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Raine

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  1. Maeran – poor Le Mesurier has a romantic dilemma. Now we'll see what he's made of. Wonderful episode as always! I've been away from my computer for a week and it's good to be back. Unfortunately the 1916 weather is not aware of my desire to get into the air. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 23 I spent the first day and a half of my leave wandering about London aimlessly, feeling provincial and lonely but enjoying good food and drink and undisturbed sleep at night. More because it seemed like an obligation than a diversion, I took in “The Bing Boys” at the Alhambra. I had heard the tune “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” and did not realise it was from this review until I saw it. “Another Little Drink Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm” was new to me, but it seemed that I heard it everywhere afterward. The British Museum was marvellous, and I enjoyed visiting shops along Regent Street and Oxford Street. As planned, my parents visited the city on the weekend and we traipsed about with our mouths open, taking in all the important sights – Westminster Abbey, the Tower, the bridges, Buckingham Palace, the parks, Harrods and Fortnum’s, not to mention window shopping the elegant jewellers and galleries of Bond Street. They left on Sunday night and the loneliness returned. I went out wandering again on Monday, and bought sausage rolls and ate them in Hyde Park while watching children play football and wealthy folks riding and believing the war to be very far away. It was there that I encountered a chap named Connors with whom I had served during my training at Larkhill. Connors was already a captain and a flight commander with a BE2 squadron. We spoke for a while and arranged to meet for tea later that afternoon at the Lyons tearoom on Piccadilly. The hour spent swilling tea and scoffing cream buns brought me out of my funk. Connors had a wry sense of humour and was full of funny stories about his time in France. His squadron was situated farther south than mine, close to the river Somme, and he had encountered far more air Huns than I had ever seen. One day he had been set upon by two Fokkers who shot the bottom of his machine to shreds. It got to the point that Connors did not trust the floor to support his seat, which felt as though it had come adrift. He made it back to his aerodrome by bracing his feet on the longerons as much as possible when not absolutely needed on the rudder bar. After he landed, he stood to dismount and fell through the bottom of the floor! Jacky Connors knew his way about and informed me that the gathering spot for RFC officers was the Savoy bar. We arranged to meet there at seven for a drink and wander over to the Trocadero for dinner. Connors was staying at the Cavendish on Jermyn Street, so he would meet me at the Piccadilly beforehand. Having somewhere to go with a friend was a wonderful feeling. We met up and strolled toward the Strand, enjoying the warm late afternoon sun. The Savoy bar was the RFC in miniature. The place was rotten with pilots and observers. Connors introduced me to Jimmy the bartender, whose first words were, “23 Squadron? You must know Stephen Price and Harry Wyllie.” Price was one of the squadron veterans and expected to take over command of A Flight when Captain Hargrave comes due for transfer to Home Establishment, I told him. And Wyllie was my own flight commander. Jimmy, it seems, is second only to General Trenchard in his knowledge of and dedication to the flying service. Connors and I met up with two other fellows, a New Zealander named Quayle and a Scot named Reid, both of whom were on BE2s. They were all jealous of my good fortune in piloting a Fee. We enjoyed our dinner at the Troc. It was simple fair – bangers and mash – due to wartime food restrictions. Connors, however, said we would make up for it later if I joined him for a bit of a party at the Cavendish. The woman who runs the hotel was a noted cook who had found favour in the late King Edward (read put it that she “worked mightily under the King”). The good woman was a strong supporter of the RFC and hosted frequent soirées for visiting pilots and bored actresses. The evening at Miss Lewis’s soirée dazzled and alarmed. A baby-faced captain from a scout squadron pronounced himself bartender and held court whilst explaining the latest cocktails. The room was inebriated when we arrived and became more so by the minute. I chatted for a long while with a Canadian who was instructing at Netheravon. Connors excused himself and headed for the lift in the company of a sultry temptress. Miss Lewis sat with me for a while, transparently attempting to pry me out of my shell. She succeeded only in some respects. First, she introduced me to chilled Chablis; then, she urged me to try smoked salmon on dark bread, dressed with onion, capers, and even caviar. It was all quite unlike home and all marvellous. A girl named Jessie sat down next to me. She smiled too much and placed her hand on my knee. It was rather exciting and I began to weigh the benefits and risks of following Connors’ example. In the end, she could not compete with the smoked salmon. Several hours and at least two bottles of Chablis later, I lurched onto the pavement of Jermyn Street. A few footsteps in the wrong direction found me at the entrance to Mason’s Yard, a small square that was home to the office from which the RFC dispatched me to Larkhill. I relieved myself into a drain, turned about, and made my way unsteadily back to the Piccadilly. 21 June 1916 and I have arrived safely back at Le Hameau, too late for dinner but still able to beg the mess steward for some cold roast beef and pickle. Two of the old boys were still about – Webb at the piano and Parker spilling brandy on himself. Parker introduced me to the new commander of B Flight, Captain Gray. Several unfamiliar faces huddled in the threadbare armchairs. Harlowe King, one of our most senior observers, welcomed me back with the news that he and I were now a team. Moreover, we had a photographic reconnaissance patrol at seven forty-five the following morning. I was not upset by this as King had a solid reputation and Miller and I had not yet been together long enough to form a relationship. All the roads here seem busy and I am told that the amount of traffic further south is breathtaking. We all know that a huge push is coming, yet no one knows exactly when. Our flight on 22 June was uneventful. There was no sign of the Hun in the air, and even the Archie merchants seemed to be having a good lie-in. King and I walked into the village for tea in the afternoon. He talked at length about horses and seemed to know his way around the creatures. I had little to no experience with them, and King promised he would see to my education. The squadron typically had three horses at its disposal, all on loan from the cavalry, sent to us for rest (and no doubt for the horses’ amusement). On 24 June, we awoke to the crashing of 20,000 guns, concussions that one felt deep inside one’s chest, even though many miles from the front. After being grounded due to low cloud and rain in the morning, the weather eased somewhat and we were dispatched on another photography show, this one down to Pozieres. We arrived at our intended objective at 6200 feet and were met by an appalling wall of Archie. I steeled myself and ploughed straight ahead. Suddenly, King started waving to me and pointing to the camera. Something was off. The thing was not working properly. I turned and climbed to our right, westward, filled with relief. King and I saw them in the same moment – two yellow Fokker monoplanes heading westward, well below us and off to the left. We forgot the Archie. King fired a momentary burst from the forward Lewis gun to warm it as I throttle back and banked. The Fee descended quickly in sweeping S-turns. The Huns were in line astern, one behind the other, and clearly unaware of our approach. We came up behind and below the rearmost Fokker. King held his fire until we were only fifty yards away. Then he let loose two long bursts. The German machine shed some splinters and scraps of fabric, staggered to its left, and then rolled onto its back and nosed straight down. Its engine remained full on until it struck the ground immediately behind the enemy’s frontline trench. The Huns would be spared the task of burying the pilot. Man and machine smacked into the mud and disappeared. We climbed away amidst a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire from below. The squadron had not claimed a victory for some time. When King and I filed a report, both the recording officer and Major Ross-Hume promised they would do their best to find someone who could corroborate the claim. The next two days passed without a glimpse of sunshine – constant drizzle. The guns continue. Rumours tell us that the push is delayed due to weather. And on top of it all, there has been no confirmation of the Fokker we downed on Saturday.
