display. All was well. The sky about seemed empty of aircraft, enemy or friendly. Now it was time to do something I had never done before. With the throttle wide open, I put the machine into a shallow dive and then, with the speed indicator up to 120 knots, I pulled the stick back gently. The nose rose up to the vertical. I kept the stick back and felt the safety belt cutting into my thighs. I was very conscious that the belt was the only thing preventing me from becoming a bird man. Then the horizon appeared and tilted downward to the nose of the machine. I dropped the mixture until it was too lean for the engine to run. Now the Sopwith dived out of its loop and levelled off, still heading north. I adjusted the mix again and the engine came to life. My first loop, and surprisingly easy to pull off. I collected speed and did it twice more. It would take some practice, I discovered, as I lost about a thousand feet of altitude while looping. Now for the plan. I turned eastward and, with the aircraft pointing into Hunland, fired the Vickers. Just as with the Strutter, it gave off a painfully slow pop-pop-pop. I imagine the rounds splattering amongst distant Huns. The gun was slow but it would do.

Utterly pleased with myself, I turned home and once over friendly terrain I cut the engine. I volplaned all the way to Doullens. Now down to less than 2000 feet, I pointed the machine in the general direction of Vert Galant and home. It was a simple matter to sideslip the last 500 feet of altitude away, skim over the treetops and the farm buildings, flatten out, and let the Sopwith settle onto the field. With a bit more practice, I was sure that my new little toy could be landed on a tennis court.

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Journal of FSLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS


Part 9


Thursday 30 November 1916. Vert Galant aerodrome.

“Naval Eight” has become home in a remarkably short period of time. It’s a jolly place populated by truly fine fellows. We are now comfortably lodged in our Nissen huts. Mine is shared with only three others, although we could accept two more in a pinch. Farthest from the door on the left is Huntington, a bank clerk from just outside London. He is forever banging on about Eliza, a girl back home whom he is “ever so fond of”. Of course, we all make terrible fun of this and have tagged poor Eliza with a reputation vile enough to match her taste in men! It’s great fun to watch Huntington turn purple with rage until he realises that we are simply winding him up. Across from Huntington on the right is Simpson. He is a Londoner as well and speaks with a very posh accent. From what I gather, his family has a few bob to rub together. Since he was born in Australia, I have taken to referring to him as our escaped convict. To the left as you enter the hut you will find Reggie Soar, a Yorkshireman. He has been flying since rather early in the war and was with 3 Wing in the Dardanelles. Reggie is a bit of a character. Put a few pints of beer in him and you can’t understand a word he says. That leaves me – my little piece of France is just to the right of the door.

Last Sunday we escorted three BE2s over the lines to drop some bombs and had a very brief run-in with a group of Halberstadt scouts. A Flight joined in and our Flight Commander, Flight Lieutenant Goble, signalled for us to break off and remain with the two-seaters, leaving all the fund to A Flight. It then rained Monday through Wednesday. It was during that period that we moved from the house on the main road into the hut.

On Tuesday, we were able to get a ride into Amiens and do some serious shopping. After loading a tender with things we bought for the hut, we gave the driver a few francs for dinner and headed to find a dinner of our own. Amiens has a number of fine establishments. I’d already heard of Godbout’s. We decided against it. Too many senior officers and we were likely to be loud. It was Reggie who made the choice. He had received a tip about a place called Josephine’s on the Rue des Trois Cailloux – the street of the three pebbles. We found the street but needed to ask a few people before we found the restaurant. It was through a door off the street and up a winding stair. The place was already full and we were provided with glasses and a bottle of red wine and invited to sit on the stair until someone left. When at last we were seated, it did not disappoint. The floor crunched underneath with oyster shells and the smell of roast chicken and patates frîtes blended with the smell of tired subalterns, French officers, and their wives for the evening. We sat down to an absolutely marvellous feast of oysters, sausages, roast chicken, fried potatoes, and pickled red cabbage with chestnuts and apple. Bottle after bottle of vin rouge came and went until we happily emptied our pockets of money and bade our hostess a fond “à la prochaine”.

Our shopping produced two stuffed armchairs, three wooden chairs, a round table with a red and white checked tablecloth, some bookshelves, and an oriental rug that looks marvellous if the lamps are turned down low enough. Now we have rigged some wooden frames on which we will hang printed material to form some sort of partition between our “rooms”.

The iron stove throws out an acceptable amount of heat as long as one stays in the area of the carpet and armchairs in the middle of the hut. Our sleeping areas are not quite as toasty. I have got into the habit of laying my clothes out on the cot and spreading my valise and blanket bag on top of them. If I get into bed carefully I can pull my flying coat over top of me to keep the cold out, and in the morning I find my clothes warm and (after a fashion) pressed.

That brings us to today. Goble led Huskisson and I on a line patrol at eight o’clock this morning. We flew a beat of twenty miles down and up the lines east of Albert. On our second go-around, Goble suddenly waggled his wings and began to climb. After a minute or two, I made out two machines about a mile and a half away to the south. We got within a half-mile when they saw us and turned to engage. They were two-seaters, very streamlined and nasty looking. Rolands! These were the first I’d seen.

