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epower, December 17, 2021 in WOFF BH&H2 - General Discussion
Obflugm Edward Reimann
1 confirmed victory
22nd January to 28th January 1917
Edward sat with Ebersbach and Jung having a breakfast of bauernomelett. The morning mission had already been briefed. They would be heading to the railyard at Bailleul and had orders to attack it.
"We attacked Bailleul a few months ago do you remember Jung?" asked Ebersbach. Jung, with a mouthful of food, nodded and made a grunting sound as some kind of confirmation.
"Yes it was a nasty business. We lost Langer if I recall" Ebersbach continued. Again Jung grunted and chewed.
"Why is it so bad?" asked Edward although he believed he already knew the answer.
"The flak Edward. As soon as you appear over the lines it is constant and the route takes us near the Ypres salient!" said Ebersbach.
"Too near!" spluttered Jung, still chewing his food. Ebersbach nodded.
The four Rolands took off in bright but weak sunlight and climbed upto 8000 feet before heading out towards the front.
Right on cue the flak started as they crossed the lines. The air bubbled with explosions. One close call had Edward lurching upward and another left several (thankfully small) holes in the left upper wing.
Eventually the target came into view and Hasse dropped his bombs skillfully. Edward rolled and was able to see several large explosions bring the railyard to a burning shambles.
The trip back was just as fearsome but thankfully uneventful. Edward reported his damage and went off to clean up.
The 23rd had Edward taking photos of the fortifications near the coast. On his return he saw flak bursts over the lines and then spotted the target. A flight of BE2's crossed overhead.
Edward swung around and climbed up. It didn't seem the English had spotted Edward, or at least they made no evasive maneuver as he came up underneath. He lined up on the rearmost enemy aircraft and poured bullets into the foe. Too late the pilot of the BE tried to give his gunner a shot. Edward however raked the cockpit with bullets. The pilot slumped forward and the engine burst into flame.
The stricken BE plunged into the depths. With the other enemy aircraft now some distance away, Edward decided to head home.
With no witnesses however the claim was inevitably rejected. Wald consoled Edward with "You know you got him meine freund".
The following day, Edward, Ebersbach, Jung and Wald attacked the lines previously photographed by Edward the previous day.
The 25th a washout and Edward spent the day writing to his mother. The 26th was another bombing mission to attack the airfield at La Lovie. Again the flak was terrible but the attack went smoothly.
As the four Rolands started their journey back something made Edward look up. Just as he did so he caught sight of an enemy aircraft launching an attack on Jung who was somewhat higher than Edward.
Edward nervously searched the sky for more enemy aircraft and spotted another two enemy aircraft pass underneath him. The aircraft had three wings and seemed very fast.
Edward watched as Jung desperately tried to throw his assailant off but seemed to be getting nowhere. Edward climbed and tried to help his kamerad. Just as he lined up a burst at the Triplane he watched in horror as Jung's Roland lurched over and spiralled down like water in a plughole.
Edward, angry but calm, came around behind the Triplane and fired a long burst into the Englishman. The Triplane lurched but swung around and tried to run. Edward shouted for Hasse to be ready. He rolled and allowed Hasse to fire a telling burst down into the enemy.
The Triplane now slowed and Edward swung around behind him. Edward lined up and fired a long burst. The English pilot slumped forward and the Triplane nosed down and went straight into the ground.
The other two enemy aircraft scarpered on seeing their own fall. Edward joined up with Wald and Ebersbach and they headed home.
It was a subdued melee once the aircraft had landed. Ebersbach looked at the ground and Edward tapped his shoulder as a sign of his understanding. Wald appeared and did likewise. For all Jung's pomposity he was a well liked and respected pilot.
Wald called Edward to his office a little later. "Sad times Edward" remarked Wald. "Indeed sir. I was just getting to know him" replied Edward.
"War has no respect for friendships junge" Wald continued.
"However, war sometimes throws up such happenings and its how we deal with them that define who we are". said the Leutnant. Edward nodded.
"How you dealt with it was first rate Edward. That was some of the best flying I've seen, and in a immovable beast like the Roland as well!" exclaimed Wald.
"Danke herr Leutnant. I... did what I could." replied Edward, immediately admonishing himself for the timidity of the response.
"You certainly did. To defeat a Triplane in such a way is no mean feat. I can confirm the victory myself having seen it all!". "You are proving yourself a fine pilot Edward. I'm very pleased to have you with us." confirmed Leutnant Wald.
A memorial service was held on the 27th for Jung although no confirmation had been received from either the English or headquarters.
The rain fell again on the 28th washing out the day's flying but the unit received a very unexpected delivery.
A tough day for the staffel on the 26th, alas poor Jung. Edward continues his abuse of King George's Flying Corps. A hapless if unconfirmed BE, then dropping a Tripe. Nice work.
BTW, this Hasse fellow...where do I know him from?
I fear I've led you astray regarding the proper technique for inserting images. Looks like something changed regarding image inserts and my post #2 instructions, which you followed to the letter, no longer produce the desired result.
I mucked about and the correct method now is as follows:
I'll update post #2 accordingly.
Since you're a Junior Member and your editing window has expired, I used my ninja powers to get the images to show up.
End of month stats
8 missions - 14 hours
2 confirmed victories
29th January to 2nd February 1917
Edward was sitting in the kasino with several others when Leutnant Wald came in, he had another marineflieger with him. "Meine herren, may I introduce Flugmaat Daniel Kehr". There were muttered welcomes from those gathered.
"Flugmaat Kehr is our newest pilot. Please make him feel welcome!" finished Leutnant Wald who turned and left.
Edward and Ebersbach made their way over to Kehr. "I am Obflugm Ebersbach and this fine fellow is 'King!'" said Ebersbach. Edward rolled his eyes whilst Kehr simply looked nonplussed.
"I'm Obflugm Edward Reimann. Pleased to meet you" explained Edward. "Where are you from?" He enquired.
"I hail from Bisingen on the northern edge of the Swabian Jura." confirmed Kehr.
The three talked for some time, Flugmaat Kehr was 23 and had originally been conscripted into the 214th Baden Reserve Regiment in 1914 but had applied for a transfer to the kreigsmarine in early 1915. His father had served in the navy and Daniel was accepted and served on several vessels until training as a pilot late in 1916.
Although he seemed pleasant and talkative enough, Edward had the impression Kehr was hiding something, covering for some deepset trauma with his chatty and overfriendly nature. Edward let it go for now, there would be time a-plenty to delve deeper.
The weather had been bad for days now. Heavy rain had become clear and freezing nights so that the airfield was completely icebound. It was that cold, the mechanics had lit fires underneath the aircraft to prevent the engines and especially the pipes from freezing solid.
By the afternoon of the 29th, it had thawed enough for talk of a flight later that day. At that point however a shout went out that incoming aircraft had been spotted.
Edward, Ebersbach and Kehr made their way out where several others had already gathered. Edward saw the growing shapes indicating the incoming aircraft. He counted four fairly large aircraft and as there was no siren or flak he assumed they were German.
As the aircraft got nearer Leutnant Wald announced "these are our new kites meine herren!". "DFW's! The latest versions, straight out of the factory." Wald continued.
"What's happening to our Rolands herr Leutnant?" asked Edward.
"We will be keeping three of them" confirmed Wald as the first of the DFW two-seaters landed. The MLFA pilots spent the rest of the day examining their new mounts. Leutnant Wald announced that tomorrow would involve a series of familiarisation flights.
Edward spent several hours over the next two days in his new aircraft. He found it a little slower than the Roland but a much better climber and far more manoeuvrable. It could also dive like a hawk and had a forward firing machine gun just like the Roland.