  2. On the tail of a Fokker.jpg

    From the album Raine

  3. Raine

    Pictures for the DID IV Campaign
  4. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 22 June began without a further word from the squadron commander about my long-overdue leave. Miller took over from Beckwith as my observer and proved to be a reliable sort. He had worked with an accountancy firm in London before the war and exulted in all the force of personality typical of his profession. Still, he was a good man with a camera. It was yet to be seen what he could do with a machine gun. On 7 June, we flew in the morning south toward the Albert-Bapaume road. There we photographed new enemy defensive positions under construction near Courcelette. It was too hazy to obtain good results. On our return, the Major did a poor job of hiding his frustration with our work. In the afternoon we had a taste of something entirely different. The mechanics fitted our machines with racks under the nacelle to hold a load of 20 or 65-pound bombs. Both C and A Flights were dispatched to drop bombs on suspected Hun assembly areas near Delville Wood. It was great fun despite the usual heavy Archie encountered in that location. Unfortunately, it was impossible due to ground haze to determine whether we did much damage. For the next six days, rain and wind prevented our flying. The only exception occurred on 12 June when the Major insisted that Captain Lane send up a reconnaissance patrol. Lane protested that the weather was too poor and that it would be next to impossible for a pilot to find his way down safely, if indeed he managed to take off. Major Ross-Hume would not budge, and so poor Captain Lane went up himself with his observer, Ennis. They disappeared into the low cloud and had not returned after an hour. I stood with a number of others outside the sheds listening for them. At one point, we were sure that we heard a machine circling about somewhere off to the south. After two hours, we made our way to the mess for tea. It was getting on towards five o’clock when we heard that Lane had crashed near Barly. He was fine but Ennis had been badly injured. I heard the Major tell the Recording Officer in the mess that it was a “stout show” by Captain Lane. On 14 June, the weather cleared at last. Miller and I again flew down to the Albert-Bapaume road to take photographs. The Archie was much heavier this day and we took several hits from pieces of shrapnel, one of which caused a fuel leak. I switched off and glided back, putting down in a field southwest of Arras. It was evening by the time we got back to the squadron. Major Ross-Hume called for me as soon as dinner was finished. He told me he had been mindful of my situation and had arranged for a week’s leave. It was difficult to hide my disappointment at such a short break after so long at the front. The Major seemed to think he had done me a great favour and told me he had arranged for me to fly a BE2 back to Farnborough from Saint-Omer in the morning. I wired home that evening that I would be in London on the weekend and hoped that they could meet me there, as I would have little time to make it all the way home. They could leave me a message at the front desk of the Piccadilly Hotel. Major Ross-Hume recommended the place and took care to remind me that officers should always stay at the “right sort of place.” As long as it has a bar, it will be the right sort of place.
