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Found 63 results

  1. A Tale of Two Triplanes

    Back-to-back missions in Sopwith's trend-setter! For most non-multiplayer combat flight simmers, can anything be more frustrating than losing the pilot you have been carefully guiding through the perils of a single player campaign? The answer, of course, is 'Yes' - losing two campaign pilots, one after the other. It happened to me in Wings over Flanders Fields, yesterday. First to get the chop was my current German fighter pilot, who was flying an Albatros D.III with Jasta 5 in May 1917. The mission started normally, but soon after this picture was taken, shortly after take-off... ...I noticed friendly flak bursts behind, in the direction of the airfield we had just left. Their target was a marauding flight of S.E.5s, and although I got one of them after a tough dogfight, when I turned back in search of the rest of my own flight, all I found was two more S.E.s. I did not survive the wounds which resulted, despite managing a forced landing. Turning for succor to my concurrent Roland C.II two-seater campaign, things went rather better...for a while. We soon ran into a flight of our opposite numbers, in the form of some Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters, and although they started with a height advantage... ...we seemed to be getting the better of them. I forced down one with hits from my forward-firing gun, but then allowed myself to become distracted, watching while my observer had a crack as the Sopwith went down... This lack of attention to where I was going caused me to commit a cardinal sin in the WoFF Roland, which is to say, I let the nose come up too high, in a turn. I only noticed and recovered from the resulting loss of height in time to clip some trees with a lower wingtip. The crash in a field which followed robbed me of my second campaign pilot in the space of an hour! They say when you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is get straight back on, so that's what I did. Except this time, I was in the mood to fight for King and Country, rather than Kaiser and Fatherland. And replaced both pilots by parallel ones - one each in Rise of Flight and Wings over Flanders Fields. For a mount, I chose the Sopwith Triplane. I recall that my first serious knowledge of this machine came with one of the very first books I ever bought, the little Hippo Books Aircraft of World War 1, by well-known aviation writer JWR Taylor.This informed its readers that '...Triplanes were flown operationally only by Naval squadrons, who gained complete supremacy over the enemy in the spring and summer of 1917.' That's as may be, but the Triplane seems to have been a modest improvement over the delightful Pup and was soon overshadowed by the Camel. And it's not the most attractive of aircraft, to my eye - when RFC ace James McCudden wrote that he thought the reported Fokker Triplane was a rather quaint thing and expected that seeing one shot down would remind him of a Venetian blind collapsing, I suspect it was the earlier Sopwith Triplane he was picturing in his minds eye. Neverthess, the Germans were sufficiently impressed by the 'Tripehound' to embark on a serious bout of immitation, with many planemakers churning out triplanes, only Fokker's being particularly successful. For both RoF and WoFF careers, I named my pilot Richard Collishaw, potentially a sibling of famous Triplane exponent Raymond Collishaw. Would the name bring me luck? Let's find out, starting with Rise of Flight! ...to be continued!
  2. Walfisch!

    First mission in a new two-seater career in Wings over Flanders Fields 'Truly, this machine is a whale' ('walfisch' in German), one of the acceptance commission officials is reported to have said of LFG Roland's C.II two-seater, when it first flew about October 1915. Not the kindest of epithets, but it stuck - indeed, one famous flier of the type, Eduard von Schleich, made his Roland look even more whale-like by painting a mouth and eyes onto the nose of his machine, as people familiar with the old Airfix 1/72 kit will recall. Portly though it looked, the Roland was in its time an advanced machine, fast and well-armed, with superb view and fields of fire upwards, for a biplane. Less happily, the thin wings were reported to warp under front-line conditions, reducing climb rates, and the poor downward view and high approach speed made for rather a lot of landing crack-ups. Nevertheless, about the middle of 1916, RFC ace Albert Ball described the Roland as 'the best German machine now' and they type soldiered on over the Western Front till about mid-1917. This isn't my first WoFF mission report in this type - that can be found here. However, it's been a while since I have flown the Roland. I decided it was time to break out of my traditional 1917 campaigns with one the year before, flying and fighting against an earlier generation of combat aircraft. For the German side of that experience, I was initially tempted to fly the neat Halberstadt D.II.. But instead for additional novelty, I thought I'd go for a two-seater, with the Roland being an obvious choice - like the RFC's Sopwith Strutter, it was no mere target, but more of an all-round combat aircraft, with a decent air-to-air capability. To digress slightly, I'm still flying the original version of WoFF - my PC, though able to produce acceptable FPS (most of the time) with high graphics settings, has been left behind as the minimum specs have crept up. However, though I think it has introduced some stutter on my old rig at low level in graphically 'busy' situations, I am using the latest version of Ankor's DX9 mod, which to aircraft and ground shadows, has now added two really outstanding new features to Wings over Flanders Fields - subtle 'head bobbing' during manoeuvres, and mouse look. Marvellous stuff! For my Roland campaign, I wanted a unit equipped with this type in the summer of 1916, based in the British sector - until the arrival of WoFF Ultimate Edition, the sim has somewhat limited coverage of French orders of battle, now pretty well remedied with the addition of the Caudron G.IV and Breguet 14. So I ended up with Feldflieger Abteilung 3, based at Menen in Flanders, starting in August 1916. Here's the squadron roster, which shows me at the head of the second flight as usual in WoFF, in this case Kette Zwei; also as usual, I've enabled the 'Always lead' option to ensure that I fly at the head of my flight, every time, with no need for tedious formation flying. The unit still has some old Aviatik C.IIs. It was quite common for German two-seater units to operate a mix of aircraft types, helped no doubt by the fact that many had similar makes of engines, which probably shared many parts. Our first mission was artillery observation, directing the fire of a battery. I believe Rise of Flight is the only WW1 sim which provides a game mechanism to simulate this activity; in the others as in WoFF, it's a case of flying to the objective, where you can orbit back and forth between the likely positions of target and battery, simulating your task (which was commonly flown in a back-and-forth figure of eight pattern). 'Art obs' planes generally operated alone, on the British side having escort only in the form of timed patrols; but the Germans often seem to have provided direct escorts. In fact, the 'CL' or light C-type two seater, though much employed later for ground attack, was intended to have just such an escort role. And the Roland C.II is arguably the immediate progenitor of the CL types that followed, like the Hannover CL.II and III and Halberstadt CL.III and IV. For this job, four of us are detailed: three Rolands and an old Aviatik. I have accepted the unit's stock colour scheme for my kite, though with the now-free historical skin pack, I could have chosen something different, but all I did was reduce the flight's fuel load to 80%, more than enough for this operation. Here I am hareing across the grass at Menen. The weather is good, Kette Eins is said to be flying in support, plus we have two Fokker eindekkers coming down from the north as additional cover. All in all, it's quite a big effort for an art obs mission, so perhaps the target is especially important. Early on, I realise the Aviatik is going to struggle to keep up with our fast Rolands. I should perhaps play it as if he is the one with the morse transmitter plotting the fall of shot, and maintain formation with him so as to act as a close escort. But I decide instead to press on and sweep the skies clear, ahead of him. Although WoFF doesn't have a functional 'warp to next event/waypoint' feature and has limited time acceleration, I generally prefer flying in real time. Even if the flight to the front is longer than this trip, the visuals are sufficiently impressive to make it a valued part of the experience, for me. The excellent cloudscapes are a major part of this, especially with Arisfuser's cloud mod.Love it! For much of the trip down to the south-west towards the lines, I see neither Kette Eins nor the eindekker escort. But finally, nearing the front, I look up and behind, and there, hanging in the skies above, is a Fokker monoplane. The second one is lower down, but also catching us up...or trying to, not very successfully. Soon, seen through the broken cloud, the green and yellow fields below us are giving way to the muddy earth brown of the shelled area. It won't be long now, till we are in the target zone. At this point, we see the black smudges of German AA fire below and ahead. As I watch, I can see that the bursts are tracking towards us. Looking for their targets, I can just about make out two small specks close together, below and ahead of the flak bursts. They're on a roughly reciprocal course, but are not climbing as if to intercept us. I watch the