The entire time I had flown in Strutters, I had learned the better part of valour. This would have been the perfect moment to put one’s nose down and head for home. But now that we had these Sopwith “Pups”, as they were being referred to, running away was no longer on. Instead, one was supposed to smile cheerfully and exclaim, “Huns – good-O!” My own words were a bit less enthusiastic. I’ll leave them to your imagination. But the fight was on and I was in it.

Huskisson turned to the right in a vertical bank to get behind one of these slim blue machines. I followed, taking care not to interfere with his shooting and especially not to collide with his machine. The Hun observer fired at Huskisson and then turned his gun towards me. Two or three rounds hit my left wings. I dived beneath the Hun and zoomed to find it turning left. I fired ahead of the enemy machine and let it fly through the stream of my bullets. They seemed to have no effect.

The HA spiralled downwards. Huskisson got a crack at him and then I did. Then the Hun observer put more rounds into both of us. From time to time, I had to break off to find Huskisson and assure myself that we were not trying to use the same bit of sky. Then I caught the Hun in a sharp bank and hit him with a good burst from directly above. I had to throttle back and gently level off to avoid tearing my Pup apart. Where was he? I saw the Roland much lower down. He was spinning slowly with his nose down. Huskisson dived at him and fired a few rounds from a long distance. The Hun machine kept descending and finally smashed into a field just behind our lines near Fricourt.

When we returned to Vert Galant we filed our reports. Huskisson (who is the squadron second in command) was a good fellow and freely stated that the Roland was completely out of control and irredeemably lost before his final burst. So, it seems that I have now achieved my first confirmed victory in a scout and my third overall. A great celebration is planned for this evening in the wardroom, and I have been warned to wear my oldest monkey jacket for the event.

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Statistics for end of November 1916


Flight Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Bell-Gordon

8 Squadron, RNAS

Vert Galant aerodrome, France

Sopwith Pup


Missions: 31

Hours: 30.1

Claims: 8

Confirmed: 3

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Hi all, i've decided to use what free time I have available to start a DID pilot.


I'll be posting whenever I'm able and hopefully will stay alive long enough for it to be an interesting adventure.............




May I introduce Oberflugmeister Edward 'David' Reimann.


Edward was born in Manchester in 1894 to an English father and a German mother. His father ran a cotton mill, however he died when Edward was just two. His mother then took the young Edward to Otterndorf on the mouth of the Elbe to live with her family.


Given the proximity to the sea, and his maternal grandfather being a low ranking officer in the Kaiserliche Marine, young Edward loved all things nautical. Following his education, Edward joined the German navy at the age of 17.


At the start of the war, Edward was serving on the SMS Seydlitz, a large and newly built warship, operating in the North Sea.


Edward was commended for his actions during the Battle of Dogger Bank in early 1915, when the Seydlitz was seriously damaged and spent much of the remaining time that year in dry dock.


Edward was assigned to shore duty in Hamburg and grew increasingly frustrated over the next 12 months. He eventually decides to apply to join the German Naval Air Service and is accepted in mid 1916.


He completes his training and is assigned to Marine-Landfliegerabteilung II in mid December 1916.


This is his story........





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Obflugm Edward Reimann



27th December 1916


The dusty Daimler lorry rumbled to a halt and Edward climbed out, grabbed his case and stood back as the lorry turned sharply and headed back out.


Edward became aware of the sharp cold straight away. It had been cold in Brussels and cold in the lorry, but that was nothing compared to the biting chill he was now feeling as he gazed across the airfield.


He took his case and walked sharply over to the only building which looked used at that moment. He entered and closed the door and was greeted with a warmth he'd not felt for many hours.


He had clearly entered an office, as the typewriter and filing cabinet indicated. At that moment the door opposite opened and a middle-aged unteroffizier came in. On seeing Edward he moved towards him.


"Yes herr Oberflugmeister? Can I help you?" asked the unteroffizier.


"I'm Obflugm Edward Reimann and I've been ordered to report here." explained Edward.


"Ah yes. Please wait here a moment and I will see if the CO can see you now" stated the unteroffizier.


The NCO went back to the door he'd just come in from and knocked perfunctorily, before entering. A few moments later he re-emerged. "Leutnant Wald will see you now" confirmed the unteroffizier.


Edward nodded and entered the small room. The unteroffizier closed the door behind him.


"Hello herr Oberflugmeister. Please, take a seat" said Leutnant Wald.


Leaving his case, Edward moved towards the nearby chair.


"Thank you sir" confirmed Edward as he sat down.


Leutnant Wald perused Edward's papers. Nodding to himself occasionally as he read through it.


He stopped suddenly and looked at Edward. "It states here you were born in Manchester?" stated Wald.


"Yes sir, I was born in the north of England but moved to Germany with my mother when I was two." explained Edward.


The Leutnant nodded his understanding and carried on reviewing the paperwork.


"Have you had any experience of Roland two seaters?" asked the Leutnant.


"I have flown the CII on numerous occasions sir" replied Edward.


"Excellent, that will make things far easier herr Oberflugmeister" said Wald.


Leutnant Wald proceeded to brief Edward on the unit, it's responsibilities and the situation in general.