  5. Another fuel leak.jpg

    From the album Raine

  6. End of May 1916 stats 2Lt David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Sqn, RFC FE2b Le Hameau, France 116 Missions 123.28 hours 0 claims; 0 confirmed
  7. Maeran – Wonderful to see Le Mesurier back in action after a rainy couple of months. And the mystery man in Nurse Antoniadis's life is revealed! Nice twist. And an even nicer escape from those nasty Fokkers. Hawkwood has been in France for a year now and has yet to see his machine gun fired in anger. In the first week or two back in June 1915, his observer managed to fire four rounds from a Lee Enfield at a ponderous Aviatik. Since then the Huns have left him alone. I hope that is not an indication of his lack of worth. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 21 On 27 May, we flew again for the first time in a week. This time we photographed enemy rail extensions near Drocourt. There was considerable cloud and varying levels of ground haze. The Archie flew loud and heavy and we struggled to capture what exposures we needed. We had all been teasing Beckwith about his complaining that he “was not enjoying this war at all”, so it was no surprise that when we landed he repeated that refrain. Our plates were unsatisfactory, so back we went the following day. Archie was even more frightening, but we managed to obtain the needed photographs and returned to Le Hameau with a great many holes in our poor Fee. This at least had the benefit of keeping us grounded for a day. Beckwith and I were dispatched early on the morning of 30 May 1916 to photograph new works in the Hunnish reserve lines near Pozières, northeast of Albert. I circled over Avesnes-le-Compte while gaining altitude. Beckwith began gesturing upwards and to the right. I looked up and saw three Hun two-seaters passing directly overhead. They had at least 2000 feet of advantage over us and I shook my head. Catching them was impossible. Besides, I did not relish attacking a close formation of three two-seaters all by ourselves. We approached our objective at 7000 feet and searched for an approach free from cloud. As ever, Archie was fierce. On our first pass we managed only a single exposure. As we turned about to have another go, two bursts bracketed our machine. We could hear the searing shrapnel hiss past our heads. Poor Beckwith disappeared onto the floor of the nacelle, reappearing just in time to get a single exposure before we had to turn about for yet another pass. This time we completed our task and turned for home. I put the nose down gently and open the throttle fully. Another three or four bursts came in quick succession. Shrapnel splintered part of the right upper wing spar and knocked the Lewis gun from Beckwith’s hands. The Beardmore began to run roughly, and we noted a trail of vapour behind our machine – a petrol leak. I shut the motor off and angled downwards a bit more sharply. We emerged from a cloud layer. The forward aerodrome at Bellevue appeared only about three miles off to the northwest. Beckwith showed me his left arm. His leather coat had been ripped open above the elbow by a piece of shrapnel, but there was no blood. I asked if he was enjoying his war yet. Even with the motor switched off, he could not hear me over the wind. Our landing would be of necessity a crosswind affair. We were scarcely a half-mile from Bellevue when I realised that I had misjudged the distance and we would be lucky to make the end of the field. Luckily, there were no trees or hedges bordering the aerodrome on the south side. I decided to put the machine down as soon as we were out of airspeed and roll onto the field. Only too late did I notice a two-bar wooden fence across our path, just about where I had planned to touch down. I pulled back on the stick to pass over this obstacle. The Fee shuddered and stalled. The right wing dipped and hit the ground. The machine swung about, ploughing up the soft earth. The centrifugal force of this ground loop probably prevented the giant Beardmore from smashing forward and crushing the two of us. I clambered out, worried about the chance of fire with petrol sloshing about. Beckwith did not move. “Come on, man!” I cried. “You can enjoy your war at leisure once you’re out.” Beckwith emerged and tumbled onto the earth. The nacelle was now resting on the ground. He looked at me and his eyes appeared unfocused. Normally a soft-spoken man, he suggested that I commit a physically impossible and ultimately narcissistic act. We made it back to Le Hameau just in time for dinner that evening. It was a sombre affair. Two men had not returned from a patrol up near Lens. After dinner, I noticed the recording officer speaking with Beckwith, after which the two men left the mess. A bit later, Major Ross-Hume asked me how Beckwith was getting on. I told him that he was a reliable observer and that I thought his real test would come if we met the Hun in the air. The men deserved a chance, I told him. “The chap’s a bit windy, don’t you think?” the Major asked. “Why would you say that, sir?” I replied. “I’m not a fool, Hawkwood, and don’t play me for one. I have sent Beckwith back to the depot. He is of no use to us here. Perhaps he can become an instructor in map-reading or some bloody thing. In any event, you will have the new observer, Miller. Be sure he sorts himself out.” Beckwith’s cot and other kit was gone from our tent by the time I got there. I gathered up Harris and Jamieson and we walked into the village for a drink. We got back around midnight and found Second Lieutenant Thomas Miller sound asleep in Beckwith’s old spot. Miller and I were on for a low-level reconnaissance the following afternoon, which gave us the morning to introduce ourselves over breakfast and do some practice shooting at an aircraft silhouette stretched out on the ground about a mile away. Miller was a New Zealander and worked in a bank before joining up as a gunner. He had volunteered for transfer to the RFC only a couple of weeks before and had the most rudimentary training. Fortunately, he had competent Morse and had received about an hour’s training on the camera. Thus, we were off to war. The gods smiled on us that afternoon, 31 May. The weather was bright and clear. No air Huns appeared. Archie was nearly non-existent. We cruised about near Bapaume while Miller took notes and made sketches. We then dropped our work at the appointed spot and headed home. The Major sent for me and asked for my opinion about Miller. I told them that he had enjoyed an easy introduction. How he would do in the longer term remained to be seen. “May I ask a question, sir?” I asked. The Major nodded. I then told him about my leave having been cut short when I was transferred to 23 Squadron. “It’s now coming into June and I have been out here a year with only three days’ leave. Major Hogg assured me that it would be rectified, but I haven’t heard anything since I came to the squadron.” Major Ross-Hume took this in pensively. “It has been noted, Mr Hawkwood. Carry on.”