On 1st February Edward was sent to photograph the lines south of Nieuwpoort. The photography went well enough but just as he was about to turn for home, a sixth sense made him look up over to his left. As he did he saw an enemy Triplane speeding down, just about to commence his attack. Edward banked steeply towards his attacker but felt the machine shudder as bullets ripped through the wings and fuselage.
He pulled a tight turn and Hasse's machine gun barked a response as the Triplane tried to get on their tail. Edward pulled every move but bullets continued to strike the DFW. Finally, a telling burst from Hasse finally made the Triplane cut off and run for home.
Edward needed to trim the aircraft all the way home but they landed safely. They had been lucky....VERY lucky and Edward knew it.
Obflugm Edward Reimann
3rd February to 9th February 1917
The weather thankfully eased for a few days and Edward, together with his faithful beobachter Hasse, were kept busy. This was a good thing, as Edward had had some trouble putting the near miss in his previous mission out of his mind. Hasse, who had a habit of dwelling on the morbidity of war, had spent the previous evening getting very intoxicated. Leutnant Wald, who was normally strict with the alcohol intake of his pilots and observers, allowed it on this occasion as he could clearly see how it had affected Hasse. Edward, made of sterner stuff, enjoyed a drink but left it there. Ebersbach had commented that it was all another sure sign of Leutnant Wald's 'softening' since the birth of his child. Edward simply thought it was the sign of a good and empathetic C.O.
The sorties over the next few days varied, from bombing raids on the front lines to note taking and photographic reconnaissance of various points along the front from Nieuwpoort to Ypres.
On the 5th, Edward was flying towards Menen when he spotted flak bursts over the German side and then spotted a trio of enemy two-seaters crossing his path.
For a split second there was hesitancy. Edward searched the sky several times. Then he came to his senses, reproaching himself as he turned to head after the now departing BE2's.
He quickly closed the gap and picked a target as the trio of enemy aircraft split up. He went after the leftmost aircraft and blasted the enemy with several good bursts. The BE tried to evade but Edward swung around with him and continued firing into the cockpit. Finally he saw the pilot slump forward and the BE nosed down. It continued down into the ground. As Edward took stock he noticed he had crossed the lines a little and hastily crossed back and returned to his planned mission.
Although the claim was inevitably denied (Edward and Hasse were alone and the enemy had fallen over the lines), Leutnant Wald congratulated the pair.
The 6th and 7th were washed-out by the weather but on the 9th, Edward was again heading to the Ypres salient. He spotted a lone aircraft ahead. Edward checked his gaze, it couldn't be! Could it? It was! It was a single enemy BE2, well over German lines. Edward couldn't believe his luck, but something bothered him....where was the flak? He scoured the skies but saw nothing, although heavy clouds made it difficult to be thorough.
He decided to press home his attack on the enemy aircraft. He came around behind the BE, who had now realised his predicament and tried to run away. Edward fired long and hard into the enemy and another burst was accurate and went straight into the cockpit and slayed the pilot. The BE2 went into a death dive which only ended when it smashed into the ground near Menen.
At that moment, Edward saw more aircraft coming out of a nearby cloud. It was a kette of Albatros scouts and Edward breathed a sigh of relief and realised why there had been no flak.
The lead Albatros waggled his wings and the pilot waved towards Edward. The trio of Albatros took up position above and behind Edward and escorted him on the rest of his mission.
As he landed at Nieuwmunster, Edward rolled up behind the now stationary Albatrix.
Climbing down he made his way towards the friendly scouts. The Albatrix pilots met Edward half-way. The leader introduced himself, Oberleutnant Gotthard Sachsenberg. Saschenberg was the newly oppointed C.O. of Marine Feld Jasta I. He congratulated Edward on his victory over the BE2 which he was happy to confirm. He explained his kette had been stalking the enemy aircraft but had lost him in the clouds.
Leutnant Wald came over and joined the conversation, he had clearly met Saschenberg before. When Saschenberg explained what had occurred and Leutnant Wald confirmed that Edward now had 3 confirmed victories, he (half) jokingly invited Edward to join him at MFJI. Edward, blushing brightly, thanked the Oberleutnant. Leutnant Wald interjected that Edward was very much needed at MFFA II for the foreseeable.
The MFJ pilots stayed long enough to enjoy an evening in the kasino together with Edward, Wald et al.
Albert, apologies for my long absence. I miss no fewer than three of your posts. All were gripping reading with fantastic screenshots. I admit to being very nervous when it seemed that you were going to be down in your new machine. Good job in getting it home in one piece, ragged although that piece may have been. How do you the new machine after the Roland?
Here is my catch-up entry…
Tuesday, 13 February 1917. Furnes aerodrome, Belgium.
I have done a thoroughly miserable job of maintaining my journal, although I have at least managed to keep my family occasionally informed by letter of my continuing existence.
Where to begin? The last entry concerned my balloon claim, which was credited to Huntington. Not wishing to be ungracious, I allowed that matter to pass. But Huntington has remained a subject of some doubt in my mind. He is, by all accounts, an Etonian and wears an air of superiority like an ermine cloak. He has taken to asking ridiculous questions about life in Canada – whether one is often attacked by red Indians or whether we all speak French or whether it is possible to dine in a restaurant. Not sure whether he is taking the piss or is genuinely stupid. I have taken to answering him sarcastically and believe he is convinced I grew up in a log hut behind the palisade at the edge of the wilds. Reggie Soar is enjoying the nightly show immensely since I have drawn enough fire that no one teases him about his Yorkshire accent. And our other hut mate Simpson says very little but his occasional glances tell me that he has had his fill of Huntington. Huntington meanwhile goes on about his undying love for Eliza and his plans to marry her once he has personally dispatched the Kaiser.
Late January saw intense cold and wretched weather that limited our flying. My log reminds me of numerous “close offensive patrols”. These are patrols only a few miles beyond the German trench lines. Archie there is bad but one has a good chance of scrapping with the Hun. We encountered the new Albatros scout on several occasions. This machine is rather similar to a Nieuport and has become known as a vee-strutter. In several scraps I exchanged bursts with the Huns without conclusive results. In the same period, Huntington has claimed two of the new Albatros. Both were confirmed by Wing without the need for witnesses. He now boasts of a bag of five hostile aircraft. My count remains at six.
On 25 January, I had a real fright when in the middle of a close offensive patrol there was a loud whoomp and my Pup was thrown sideways. Several ragged holes appeared in the wings and I could smell petrol. I switched off and glided several miles westward to a forward aerodrome at Courcelles. Then two days later the same thing happened. We were crossing the lines near Arras when another near miss resulted in a petrol leak. This time I made it to a field just south of Arras. I spent most of the day with a battalion of the Scots Guards who kindly provided a watch over my aeroplane while I was invited to join two of their company commanders for tea. “Tea”, it seems, is Scots for whisky. By the time the repair lorry arrived and my machine was ready for me I was in a dubious state. Still, I managed to get it back in one piece.
The Squadron went through something of a rough period at this time. The Huns were becoming more aggressive and despite occasional mix-ups, we had no confirmed claims. We lost Mackenzie as well. The Germans confirmed that he had been killed – a sad loss of a good man. Reggie Soar failed to return after a patrol and gave us an awful fright. He showed up finally about twelve hours late. After that there were days without contact and days with snow and intense cold.
Life changed somewhat at the beginning of February when the Squadron was relieved by Naval Three and we returned to Dunkirk by road, having left all our Pups for 3 Squadron.
Many of the fellows got leave during this period, but my number did not come up. I was somewhat miffed as I have been serving in France since October without leave. On a brighter note, the Squadron is being refitted with new machines. These are triplanes built by Sopwith. They are very like a Pup at first touch, the additional wing being a major difference, of course. The “Tripe”, as it has been christened, is a splendid thing. It has a magnificent 130 horsepower Clerget rotary and climbs like a lift! It is also very light on the controls and rolls quickly. I am still uncertain how it will hold together in a dive. There is no point in tempting the fates quite yet. I’m certain that all will be answered the first time I have a couple of Huns on my tail. In the meanwhile I have been kept busy test flying machines as the Ack Emmas prepare them.