two enemy aircraft warily as they pass below and slightly right. I can see as they pass that they are 'pusher' types, probably F.E.2s, 'Vickers two seaters' as they Germans commonly knew them. If they'd been DH 2 fighters, they would likely be attacking us. I could ignore them, and possibly should. I hesitate, remembering that we have artillery fire to direct. But I decide that can wait, and pull around and down, after the two Englishmen, before they get too far away. Leaving the rest of my own flight lagging, I'm soon attacking their leader from his blind spot. Obligingly, my trusty observer starts shooting at the second F.E. to our left, even as I'm knocking bits off the first one. My target turns right out of formation. I close the range, firing as I come and getting more hits. At this point, the F.E.'s speed drops off, and a wisp of dark smoke begins to unravel in his wake. I weave but end up overshooting, giving his observer the chance to put some rounds into my machine, in return. I try a rolling scissors but he's going so slowly I just can't keep behind him, working hard as I have to, to control my Walfisch's tail-heavy tendency to push the angle of attack well up. The F.E's bobbing up and down now, like he's strugling to stay under control, but I know only too well that he's still dangerous. So I do what I should have done earlier and make a clean break, swerving away and then coming around in a wide arc to make a fresh attack. This at last has the desired effect. After some more short bursts from my forward-firing MG, the F.E. goes down with a stopped propeller. I look around for the others, but see nothing of them. I recall noticing two of them flying close together straight and level, so perhaps they had decided to leave me to it, and go on with the mission (the WoFF AI will reportedly do this, if they conclude their leader is giving up or no longer able to fly the mission). My plans for my next move are interrupted, however, when the noise and revs of my motor drop back. The power dies too and I'm left to turn east and search for somewhere to force land. Evidently, the hits the F.E. did managed to land on my Roland are responsible for this unfortunate turn of events. Happily, I'm well on our side of No Man's Land and almost clear of the ground torn up by shellfire. And there's an airfield nearby, but while I edge around in its direction, I haven't enough height to make it there. Instead, I manage a creditable forced landing in a big field that's fortunately bereft of the lethal fences which can bring many such a move to grief, in WoFF. Well, my diversion meant that I failed to get to my artillery spotting location, which is not good; but my flight may have been able to carry on. In return, I've knocked down an Englishman, at the cost of a damaged motor. Not too bad a day's work, for my first day at the front! Below, is my pilot logbook after this sortie, opened to show that I have made my victory claim, as yet unconfirmed... A couple of pages further on, I can re-read the combat report which I typed up afterwards, against the entry for the claim. So far, so reasonably good. Very early days yet, but I'm rather hoping that this will be the start of a long and successful career!
  3. Feindish Fokkers!

    Alarums and excursions in a 'prehistoric packing case'! A common British 'pet name' for an aeroplane, probably originating in WW1, was a 'kite'. New Zealand ace Keith 'Grid' Caldwell got his nickname from calling aircraft 'grids'. 'Packing cases' - perhaps in the sense of what in the UK we call tea chests, light and flimsy plywood boxes much sought after for moving house contents - is a common translation of a German equivalent from the same period. 'Prehistoric packing cases' seems to have been an uncomplimentary form of the term, attributed to Manfred von Richthofen and applied, generally, to single- or two-seat 'pusher' biplanes, like the Vickers F.B.2 'gun-bus', the F.E.2, and the D.H.2 that I'm flying in my current Wings over Flanders Fields RFC campaign. But this is March 1916, and the ascendancy of the new German fighter aircraft in the hands of Boelcke, Richthofen et al are some months away. Instead, our principal fighter opposition is the increasingly-obsolescent Fokker monoplane, which we in 'B' Flight, No. 24 Squadron, met and vanquished in my first operational flight. Here's the briefing for my second show. The date is 2nd March, and I'm leading four D.H.s to provde an escort for three B.E.2c two-seaters on a reconnaisance mission to just over the lines. As I've said before, this type of escort was relatively rare. The RFC's offensive doctrine preferred a system of timed patrols, what the Germans (in WW2 anyway) would have called free-booting frei jagd sweeps. 'Working aeroplanes' if they had an escort, were often provided it from within their own squadron (which sometimes had 'fast scouts' on its strength, useful for this purpose). This eliminated the difficulty in effecting a rendevous between slow machines flying in from different locations. In fact in January 1916, at the height of the 'Fokker Scourge', the RFC ordered that each recce machine be escorted by three others. Thus the Fokkers significantly reduced the RFC's sortie rate, never mind the aircraft and crews they actually shot down - 'virtual attrition' I think they call it. Speaking of 2nd March 1916, I see the RFC's 'Comic Cuts' internal communiqué for that date recorded, as regards air combat, that '2Lt Fincham and 2Lt Price (B.E.2c. 2127, 8 Sqn) were persistently attacked by a Fokker biplane when doing artillery patrol in the Ypres salient. The result was indecisive. The pilot reports he distinctly saw the hostile machine using tracer bullets. Sgt Bayetto (Morane Scout, 3 Sqn) on escort duty to the Valenciennes reconnaisance, reports having been attacked by 5 Fokkers in the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. The reconnaisance machine dived to get clear, but was closely followed by the hostile machines. Sgt Bayetto opened fire on the nearest hostile machine and drove it down, apparently into the woods at Valenciennes. After the engagement he saw no more signs of the reconaisance machine and returned over Lille where he was again attacked by 3 Fokkers. These he eventually evaded and after circling around Lille for 15 minutes, returned to his landing ground.' The fate of the 'reconnaisance machine' is unrecorded, but may be deduced from being last reported as diving away, 'closely followed by the hostile machines.' How will 2nd March be for me, Lt. Jock Higgins, from Stirling, Scotland? Would I have got a mention in 'Comic Cuts'? It's time to find out! It's about 09:00 and the sun is having a bit of bother breaking through the fairly extensive cloud cover. Undaunted, we head off to the north-east, to meet up with the recce machines, giving me time to admire the effects of the low morning sunshine, filtered by the clouds. I suddenly notice four aeroplanes slipping past above us, in a patch of open sky. I recognise them as 'pushers', confirming they are friendlies - the Huns had so few of this type it's more or less a given thing. I wonder if they might be our own squadron's 'A' Flight, which is supposed to be supporting us, but their more slender, less stubby appearance tells me they are the bigger F.E.2b general purpose two seaters, off on a mission of their own. Gaining height as we press on, I see the town of Doullens to our left, which provides a welcome re-assurance that we haven't managed to get lost, yet. You know what they say, about an officer with a map ('The most dangerous thing in the Army'). Shortly after this, I spot three machines below and ahead, against some clouds, heading the same way. Doctor Livingstone, I presume. Ankor's latest DX9 mod's mouselook includes smooth scroll-wheel zoom, an excellent new feature. I start zig-zagging above the two-seaters. Our D.H.2s aren't fast, but the B.E.s are climbing hard, so we are able to do this without falling behind. Soon, we can see the churned earth of shelled ground, slipping in ahead and on both sides, replacing the previously-unspoilt countryside as we near the front. Looking down and over the side - another thing made easy without head-tracking, with Ankor's latest mod - I can make out one of our observation balloons, far below. You can see him close to my starboard wheel rim, in this next picture. Serves me right for sight-seeing, for when I look around again, I can see neither head nor tail of the B.E's. Where the heck have they gone? Have we got ahead of them, or are they out of sight somewhere beneath us, hidden by our airframes? I begin a wide turn to the right, confident that I will pick them up again pretty quickly. They can't have gone that far. Or can they? The B.E.s are no-where to be seen. I circle around again, feeling increasingly desperate. Still no sign! At least, I don't see any indication of an air fight, no pillars of smoke marking the fall to earth of one of my charges. Well, if they're still in the air, they're most likely ahead of us by now, so I level out and race off towards our objective. I have lost some height and the B.E.s were climbing when last seen, but I fly straight and level, the faster to catch them up. To my boundless relief, I soon spot the three B.E.s, ahead and above. A gentle climb enables me to continue to catch them up; I will worry about getting right up to their level, after I have done that. But suddenly, I have other, more pressing things to worry about. I haven't slowed down to ensure my flight can keep up during my recent manoeuvres, and now, I pay the price, as rounds whack into my machine from behind. A lone Fokker has slipped in between me and my spread-out flight mates and what's more, the Hun is making a very determined effort at bringing my career to an early and violent end! ...to be continued!