At the end of the briefing, Leutnant Wald informed Edward where his room was and instructed him to unpack and get some refreshment before reporting back at 11am in his flight gear.


Edward found his room easily enough. It was tiny but relatively warm thanks to a small fire, burning brightly in the bricked fireplace.


He unpacked his possessions, and made his way to the Kasino where he was able to get hot coffee and a small but filling stollen.


Having donned his flying gear he then reported back to Leutnant Wald as instructed.


The Leutnant introduced Edward to his beobachter, Flugmaat Edgar Hasse and instructed the young pair what he wanted them to do.


Edward was to climb up to about 5000 feet and circle the area around the airfield before heading out to Ostend and then returning. He also instructed Edward to return at once if enemy aircraft should appear.


The Roland's engine popped and rumbled as Edward strapped in. A short time later the two seater was in the air and climbing away from the airfield.


Edward could feel the warmth from the engine on his face but other than that was thoroughly cold. The skies were wintery but relatively clear as they reached 5000 feet.


Edward circled the airfield and then headed north west towards Ostend. On reaching the coast, Hasse tapped Edward on the head and pointed down.


Edward looked as directed and saw the dark roads and snowy roofs indicating they were above Ostend.


All appeared calm and Edward started back towards Neuwmunster. He landed easily enough some 20 minutes later.


On reporting back to Leutnant Wald, he was told the CO was happy with Edward's efforts today and that all being well, he would take part in tomorrow's scheduled flights.


Edward spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the company of his fellow pilots in the Kasino.






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Posted (edited)

Journal of FLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS

Part 10

Kill 5.jpg

"My next burst set the machine aflame and I watched it fall and hit the ground just west of Courcellette."


Sunday 31 December 1916. Vert Galant aerodrome.

If I ever needed a reminder of what a terrible letter-writer and journal-keeper I am, I received it at the
beginning of December. After a day and a half of rain and sleet and after Sunday divisions in an unused
hanger, all the officers threw a farewell luncheon for Danny Galbraith, who was bound for a bit of a rest
in England after having served since 1915. The post arrived while we were enjoying coffee and I
shuddered with fear when the Records Officer, Lieutenant D’Albiac, announced “Ding-Dong, telegram
for you.” I could not imagine who would be sending me a telegram and was sure it contained bad news.
I opened it and read the message therein.


Reggie Soar was sitting beside me and read the message over my shoulder. He found it hysterically
funny and took the telegram away to pass it around the table. Squadron Commander Bromet chided me
at length but in good nature for being a rotten son. Anyway, all this is to say that I have been spending
much of my free time this month corresponding with everyone I know. My journal, however, has fallen
well behind and it is now time to bring it up to date before ringing in the New Year.

My first patrol of December was on the 2nd , when I took part in a patrol of ten machines along the lines
from Arras down to the Somme. Towards the end of the patrol, just as we turned for home, MacKenzie
waggled his wings and began to climb. Shortly thereafter I spotted our target – a pair of two-seaters
heading back to Hunland. Our fight was short but intense. There were too many of us chasing too few of
them and I experienced a couple of hair-raising moments when I nearly collided with our own Nieuport
scouts. I got behind one of the Hun machines and gave it nearly a hundred rounds from my Vickers. The
enemy observer disappeared from view and I was able to close until I was within ten yards of the
Roland. My next burst set the machine aflame and I watched it fall and hit the ground just west of
Courcellette. Following close upon my destruction of a Roland on 29 November, this victory was well
celebrated by the squadron. It was also my fourth official victory.

Our next patrols were uneventful until 5 December, when I was sent along with Simpson and Goble to
attack an enemy balloon near Bapaume. For this show we were equipped with “Le Prieur” rockets.
These were a sort of Uncle Lubin [1] arrangement of incendiary devices, fired electrically from thin tubes
affixed to the outer struts of the Pup. Goble led the way and we approached the target above a low
cloud layer.

I lost Goble and Simpson as we descended through the cloud and emerged into a gray and drizzly
landscape where Hun Archie welcomed me warmly. After a few seconds I spotted our balloon and dived
on it, firing all the way in from 500 yards, loosing the rockets, and turning away tightly. It was only then
that I saw Goble’s Nieuport and Simpson’s Pup. They both seemed to be in the same stage of attack as I.
The balloon had caught fire by this time and fell quickly leaving a thick column of dirty brown smoke.

Scarcely had we regrouped when a pair of Halberstadt scouts dived on us from out of the clouds. This
was my first scrap in a Pup against an enemy scout. The little Sopwith was a dream to work with, out-
turning the Halberstadt with ease. I put fifty rounds into the HA and saw it fall, apparently out of
control. The Archie began to hammer away at me so I climbed westward. Just before reaching the cloud
layer, I noticed two machines milling about off to the north. It was Simpson, and the second Hun had
manoeuvred onto his tail. I dived to chase the HA away, firing from 200 yards in order to distract him. 

My first rounds probably hit the pilot as he did not evade. I continued to fire until I had to zoom to avoid
a collision. The German machine fell out of control.