Today is 13 February. Everyone is back from leave and orders have just arrived to prepare for a move to Furnes, just across the border into Belgium. There we will replace 1 Squadron RNAS, who are moving south. I shall leave this afternoon along with two other Tripes as part of the advance party. Another chapter begins…
Raine - Douglas seems to have become something of a flak magnet, he could do with losing that ability. When the weather finally relents from winter to spring there'll be enough for him to worry about I think. Huntington seems one of those who has the unfathomable ability to get on everyone's nerves without really trying.
As for Edward, when he's been able to fly it's been fun...certainly. The DFW is a strange bird, it doesn't look structurally tough whereas the Roland does, but it clearly is. It takes a beating and can dive like a SPAD (almost). The main gripe is the lack of forward view, having to lean around the 'upturned bathtub' in front of you.
Albert – I'll have to check out the DFW. It's been a long time since I have flown a German two seater. Let epower and me know when you have about 30-35 hours in and we will see about a transfer to something more survivable.
I have forgotten to post my end of month sitrep.
End of January statistics
FLt Douglas Bell-Gordon
8 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service
Vert Galant, France
59 missions / 46.82 hours / 18 claims / 6 confirmed victories
Albert – This Kehr fellow, a man of mystery. I like him already 😊. So it’s out with the Rolands, in with the DFWs. Never knew they were so robust. Might explain the previous challenge shooting them down. Gott Im Himmel! Triplanes! I wonder if it’s those Lime Juicing Krumpets from Naval 8. Edward did well to escape them but I suspect there will be another day.
Leutnant Wald seems a good sort and no doubt becoming a father will make him a bit less rigid. I do like your bomb impact screencaps. I’ve yet to get the hang of that as you will soon see.
Solid work on the hapless Quirk. Congrats on Edward’s 3rd victory.
Raine – I see that Huntington continues playing the gadfly to Bell Gordon. Tedious. Very tedious. Hopefully the hand of fate will deliver an appropriate comeuppance. The Kaisers Flakmensch rang the Bell but good (see what I did there?) I wonder if the AAA changed in Recon Wars. Good thing Douglas landed his kite intact. And speaking of Kites, and Naval intrigue, once again the Senior Service bogart all the good planes. Rum, Perfidy and the Lash is more like it. As for the former expression, it’s the Royal Navy so one expects that sort of thing.
Tripes is it. Congrats. This should be fun, although maybe not so much for the Huns.
I am HATING the cut and paste formatting results of CombatAce. Maybe I'm missing something. Must continue to experiment...
Edit, so the "paste without formatting" via the Right Mouse Click menu seems the way to go.
SHIFT+ENTER is of great use limiting the spacing between lines.
And so it begins...
A Legionnaire’s Tale – Part 1
19 August 1915
My name is Felix Moore. Felix A. Moore. I added the ‘A’ for Arthur to make it more believable. These are not the names my mother gave me, but together they serve well enough as my nom de guerre. A gift of the Legion. I shall keep it even when my days as a Legionnaire are ended. My real name... that would cause a stir in certain quarters.
The myth of the French Foreign Legion as a refuge for jilted lovers, killers, and fugitives of all kinds is exactly that – a myth. It is true that some of my brother Legionnaires joined because they sought adventure, but most signed up because they had no work. What did come as a surprise was the number of Germans. In 1912, over half the French Foreign Legion was composed of Germans. Of the rest, a few sought refuge from the law. Others, like myself, were men in need of a fresh start and a new identity.
A year at West Point prepared me better than most. That seems a century ago now.
Légion Étrangère. A perfect place at last. I fell into its traditions and the hard, repetitive life became one more beating making me stronger in body and in mind. With each travail, each blistering 60km march, each fight against the Arab, the troubled memories slip away.
Sidi-bel-Abbes, the Legion’s Algerian home, (Holy City might be more accurate) , provided an exotic education of a different sort, the taverns and brothels of the Quartier Nègre being among them.
Such lessons, and such a life, were not without cost. I would look upon the true Anciens, hardened veterans on their third or fourth enlistment, and they appeared thinned of their identity as though the color of individuality were wrung out of them, like water from a twisted cloth. They were all the same, in thought, appearance, action. Even as I admired them, I scoffed at the idea I might lose myself as they did, but theirs was exactly the path I traveled.
This German war came none too soon.
I might be a character in some absurd play. Enter Felix, a Moor. I am well suited to the role. The African sun burnt my Irish skin blacker than many of the native Algerians. Who was he, I wonder, my dark ancestor? Perhaps some hapless shipwrecked Spaniard of Phillip’s ruined Armada, cast on Ireland’s fatal shore and taken in by his fellow Catholics.
After three years in Africa fighting the Arabs, I thought myself somehow shielded by the hand of God, a God I once thought had abandoned me… or maybe it was the Devil, or the Djinn who spoke to me in the deep desert. Whomever. After 11 months in France, any hope of divine protection seems illusion. Yet despite my calculated attempts to die, I am still alive. It cannot last. Like that romantic Seeger, I too have a rendezvous with death. Not for the glory he seeks, or the old patriotic lie. Just cold death and an ending to this pain, to this Cafard.
I write this chronicle so that my life and deeds may be remembered. On my death it goes to Jacko, Porthos, Artemis or one of the others, for it is their story as well. In time, I trust that one of them will bring it to Monsieur Duval. He is the closest thing I have to family.
Few of us left now, we les Anciens, the old African Legionaries. Not many of the new volunteers either. Not after we took Les Ouvrages Blancs, the so-called ‘white works.’ Trenches dug out of the chalk at the base Vimy Ridge. They could be seen for miles and were thought to be impregnable. So many assaults by other regiments broke like water against them. Thousands perished. But on May 9th they could not stand against the force of the Legion. We, the 2nd Regiment de Marche of the 1st Étrangere formed the spearhead of the Moroccan Division.
Scores fell as we charged. Capitaine Junod leapt from the trench, shouting in powerful voice, “En Avant, mes enfants! Courage!” He made it twenty meters before falling wounded. Etienne, Houska and Corporal Werner died right beside me 30 seconds later.
Many of the officers were killed before we cleared the trenches in front of Berthonval. More died before the White Works where our artillery failed to completely flatten the wire, but we could not be stopped.
Like a great wave crashing inland, we took Les Ouvrages Blancs, then the Bethune Road, Hill 123 and finally to Hill 140 on the crest of Vimy Ridge itself. It was 11:30. Four kilometers in a mere two hours!
A few madmen, bent on decorating themselves with loot, even ventured down into Vimy and Givenchy. Through it all, I was miraculously untouched by bullet or shell. My greatcoat nicked and perforated but nothing hit me.
What we failed to do, as we swept onward, was clear the captured trenches of the Boche. In the wreckage we left behind, they emerged like rats from their holes to harry us from behind.
A magnificent feat of arms, nonetheless. The 156th on our right were still pinned before La Targette and could not advance to support us. We sat on Hill 140 like a giant pimple waiting to be exploded. The crossfire from La Folie Farm and Neuville on our unprotected right grew worse and the German artillery started finding the range. It was around Noon when our own artillery landed on us. Terrible slaughter. The barrage continued despite desperate waving of flags and recognition panels.
As I directed efforts to reverse the German trench and strengthen our position against counterattack, I saw Lt. Feraud calmly issuing a string of orders trying to get control of the chaos. Companies and Battalions were all mixed. There weren’t enough officers present to effectively organize a defense. From my vantage point, I was one of only three NCOs left alive and unwounded. Seeing the situation, Colonel Pien, our commanding officer seized a rifle and charged forward, only to be killed by a sniper.