  8. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 20 “Bloody hell!” Syd Harris jumped up from his cot, snatched his blanket bag, and ran outside the tent. There he stood, shaking the bag and cursing. “Earwigs, bloody earwigs. They’re everywhere.” Jamieson, his observer, was sitting outside and was convulsed in laughter. “Glad you’re enjoying the wildlife, old boy. Now that it’s cockchafer season, the creatures with whom we share our billet come in airborne models as well. All we need now are some genuine trench rats to complete the menagerie.” The sun was going down on another wet day in France, and the frogs in the low-lying sections of the wood behind the sheds had begun their evening serenade. Beckwith spoke up. “I’m not enjoying this war at all.” It was mid-May and we had flown only twice in the past week. Day after day, the rain fell in sheets and the wind blew hard and cold from the north. The four of us huddled in our circular tent, escaping from a mess that was no longer relaxed and collegial. There were tensions in the squadron. My flight commander, Captain Wyllie, harboured a special distaste for the squadron commander. In turn, Major Ross-Hume reciprocated the feeling, and it seemed to colour his view of all Wyllie’s C Flight. Beckwith and I had done some good work this week, but it passed without notice. On 17 May, we were ordered up despite low cloud and rain. There was no point in bringing a camera. Instead we patrolled our assigned sector and looked for anything of interest. It did not take long for the German Archie and ground gunners to make their presence felt. Twice I turned away toward our lines to get a brief respite from the hundreds of greasy black shell bursts that welcomed us. On my third attempt to patrol over the German reserve trenches, our Fee was nearly thrown on its side by a near miss. Beckwith caught himself just in time to avoid an involuntary departure from the nacelle. Then our engine began clanking and groaning. I turned toward home, and not a moment too soon. Very soon afterward, the engine gave up the ghost and we glided westward into a headwind, just managing to find a field behind our lines and southeast of Bethune. I clambered down and called for Beckwith to join me. For a minute or two he sat like a sphinx in the front of the machine. When he finally appeared, I could see that he had tears running down his face. We found a nearby battalion of the Glosters. They posted a guard on the aeroplane while we walked to the nearest village, where the parish priest let us use a telephone to call the squadron. Then we found an estaminet and I plied Beckwith with brandy until he was quite recovered. We flew again on 19 and 20 May, both times doing photography over the Hunnish lines. On the latter date, we managed to get excellent images on nearly all our plates. It was enough to receive an appreciative grunt from the commanding officer. After that, we were grounded for about a week by bad weather. We have been given our share of busywork. I pulled duty officer twice and took my turn cutting grass in the rain. We treasure the nights when the Major is away at a conference or something. Then we have a true “binge.” Spratt is our squadron pianist and we have a number of good voices and comic personalities. Back in the tent, Harris, Jamieson, Beckwith, and I attempt to drive off the insects with cigarette smoke and tell stories until sleep overtakes. Harris is the most interesting personality. He went to Canada to prospect for gold and, finding none, wandered down to the United States and joined their army in time to fight in the Philippines and in China. So now he is onto his third war. I plan to enquire about my leave. Everyone seems to have forgotten that my first home leave was cancelled after only three days when I was transferred to 23 Squadron. At the time, Major Hogg, our old commander, promised it would be made up to me. No one seems to have written that down anywhere.
  9. Heavy Archie in the rain.jpg

    From the album Raine

  10. Things have gotten quiet here with all the bad weather in April and May. Hope to hear from you all soon! I'm sure we will be getting much busier as summer approaches and the offensive looms. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 19 The foul weather of April became the foul weather of May. Even Major Ross-Hume conceded that the conditions precluded flight for several days at the beginning of the month. Finally, on 4 May, we were given the task of photographing a section of the lines well south of Arras. Edmund Beckwith, my new observer, seemed up for the task. He had busied himself for several days practising with the camera and our few available wratten filters. This morning, however, proved difficult. Layers of cloud and haze obscured the ground, and we were required to circle about at length until there was enough of an opening to get our exposures. All this while the Hun Archie was making himself thoroughly unpleasant. Upon our return, the photography section informed us that our plates were too indistinct to be of much use. The Major caught wind of this and sent us back up shortly after noon – in fact, just in time to miss our luncheon. So we spent another lovely couple of hours circling about and waiting for a gap in the clouds. We got one good chance at it, but again the plates proved to be of little value. We returned to Le Hameau and gave a report, only to have a strip torn off us. Then the rain returned. It continued through until 9 May 1916. On that day we were ordered out to do a low-level reconnaissance despite rain, gusty winds, and a 500-foot ceiling. We patrolled the rail lines around Bapaume and took some heavy ground fire. After one particularly nasty burst of machine-gun fire from a hillside position, I muttered “Bugger this for a game of soldiers” to myself and climbed into the cloud. The next five minutes were nerve-wracking. I stared at the bubble on the attitude indicator and watched my speed carefully to ensure that we continue to climb. If we got a wing down in this position or slipped into a stall, there would not be enough time to correct the mistake after we fell into clear air beneath the clouds. At length, we climbed out above the bottom layer of clouds, but still below another layer higher up. I turned north. Scarcely had we levelled off when three aeroplanes appeared no more than a thousand yards away, ahead of us into the right – Fokker monoplanes! Back into the cloud we went, levelling off when it seemed that we would no longer be visible. When the compass settled, I turned just north of northwest and held course for twenty minutes before beginning a descent. The descent was a nightmare – moisture running off the windscreen and the edge of my goggles with nothing but grey in front. Suddenly a line of trees appeared directly ahead. I hauled back on the stick. The Fee staggered over a small wood that crowned a hillock and dipped down the other side. After about another three minutes at treetop height, we passed over a rail line running roughly east and west. On the off chance that it was the line that ran south of Hameau, I decided to follow it. Our good fortune held, and we soon found our way home. When we landed, I learned that Beckwith had not seen the Fokkers at all. He seemed a bit shaken by the experience. To my surprise, the squadron commander accepted our explanation for abandoning the patrol near Bapaume. Our machine had about twenty holes in it, so I suppose they stood as evidence in support of our report. Having missed lunch, I suggested to Beckwith that we wash up and take a wander into town for a bite. No sooner had we left the aerodrome then he turned to me nervously. “I’m not like you, Hawkwood. I’m not at all sure I am up for this sport.” I looked at him quizzically. He continued. “It’s not at all as I thought it would be. I fancied that the excitement of flying would overwhelm the fear. But I’m afraid, Hawkwood.” “Everyone is afraid,” I offered. “No. What I’m saying is that I’m scared to death all the time. For men I knew killed themselves just in the past week by flying into the ground in bad weather. And the Archie last week – we had no fewer than four very near misses. And then today when the machine guns splattered us with rounds, not to mention coming face-to-face with three Fokkers. And I didn’t see them, Hawkwood! I didn’t see them at all. We could have been shot down in flames and I would go to my grave not knowing what had happened. Then we damn near the hit those trees on the hillside. It’s all too rotten. It really is.” “I suppose I should tell you that you’ll get used to it,” I said. “But that’s a lie. I have been out here since last June and I’m still not used to it at all. There is no way that you lose the fear. You simply learn to tame it. You put it in a box. You lock the box. Then you hide the box under your bed. If it starts to peek out you make a joke, take a walk with a friend, but you kick the box back under the bed. That’s all you can do if you want to live with yourself.” Beckwith was silent for a long time. We arrived at the estaminet, ordered a vin blanc with an omelette and chips and smoked cigarettes while we waited. I could see that Beckwith had tears welling up in his eyes. He took out a handkerchief and pretended to blow his nose while surreptitiously daubing his eyes. “I’ll try,” he said. “I know you will. Good man. Oh, I say, here come our omelettes.” We flew twice during the next three days, and Beckwith held up well. On one day, we were told at dinner that the corps commander had relayed his appreciation for our work over his sector. Major Ross-Hume even made a point of mentioning that at dinner.