On our return to Vert Galant, the balloon was credited to Goble. D’Albiac questioned me carefully about
the first Halberstadt and elected to classify it merely as “driven down”. The second Halberstadt,
however, was confirmed as victory number five, something of an achievement.

The next week saw several days of bad weather and two or three uneventful patrols. On 16 December
we flew a distant offensive patrol beyond Bethune and once again engaged a group of enemy
Halberstadt scouts. I claimed one out of control but there was no witness to it. Each one of us had his
hands full at the time. D’Albiac submitted the claim to Wing, but it was rejected there.

On 21 December, a pair of enemy two-seaters appeared over our aerodrome just as the first patrol of
the morning was readying. It took off immediately and I followed along with Huskisson and Compston.
The HA were up around 9000 feet and it took a while to get within striking distance. By the time my
machine passed 8000 feet, the Huns – a pair of Rolands – had packed up and were heading home. I gave
chase, closing the gap slowly as I climbed beneath the tail of the nearest machine. By this time we were
approaching Albert. I eased the joystick back and began to fire. The Hun rolled away to his left and
turned beneath me. His observer punched a few holes in my Sopwith, but I got behind the Hun again
and gave him another long burst. We repeated this dance twice more until my last burst silenced the
observer and sent the machine into a spin. I watched it fall but lost it against the earth and haze. This
machine was claimed as “out of control” and I was certain of it. Fate intervened in the form of my cabin-
mate, Huntington. Huntington had gone up with the early patrol and reported that he was flying
eastward at 1000 feet near Albert when he saw a Roland spin down and level off. He said he finished off
the Hun and saw it crash. He was “ever so pleased” to be able to write his beloved Eliza with news of his
first victory. For my part, the whole thing didn’t feel right. There were only two HA, mine and another
that was two miles farther east, and both were up around 10,000 feet by this point. So why was
Huntington flying east at only 1000 feet in the drizzle? Still, one doesn’t question these things out loud.

More uneventful patrols and periods of bad weather followed. We had a marvellous time on Saturday,
23 December, when Naval Eight hosted a large crowd from 23 Squadron and other nearby squadrons for
a Christmas Revue. Everyone had a hand in the presentation, organised by Leading Mechanic Black and Mr Brice, our stores warrant officer. The officers put on a couple of comic skits and several musical turns. The lower deck, as is their wont, outperformed us in every way. I was put forward to appear
dressed as an Irish navvy and sing a touching rendition of “Mountains of Mourne”. This music hall turn is one of my father’s favourites and I’d sung it in the wardroom on several occasions whilst overserved, which explained why I volunteered (verb passive) for the show.

Christmas was a happy time. The weather gods cooperated by preventing all flying duty for the day.
After services in the morning we had an extended Christmas meal at midday – roast goose, potatoes,
green beans, chestnut stuffing, Christmas pudding aflame with brandy, Stilton and port, and more
brandy. In the traditional way, we played host to the chiefs and petty officers and made the rounds of
the mess decks. In the afternoon, those who were still on their legs played football and I attempted (at
the players’ invitation) to officiate the match. This is a difficult task to accomplish with a glass in one’s
hand, particularly when both teams have made it part of their strategy to provide constant refills. In the
evening, the musical talent of the squadron combined to put on an excellent smoking concert in the
transport hanger.

After one last uneventful patrol 30 December, we closed out the year with a splendid New Year’s Eve
dinner at 23 Squadron. It was there that I learned that my name was on the New Year’s promotion list
and I was now a Flight Lieutenant.

What, I wonder, will the coming year bring?



[1] “The Adventures of Uncle Lubin” was a 1902 children’s book written and illustrated by Heath Robinson. Its illustrations were the earliest examples of Robinson’s unlikely contraptions.

Edited by epower
Corrected info

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Albert – Welcome to Edward Reimann. It's wonderful to see a German naval flyer here. Brilliant first chapter to what I hope will be a long saga. It looks like you are also going to let us enjoy some terrific screenshots of the coastal landscape. Best of luck!

I have been away for a few weeks dealing with a death in the family – my wife's elderly mother who has lived with us last four years. Still, it gave my wife and I a chance to travel together again, which we have not really been able to do to any great degree for several years. We joined our two boys in Ontario for the memorial service and interment, which was an unexpected joy as the original plan was for them to spend Christmas with their wives' families. I hope they don't mind that we borrowed the kids for a day!

I am now caught up to the end of the year and will post something for early January next week. In the meanwhile, here is the month-end report. As you can see, I seem to have annoyed the claims gods.

End of month report – December 1916

Flight Lieutenant Douglas Bell-Gordon

8 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service

Vert Galant, France

Sopwith Pup

42 missions

36.5 hours

14 claims

5 confirmed

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Raine, thanks for the welcome back. I hope it's a long tale too. That's certainly the intention.


I'm sorry for your loss although it appears to have had some positive effects too. It's definitely a human trait how one can get positives from such a sad occurrence but it happens.


Now to young Bell-Gordon. A fine tale with some fine fighting. A good job on the Roland, they are not easy targets at all, as hopefully young Reimann will show too. There seems to be a fine camaraderie in Bell-Gordon's unit which is good to see.