By 3:30pm enemy reinforcements came to play. City buses full of Boche stopped so close to our position that we could read the advert boards painted on their sides. We repelled the first Boche counterattack with the timely assistance of Lieutenant Wetterstrom’s machine gunners, but no additional reinforcements, machine guns, or additional officers came forward to assist us. Lieutenants became company commanders, Sergents acted as officers, and any Legionnaire with initiative found himself in the role of an NCO.
Lt. Feraud, imperturbable as ever despite the bullet wound to his jaw, moved down the ruined trench.
“Sergent, today you have earned the Medaille Militaire,” he said, clapping me on the shoulder. “I shall see to it personally.” He continued on his way.
Ten seconds later a shell landed nearby. The blast that literally blew Lt Feraud apart before my eyes, riddled me with metal, and knocked me briefly unconscious. My memory of the next hours blurs. Fighting close in with any weapon at hand. The Boche hit us a second time and pushed us off the crest of 140 and back to Hill 123. Hundreds died holding the latter hill. I woke lying in a shell hole with an officer’s sword in my hand. Judging from the blood encrusted tip to hilt, I had done some strong work. Monsieur Duval would be pleased to see his training put into practice against his hated Germanic foe. In time two of our Russian stretcher bearers found me.
Carried away at last, my comrades set me down at an impromptu aid station and went to collect others. There, I heard a wounded German officer speaking perfect French inquire of his Russian stretcher bearers what language they were speaking.
“Russian,” they answered in French.
“Impossible! Are the Russians here?”
“One battalion,” they said.
“The Legion!” they answered.
“Ah...The Legion!...The Legion!...Now I understand everything,” he sighed.
The mystery of how his impregnable Ouvrages Blancs had fallen now solved, he lapsed into unconsciousness.
A bloody red day, one that would see the 2nd Regiment de March receive its first unit decoration – the Croix de Guerre. But the cost… My God, the cost. We lost our commander, three of four battalion commanders, 41 other officers, scores of NCOs and 1,889 legionnaires, half our effective strength.
My chance for a medal died with Lt. Feraud, but I have my life, and my wounds are nearly healed now. I shall rejoin the regiment in a week’s time.
I'm like'n it! Good story line.
Epower- A warm welcome to Felix, he's clearly had enough life already to fill a book and enough battles to fill another. Vimy Ridge being a prime example. An interesting account of a bloody affair. An Irishman eh, I wonder what we shall learn about his past and his reasons for joining the legion. I'm looking forward to it.
As for Edward....he's enjoying the challenge of being combative in his cumbersome two seater but he knows he's running a risk. He does want to fly scouts of course, but hopefully will be around long enough to find out about Kehr.
Jerbear - Great to see you taking timeout from your own tale and dropping in for a visit. I remain deeply impressed and greatly envious of your writing flow.
Albert - A book may result from the background rabbit hole for Felix. Oy! Not doing that again.
He may be Irish by blood, but the bit about a year at West Point may provide an additional clue as to his home turf. All will be revealed... and soon. I gotta get to the flying bits, after all.
A Legionnaire’s Tale – Part 2
26 August 1915
What in the name of God, the Devil, and the Djinn Who Spoke to Me, impelled me to confession after all this time?
Her Birthday. Today is her birthday.
Just walking in set my mind whirring. The Cathedral itself. This place, these ancient stones. Frankincense lingered in the air from the recent Mass. The smell conjured memory. I felt a presence. Hair stood up on the back of my neck and on my arms. I feared the nightmare might slip from its shadowy prison and seize me. Some years since that last happened.
The line to the confessional was mercifully short. An old woman dressed in black emerged weeping.
As I entered the confessional, I smelt a passing hint of rose, then the stronger aroma of old varnish. Suddenly my agitation passed. Kneeling in the darkened cubicle I felt sheltered, as if the filigreed walnut were some sort of dugout immune from blast and terror.
The Priest’s voice was at once old and also soothing.
“May the spirit of God be in your heart and on your lips that you may humbly confess your sin.”
“I have not confessed in nine years, Father. I am 22 years of age.”
“Nine years,” he replied. “Best to skip over the venial, then. Speak of those sins which burden your soul.”
“I carry contempt and hatred in my heart towards women.”
One woman, Felix. Just one. But she became all women.
“I have killed, sometimes with pleasure. I have consorted with demons.”
“Demons?! How have you done so?!” exclaimed the Priest.
“In the desert, a Djinn spoke to me from a whirlwind.”
“Incroyable! What did this Djinn say?”
“I can’t remember. I was a day without water at the time.”
“Perhaps this elemental being was just delirium, or Cafard.”
“You know Cafard, Father?”
“I was not always a priest. Do continue,” he said in a more authoritative tone.
“Many times, I have thought to take my own life.”
“That is no sin unless you succeed. You must never give in to despair.” He spoke adamantly. “Suicide is an irredeemable sin.”
Fear of damnation is the only reason you didn’t go through with it, Felix…
“Go on,” he said.
“I have cursed God for what He has allowed to happen.”
“The War is terrible, my son, but it is the work of men.”
“I speak of greater evils than war, Father, but I did not come here to discuss them.”
“Why have you come?” he asked gently.
“Today is my Mother’s Birthday. The only gift she ever desired of me on this day was that I make confession and cleanse my soul.”
“Confess your sin. God loves you even as you curse him.”
“My mother always said such things,” I mused, “but I never saw any sign of it.”
He waited and said nothing. He was clever this priest. He knew.
“I have done worse than revile the name of God. On this day nine years ago, I cursed my mother.”
Cursed her for a whore, Felix. That's what you did.
“That is grave, my son. You must ask her forgiveness.”
“She is dead these nine years, Father.”
He rustled behind the screen. I heard him sigh.
“Do you repent your sins?”
“I am sorry for my sins, Father, with my whole heart.”
So many years since I spoke the litany. Words that once brought me such joy and lightness were today, just words. Empty. Powerless.
“The Boche will provide the remainder of your penance. For now, go and light a candle for your mother on this her birthday. Pray for her forgiveness. Pray for God’s grace and the strength to return to the path of righteousness. Only then will you have peace.
“…det tibi Deus veniam et pacem, et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti,” he intoned solemnly.
I rose to go. The Priest spoke again.
“One more thing, my son. If you cannot see a sign then you have not been paying attention. God be with you.”
A candle and two prayers. That was the price for nearly half a lifetime of apostasy. He was right about the Boche but why give me such a light penance? Was this Priest an ex-Legionnaire? He knew Cafard***, the peculiar form of nervous torment afflicting the Legionnaire. Wishing to see him and know his face, I sat nearby for half an hour waiting for the Priest to reveal himself but the line to the confessional grew steadily. I moved off to a chapel to begin my assigned penance.
I dropped to one knee in the side chapel. Dozens of candles burned in front of me, flickering like the dead souls they called to. The candle I lit for Mother shone out among the others like a flare in the dim light. The weight of sorrow, so elusive in confession, settled on me at last. How long I remained so I cannot say. The grinding pain of the stone on my knee returned me to my senses. My eyes burned, not with gas, but with tears. I can’t remember the last time I wept.
Going soft or is this my Cafard?
A female voice spoke beside me. Lost in reverie I hadn’t seen her approach.
Hastily wiping my face, I stood to regard the woman beside me and as I straightened to my full 5’9”, her eye level remained above my own, no matter how much I stretched. Standing a good inch taller than me was a woman of stunning beauty. A half-caste, what the French or Spanish would call Creole. Smooth perfect skin, a shade or two darker than café au lait.