  4. "Attack EVERYTHING!"

    Flying the 'spinning incinerator' in Wings over Flanders Fields! "Led by Lanoe Hawker, No.24 Squadron (DH2s), Britain's first single-seater scout squadron, arrived in France on 8 February 1916 in great excitement but was immediately absorbed in a crisis of its own. The day after their arrival, one of the flight commanders, on the first flight of a DH2 from a French airfield, got into a spin and failed to recover. Five days later, another pilot spun in, and this time the machine caught fire. It had happened before, earning the DH2 the grisly sobriquet of the 'spinning incinerator'...Hawker responded by taking up a DH2 and, according to his biographer, spinning it from every conceivable angle, engine on and engine off, and demonstrating how, with correct remedial action, and provided there was sufficient height, it always recovered." Ralph Barker, 'A Brief History of the Royal Flying Corps', Constable & Robinson, 2002 Major Lanoe George Hawker, VC, DSO, deserves to be remembered not so much as a famous early victim of Manfred von Richthofen in November 1916, but rather, as the aggressive pioneer air fighter who won a VC for victories over three Germain aircraft - all I think machine-gun armed 2-seaters - on a single day in July 1915, flying a Bristol Scout with a Lewis Gun which had to be fixed to fire at an angle ahead to clear the prop disc - a real feat of arms. This is the actual machine he flew: As a Flight Commander in those days, Hawker's motto, pinned to the notice board, was 'Attack EVERYTHING!' and it was certainly a dictum he lived up to. Later, he was a natural choice to lead the Royal Flying Corps' first real single-seat fighter squadron. Just as No.24 Squadron was a natural choice of unit, when I decided to fly an early-war British fighter campaign in Wings over Flanders Fields. I had only just ended a 1916 campaign in another 'pusher', the two-seat F.E.2 - after one mission! We crashed after a dramatic collision with a Fokker... ...which didn't survive the encounter... We lasted a bit longer, surviving further damage in another Fokker attack as we drifted down with a dead motor and elevator control gone, but didn't live through the ensuing crash landing... So, you might say that I had a score to settle, when I chose to try my hand with another lattice-tailed aircraft, the De Havilland D.H.2, which was credited with a large part in ending the 'Fokker Scourge'. My new career starts in early March 1916, with 24 Squadron's first operations following its deployment to Bertangles in Flanders. You can see from the roster that the redoubtable Major Hawker is very much on the squadron roster - COs were forbidden to fly on ops due to the need to preserve experienced leaders, but Hawker still flew, letting one of the other flight commanders lead. One of whom is me, for my pilot, Lieutenant 'Jock' Higgins - no relation to famous pioneer RFC flier 'all bum and eyeglass' J.F.A. 'Josh' Higgins - is the leader of 'B' Flight. Our first mission is a patrol up to the lines, more or less directly to the east. I'm leading no less that six machines, and 'A' flight are putting up another four, so we should be able to give any Huns we meet a run for their money. The C.O isn't flying with me today, but I see one or two other famous names in my flight, including the later Air Marshall Sir Robert Saundy, who wasn't a 'Sir' (knighted) in 1916, butI think should be an officer by that point, rather than the Sergeant he's recorded as...maybe the Recording Officer has made a bit of a mix-up in the squadron roster somewhere. We make a fine sight on the grass before the sheds at Bertangles in the fine early morning March weather... ...and it's not long before we're off the ground and climbing away. Those Huns had better watch out - 'Twenty-four' has opened shop and means to do some business this day! ...to be continued!