  11. On Workshop Options

    I understand that there is a time limit for editing, after which you can no longer go back. If you pay for a subscription, I believe it is removed. Also, there may be different levels of time limit depending on your status in the forums. Someone else may be able to clarify this better than I.
  12. Maeran – good to see that Le Mesurier and May made it back alive, if not in one piece. Nurse Antoniadis is intriguing! War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 18 We have lost our squadron commander, Major Hogg, who has been promoted and posted back to England as a Wing Commander. In his place for the past several days has been our new gaffer, Major Ross-Hume. The new “old man” has made quite the first impression. He ordered a full squadron parade on a day when the ack emmas were crushed with work thanks to the splendid shooting of the Hun Archie merchants on our regular beat. Then, to top it off, just as we were ordered to “fall in the officers”, a nasty black cloud emerged from the southwest. The skies opened and we damn nearly drowned while the silly sod strolled up and down the ranks inspecting the lads. When we finally marched off the field through the cloying mud, he retired to his office, but not before ordering the Recording Officer to ensure that we took all the mud off our shoes before entering the mess. That evening at dinner, Major Ross-Hume informed us that we could expect to become much smarter and more effective under his leadership. It was announced that he would brook no excuse for failing to accomplish our assigned tasks. And then, just as we thought he would lighten the atmosphere by standing a round of after-dinner drinks, he announced that by the following week all officers currently billeted in the village would return to the aerodrome and be under canvas “now that spring is upon us.” Even as he spoke, we could hear from across the field canvas flapping in the unrelenting wind. On 26 April 1916, we finally got back in action. The squadron commander has reassigned observers, and I have a new officer named Beckwith assigned to me. He is painfully quiet and shy. Because he has now occupied the space in my tent previously used by Hazard, it will be something of a project to bring him out of his shell. Anyway, Beckwith and I went out together for the first time to do a close observation of a new section of third line trenching near Boyelles. The local Archie gave us a warm reception and I thought Beckwith stood up reasonably well. He had a death grip on each side of the nacelle and stared straight ahead the whole time. Still, he came out of his trance when we turned and dived west to drop our notes. Back up on 28 April. This time we got a perfunctory “good job” from the Major, as we delivered a number of good plates at the end of our patrol. After that, the weather closed in again. Then on 30 April, the squadron got a call from Wing asking about conditions. Was a check of the area around Mory possible, they asked. We had a light ground mist and a solid blanket of cloud at 500 feet. Drizzle blew up into rain and faded back to drizzle. Even if we were able to find our way to Mory, it would be difficult to navigate back if conditions worsened at all, and our reconnaissance would have to be conducted at a ridiculously low level over the front. We were ordered to go up despite this. I protested to the RO that there was a great deal of risk for probably no reward. It did no good. As we prepared to leave, I explained to Beckwith that we would follow orders but not spend a second more over the lines than was absolutely necessary. Be prepared, I told him, for my report upon our return to be – shall we say – enhanced. The outbound flight was thoroughly miserable. The rain soaked us, and the wind buffeted the machine terribly. Beckwith stood up to it better than I, for I became violently airsick. The cockpit of the Fee is a bit too wide to vomit over the side when tightly strapped in. As a consequence, I came to appreciate the driving rain for its efficiency in cleaning my leather coat. Archie was absolutely horrifying. When a shell bursts very close, one sees the flash and hears the buzz of shrapnel. The smell of cordite penetrates one’s nostrils. And shells were bursting right in front and beside us for about two minutes. As soon as we crossed the Huns’ second line, I climbed into the cloud above and gingerly began a leisurely turn with very little bank until I was fairly sure we were pointed westward again. When the compass settled at last, we were in fact heading southwest. We continued for fifteen minutes, then descended and found the terrain unfamiliar. I turned due west and flew for ten more minutes while searching for landmarks. Beckwith spotted a town off to our left and we approached it at 300 feet. The closer we drew, the larger the town seemed. Then I noticed the nearby hills, which seemed familiar. On one of the hills bordering the town there were earthworks and stone walls – the citadel of Doullens! We change course for the north and followed trusted landmarks to find Le Hameau again. The ground mist had not intensified, and we put the machine down about ninety minutes after we had left. That afternoon, Captain Wyllie sought me out and we took a stroll in the rain to have tea in the village. Wyllie has had a run-in with the new boss and swears he has the worst eye for weather of any man in the RFC.