Shorter wavy hair down to her neck framed a high forehead and broad cheek boned face. Large eyes that appeared green, (or were they grey?) shone from under distinct arched brows. Hints of blond danced in the stray tiny curls at her temples.
A curvaceous body filling out the modest dress, molded onto an extraordinary physique. Arms smooth and powerful with none of the swollen, dangling fat so common to large women. Broad shoulders and a full bosom balanced her proportionately wide hips, but hers were not the overly massive breasts one might expect from a woman of her stature. Her waist tapered only slightly yet her stomach appeared flat to the extent I thought she might be corseted. Even through the fabric of her mauve dress, I could see the lines of her tremendous shapely, and undoubtedly firm, bottom joining heavily muscled legs. Thews. Can one say thews when describing a woman? She radiated the physical without in any way losing the feminine. Of the ample-bodied whores I’d enjoyed in Sidi-bel-Abbes, none were anything like her.
A magnificent creature! What violent delights might we share?
Such strength. In the throes of her ecstasy, I might be as Job wrestling the Angel.
“For your comrades, monsieur?” she inquired again.
“There are not enough candles in the entire cathedral for that, mademoiselle.”
“You speak as a Gascon,” she said, remarking my accent. “Yet you wear the uniform of the Legion Étrangère.”
Taking my Kepi Noir from under my arm, I swept it low in a flourishing bow, as D’Artangnan might have before Monsieur de Treville or Madame de Winter.
“Milady,” I said with exaggerated formality.
She smiled and then, moving with an unexpected grace for a woman of her size, she responded with a flowing if equally mocking curtsy.
At this moment her companion called to her, “Madelaine.”
Blast! Just when I was making headway.
“Mademoiselle Madelaine, I have forgotten my manners and failed to make introduction. I am Felix Moore.”
“Enchanté, Sergent Moore,” she replied.
I waited for her to expand but she remained enigmatically silent. Was there more here?
“Madelaine,” I ventured impertinently. “The only Madelaine I know is delightful and most delicious dessert…”
She looked at me askance, perhaps deciding whether to take offense.
“Sergent, have you not heard of the famous Col du Madelaine, a high pass in the Alps known from Roman times? One day it might be part of the Tour de France if ever a road might be built. If you wish reach such a summit and taste the fruits of victory one may find there, I think you will need something more than a Legionnaire’s legendary marching legs.”
A savage riposte! En Garde! How remarkable she should mention the Le Tour. At that moment my thoughts flew to my dead comrade. How happy he was when the telegram arrived announcing the birth of his daughter… the same day he died. How it must have galled Faber, a Luxembourger with Belgian roots, to sing Le Boudin, the marching song of the Legion.
Pour les Belges il n'y en a plus. (For the Belgians there is no more.)
Pour les Belges il n'y en a plus. (For the Belgians there is no more.)
Ce sont des tireurs au cul. (They are lazy shirkers.)
“You speak of the Le Tour de France, Milady. Then you must know the name of Francois Faber, champion of the 1909 race. He was a legionnaire, killed in May in Artois.”
Francois Faber, Champion, 1909 Tour de France
“Je suis désolé,” she replied solemnly.
Her companion, a shrewish middle-aged woman, now approached. While not quite a crone, she would be there soon enough. Features pinched, as though accosted by an unpleasant smell, she surveyed my person with obvious disapproval. Indeed, my very presence in the Cathedral seemed an affront to her sensibilities.
“Madelaine, we will be late. We must go,” she croaked.
Damn the ghastly hag for spoiling everything. I had a real chance here.
“Au revior, Sergent Felix Moore,” said Madelaine with an expression of wry amusement.
The two women turned and moved down the Nave.
I almost left it too long. Dashing after the two I called out to them as I closed the distance.
“Mademoiselle Madelaine, honor me with the gift of your family name.”
The incipient crone scowled as I approached but Milady turned to me smiling.
“de Verley,” she said, nearly laughing. Perfect teeth, dazzlingly white, flashed in contrast to her lovely dark skin.
Once again, I swept my Kepi Noir in a low bow.
She returned my flamboyance with the most infinitesimal curtsy. With her beldame in tow she continued to the Narthex and out the doors. A chance meeting this was. I would never see her again. C’est le guerre. Ah, but to lie with such a magnificent creature as Madelaine de Verley.
*** “Cafard,” wrote David Wooster King in 1916, “comes from the word meaning ‘black beetle.’ In army jargon it means blues or melancholia. The African army troops are subject to this periodically, due probably to the heat and bad wine. In the more acute cases the victims are convinced that their brains are being eaten by black beetles.”
According to Legionnaire Edwin Rosen, “Cafard, is a collective name for all the unconceivable stupidities, excesses and crimes which tormented nerves can commit. The English language has no word for this condition. In cafard murder hides, and suicide and mutiny; it means self-mutilation and planless flight out into the desert; it is the height of madness and depth of despair.”
Epower - I saw the reference to West Point, an American of Irish descent....a Bostonian then perhaps. Time will tell I'm sure.
So Felix felt need to cleanse his soul. Its a skillful priest who can use his own opaque history to help others to whom it is very much clear and troubling. But then....troubles? what troubles? When there is a delightful mademoiselle to flirt with.
Looking forward to the next chapter......
Stirring yarns gents!
EPower, I see the beginnings of another epic tail in the making.
3 confirmed victories (3 unconfirmed)
10th February to 19th February 1917
The wretched weather had put paid to any flying for two days now. There was little to do but write or play 'skat' although that carried danger as Ebersbach was a patent expert at the game. In fact if it wasn't for Leutnant Wald's strict rules on the amounts being gambled, Ebersbach would be a rich man.
During these couple of days, the unit received another pilot, bringing the total to 6 pilots and 6 beobachters. Flugmaat Lothar Dreis was from Bielefeld. He was somewhat older than the the others at 31 and had been working in a naval training school near Kiel for some time before applying for flight training.
He was made welcome and was to bunk up with the other lower ranked NCO's, Flugmaat Kehr and Flugmeister Werner Buhr. Buhr, a former boxer from Friesenried, was a likable if simple fellow. He had already gotten used to Flugmaat Kehr's peculiar sleeping. Kehr had a habit of talking in his sleep, rather unintelligible stuff, but as Buhr rather bluntly put it, he was clearly "having a go at somebody".
All went well on the evening of the 11th, possibly because Dreis had fallen asleep instantly and deeply due to his tiresome journey. On the 12th however, Dreis was woken by Kehr's nocturnal noises. Whereas Behr would simply roll away and go back asleep, Dreis bellowed loudly, "For heavens sake fellow! Be quiet!". At this, Kehr, although clearly still asleep had got up out of bed and come over to Dreis. He grabbed the shocked Dreis by the shoulders and shook him, almost imploringly. "I can't do it! I can't do it I tell you! It wasn't me!" yelled Kehr as he shook the shoulders of the petrified Dreis.
Buhr got up and pulled the now sobbing Kehr away. The commotion had brought, Wald and Edward into the room. Ebersbach being on a 4 day pass.
Kehr, who presumably had now woken, was sat on his bed with his head in his hands. Leutnant Wald, looking slightly absurd in his longjohns but with his cap perched on his head, looked at Kehr. He now approached Dreis. "Are you okay now Flugmaat Dreis?" Wald enquired.
"Alright! How can I be alright!" said Dreis rather loudly. "I was attacked by that man!" He exclaimed, pointing past Wald towards Kehr.
Buhr now interjected "He didn't attack you, don't talk rubbish" he said, again in that blunt manner. "He clearly had a nightmare and your shouting at him drew him towards you!" Buhr continued.