  5. 56 Sqn - moment of truth

    The 'anti-Richthofen squadron' is tested in battle! My first show with No. 56 Squadron in France, flown in the superlative Wings over Flanders Fields, saw me wounded and hospitalised for nearly two weeks. My recovery complete, it's now 13th May 1917 ('Lucky for some', as they say) and I'm once again leading 'B' Flight. This time, there's three of us - my companions are Dixie and Prince, names it will help to remember if I need to identify witnesses to any victories I may manage (I have WoFF's victory claim form option turned on again). I'm glad to see the weather is once again cloudy but fine, though disappointed that our mission is a patrol behind our own lines, down to the town of Albert a short distance to the south east. Albert was famous during World War 1 for the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the town's basilica. Knocked askew into a gravity-defying angle by shellfire in 1915, the legend grew that the statue's fall would signal the end of the war. It didn't, but the statue was still hanging on for dear life at the time of this mission, in mid-May 1917 I waste no time in leaving Vert Galand behind and as soon as the three of us are in formation, I begin to climb. I'm following the route indicated on the Tactical Display, which generally throws in some extra waypoints that are not indicated on the in-flight map, seemingly designed to enable you to gain height in a wide spiral before you settle onto your course for the patrol area. This also helps stay reasonably close - for a while, anyway - to any supporting flight. Which we have on this show, as 'A' Flight is said to be flying top cover. For a while, I see them below and ahead of us, but our paths soon diverge and I'm not sure if we'll see them again. You can just about make out the four S.E.s of 'A' Flight at about eleven o'clock of my nose, in the pic below. I'm soon turning onto the the last leg of our course down towards Albert, still climbing to the ten thousand feet I want to be at. This will give us a decent chance of spotting any Huns trying to slip in below us, but should be just about high enough to see, and hopefully intercept, any higher-flying customers, like the DFWs I ran into on the last show. In fact I'm rather hoping to renew my acquaintance with these gentlemen, two-seaters on a recce being the most likely trade I will get behind our own lines. A few minutes more and I see a town ahead and left, which a glance at my map tells me is Doullens. It will be a useful landmark on the way home, too. Visibility is rather hazy towards the horizon, but not too bad at altitude. Except for the longest hops, I enjoy flying my WoFF missions in real time - none of the WW1 air combat sims I have flown do such a good job of creating the sights, sounds and general ambience of WW1 in the air and the flight to and WoFF, for me, manages to make what in other sims is something I'd prefer to fast-forward through, an experience to savour rather than skip. My reverie is cut short as I see a small group of specks in the sky ahead, slightly right and at about the same height. I have 'dot mode' turned on, set to 4,000 metres if I recall right. The specks are moving left to right, deeper into our territory. They aren't being shelled, so they could be friendlies, though the ample cloud cover may be the explanation for that. I turn right and settle onto an intercepting course, keeping them just left of my nose and gaining a little height. It occurs to me that this could be the same five DFWs I met yesterday; if so, this time they'll have the three of us to reckon with, not just yours truly. As I watch, something odd happens. One of the specks detaches itself from the rest and falls away. I can't work this out. Is it a member of a frindly formation, going down to land? Or an EA ('Enemy Aircraft') making a solo attack of some description? The other specks hold their course, leaving me a bit worried about what it is the one who dived away is up to. I bank left to watch him but can't pick him out against the ground. After A second or two I give ip, and look ahead again. Not a moment too soon, for the other specks are specks no more; they are four Albatros Scouts heading straight at us! Crikey! ...to be continued!
  6. Hunting the Red Baron...in a dud aeroplane! You might be forgiven for thinking that the combination in spring 1917 of Britain's leading fighter pilot and the country's greatest fighter plane would have been the combat aviation equivalent of a marriage made in heaven. Far from it, for Captain Albert Ball DSO, MC (and later VC) was not at all impressed with the Royal Aircraft Factory's new Scouting Experimental 5. 'The S.E.5 has turned out a dud... It's a great shame, for everybody expects such a lot from them... it is a rotten machine', was his verdict. He'd been posted as a flight commander to the recently-formed No. 56 Squadron, working up at Colney Hatch in England before deploying to France. 'There were rumours of an anti-Richthofen squadron' wrote Alexander McKee in The Friendless Sky, 'and this was it.' Or as near such a thing as ever existed. "Fifty Six" was certainly something special. Not only was it first to be equiped with the first of the Royal Flying Corps' new types of fighter ('scout') aircraft, intended to match the Hun's Albatros V-strutters; to the squadron was posted an unusually high proportion of especially skilled and/or experienced pilots. Hence likely the rumour, which reached the ears of the great man himself, that the squadron was tasked with bringing an end to the career of Manfred von Richthofen. Such was Ball's antipathy to the S.E.5 that he tinkered considerably with his own machine, adjusting amongst other things seat height, windscreen and armament. Some of these modifications were adopted for all the squadron's machines and those produced afterwards, like replacing the semi-enclosed 'glasshouse' windscreen with a smaller, conventional one and removing the little gravity-fed fuel reserve tank atop the wing centre section. Here is Ball in his modified machine, in typically bare-headed fashion despite the wintry conditions. Not only that, but on arrival in France, Ball pleaded with RFC boss Hugh Trenchard to be given a Nieuport Scout. 'Boom' agreed, with the proviso it was to be used only for solo missions, with the S.E.5 employed for all flight operations. While as squadron mate and Sagittarius Rising author Cecil Lewis said, the oiginal 150 hp version of the SE was not quite a match for the Albatros, it was, despite Ball's misgivings, a worthy contender in mid-1917 - and, with a more powerful motor, still a front-line fighter at war's end, a year and a half after it first saw action. Ball seems to have warmed to the type, for he scored eleven of his last thirteen victories in the S.E.5, before being killed in one in unclear circumstances during a disastrous series of patrol actions against Jasta 11 on 7th May 1917. Ball's memory lived on, and the S.E.5 went on to carve out an equally illustrious name for itself, in the hands of men like Jimmy McCudden, Arthur Rhys-Davids, 'Mick' Mannock and Billy Bishop. A campaign in S.E.'s with 'Fifty Six' is something any WW1 simmer is likely to fly at least once; and this set of mission reports is from my own latest effort, flown in Wings over Flanders Fields. Now in its Ultimate Edition, with its hugely-immersive single-player experience, WoFF can fairly lay claim to being the ultimate WW1 air combat sim. And it wouldn't be WoFF if it didn't feature both 56 Squadron and the S.E.5. Thus equipped, I decided to start my campaign at the beginning of May 1917, at the point the tide had begun to turn and 'Bloody April' was, at last, behind the RFC. It's good that WoFF features the S.E.5, because it's quite different visually from the 200 hp version we usually get in flightsims, and which didn't appear till late summer 1917. To digress, it's generally stated, based on official rigger's notes, that it was the S.E.5a version which introduced the more powerful 200hp motor, with a visibly-larger frontal radiator. However, in Crowood's Aircraft of the Royal Aircraft Factory, author Paul Hare reveals that works drawings show that the S.E.5a was created after only 23 'true' S.E.5s had been built, by cutting the length of the rear wing spars, reducing considerably the pronounced rake of the original wingtips. The early production S.E.5a retained the 150 hp engine. As well as the early model I'm flying on this campaign, WoFF features S.E.5as with the geared 200hp Hispano-Suiza and the later (and more reliable) ungeared Wolesley Viper engines. A 'Hisso' S.E.5a is seen below, in foul weather over southern England; I think the wingtips should be a little less raked but she's a fine replica and looks much better since WoFF enabled us to lose the former wide-angle lens external view. The Viper engine had more angular edges to the radiator and a noticeably-lower thrust line/prop. The mission It's 1st May 1917 and the weather is fine. 'Fifty Six' has settled down to the war at Vert Galand in northern France and today, I'm leading 'B' Flight on a Line Patrol up to the north-east, near Arras. 'A' Flight has two machines on this show, in addition to my four. You can see one of the others - Rhys-Davids, no less, from his white fuselage marking - taking off to my right front, as I open up the throttle to start my own run. You can also see that painting the upper (and lower) wing roundels well inboard was an unusual feature of the markings of early S.E.'s I'm soon airborne and climbing away. The WoFF S.E.5 is a fine piece of work, and she sounds just as good as she looks. What sort of fighting machine she is, I expect soon to find out...which I will, though not quite as I might have expected... ...to be continued!