Even with the angry claim gods, he's become an ace....top job.


I'll add Reimann's next instalment shortly although it has a minimum of flying and is mostly composed of freezing cold, snow and too much Schnapps.

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Catching up

Good evening everyone!
It's been some time, huh? I think it's almost 7 months since my last post on this thread. I'll admit, being busy, many things to do, actually a bit of being burnt out made it so that I wouldn't really keep on flying that often.

Since the New Year I've felt the desire to, at the very least, catch up.

So, Feldwebel Dziarzowitz persevered in his recoinnessance sorties in the Flanders steadily throughout most summer. He was promoted to Leutnant on 19th May 1916 and to Oberleutnant  on 21st July.

In the morning of the 3rd August he, along with another pilot of his squadron, took off blissful of the fact that would be his last flight.

His camera was in for lens repair, therefore they were forced to fly relatively low in order to take decent enough notes. As they were on their way back, a flight of what appeared to be British Nieuports (16, I would assume?) jumped on them from the clouds above. Ailbe managed to get a sufficient distance from the hostile scouts but he noticed his wingman was having a rougher time. So he decided to turn around and go help his Kamerad. He was, in fact, successful, managing to disperse the flight and to convince one of the Englishment to reach for his line after a few bullet holes. He lost sight of his wingman, therefore deciding to head back to his field. As he was circling for landing he realized a Nieuport was still hovering above him; he saw it dive. He was ready to fight, it wasn't the first time he had faced an enemy scout. The English pilot, though, didn't appear to be very experienced as his steep dive supposedly made him lose control of his aircraft. As Ailbe turned his head on his 6 again to check, he couldn't see but the Nieuport's propeller a few feet behind him: there was nothing he could do. The Nieuport violently rammed the Aviatik, killing both pilots and the observer on the spot; the aircraft went down in flames, and crashed a mere couple hundred meters from the airfield.

His career ended with:

56 missions flown

46 hours of total flight time

3 claims:

    - "Nieurport." 19/03/1916

    - "Pusher single seater NW-Lille" 17/06/1916

    - "BE2, N-Lens" 02/08/1916

None of them would be confirmed.



It was then time to enlist a new pilot, this time on the British side (for the first time in my whole DID experience!)

Sergeant Robert Charles "Beau" Gray, born and raised in Margate, Kent, England, enlisted on the 5th August 1916, at the age of 20. After completing his course at the Central Flying School, he was assigned to the yet non operational No.46 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corp. His first flights were all performed from Wyton airfield, in England. After a month all the squadron's BE2c machines were withdrawn in favour of the French Nieuport 12. 

On the 22nd October it was time to head for the Flanders. They transferred to Saint Omer, where they stayed for a few days, before moving closer to the front and reaching their new home, Droglandt.

2 months of flying went by rather smoothly, racking up a respectable number of flying hours and of on hand experience with war on the frontlines.

The Germans, in the meantime, had managed to gain full air superiority due to the arrival at the front of the new, deadly Albatros crates. He was lucky enough not to engage any, in his slow and kicking Nieuport two seater. The British' solution to the seemingly unbeatable German air superiority was their new baby: the Sopwith Pup. Only No.3 Squadron of the RNAS had so far managed to get their hands on this new machine, but it was said there would be newly formed squadrons moving in from England equipped with it. One of these was No.54 Squadron, RFC. It was composed of fairly skilled airmen, but few among them had real on hand experience on the front. Because of that, soon after their arrival in France, multiple pilots from different squadrons were transferred in the new ones. One of these men was Robert. He got notice of his transfer to No.54 on the 28th December, and is currently still waiting for all the bureocracy from the top brass to be sorted. The weather is miserable, with frequent snow and rainstorms being a detriment to both air and ground operations. He's been sitting since his transfer notice, and hasn't been able to fly. 

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Welcome back! 

Check your PM



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Obflugm Edward Reimann






28th December 1916 to 10th January 1917


Following his successful maiden flight the previous day, Edward awoke early on the 28th, he was eager and keen. The CO had said he would be accompanying the others on their mission today and Edward had butterflies as he walked over to the window of his room and drew the single curtain across.


He was greeted by a sheet of white. So much so that he couldn't see out of the window, he could only see the snow which covered it entirely.


Edward's heart sank...."Scheiße"...he remarked to himself as he walked back to his bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes.


Clearly there'd be no flying today.......or, indeed, for the foreseeable.


Leutnant Wald tried his best by organising some gunnery practice in the wooden hanger on the left of the airfield, but this could only last so long. He also allowed some leave to those due it, but this took no account of how difficult it was to get about! The snow was several feet thick in places and where it had been blown into corners, a man would sink beyond head height.


Preparations were also made for a party on New Year's Eve In the Kasino. Edward was roped in to help organise the food.


He was a decent cook thanks to the predominantly homely upbringing he'd had back in Otterndorf, where the majority of his peers and family were feminine. He helped prepare and cook several sumptuous courses, alongside the chefs. Roasted pork knuckle, herring, bratwurst and a hearty dumpling stew were just a few of the dishes on offer as the pilots, mechanics and rest enjoyed the festivities.