A now rather heated argument began between Buhr and the clearly affronted Dreis. Wald, tired and wanting to end this spectacle, brought both of them to silence. He looked at Buhr, "Flugmeister, return to your bed straight away!" said Wald firmly. Wald now stopped momentarily as if in deep thought. Finally he turned to Dreis. "Flugmaat Dreis, will you now return to your bed as well, danke" said Wald, hoping that would be the end of it.
"But herr Leutnant, I cannot possibly stay in the same room as this....this...
Verrückte!!" exclaimed Dreis. Wald, visibly annoyed, had been hoping to avoid prolonging this any further. He sighed and looked over towards Kehr, now being consoled by Edward. He had but one option left, "Oberflugmeister Reimann, will you please escort Flugmaat Kehr to the lockup please and have a guard posted". said the Leutnant. For a split second, Edward thought of speaking out against this but caught Leutnant Wald's imploring gaze. He picked Kehr up carefully and grabbed his blanket "come on meine freund". Kehr put up no resistance as Edward led him out of the room and over to the tiny lockup at the end of the corridor.
The next morning, Edward spoke with Leutnant Wald over breakfast. "What will happen to Kehr now"? Edward asked. "That rather depends on Flugmaat Dreis, Edward. If he decides to make an official complaint....Well I can hardly ignore it." Wald replied.
"Let me speak with Kehr please herr Leutnant. There is clearly something troubling him, something constantly toying on his mind and each night it emerges when he's asleep." said Edward.
Wald smiled, "I had no idea you practiced psychology Edward, but yes, feel free." He replied.
Edward sat with Kehr in the tiny lockup, he could see the straw mattress had not been used. Kehr looked exhausted and forlorn. "Tell me what's troubling you" Edward asked. After much refusals and counters from Kehr. There was a moment when Kehr looked like he was about to blow again but finally, he drew breath deeply and spoke.
"Back at the end of '15 I was with my unit on the eastern front. I can't remember the name of the village we were near. I could never pronounce those Ukrainian place names" Kehr smiled thinly as he began.
Edward listened intently as Kehr described what happened next. Kehr's unit had been ordered to round up the villagers, roughly 100 old men, women and children. They were ordered to take them into the rear whilst the village was fortressed up as a strongpoint. Kehr continued and told of how, after marching them roughly 2 miles, they were ordered to stop. The Hauptman in charge of Kehr's unit then ordered the villagers to be lined up as if for an inspection. The Hauptman then ordered two platoons, including Kehr's, to form up in front of the villagers. Kehr's platoon leader, now realising what was about to happen, challenged the Hauptman. The Hauptman destroyed the Leutnant with a tyrannical tirade of abuse and threats.
Two of the villagers, a man of about 50 and a young girl, maybe 15, also now realised what was about to happen and tried to run. The Hauptman raised his pistol and shot both of them dead as they ran.
Kehr described the inevitable rest to Edward who had sat in silence throughout. "You see Edward! I hate myself, I hide it under silly jokes and overbearing ways but it's there.....constantly." finished Kehr. Edward, shocked but now at least informed, was able to explain this to Leutnant Wald. Kehr was removed from duties and a report sent advising immediate referral to a medical unit.
On the 13th, the flying resumed. Edward was on his way to the lines to the south of Nieuwpoort again to ascertain enemy positions. All went well until Edward was about to turn and head for home. Bullets tore into the wings of the DFW and Edward instinctively rolled into the direction of the attack. A Nieuport, with British markings zoomed past.
Edward, threw the cumbersome two seater around for all it was worth. He could hear the rattle of the enemy's Lewis gun from time to time but the pilot was either a poor shot or Edward's maneuvers were working. Momentarily Hasse was able to get a burst at the enemy aircraft. The englischer now made a fatal error.
He tried to run. Edward now rolled around behind the fleeing Nieuport and blasted him. Clearly the enemy pilot did not know about the DFW's armament. Another burst and Hasse watched the enemy roll over into the ground about a kilometre from the German front lines.
After a delay of roughly 24 hours, Edward's victory was confirmed thanks to a report from the sector commander. He now had four confirmed victories.
After more missions, including Edward (and Hasse's) first use of a wireless system and more days missed thanks to the weather, Edward scored his fifth victory.
On a trip towards Ypres, Edward and Wald spotted a fornation of enemy Caudrons. Edward instinctively went after them.
He targeted the leader and came up beneath as Hasse kept the others at bay from the rear. He blasted the french machine and another burst had the right engine in flames.
Edward continued after the now stricken Caudron and a final burst had both the gunner and pilot slumped and the enemy aircraft heading straight down into the ground.
Wald confirmed this one himself and a raucous evening was had, celebrating Edward's fifth victory.
epower – What a brilliant start to your new career. I see that this campaign has sent you down numerous new historical rabbit holes and I can't wait to see what the future will bring. A hearty welcome to Felix Moore!
Albert – Edward is certainly making a name for himself flying that DFW as if it were the latest vee-strutter! Excellent story and an outstanding group of photographs. I particularly liked the last one with the Caudron.
After a bit of time away from my WOFF computer, I am finally caught up again and able to post Douglas's next instalment…
"By the time I completed my turn, flames were licking back from the Roland’s engine and it began its final dive."
Thursday, 22 February 1917. Furnes aerodrome, Belgium.
We replaced No. 1 Squadron RNAS at Furnes. This aerodrome is located a few miles over the border from France into Belgium, not far from the coast between Dunkirk and Nieuport. Our job here will be somewhat more naval than it was at Vert Galant – patrolling the coast up to Ostend, defending against incoming raiders, attacking enemy captive balloons, and only occasionally patrolling the front. We have a Belgian squadron across the fields and two French reconnaissance squadrons nearby. We will also provide escort to the French. The frontline between us and the Germans is held by Belgians and the French 29th Division.
After arriving here on 15 February, snow and high winds prevented flying for a couple of days. We could not even get our bearings. After we were settled in and had completed the many bits of “busy work” we were assigned, Soar, Simpson, Huntington the Insufferable, and I received permission to have dinner in town. Normally that would have meant the supposedly beautiful and historic nearby town of Veurnes, but the Belgian King had briefly taken up residence there and, although he had moved on, we military types were not allowed into town so as not to provoke the Huns. Veurnes is still within range of their largest guns. Instead we headed for La Panne. This is a somewhat smaller town, a seaside resort. Strangely, it’s also where the Belgian royals have now taken up residence. We are allowed there because it seems not to matter so much if the Kaiser smashes this place up instead of Veurnes. In any event, we found a very pleasant hotel restaurant on the Grand Place where we had a wonderful feed of mussels and chips along with some really first-rate beer.
Over dinner, Reggie Soar confided that he had received a lovely letter from a girl he didn’t know. Reggie was good friends with Galbraith before the latter was packed off to England just before New Year’s. “Just before he left,” Reggie said, “doesn’t he tell me that his sister back in Canada is now working as a nurse in London and she has offered to have her nurse friends write to any lonely aviator he knew. So we picked me, he did. Right chuffed about it I am.” And then Reggie pulled out his letter from a young woman named Grace and read it to us. It was touchingly sweet and sincere.
“I’m writing back this evening,” Reggie said. “Who’s up for a pen friend? I’ll see if Grace has anyone who will write you lot.”
Simpson and I immediately volunteered for an epistolary courtship. I watched Huntington over the rim of my beer glass. His eyes lit up for a moment at the prospect before he protested loudly that he could not betray his beloved Eliza. That cinched it for me. I doubted very much that Eliza actually existed. And an idea began to form.