  7. 'Superiority with the Snipe' The title of this mission report is from the chapter on the featured aircraft in 'Sopwith - the Man and his Aircraft' by Bruce Robertson, one of a famous series of comprehensive aviation histories by British publishers Harleyford, this one dating from 1970. Quoting from that chapter: 'It is said that when No.4 (A.F.C.) Squadron after the Armistice took its Snipes to Cologne and showed their manoeuvring powers to some German airmen, they expressed first their astonishment and then their gratification that they personally had not met them in action...from performance figures and test reports the Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard it is often quoted as the best fighter of the 1914-1918 War period...however, the Martinsyde Buzzard did not enter squadron service and thereby few can dispute the statement that the Snipe was the finest fighter, from any country, to operate in the 1914-18 War.' Whether or not the Sopwith Snipe truly merited that accolade can be debated, of course. However, with a significantly more powerful engine conferring higher speed and better altitude performance, a better view for the pilot, greater fuel and ammo capacity and less tricky flying characteristics, the Snipe was certainly an improvement over the aircraft from which it was developed, the redoubtable Camel. So it is a worthy machine on which to finish this set of mission reports. That said, I can't help but feel that the Sopwith Dolphin would have been a better choice for inclusion in Wings over Flanders Fields. The Snipe saw combat only during the last six weeks of World War One. By war's end, just three squadrons had them - 4 (Australian), 43, and 208, compared to the Dolphin's four (19, 23, 79 and 87). Despite its engine troubles, the Dolphin was a fine fighter, said to have the agility of a Camel and the performance of an S.E.5. And it saw action for a much longer period, from February to November 1918. It also has the distinction of being the RFC and RAF's first multi-gun single seat fighter. Happily, I can fly the Dolphin in First Eagles 2 (thanks to moders at the A Team Skunkworks...who also provide a Snipe)... ...and of course in Rise of Flight - having just purchased the Strutter in the Halloween 2016 sale, I now have all the RoF Sopwiths, including the Dolphin, again seen here without the two extra Lewis guns it could carry... The Snipe was an effort to improve the Camel, while the Dolphin could be said to have been an effort to improve on the Camel. The Dolphin was a very different design, notably adopting an in-line engine, a 200 hp geared Hispano Suiza. The Snipe stuck with a rotary engine, the Bentley B.R.2, at 230 hp, significantly more powerful than the B.R.1s and Clergets of the Camel. The Snipe prototypes were almost identical to the Camel, except they replaced the latters's straight top wing with one whose dihedral matched the lower wing. Combined with a large open panel in the centre, this lowered wing significantly improved upward visibility from the cockpit. Later, longer-span wings were fitted, with four rather than two bays of interplane struts. And a round-section fuselage was adopted, producing an aircraft which seemed to owe little to its famous predecessor. Having put in a reasonable amount of stick time into WoFF's Camel, I'm keen to see how I get on in its Snipe. The campaign With such a short combat career, this was going to be a short campaign one way or another. And having chosen to fly with the Australians, it was going to be shorter still. For WoFF's No. 4 (Austrialian Flying Corps) Squadron gets its Snipes just in time for the Armistice - my new pilot, Robert Digger from Brisbane, kicks off his operational career on 1st November 1918. So I'll have to survive less than two weeks, to see the end of the War to End All Wars. A bigger worry is whether my modest PC will be able to handle a campaign in WoFF's CPU-intensive later war skies. There is, of couse, one way to find out... I find myself stationed at the airfield of Auchel, quite a way from the front. However, I won't have to worry about tedious trips to the lines, because my first 'mission' is actually a transit flight - the squadron is relocating to Avelin, to the east and much closer to the scene of the action. Historically, this reflects the fact that the German armies were at that point in hostilities finally near collapse, being driven back all along the front, with revolution in the air back home and the abdication of the Kaiser just days away. For the flight, I'm given just one companion, and after a while following on the heels of the others, I strike out direct for Avelin, noting that my machine is faster than any Camel I've flown, but like most of WoFF's aircraft, needs generous amounts of rudder in the turn. Despite the briefing warning us to be on the lookout for the enemy, the flight is uneventful, and I have plenty of time to admire the cockpit and the scenery, the weather being cloudy, but fine. About half-way there, we pass the town of Loos, the eastern side of which is much damaged by shellfire. Just beyond, we cross the former front lines, now abandoned but still churned up by the pounding it has taken from the guns of both sides over the many months of static trench warfare, now at last come to an end. Soon, we are back over unravaged countryside, and the shelled ground falls behind... ...and not long after that, I'm coming into land at out new home, presumably a former German airfield but now very much in our hands. Thiis is signified by a pair of S.E.5s sitting on the airfield and some Snipes parked in front of the sheds, whose undamaged state indicates that their erstwhile occupants have left in a hurry. Signs of enemy collapse and rumours of an Armistice notwithstanding, I have no reason to believe that the pace of operations will slacken off - the reverse if anything, given the need to keep the retreating enemy on the hop. I expect that this will be the last little cross country flight I'll be doing for a while, and that I'm about to find out just how good my new Snipe really is, where it matters most - in combat. ...to be continued!
  8. Tripehounds! There can't be many aircraft prototypes that have been looped on their maiden flight. But I do know of one that was - three times in rapid succession, a few minutes into the flight. It was the Sopwith Triplane, courtesy of the Sopwith Aviation Company's famous test pilot, Harry Hawker, who gave his name to the firm when it was effectively reconstituted to avoid a crippling tax bill, post-war. The Tripe or Tripehound, as it was known, served only with the Royal Naval Air Service and (apart from one machine) not with the Royal Flying Corps (though the Aéronavale had a few, for a while). And it equipped few squadrons, lasting longest with 'Naval 1', which was fully operational with the type in early 1917 and didn't give them up for Sopwith Camels until about November the same year. But the Tripehounds certainly made a big impression, on friend and foe alike. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the success of the fast-climbing and highly-manouuvrable Sopwith Triplane spurred a German 'triplane craze', with many plane makers rushing to develop prototypes, of which only the famous Fokker Dr.I saw significant combat service. I don't believe the two ever met in combat but you can see them in a fairly leisurely mock dogfight in this HAFU video. The Sopwith reproduction is in the 'Black Maria' markings of ace Raymond Collishaw, leader of the famous 'black flight' of 'Naval 10'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDFeiknDa88 For this campaign in the Sopwiths over Flanders Fields series, I've opted to fly with pioneer Tripehound squadron 'Naval 1', starting in May 1917 for no better reason than at that stage, we've moved to la Bellevue, closer to the front - I fly my Wings over Flanders Fields missions in real time, so I appreciate the shorter transit flights! My pilot is Richard Collishaw, possibly 'Naval 10' ace Raymond's (imaginary) brother. As usual, having ticked the 'always lead' option, I'm in charge of 'B' Flight, with 'A' Flight AI-led and no 'C' Flight. My first mission is a run up to the lines to the east-north-east, responding to a ground observer report of enemy air activity in the sector. There's four of us in 'B' Flight (all with proper naval ranks, like 'Flight Sub-Lieutenant') and 'A' Flight is putting up another five Tripehounds, to assist us in an unspecified fashion. And here we are, lined up and ready to go. The dire weather of 'Bloody April', replicated in WoFF when you have 'historical weather' selected, has happily given way this early May day, to blue skies with but a scattering of small clouds. Several (but not all) 'Naval 1' Tripehounds carried the two small white bars seen on mine and some other machines in this line-up; the kites with the white fins display a variation that is common on Sopwiths. I check my controls while my 130 HP Clerget rotary engine fires into life, then it's off we go! Once well off the ground, I throttle back (which in rotaries, if I recall right, was either via a 'blip switch' which cut the ignition, or a variant which did so for some cylinders). This gives me time to admire the weather, my mount and the scenery, all of which WoFF reproduces very nicely, thanks in no small measure to Ankor's DX9 mod. A thing of the past is the exaggerated 'wide-angle lens' external view, for one thing. The view from the 'office' is just as good. You can't see it in the picture below, but it includes an animated propeller-driven pump mounted on the right-hand centre section strut. I'm glad the WoFF riggers have fitted a square pad to protect my virtual pilot's head from the breech of the Vickers Gun; it blocks the view much less than Sopwith's patent 'flattened doughnut' padded windscreen, as fitted to the WoFF Pup and Strutter. One thing I quickly find that I don't much like about my Tripehound is that she is determined to roll to the left. At all engine speeds, quite a lot of aileron deflection is needed to keep her level. This is uncomfortable in transit and will undoubtedly be awkward in combat. But there's no point dwelling on it. When the others get into 'V' formation on either side, I open her up and swing around in a climbing turn to the front. What will await us there - if anything - we will find out, soon enough. To be continued!