As well as champagne and far too much schnapps, Edward had been pleased to see several bottles of kolsch had been gathered and enjoyed some of these alongside his kameraden.


He was beginning to learn about those around him, as well as suffer the inevitable 'ribbing' thanks to his 'englischer' heritage. Indeed, his nickname seemed to have become 'King' thanks to his anglicised first name.


He took it in good stead and gave some out too. The extended period without flying allowed him to get to know several of his kameraden......


Oberflugmeister Gunther Ebersbach was from Oberstdorf on the border with Austria. He was a big fellow with a freethinking 'bohemian' style. He seemed untroubled by the war, the awful weather, in fact by anything in particular and he naturally drew Edward towards him with his cheery demeanor.


Oberflugmeister Theodore Jung was the polar opposite. A diminutive character from Bad Laasphe near Siegen. He was Prussian to the core and had two years in the Uhlans before his transfer to the kriegsmarine early in 1916. There were rumours his father (a long serving Colonel in the army) had wangled the move when the Uhlans were due to be sent up against the Russians. He was a good pilot however, and had two confirmed victories already to his name.


Flugmaat Eduard Worms was a good humoured Bavarian from Pullenreuth near the border with the Hapsburg empire. He'd been a farmer before the war but had managed a naval posting thanks to his teacher, who had connections with Kiel.


Finally there was the CO. Leutnant Oswald Wald was from Bingen on the banks of the Rhine. He was a career soldier who'd transferred to the Marine-Landfliegerabteilung in 1915. He'd proved himself a capable pilot as a later member of the 'Brieftauben-Abteilung Ostend' where he'd made several bombing trips around Flanders and even as far as Dover.


He'd been CO of MLFA II since it's official inception at the start of 1916 and had three confirmed victories, making him the unit's top marksman. Edward wondered why he hadn't transferred to single seaters, but would need to get to know his kameraden better before being able to answer such questions.


The New Year celebrations went well, very well and Edward felt rather the worse for wear the next morning.


The snow hardly relented the next week either.


When it had flattened enough to allow road travel, Edward went to Ostend alongside, Leutnant Wald, Oberflugmeister Ebersbach and the chief mechanic, Stabsfeldwebel Christiansen to pick up some supplies, orders and spares.


The weather seemed to be lifting and warming as the 10th January approached. Everyone was itching to be back in action.













Edited by AlbertTross
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Raine - So Bell-Gordon has his 5th, despite the best (worst?) efforts of those clown in the Claims Office.  Keep it up in the new year and there may be a waft of cigar smoke and the swish of tulle fabric.  The Pup reigns supreme right now, at least until those V strutters start showing up.  Full steam ahead!

This Henderson fellow, otoh... I'm not sure the nasty little blighter can be trusted.  Sail carefully.


Albert -- Good thing I've just had dinner or I'd be ravenous after reading about Edward's culinary adventures.  An uneventful transition into the staffel then two weeks of dud weather.  Sounds almost ideal, certainly better than going aloft in snow and sleet like some of the mad Tommies are wont to do.  The Roland looks like a warmer bus.  Good thing with that frigid breeze off the North Sea.  Very cool pics

Best of luck on the return to action.  H & B!



Welcome to Beau.  You've dropped into the first RFC squadron to get Pups.  Downside is that 54 were the last to lose them in Fall 1917 but that's as far away as the moon.  Looking forward to revisiting 54 Sqn.

Do forgive me but when I see Charles and Gray in the same string of names and I unconsciously conjure this legendary chap:



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9-15th January 1917

Sergeant R. C. "Beau" Gray
Droglandt, Flanders
No.46 Squadron, RFC
0 claims, 0 confirmed

The second week of the month had been as uneventful as the two prior ones. While the majority of Forty Six felt at the very least relieved that the weather was cutting them some slack, Beau's energetic nature couldn't help itself but fill the young hothead's head with disappointment. Unfortunately for him (or luckily, one could say...) the other pilots of the Squadron were mostly well into their late twenties and early thirties; their maturity and, clearly, superior experience near the frontlines were surely to blame for the cheery attitude that resonated within the barracks in Droglandt thanks to the poor weather.

Beau believed the cameraderie within Forty Six was lackluster, to say the least: the only person he had grown to like was his observer, captain Wilson Bates. He was a 26 years old exuberant lad from Thetford, where he was pursuing an apprenticeship in his father's workshop before the war had started. He enlisted in the infantry in 1914 but was hit by shrapnel July 1915 and was later deemed unfit for the army due to partial damage of his left leg; he therefore opted to enlist in the Royal Flying Corps as an observer, role he retained from the middle of 1915 reaching the rank of Captain.
They shared many interests (namely music and liquor among them) and their personalities appeared to amalgamate rather nicely, to the very least compared to Beau's relationship with his squadron mates. They deemed him immature, short fused and an unpredictable flyer (both in the good and in the bad) and more often than not preferred not to fly with him; Gray was fine with it as he preferred to have full capacity over how he would execute his tasks, and many flied lone wolves anyways.

"Y'know, Bates, you're the only c**t I can stand in this nest of old roaches."

R.C. Gray to W.H. Bates while practicing gunnery, December 1916.