On 17 February I slept in as I was not scheduled for a patrol. But around ten in the morning our ship’s bell began clanging away – enemy machines were in sight! I pulled on breeches and my monkey jacket over my pyjamas and ran as quickly as I could from our hut to the Bessonneau where the mechanics were already priming the engine of my Tripe. Machines were rolling in every direction on this nearly windless day as I lifted off. The Triplane climbed sharply as I scanned the cold blue skies. A few pale puffs of Archie in the direction of Bray-Dunes provided me with the needed direction. In a few minutes I was already approaching 8000 feet. Then I spotted the prey. A pair of two-seaters were turning eastward over the coast and one was lagging behind the other. By this time I was all alone, still climbing. I fired three or four rounds to warm the Vickers gun. It took another ten minutes to reach the straggler.
The Hun machine was a Roland. It had not yet seen me as I approached beneath its tail. Three hundred, two hundred, one hundred yards. It was a lovely machine. The underside was pale blue and the upper works were green. There was some kind of symbol on the fuselage – crossed swords or perhaps cross machine guns. Crossed something in any event. At fifty yards I could wait no longer. I fired a long burst into the belly of the Roland. I could see the observer leaning over the side and trying to angle his machine gun downward. I turned away quickly to the opposite side and then banked sharply in order to approach again from behind and below.
There was no point. By the time I completed my turn, flames were licking back from the Roland’s engine and it began its final dive. There was no question about this one. The long black trail of smoke it left behind was visible all the way to Dunkirk and this, my seventh victory, was on the books before I landed.
The weather turned wintry again and we planned another visit to La Panne. But first I needed a quiet word with Simpson…
Raine - So Bell-Gordon and chums are following Belgian royalty around? At least it ended with a sumptuous meal, 'Moules et Frites' followed by a tasty 'biere', the staple food of Belgium. A professional job on that Roland. They are not easy, even when flown passively, one false move and you get a mouthfull of lead. It seems like your man has a plan to uncover Huntington. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.
5 confirmed victories (3 unconfirmed victories)
20th February to 25th February 1917
Edward watched as Kehr was led towards the waiting ambulance. Kehr looked sad but calm. Leutnant Wald was also there and was talking to another officer who was holding the paperwork Wald had just given him.
Just as Kehr neared the ambulance he stopped and looked at Edward. Kehr beckoned Edward towards him and Edward drew near. "Thank you for your help meine freund" said Kehr and grasped Edward's hand. "I resisted far too much, but you managed to get the truth from me, like a doctor draws the poison from a wound." Kehr continued.
"Now the wound can heal" said Edward, smiling. "Get yourself sorted and then you can return freund." finished Edward.
"I shall!" finished Kehr and with that he entered the ambulance.
Edward flew a relatively uneventful mission that afternoon, directing the artillery fire along the enemy held road towards Bailleul.
Bad weather was still hampering the flying however and the next two days were lost. During the afternoon of the 22nd however Leutnant Wald received an unexpected visitor, Oberleutnant Gotthard Sachsenberg.
The adjutant showed Saschenberg into Wald's small and simple office and closed the door.
"Guten tag, Oswald, I hope you don't mind me calling on you unannounced!" Said Saschenberg as he sat down.
"Not at all Gotthard, it is always a pleasure. It seems so long ago now we were at flight school together." Wald responded.
" Indeed! I remember those trips into the nearby town all too well!" Gotthard smiled broadly as he spoke.
"Me too" responded Wald. He reached into the cupboard underneath his desk and drew out a bottle of Napoleon Brandy. He took two small tumblers from a drawer and placed them down on the desk. He poured two decent measures and handed one to Saschenberg.
"What brings you here?" asked Wald.
"Danke Oswald. I see that Oberflugmeister Reimann now has five confirmed victories?" enquired Saschenberg, although he already knew the response.
"That's correct, he is a fine pilot, we're lucky to have him." responded Wald, taking a decent slurp of his drink.
"Indeed WE are" responded Saschenberg, overemphasising the 'we' considerably.
"Is it not time you allowed him to fulfill his potential flying scouts with my unit?" asked Saschenberg.
Wald's expression tightened slightly but his voice remained clear and calm, "I think that's a decision for me don't you agree Oberleutnant?" responded Wald.
"Of course herr Leutnant, but who's decision it is is irrelevant, it is the decision itself which is important." replied Saschenberg.
Wald found the logic of that statement difficult to counter so sidestepped it with an equally unequivocal statement, "We two-seater staffels need good pilots too Gotthard. Not just the jastas." said Wald.
"Indeed Oswald, but it would be wrong to hold another's promise in check simply to prove a point, don't you agree!" continued Saschenberg, deliberately stoking the flames with a provocative statement.
Wald, flushed momentarily then regained his composure, "You always were a presumptuous twit Gotthard" replied Wald with a hint of intention, despite the smile as he spoke.
"Indeed Oswald, one needs to take chances if one is to reach one's full potential. Maybe that is why you are still a Leutnant in charge of a handful of fellow pilots and beobachters." responded Saschenberg.
"A position I'm more than happy with herr Oberleutnant. I will release Oberflugmeister Reimann from his current duties when I see fit" responded Wald.
"Therein lies the difference between us herr Leutnant and maybe the difference between you and Oberflugmeister Reimann too by chance?" responded Saschenberg, finishing his drink and rising from his chair.
Wald looked a little miffed, "Did Oberflugmeister Reimann initiate this approach?" asked Leutnant Wald.
"Not at all, this visit is purely off the record Oswald. I'm simply stating what we both know to be true. Reimann has excellent potential and can best fulfill this, to the betterment of himself and the fatherland with us at MFJI." finished Saschenberg.
The Oberleutnant saluted and Wald responded. "Auf weidersehn, herr Leutnant" said Saschenburg, who duly left.
The following day Edward was on a reconnaissance down towards the Bailleul lines again. All seemed well until Hasse spotted flak bursts and three winged shapes closing in with the sun at their backs. "Enemy schwein! Behind and closing" shouted Hasse, as he cocked his weapon.
Edward bided his time and left it to the last moment to throw his aircraft to the left. The ploy worked and a Triplane zoomed past the DFW. Edward pulled every move to keep the enemy at bay, until purely by chance, the Triplane appeared directly in front of Edward, albeit momentarily.
Edward fired a quick burst into his assailant who now made a dart for his own lines.
Edward, with no hope of following, turned for home and landed safely some time later.
26th February to 5th March 1917
The weather relented enough for a couple of sorties for Edward as the winter chills showed its first signs of ebbing away into spring mildness.
On the 26th, reports of enemy movement north of Ypres had orders for Edward to fly above the area whilst Hasse made detailed notes of anything he could see, troops, equipment, shells, transport....anything that might give a clue as to the enemy's intentions. The orders then stated Edward was to fly low over the local command headquarters and drop the notes for immediate actioning by the brass on the ground. The mission itself passed quietly enough, although 'quiet' is hardly the correct word to use for anywhere around the Ypres salient.
The bag drop by Hasse was completed successfully and both Edward and Hasse were commended on their return to Nieuwmunster. Commended by headquarters that is, not Leutnant Wald. In fact, Leutnant Wald had been rather distant with Edward ever since Oberleutnant Saschenberg's visit a few days previously. Not actually hostile, just distant. Edward shrugged it off at first as he had his hands full with flying but in the evenings in the kasino, the forced silence between the two was being noticed by others.
Ebersbach stated that it was more proof that Wald had been affected by the birth of his child and his enforced absence from it. "Instead of patting you on the back and saying 'well done' for your success, he gets 'insulted' that your success has led to interest from elsewhere!" explained Ebersbach.
On the 27th, Edward, Wald and Ebersbach flew an attack on the Bailleul railyard. The weather was perfect and the flak terrible. All three survived however and considerable damage was done to the rolling stock and storehouses.
On the 28th however, when another attack was planned, this time on the lines south of Nieuwpoort, only Leutnant Wald managed to reach the lines as both Edward and Ebersbach had to abort due to engine faults. In Edward's case it had been quite dicey as the engine had seized as he banked steeply, leaving him sideslipping towards the ground. Thankfully he had enough altitude to pick up enough speed to land safely.