  13. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 17 We were grounded by bad weather for more than a week. Major Hogg finally gave up trying to create nasty little jobs for us to do and decided to hit it for six by laying on an “escape and evasion” exercise. The concept was simple. We were issued boiler suits from a supply that was being taken out of service. The things were threadbare and smelled of oil, and their labels told us they were “Suits, Combination, Jean, Blue.” We were to be dropped off in pairs after dark all over the countryside and had to make our way back to the squadron without being “captured” by a marauding battalion of Canadian infantrymen equipped with electric torches. Our own NCOs and other ranks also played baddies and manned the perimeter of the aerodrome. Any man order to stop when a torch was shone in his face was considered in the bag. He would be bound and gagged and hauled off to a hangar at the aerodrome to be “interrogated” by the disciplinary sergeant major and the recording officer, both of whom had merrily donned German helmets and greatcoats for the occasion. Hazard and I were paired for the show. We had very little time to prepare. I ran over to the blacksmith’s shop and found a couple of leather aprons hanging on a wall. These I tucked into my boiler suit. Then it was back to the tenders and off into a cold, dark, drizzly night. The canvas was drawn shut as we bounced along the local roads. I tried to register and memorise each turn. The best Hazard and I could do was to estimate that we were somewhere north and probably west of the aerodrome. Every five or ten minutes, the tender slithered to a stop and two more of us were ordered down into the mud. Hazard and I were the last to dismount. We watched as the tender disappeared along a farm lane. After that there was just the patter of rain and the chill wind. We sought to get our bearings. Clouds obscured the stars. “I recall that in Boy Scouts we were told moss grows on the north side of trees,” said Hazard. All we could make out were flat fields of potatoes or turnips or something agricultural. No trees. Definitely no moss. “If there were a hill, we could climb it and get our bearings,” I ventured. But there were no hills. Hazard produced a cigarette case and a lighter. We huddled in a sodden ditch for a smoke. Far off in the distance we spotted the light of a torch and some furtive figures. A pair of our colleagues being put in the bag. We stubbed out cigarettes and discussed which way to walk. Hazard kicked my foot and pointed to the sky off to our right. “It may be my imagination,” he said, “but are the clouds over in that direction just a little bit lighter than everywhere else?” I conceded that he had a point and that they may be reflecting the lights of a town. The only significant towns this distance from the aerodrome were Saint-Pol to the northwest and Doullens to the south-west. The road from Arras to Saint-Pol ran southeast and northwest. If we walked toward the reflective clouds we should hit it. Sure enough, after about twenty minutes we heard the sound of motor vehicles a little ahead and to our left. We veered right and made our way through a wheatfield, eventually emerging onto a lane that led up a low rise. At the top, we saw a town about a mile off. Getting into the town involved wading over a muddy brook, as we did not want to risk the main roads. A signpost confirmed that we were entering Saint-Pol. We passed close by an abattoir and I stopped to take out the blacksmith’s aprons I had been carrying. “If we put these on, we might pass as tradesmen at first glance.” We removed our RFC split-arse caps and wandered into town bareheaded. We had not gone far before we encountered a working man’s café. Hazard had the presence of mind to keep his wallet with him, so in we went and ordered coffee and brandy. The locals eyed us suspiciously for a time, until Hazard explained in his good French that we were British aviators on a silly exercise. Then everyone became very friendly and we relaxed. Five minutes later, however, a local policeman showed up and said he had heard about two possible German spies. He demanded our identification. Hazard explained the circumstances as we showed our paybooks. The policeman advised us that we had no chance of making it through the town as there were British officers everywhere. He then sat down with us and accepted a coffee. The policeman suggested that we would blend in better if we wore caps, so Hazard coughed up a few francs to buy two blue workmen’s caps from the chaps at the next table. Now we looked a bit more the part. We discussed our options. Walking across country in the rain seemed a fine way to catch pneumonia. In the end, I promise to repay Hazard for my share of the expenses and we bought a bottle of brandy from the old woman who ran the bar. With the bottle tucked into the pocket of my boiler suit, we made our way back outside, trying our best to look like two hard-working fellows heading home after an evening shift. But everywhere we turned, there were groups of British soldiers or officers. A column of artillery caissons and guns was halted in the street, their horses shivering and neighing. We crossed over. Suddenly, Hazard stepped into the road and climbed onto the running board of a Leyland lorry. Our bottle of brandy turned the corporal-driver into a willing confederate. Hameau was just a little outside his route to Arras. Hazard and I huddled low in the passenger side of the front compartment until the lorry turned onto the side road through the village to the aerodrome. We rolled through the gate without interference, but a moment later were flagged down by two Canadians. Our driver was up to the challenge. “Where do I find the kitchens for the officers’ mess?” he demanded. “These two Froggies are supposed to fix a sink that has backed up.” Two minutes later I was signing a chit in the mess for a couple of double whiskies. Apparently, we were the first to make it back successfully.