  9. The Pups are coming! Jagdstaffel Boelcke Jan. 4th 1917 4.15pm Near Metz au Couture Sopwith One Seater, No. LRT 5193 Motor: 80hp le Rhone No.5187 A new type of plane, never seen before, but as wings broken, barely discernible. Pilot: Lieut. Todd killed, papers and valuables enclosed. About 4.15pm. Just after starting, we saw above us at 4000 meters altitude four planes unmolested by our artillery. As the anti-aircraft guns were not firing we took them for our own. Only when they were nearer did we notice that they were English. One of the English planes attacked us and we saw immediately that the enemy plane was superior to ours. Only because we were three against one did we detect the enemy's weak points. I managed to get behind him and shoot him down. The plane broke up whilst falling. This combat report of Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (quoted from this site) records the Red Baron's impressions after his first encounter with the redoubtable Sopwith Pup, on of the few fighters able to take on and beat the Albatros scouts fielded by the German Jagdstaffeln. Armed with just one Vickers Gun, the Pup lacked the hitting power of the later and even more famous Camel. But its much more viceless flying characteristics and great agility made it a decent fighter. In his peerless memoir No Parachute, 46 Squadron's Arthur Gould Lee recounts one battle with the dreaded V-strutters during which his flight demonstrated the Pup's superiority at height, with the Albatrosses trying fruitlessly to climb up to the Pups, which were able to stay above the enemy and mount diving and zooming attacks with complete impunity. So this installment of Sopwiths over Flanders Fields features the Pup. And as No Parachute and its sequel Open Cockpit are probably my favourite WW1 aviation memoirs, the campaign will see me flying with AG Lee's 46 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. My last Wings over Flanders Fields campaign with 'Forty-six' is probably this one from CA-WW1, flying the Camel. When Lee joind the squadron in France in May 1917 they were flying Pups, having recently converted to the fighter role after flying Nieuport 12 two-seaters. I have selected 'Always lead' so I fly as patrol leader not wingman and for my first mission, we draw a patrol entirely behind our own side of the lines, which would have been most unusual for the offensively-minded RFC, led by the redoubtable Brigadier General Hugh 'Boom' Trenchard. We are based at la Gorgue, near the River Lys, and are to patrol down to the airfield of Fienvillers, some miles to the south-west. I'm leading 'B' Flight with three Pups; 'A' Flight, with another four, is detailed to provide top cover. Here we all are, lined up and ready to go. My machine, nearest the camera, is in WoFF's default and rather anonymous 46 Squadron markings - as are most of the other Pups. The aircraft numbered '2' is in my flight and is flown by real-life ace Clive Brewster-Joske; 'B' flight is led by another squadron ace, Cecil 'Chaps' Marchant, flying the Pup with the yellow nose. Here's a closer view of Marchant's machine: Taking off in WoFF is a whole (less fraught) different ball-game, compared to Rise of Flight and with no aircraft more so than the Pup, which comes off the ground quickly and cleanly, like a creature keen to leave the earth and get into its natural environment. The WoFF weather can often be pretty foul but today, there's a lot of blue sky, with moderate cloud at around ten thousand feet. The bright conditions show off nicely the fine lines of WoFF's Pup, whose detail goes as far as legible 'Palmer Cord Aero Tyre' printing on the tyres. The 'office' is equally well done, with lots of wood, brass and leather in evidence. My own kite isn't as colourful as old Marchant's, but she's a nice bird. She has her roundels outlined in white, a recent addition as previously, there'd been complaints about the dark outer blue ring making the national markings hard to distinguish, against the khaki PC10 finish. Our first leg is up to the north-east, not that we need the extra distance to climb to patrol height before reaching the patrol zone. I fly the leg anyway. Despite the long second leg down to the south-west, I have plenty of time, and if I stick to the programme, there's more chance we'll end up in the same airspace as 'A' Flight. Safety in mumbers, and all that. I level off for a while to let Joske and the other pilot, Sergeant Schellden, catch up. Then we climb up, passing over la Gorgue and the Lys again on our way back down towards the airfield in whose vicinity we were to patrol. I am half expecting the skies to be empty when we get there, and to fly home cursing the staff officers who have sent us on this fool's errand. Trenchard must be on leave, otherwise he'd not have one of his squadrons swanning about in this fashion, when they could have been dominating the skies on the Hun's side of the lines. However, this time, the staff officers were right. ...to be continued!