This debacle resulted in a severe dressing down for Chief Engineer Uwe Ziegler. Ziegler, a burly 6 footer from the Hamburg docks, was left crumpled and destroyed by Leutnant Wald's tirade. At one point, both Edward and Ebersbach, who could both hear everything being said, thought about going into Wald's office to save Ziegler further earbashing.
As February gave way to March, the weather put paid to the flying on the 1st and 2nd. On the 3rd however Edward was out on a reconnaissance trip to the lines. As he gained height and levelled out for his short trip to the lines he saw flak bursts over towards Oostende. He then froze as five Neuports emerged, however these Neuports did not attack. Instead they flew on, making steady progress, back towards the lines. Edward now saw that they were two-seaters, Neuport XII's if he remembered correctly.
He throttled up and came up underneath one of the enemy aircraft. Hasse blasted it from below and rhe Neuports split up and tried to give their gunners a shot at Edward. Edward however used his skill to avoid them and come up behind his original target. A long accurate burst had the Neuport nosing down with the pilot slumped and still. The other Neuports now nosed down and ran. Edward let them go and finished his mission.
On his return he completed his report and filed his claim. An hour later Leutnant Wald called Edward to his office. Wald looked stonyfaced as Edward entered. He had paperwork in his hand and briefly looked at it as Edward stood to attention. "I have read your report Oberflugmeister, a satisfactory outcome to the mission requirements it seems." said Wald. "Yes sir, and I was lucky enough to down one of our enemy too." responded Edward.
"Indeed, however I should tell you that your claim has been rejected." continued Wald. Edward looked rather perplexed, "Has the claim been investigated? It was over our side of the lines. Have the local commanders been contacted sir?" asked Edward.
A glimmer of a thin smile cracked Wald's face, "No Oberflugmeister, I have not contacted the local commanders. They have enough to do than chase around Flanders looking for your claims!" said Wald with barely concealed sarcasm.
Edward was about to let loose when Wald moved the paperwork he was holding in front of him. "Your 'new friends' have made a formal request for your immediate transfer to Marine Feld Jasta I. I am instructed to provide a date by which the transfer can be completed!" Wald's tone rose as he finished.
"My 'new friends'? I have no idea what you're referring to or insinuating herr Leutnant" said Edward, rather affronted.
"Oh piffle Edward! You have clearly instigated this and now Oberleutnant Saschenberg is flexing his military muscles by getting headquarters to side with him. Now, if I refuse their request I will have to provide just cause!" berated Wald.
Edward could contain himself no longer "I have no idea why you believe I have anything to do with Oberleutnant Saschenberg's request, or visit the other day! I'm sorry you feel 'affronted Oswald but it has nothing to do with me!" said Edward, forcefully.
"Do not call me by my first name Oberflugmeister, may I remind you that I am still your commanding officer until such time as I see fit to let you go!" responded Wald.
Edward drew breath slowly and calmed himself, he would not allow himself to fall into a trap, even an obvious one like this. If he continued to argue, Wald could have him charged with insubordination and would probably take great pleasure in doing so it seemed.
"That is your perogative.....sir" responded Edward.
There was a long and cutting silence until Wald broke the quiet...."I suppose I will have to let you go, but I'm damned if I'll allow it to disrupt the rest of the unit." said Wald.
"I'm not sure that I understand....sir" said Edward.
Wald did not respond directly and stared out of the window at the darkening skies outside.
"I will arrange your transfer to MFJI as soon as possible Oberflugmeister and until that moment you are on leave! See the adjutant for any transport documents you need!" finished Wald, staring out of the window throughout.
Edward thought about an abrasive response but thought better of it. "As you request....sir" said Edward, who saluted and turned to leave.
Edward arranged travel documents through Belgium and back to Germany with the adjutant. He would leave right away. He barely had time to say goodbye to the rest of the unit. Ebersbach was fuming with Wald but Edward persuaded him not to raise it with the Leutnant. They would meet again someday Edward assured Ebersbach.
Albert – Edward continues his success, even though Wald is doing his best to hold him back. It won't be long now before he has a more satisfactory mount. Watch out for those Tripes!
I have been slammed with work recently and have just completed teaching a two week online course I built for a client. After being away for a fortnight, I'm looking forward to getting a little bit of WOFF time at last. Home is in the countryside an hour north of the city where my office is located. For the last ten years I have been spending much of the work week in town to avoid the commute. Between age and health issues, I'm finally turning over the reins were completely to my business partner and will be working from home to the extent I work at all. That means shifting my WOFF computer back home in the next few weeks. Bell-Gordon will be posting a leave story soon. That will help me get caught up to today's date. Here are the end of February stats.
Flight Lieutenant Douglas Bell-Gordon
End of February 1917
27 February 1917. Furnes, Belgium. Tea at La Panne with Simpson.
The sky was grey, the colour of putty. Wind swept salt spray across the beach and boulevard, speckling the window panes of the seaside hotel tearoom. Wisps of fine snow furled and unfurled across the pavement outside. Simpson poured us each another cup of tea and lit his pipe. He went on about a letter he had received from a young lady in London who had got his name from the sister of our old chum Galbraith. Galbraith was drafted to Eastchurch as an instructor. His sister is over from Canada and working as a nurse in London.
“I could tell Huntington was jealous of Reggie Soar’s getting that first letter from the nurse in England a couple of weeks ago. Then he protested that he could not betray Eliza.” Simpson smiled as he listened to me. Then I asked him, “George, do you think there really is an Eliza? Because I bloody don’t.”
“So, our friend Huntington is going on about a young lady who does not exist? If you are correct, one has to admit it’s a bit pathetic,” he said.
“And bloody irritating,” I added. “The man is a fraud.”
“Come now,” said Simpson. “He has said he was educated at Haberdashers. I went to grammar school. Still, I trained with a fellow at Chingford who went to Habs. Forget the name of the house Huntington said he was in, but I recognised it from the Chingford chap. So, I suppose that much is true.”
“Okay, I’ll grant him that one. Not much else, though. Squadron Commander Bromet is an excellent officer and a true gentleman, but he seems to be totally taken in by this guy. Huntington has six victories chalked up on the board and, if I dare be frank with you, I have serious reservations about at least five of them. The other one I’m just not sure about. Everything about the fellow is a lie.”
Simpson frowned. “Maybe he has a friend at Wing. Certainly you don’t intend to call him out in the wardroom?”
“No, of course not. I’d simply like to have a little cheeky fun with him.”
I laid enough francs on the table to pay for our tea and buns. “I need to find a photograph of a lovely young English girl, about our age. And I’d like to acquire some fine stationery, very feminine and of English manufacture. Can you pull some strings with family or friends back home? You and I, George, are about to build Huntington a new love…”
I fetched our coats from a nearby hook. Simpson was still seated. “Wipe your chin, George,” I said. “You’ve dribbled your tea.”
28 February 1917
We closed out the month with a close offensive patrol forward of the Belgian front up to the coast and a few miles out to sea. The rain and wind had lessened but had not stopped. We landed after two hours, sodden and frozen through, and secure in the knowledge that the Germans were too intelligent to be flying in this muck. D’Albiac, our Records Officer, called me to the squadron office after lunch. To my absolute shock he handed me my travel warrants and other paperwork for nearly two weeks of leave. I’d been in France since October and this was the first real leave I’d had. It was important for me to get it in before spring arrived and the war fighting season began again.
Raine - This Huntington, its hard to tell what's true and what's gobbledegook with him. I'm sure we'll find out more in the coming episodes. A quiet sortie for Douglas and then off on leave. Looking forward to reading his adventures whilst on his jollies.
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