One of their favourite hobbies, there at Droglandt, was practicing their marksmanship. Bates was able to keep his old SMLE from his infantry days, and Beau had managed to snatch a Winchester 1907 from one of the barracks - He was sure they'd notice it eventually but nobody ever spoke about it, so he decided to keep it.
Being two handy men with way too much time on their hands due to the frequent poor weather they built a small rifle range a few yards from the barracks. There they would spend most of their free days drinking, smoking and listening to classical music over vinyls, not to much amusement of their CO, Major Mealing. 

Unfortunately the range was inoperable due to the few feet of snow that had fallen in the past days, and the only activity Beau could keep himself busy with was tinkering with his crate. He wasn't a fan of French built machines, deeming them more frail, unpredictable and twitchy compared to the rugged English workhorses, and the only superior thing about the Nieuport was the observer's position behind the pilot. He cleaned the engine cowling and oiled up the pistons, challanged Wilson to disassemble the Lewis machine gun as fast as possible, went over the rigging and installed a holder on the right side of his cockpit for his Winchester. They attempted to get a truck and visit some of the local towns but the snow was way too thick; so much so that the battles on the ground had been on hold for quite a few days as well.

The one thing that kept Beau sane since the beginning of December were the letters he recieved ever so often from his lover, Liza. They had been sweethearts since the day they met and were already considering an engagement when Beau enlisted in October.

It was now the 15th January and, much to his surprise, nothing had come of his supposed transfer to Fifty Four yet.

Beau's Winchester
Their homemade rifle range

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Albert, some splendid photographs and excellent background on your Marineflieger and his mates. I look forward to watching him in action when the weather clears.

TWK, that Winchester looks decidedly non--reg. But I get the impression that Gray is not overly fond of regulations!

Bell-Gordon is back in action, but still struggles with the claims department. And with his hut-mate, Huntington.


Journal of FLt Douglas Bell-Gordon, RNAS

Part 11

Unconfirmed Halberstadt.jpg

"I managed to put two good bursts into one of the Huns and saw his machine fall into a spin from only 2000 feet."


Wednesday, 17 January 1917. Vert Galant aerodrome.

We welcomed the New Year with an early morning close offensive patrol – up and down the lines below Arras and only a mile or two over. The Hun Archie gunners were sleeping off their Hogmanay party, or whatever they call it in German. In any event, ack-ack was light and we had a pleasant time despite occasional flurries of sleet. Then, about the time we were ready to head home, three Halberstadt scouts made an appearance and we all had a good scrap. These machines don’t give me the wind up as the Pup handles them well. I managed to put two good bursts into one of the Huns and saw his machine fall into a spin from only 2000 feet. By the time I came round to look for him he was gone. On our return, D’Albiac reported it to Wing as downed and out of control, but Wing rejected it as unconfirmed.

After a couple of days of poor weather, we were back to the same sector on the mid-morning of 4 January. This time we had a real contest when a half-dozen Albatros scouts crossed our path when we were both at 7000 feet. Simpson was leading and tore into them. For the first minute or two all I wanted was to put my nose down and run. Then Jenner-Parson crossed in front of my machine with a yellow Hun on his tail. I managed to shoot the fellow off and saw him fall into a spin. There was no time to admire my handiwork as we were still evenly matched. I got a crack at one HA in a head-on attack and a few moments later got behind him and fired about a hundred more rounds into him. The Albatros began to spin and flop about as it fell. I put in claims for both HA. No one else saw the second machine fall so it was rejected, but Simpson corroborated my first claim. That brought my bag to six.

On 5 January we chased some Rolands over the lines. One of the German observers put a couple of rounds into my machine, which began to leak fuel. I was able to put it down at Avesnes-le-Compte aerodrome. We were grounded by bad weather for several days and then on the eleventh we chase a more Rolands and once again my machine was damaged. This time I put down at La Bellevue.

On 14 January, I yet again had to bring back a damaged machine. This time we were low over the front in bad weather and I was hit by heavy fire from the ground. It severed the controls to the port side ailerons and I landed gingerly in a field just over the lines.

Today, 17 January, was interesting. We were tasked with bringing down a hostile observation balloon near Vimy. There were three of us: Huskisson, myself, and Huntington (one of my hut-mates, the one who pines for his girl Eliza). I confess that the last-mentioned is giving me doubts. He has regaled me with his gauzy tales of romantic walks and, to hear him tell it, Eliza is a poetess, pianist extraordinaire, and the toast of London’s debutante season. I have asked to see a picture of the lass, but he has none. Then today happened. It was a glorious morning with some scattered cumulus and an icy blue sky. You could see for thirty miles or more. Huskisson led us north-east toward Mont-St-Eloi and thence straight over the lines to our target. The balloon was visible as soon we approached the front. I was determined to get the thing, so I opened the throttle full and began a shallow dive. From 500 yards, my Vickers hammered away. A plume of darkening smoke began to rise from the German gasbag. At 100 yards I fired the rockets and pulled the joystick hard back into my stomach. As I passed over the balloon it erupted in flame, throwing my Pup onto its side. Something must have been overstretched because the controls now felt sloppy. On the way back, I put down at Izel-le-Hameau where Major Graves, the squadron commander of 60 Squadron RFC, graciously invited me for lunch while the riggers put my machine right – or at least as right as possible given that they had never worked on a Sopwith before. I returned to Vert Galant aerodrome around one in the afternoon and claimed my balloon, only to be informed that Huntington had already been credited with its destruction! It seems that he was flying close behind me and put another long burst into the balloon while my rockets allegedly passed over the thing. He then finished it off with his own rockets.