  10. The famous aviation pioneer's aircraft come to life in Wings over Flanders Fields! In between reporting on my current career in a certain other WW1 sim, I decided I would add a bit of variety within the same wire-and-fabric theme. So this is the first of what will be a series of reports on single player campaign missions flown in Wings over Flanders Fields in the aircraft of T.O.M. Sopwith. Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith was one of the shining stars of early British aviation. Nearly everyone has heard of the Sopwith Camel, but as most aviation-minded people know, this was just one of the many great designs he's associated with. Many of these were mainstays of the British war effort in WW1, and consequently feature in most air combat simulators of that period. As well as the One-and-a-half Strutter illustrated at the start of this thread, WoFF features the following Sopwith aircraft: Single seat Strutter bomber: Pup: Triplane (including a non-standard, two-gun version): Camel: Snipe: ...and a Snipe the right way up: So, we have a good deal of ground - or should that be, air? - to cover. Let's make a start with the Sopwith One-and-a-half Strutter, so called apparently because each set of centre-section struts consisted of one short and one long strut. The campaign This first report features two missions in what turned out to be a brief campaign flying two-seat Strutters with 45 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. This is the unit featured in Norman Macmillan's war memoir Into the Blue, which was the inspiration for parallel Strutter campaigns flown in First Eagles 2 and WoFF's predecessor Over Flanders Fields, which you can read about here. The Strutter is now also available in Rise of Flight, but that's a plane I don't yet have, in that sim. I elected to start in April 1917, at the time of the lowest period in the RFC's fortunes. The previous year, it had been very different. The Strutter had helped to cement the air superiority gained, in time for the famous Battle of the Somme, after the Fokker Scourge had been weathered then countered. Even allowing for the use of crude speaking tubes, the Strutter's pilot and observer sat rather far apart for effective co-ordination. But they had a machine gun each, including a Vickers synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. And the observer sat in the rear, where his Lewis Gun had a much better field of fire than in the Royal Aircraft Factory's BE.2. WW1 British aircraft procurement policy is worth a book or two in its own right, but the Sopwith design seems so much more effective as a combat aeroplane that it's hard to understand why the RFC persevered with the BE types. Some say there was an antipathy against private companies rather than the state-owned Factory, others that it was more a case of ordering whatever could be built in sufficient numbers, or a failure to understand, anticipate or react quickly enough to front-line requirements. The Admiralty seemed to have had less difficulties or hang-ups in this field and it was the Royal Naval Air Service that really saw the benefits of Sopwiths designs and placed its orders accordingly. The Army's RFC also got Strutters, though by the time of this campaign, they were - if still superior to the BEs - highly vulnerable to the new, powerful, twin-gunned German scouts. Despite this, Strutter sqaudrons were still expected to escort their own reconnaisance missions, and often flew the same sort of patrols as the single seat fighters, then called 'scouts'. It is into these difficult and dangerous times that I have plunged my virtual crew for this campaign. The first mission At this point in the war, 45 Squadron is based at St Marie Cappel, well north of the Battle of Arras but not immune to the same dangers faced down there. We are quite a way behind the lines. Checking the squadron orders for the day, I find that my first mission is to be a patrol up to the lines near Ypres, or 'Wipers' as the Tommies called it. I'm in 'B' Flight and there's just us and one other crew on this show. Four machines in 'A' Flight are said to be flying 'top cover' but in the cloudy conditions, maintaining touch will be next to impossible. I feel anxious about this but there's nothing I can do but start up, check my controls and take off; if I sit here any longer I will just 'get the wind up'. The chaps in 'A' Flight seem less bothered and get off ahead of us. I'm soon off after them and climbing up. One nice thing about the Strutter is that she's got a decent set of instruments, though I won't be spending too much time looking at them on this flight. As you can see, our aircraft are in clear doped linen finish, apart from khaki PC10 on the upper wings and rather colourful tailplanes, the latter excellent for mutual identification but compromising our camouflage rather badly. You can also see that our Lewis Guns are fitted onto French-designed Etevé mounts, rather than the more common and later universal Scarff gun rings. Here's the in-flight map, with the little green aircraft icon showing our position on the first leg of our route up to the front, to the east. Our assigned altitude is, if I recall right, about 11,000 feet but I am reserving the right to vary that according to the conditions, most notably the weather. The second Strutter is keeping formation nicely as we make the long climb to the east. Up ahead and all around, there are impressive banks of cloud, and between this and the general gloom, visibility of the ground doesn't extend very far in any direction, even at this low level. If my trusty observer is bothered by this, or by the force of the slipstream against his back, he keeps it to himself. We may have worse things to worry about, soon enough. ...to be continued!
  11. Strikefighters players at CombatAce have long had a 'Screenshot of the Month' thread, which showcases the many visual delights of Thirdwire's classic and prolific jet age combat flight sim. So, I thought to myself, maybe it's time we also had such a platform for the many and no less photogenic aircraft and settings of Wings Over Flanders Fields. What say you, shall we try this and see how it goes? There's no rules, save that your screenshot must be taken in Wings over Flanders Fields (not OFF, please) with no post-capture editing or enhancement allowed, except cropping - we want to showcase the sim and the enjoyment we get from it, not our photo-editing skills. There's no prize and no formal winner will be declared, though visitors are encouraged to vote after a fashion by 'Liking' one or more of any screenshots they particularly fancy. For the first thread, July 2016, the theme is 'Meet the Fokkers!' - aircraft designed by Anthony Fokker, of which there's a good few in this sim. So, what are you waiting for? Switches off, petrol on, and 'get some in'!
  12. A mission from my latest pilot career in Wings over Flanders Fields! Having played little but Atlantic Fleet for four solid months since the PC version was released in late February, I recently decided to make a bit of room for some combat flight sim and tanksim action. For the latter, it's back to Steel Fury's indispensible STA mod, and with a bit of luck, I'll soon re-start work on the STA-Britpak sub-mod, having got my hand back in, playing the only mission yet available in the current beta (or maybe it's an alpha) version, featuring the 23rd Hussars in Operation Bluecoat... Doubtless I'll find some time for Steel Armor - Blaze of War also. Its featured theaters of war are more off the beaten tank track that Steel Fury's, but its tanksim-wargame combo really works quite well and it improves on many of the features of the earlier Graviteam tank simulator, specifically in terms of AI, platoon command & control, radio net and target indications. For an air combat fix, I fancy trying out the excellent Blinding Sun campaign in the Combined User Patch mod for Il-2 '46, flying a sleek MiG-3 to defend Mother Russia against the fascist invaders... But before that, it's back to the First Great War in the Air, with the incomparable Wings over Flanders Fields. And what better way to start with a new pilot career in an elite fighter squadron, the illustrious Jasta Boelcke. Formed in the autumn of 1916 as the first fighter unit in the modern sense as Jasta 2, it was re-named for its first commander, pioneer air fighter Oswald Boelcke, after he died following a collision with a fellow pilot's aircraft. Despite this and other setbacks, Jasta Boelcke remained one of the premier German fighter squadrons of the First World War. Naturally, you can sign up with Jasta 2/Jasta Boelcke in Wings over Flanders Fields, at pretty well any time during its wartime service. For me, the most interesting period of WW1 in the air has always been from early to autumn 1917, spanning Bloody April and the subsequent resurgence of the Royal Flying Corps, with the arrival of new fighters like the SE5 and Camel. So I opted to start my career in late March 1917, flying the superb 'V-strutter' Albatros D.III from Proville in Flanders. Even if you haven't upgraded to the latest version of WoFF, with the 'skins' pack now free and the latest version of Ankor's DX9 mod for CFS3 at last enabling us to see off the awful 'fisheye lens' external view, WoFF, its aircraft and its scenery have never, ever looked better. And that includes the white-tailed Albatri of the flight i'm now leading in Jasta Boelcke, as we set out to do battle with the English, over Flanders fields. ...to be continued!