  14. Hasse – Auguste in the thick of it! Splendid episode about his transfer to Vadelaincourt. Then, just as I was looking forward to the first of many Verdun stories, he earns his wooden cross. WOFF is sometimes too true to life. My condolences, and I hope to see you flying under a new name very soon. Lederhosen – I hope you are feeling better and have no lingering side effects. Get well soon! Wulfe – You made me want to put on my coat and head for the Vieux Moulin myself. Great episode. I share Fairclough’s concern about the intensity of Archie these days. If we stay on photographic reconnaissance much longer, we will be certain to catch a packet. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 16 "We had scarcely gained our own lines when the engine packed up totally and we glided and slipped into a field southwest of Arras." After a week of filthy weather, we were back in action at last on 3 April. Several more cameras had arrived at the squadron, and we started a steady diet of photographic reconnaissance work over the lines. Our orders required photography of sectors from up near Lens all the way south to the Somme. Speculation in the mess suggested that our summer offensive would be in the south; two thirds of our patrols were taking us in that direction. On 3 April, I flew with a new observer named King, Hazard being grounded with a case of conjunctivitis. We were down near Miraumont when we were closely bracketed by Archie. The engine began running roughly and we leaked fuel. I immediately headed northwest. We had scarcely gained our own lines when the engine packed up totally and we glided and slipped into a field southwest of Arras. The two of us were back up the following day. This time we had good success and King was deservedly congratulated on the quality of his work. We could now obtain quick assessments of our photography jobs. Photographic development is being decentralised. Instead of running all our plates over to Wing or even Brigade, we now have a small hut at the edge of the field where two or three photo section troglodytes spend their days and nights developing prints. I passed some time there when the weather turned poor again later in the week. Quite apart from the chemical wizardry involved in producing prints, there is a real science to absorbing information about the enemy from good photographs. I learned how to identify narrow cable trenches that often led to enemy headquarter positions. Ammunition trolley lines are a focus of attention. Narrow and easy to miss, they help one determine possible jumping-off points for future attacks. Everything on the ground seems to tell a story to those with a practised eye. On 7 April 1916, we flew twice, our work however hampered by low cloud and haze. Several more days of rain then grounded us until 10 April. It was during this time that I read in the papers from home about the nonsense in Parliament being preached about the Royal Flying Corps. The politicians would have one believe that we are being marched off to the slaughterhouse by ignorant generals and lazy civil servants, simply because the BE2 is now outclassed in air-to-air combat and because our fighting machines engage the Hun deep over their own territory. For one, the Navy has locked up most of the aircraft production in England, leaving the RFC with the Royal Aircraft Factory. The BE2 was a splendid machine for its time and did exactly what it was asked to do when it was designed. The war is simply forcing us to develop new machines more quickly than our industry seems capable. As for engaging the Hun deep over their own lines, every soldier on the ground and every civilian looking to the skies in England wants their own personal de Havilland scout directly overhead. It’s an understandable feeling, but I tend to agree with the higher powers that want to keep the enemy buttoned down behind his own lines. Of course it makes life difficult for the RFC pilots, for whom a mechanical failure or even light damage can mean captivity, and who must make their way painfully homeward against the prevailing westerly wind. But our offensive strategy permits King and I to parade up and down the front line taking photographs and making notes and sending messages to the artillery, and we have scarcely seen a Fokker in the course of our duty. On 10 April, we went up twice – morning and afternoon. The sector we were assigned to photograph was up north near Bethune. Given the pattern we have seen, it was hard not to think that we were being put in danger as a mere diversion. King did a fine job and kept his head despite some troublesome Archie. When we were back in the mess, I complimented him on his work. “I jolly well hope I kept my wits about me,” he said. “The zephyr vertical does no one any good in this business.”
  15. Putting down near Arras.jpg

    From the album Raine

  16. End of March stats 2Lt David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Le Hameau, France FE2b 79 missions 99.21 hours 0 claims / 0 confirmed.
  17. Lederhosen – Enno has certainly put up some good numbers in a short period of time. Wulfe – Enjoying Fairclough’s story so far. I expect you’ll be busy once the weather breaks. Chives – A hearty welcome to Sergeant Watson! Best of luck on your first trip over the lines. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 15 Sunday, 19 March 1916 – The Wing padre held a service outside B Flight shed at 9 AM. It was quite unlike Sunday at Saint Peter and Saint Paul back in Tring. For one, the padre had some pulpit. An FE2 was pulled up to the door of the shed and he officiated the entire service from the nacelle, looking down at us gathered about. After a few obligatory prayers and hymns, the old boy invited us to relax and have a smoke and then gave a most humorous rendition of the parable of the good Samaritan. The fellow had spent some time in Scotland and told the tale as if it were about a street robbery in Glasgow. We could not have been the most devout congregation he had preached to, but after a half hour of this we were eating out of the palm of his hand! Hazard and I were then off on a photographic reconnaissance patrol. Once again, the German Archie was intense. We did the best we could, but there was a heavy ground haze, and I don’t suppose our prints were very good. After that we had two days of heavy snow with no flying. Finally, on 25 March, we were sent back up to take more photographs of the Hun reserve lines. On our second pass over our objective, a shell burst very close, just ahead into our right. Hazard was grazed on his left upper arm and our petrol line was holed. We were at 7000 feet, and I immediately turned west. The engine gave out as we crossed our lines. We glided as far as a field near Warlus and put the machine down safely. That was it for us the rest of the month. By afternoon, the snow had resumed and for the next week the cold cut to the bone. Flying was out of the question. The only consolation was that we were ordered to vacate our tents and billeted in the nearby village. Hazard and I were inflicted upon a poor old grandmother who, joyously, lived next door to one of the two estaminets, where we indulged in vin blanc with omelettes and chips. Some war!
  18. From the album Raine

  19. Hasse, It would be perfectly fine to recreate your pilot and add the hours from the previous installation to his log manually. I have done that myself. When my pilot was commissioned from the ranks I needed to transfer him from 4 Squadron to 23 Squadron by 15 March 1916. Unfortunately, the in-game transfer process seemed to drag on for weeks and my hopes of a brief leave for the pilot before re-emerging at 23 Squadron as an officer were vanishing. In the end, and after discussion with epower, I simply created a new pilot with the same first name and family name, but nearly a middle initial. My new pilot began as a second lieutenant and had veteran status (as my old pilot had about 100 hours in the air). From now on, my stats will be computed manually. I did this as well as in the last campaign in order to allow my pilot to be transferred to Home Establishment. Cheers, Raine
  20. V 1.21 also adjusts the frequency of ops so that in the early war, you may not be sent on patrol every day. It will get busy soon enough.