D’Albiac read my report and asked politely whether I wish to dispute Mr Huntington’s claim. I did not.

This afternoon I asked Huntington whether it would be wise to leave instructions as to whether any of his possessions should be sent to Eliza should anything happen to him. We were all in the habit of leaving notes for our colleagues with such instructions. Huntington replied, “Goodness no! I am certain my parents will look after everything.”


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TWK - So your chap is awaiting a transfer to 54. Hopefully it'll be accepted, in the meantime good look with the rifle range.


Raine - Congratulations to Bell-Gordon on downing the Albatros for number 6 and a surprise dinner with the CO to boot! Happy days.

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Obflugm Edward Reimann






11th January to 21st January 1917



Leutnant Wald stood at the front of the briefing room in front of the whole unit. He'd called the meeting as soon as he had finished his call with headquarters, some 20 minutes ago.


Edward sat front and centre with Ebersbach on his left and Jung on his right.


Leutnant Wald quietened the ensemble down with a wave of his hand.


"Meine herren!" "I've just got off the phone to Admiral Dreisler. We have instructions.....in fact orders...to get in the air as soon as possible."


"This period of inactivity has meant we have lost touch with the enemy activities and HQ are nervous. They know the British would like nothing more than to capture our U-boat pens and for all we know they are about to launch an attack to do just that!". Explained Leutnant Wald.


He went on to explain that the unit would be airborne by this afternoon. He then went through the planned flights. Edward would be flying with Wald himself to complete a recon of the lines south of Nieuwpoort.


Edward hardly had time to get nervous as he changed into his flying gear and headed out to the airfield.


Although the snow had been cleared the ground was frozen solid. Edward had difficulty staying on his feet as ice lay everywhere.


Thankfully the ground staff had been out breaking the frozen ice along the airfield but it was still quite dicey as Edward skipped across the airfield in his Roland.


The recon went well enough and Edward and Flugmaat Hasse returned an hour or so later with several detailed notes of the enemy disposition along the front line.


Another similar sortie took place the next morning, however the 13th and 14th January were again lost to the weather.



On 14th, Edward and Leutnant Wald were conducting a recon of the area north of the Ypres salient. As they approached the salient Edward noticed several dark specks on the German side of the lines. He watched intently as the specks grew into definite shapes. It was a flight of enemy Moranes.


Edward signalled his intent to attack and dived down. As he approached the rearmost Morane from the rear, bullets raked his fuselage. Hasse tapped Edward on the head and shouted for him to descend below the enemy and come up beneath them.


Edward did this and Hasse poured bullets from his Parabellum into the underside of the nearest Morane.


The Morane wobbled and started losing height. More hits from Hasse had the enemy aircraft drifting downwards without power.


Edward followed until he watched the stricken Morane overturn in a field just a stone's throw from a Drachen balloon company.


With the rest of the Morane's now across the lines, Edward climbed back upto Leutnant Wald and they continued their recon.


Leutnant Wald was happy to confirm Edward's claim on returning to Neuwmunster and Edward (and Hasse) were warmly congratulated by one and all.


That evening, Edward, Wald, Ebersbach and Jung were enjoying a drink in the kasino.


"You flew very well today Edward, I remember my first victory". said Leutnant Wald.


"You must always choose your fights carefully though meine freund" he continued. "It is a thin line between courage and stupidty and you are unlikely to survive crossing the line" said Wald.


Edward listened intently. Wald finished his drink and made his way back to his quarters.


"He never used to be so cautious Edward" said Ebersbach. "Something changed him" he stated.


""What was that?" asked Edward.


"Humanity, meine Freud...life!" said Ebersbach.


"Wald went home on leave back in August, his wife was pregnant and Wald returned home to find a newborn baby daughter" explained Ebersbach.


"He's been different since his return. Still a fine pilot, but now he waits patiently for the enemy to come to him and no longer goes looking for trouble" continued Ebersbach with a rueful smile.


Edward nodded his understanding.......


"He has lost his fighting edge!" exclaimed Jung in the high pitched nasal tone he possessed.


"He has let personal matters into his military life and it has lessened his effectiveness.....in fact he..." Jung was about to continue when Ebersbach interjected.


"Oh be quiet Jung, you're talking out of your Prussian backside again!" said Ebersbach.


Edward muffled a laugh as Jung stared at Ebersbach but said nothing. He muffled something about needing to go see the adjutant and bade his farewell.


"Jung is a fine pilot, but his brains have been left on the Lichtenfeld drill grounds" said Ebersbach.


Edward took part in several more sorties over the next week or so but these were uneventful and broken up by more wintery weather.

Edited by AlbertTross

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