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DiD IV Campaign - Flight reports & Player instructions

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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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