  21. Wulfe – It is a joy to see you back for this campaign. I’m looking forward to reading more about Charles in your excellent and evocative stories. It seems he has scored a very jazzy billet! He is a lucky man. War Journal – 2nd Lieutenant David Armstrong Hawkwood 23 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Izel-lès-Hameau, France Part 14 "What astounded me most was the intensity and accuracy of the Archie in this sector." On arrival in Boulogne, I enquired of the disembarkation officer where I might place a telephone call to my squadron. The fellow asked my name and then pointed at awaiting automobile. “Ask him,” he grunted, motioning towards a corporal standing watch over the motor car. I discovered to my delight that the squadron had received my telegram from London and the OC had dispatched his driver and personal vehicle to pick me up. It was a long and tiring drive, made bearable by a lunch stop in Hesdin and the humorous prattle of Corporal Whittle, the driver, who had made his living behind the wheel of a taxi in London until last year. At first I was convinced we were taking the wrong road. Then corporal Whittle informed me that the squadron left Saint-Omer this morning, bound for Fienvillers down near Amiens. We arrived at this new aerodrome at half past three, and I was deposited in front of the squadron office. There I met my new commanding officer, Major Hogg. This gentleman was a genuine burra sahib, having served in the artillery in India and done a stint as the assistant military secretary to the King Emperor for several years. The good major was taken aback by the fact that I had never flown an FE2. He took me outside and looked at the sky. It had darkened noticeably since my arrival. “You’ll be in Captain Wyllie’s flight. Find C Flight shed and have them prepare a machine for you to take up. I shall send Captain Wyllie to meet you there.” The Fee was a giant beast compared to the little Quirk I was used to. A rigger named Simpkins talked me through some of the basics. While I was listening to him, Captain Wyllie approached and introduced himself. He was a pleasant fellow and a great deal older than I expected. He must have had fifteen years on me. We walked about the machine. One could pass beneath its wings merely by stooping. I examined the oleo undercarriage, which was a novelty. The moment of truth was upon me. Wyllie guided my movements as I climbed to the cockpit, stepping from wheel to step to wing root to a higher step and then inside. Wyllie followed and clambered into the nacelle. His observer’s position was in front of me and a bit lower so that I could see over his head. My cockpit seemed massive and comfortable. Wyllie talked me through pressurising the main tank and ensuring all switches were in the right position prior to “contact!” The engine started, I gingerly manoeuvred the machine to the far end of the field near the village and turned it about into the wind. The buildings of the No. 2 Aircraft Park were visible in the distance. I opened up the throttle and the machine eased itself into a rumbling roll. Then, before I was really aware of it, it took to the air and climbed gently. First impressions were pleasant. The Fee was a huge and heavy beast, yet it was surprisingly light on the controls and revealed no nasty habits. The wind was up now, and we were buffeted about. Wyllie stood up in front of me, holding the pillar mount for the rear-firing machine gun. He pointed downwards, showing me how low the sides of the nacelle were. “Make a sudden move and your observer is gone,” he shouted. I nodded my acknowledgement and thought to myself that I would never make it as an observer in one of these machines. As Wyllie stood there, the sides of his cockpit were well below his knee. Moreover, the observer’s position lacked even a seat. For most of our flight, Wyllie sat on the floor of the nacelle and faced me. He explained later that it was the pilot’s job to watch the sky ahead of the machine whilst the observer watched the engine and the sky to the rear, neither of which was visible from the pilot’s seat. After we landed, he brought me to the officers’ mess and introduced me to many of the others. I learned that Wyllie was a marine artist of some note with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things naval. How he ended up in the air I shall never know. The other flight commanders were Captain Hargrave and Captain Lane. The latter was a tea planter from Ceylon. The subalterns were too numerous to remember. The first I met was Colin Hazard, a former Gunner who would be my observer. Major Hogg insisted that all pilots and observers share accommodation, so he had already ordered our soldier-servant to arrange my kit there. I met a fellow named Nash who came from Argentina and another named Mowatt from Canada. We were oversupplied with lads from the finest schools, and I confided to Hazard that I required his assistance to translate their schoolboy slang. As much as I wanted to get back up in a Fee, it was not to be. The following day, 16 March, was a washout due to rain. That evening we received orders that the squadron would move yet again in the morning, this time to a place called Izel-lès-Hameau. Le Hameau (as the adjacent village was called) was a lovely field, wide and long and free from trees. Although there were a few wooden buildings and Armstrong huts, we slept under canvas, four officers to each damp, chilly circular tent. Late on the afternoon of 18 March, Hazard and I flew together operationally for the first time, taking photographs of the German lines south of Arras. We returned to the same area the following day. On both days our work was hampered by cloud and haze. What astounded me most was the intensity and accuracy of the Archie in this sector. The rain returned, occasionally mixed with wet snow. I wanted to head into Doullens or St-Pol with Hazard. Then the snow worsened and covered the roads completely, so we retired to the mess and played interminable games of vingt-et-un. The atmosphere of an officers’ mess is much more carefree than I expected, and the fellows go out of their way to make one feel welcome. I believe they are all aware that I am newly commissioned from the ranks, yet the subject has not arisen. If I cannot make a reputation for myself through my scholarly achievements, I hope that in time I shall be able to earn their respect in the air.
  22. Archie.jpg

    From the album Raine

  23. Albert, That's a tough one. Hope you're getting your "1918" machine! Raine
  24. I see that the update increases early war AA. How will this interact with the Balloon Archie Mod? Until we are sure, perhaps we should hold off with installing the latter mod. Comments, anyone?
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