  13. CA-WW1 - Flying Minnows

    Re-living another classic WW1 air war memoir, in Wings over Flanders Fields! This is a rather late addition to my earlier series of WOFF mission reports inspired by real-life WW1 aircrew memoirs. The inspiration in this case is ‘Flying Minnows’ which was, in turn, a late addition to my library, picked up the other week from a local second-hand bookstore. The book was first published in 1935 under the author's pseudonym ‘Roger Vee’, my 1979 reprint appearing under the author’s real name of Vivian Voss. Though sharing the surname of the famous German ace, this Voss was a South African, with family ties to my own home town of Belfast, in Northern Ireland. The man and the book ‘Flying Minnows’ – which I haven’t finished reading yet – begins with Voss’s flying training in 1917, in Canada, having crossed from the USA where he was studying at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, to join up. From his account, the standard of basic training seems only slightly evolved from the beginning of the war. At Camp Mohawk near Deseronto, Voss learns to fly in the ‘Buffalo Curtiss’ type JN-4A, which is what we today would commonly call a Curtiss ’Jenny’. Slightly more advanced training then follows, after a move to Camp Borden, flying both the 'Buffalo Curtiss’ and another ‘Jenny’ they called the 'Canadian Curtiss', with reduced dihedral and a normal joystick instead of the Buffalo's one with a wheel for aileron control. Amongst other things, Voss receives instruction in artillery spotting, providing a usefully detailed description of the basic procedure, including examples of the actual Morse Code signals used. He receives his commission in Toronto then leaves via steamer from Halifax for Liverpool. In England, flying first at Shawbury in Shropshire, Voss records briefly his impressions of other types he flies during ‘continuation training’ there and later. He says of the Avro 504 trainer ‘It took me some time to get used to these rotary engines, and to the extermely sensitive "balanced" rudder. But they were remarkably stable machines and easy to land.' Of the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter, he says 'They were easy machines to fly', capable of being trimmed so they could be flown 'hands off' - literally: he tells the story of a Strutter which landed in a field 70 miles behind the Lines, and how the officer who walked over to offer assistance found that '...the petrol tank was empty, but the airmen needed no help. Both the pilot and the observer were dead.' Voss moves to Netherhavon on Salisbury Plain and fears he is doomed to artillery spotting rather than a fighter pilot career, when he hears they have RE8s there. However, he soon finds out he's destined to be flying Bristol Fighters and that these are not the obsolete Bristol Scouts he had known off, but modern 2-seaters, said by some of his fellows there to be '...considered to be the finest fighting machines ever built.' Taking up a BE2e at Netherhavon for the first time, his instruction consists of being told 'Don't spin or loop it, as it won't stand it.' He finds the BE is '...an easy machine to fly, and did several half rolls (Immelmann turns) and vertical banks with it. It was very light and felt like a toy after the the heavier 1 1/2 Strutters I had been flying.' The DH6 trainer also on station is ‘...a very slow machine...hideously ugly...commonly known as a 'Clutching Hand' or a 'Crab'. I have seen Crabs flying against the wind with such low air-speeds that they were actually drifting backwards relative to the ground.' Of the RE8 he says 'It was the heaviest machine I had yet flown...fortunately all the serviceable RE8s were crashed just about this time, so I was put straight on to Bristol Fighters.' Of his first solo in the latter machine, Voss says 'I felt at home at once...the engine, a 250 hp Rolls- Royce, was infinitely more powerful than anything I had come acrross so far. It gave a full-throated roar and shot away across the aerodrome and then up, soaring into the air like a great eagle. She was a massive machine but so beautifully designed that she did not feel heavy on the controls. She responded surperbly to the least touch of the stick or rudder-bar.' Such are the impressions that we WW1 air war afficionados love to savour! Voss's most memorable experience from this time is when he’s sent on an ‘altitude test’ to confirm he can tolerate the conditions. This he manages, but his base is clouded in below him. Having without visible reference points drifted well south in his wide spiralling ascent, he ends up coming back down through the overcast to find himself well out over a blustery sea, land no-where in sight. Luckily, he runs out of petrol close to a solitary fishing boat, which quickly rescues him. Completing his training, Voss is posted to France and is on operations from February 1918 to the end of the war, flying first with No. 48 Squadron, then with 88. With the reticence that was typical of the times, the squadrons are not identified by number and individuals are identified by more pseudonyms; but all is revealed in detailed appendices by renowned WW1 author Norman Franks, which include lists of casualties and claims for both squadrons during the author’s period of service. I haven’t done more than skip through the rest of the story but from what I’ve seen, it’s a fascinating one, different from but well up there with the likes of Norman MacMillan’s ‘Into The Blue’ or Duncan Grinnell-Milne’s ‘Wind in the Wires’. Based largely on an incident during training, one online review unfairly slates Voss for being a ‘chinless wonder’ type of officer, looking down his nose at the ‘other ranks’ - but leaving aside the fact the review mis-reports or mis-represents the incident, Voss is a man of his times not ours. And a brave man at that. To me, he displays a real charm and a self-effacing sense of humour. He does not disguise his fears, while maintaining the usual (for that era and that author base) stoical stance when recounting some of the crashes and other nastiness he encounters. I’ll not spoil the book for anyone else by saying more...besides, I haven’t finished it myself, yet! But it has already prompted me to start another Bristol Fighter campaign – I think my last serious one of these was in Over Flanders Fields, WOFF’s predecessor, so this outing in the Bristol is long overdue. The campaign Though Voss’s war started in early 1918, my favoured period for WW1 in the air is 1917, taking in ‘Bloody April', the RFC’s subsequent resurgence, and the appearance of many classic types like the Albatros D.III and D.V, the Pfalz D.III and Fokker Dr.1, and on the Entente side, the SE5 and the Camel...and of course, the Bristol Fighter. I decided to start in March 1917, with the type’s debut at the front with 48 Squadron. A side-benefit of this is that my low-spec PC isn’t going to be over-taxed by the higher volumes of air activity generated by WOFF for later-war periods, or need me to dial back my graphics settings. At this point, we have the early F2A version (tho WOFF visually represents this with a typical, later F2B). And our ranks include as a flight leader no less a man that William Leefe Robinson VC, feted back home as the slayer of a ‘zepp’ raiding England, in fact not a Zeppelin but the Schutte-Lanz airship S L11. Sure enough, WOFF’s order or battle lets me not only fly with the same squadron Voss was to join, but from its inauguration at the front and with Leefe Robinson on its duty roster. And of course WOFF puts us where we should be, at the airfield of la Bellevue. Naturally, I’m hoping that's as far as the recreation of history goes - because I want to avoid the fate of the squadron in what was reported to be its first foray over the Lines into enemy airspace (termed an 'Offensive Patrol', which Voss reminds us was known at the time as a 'O Pip'), when it met Manfred von Richthofen’s Jasta 11 and lost four out of six, including Leefe Robinson’s Bristol. The first mission As befits our first excursion since arriving at the front, our opening mission is a trip up to, but not over, the Lines. Having no particular interest in formation flying and preferring the extra tactical challenge of the flight leader, I have selected ‘Always lead’ so I’m at the head of the four Bristols for this trip. Bad weather – WOFF’s option to replicate the effects of historical weather, is another feature of this truly great sim – 'washed out' the previous day’s flying, so I’m keen to get away and at the Hun. I check the controls and start her up, the others doing likewise, including ‘A’ Flight, which will have three machines operating in loose support in the same area. I open her up and off we go! The ground is soon falling away behind us and I’m relishing the powerful, low snarl of my big Rolls Royce engine, such sounds being another of WOFF’s outstanding features. Up ahead, there’s still a lot of cloud, and if we go for our briefed altitude of 7,500 feet, I’m not yet sure whether we’ll be below, above or amongst all the white stuff. I’ll worry about that when I get up there, I decide. At a couple of thousand feet, I throttle back and level off while the others catch up. We make a series of gentle climbing turns, opening up and climbing harder as the formation comes nicely together. ‘A’ Flight slides across behind and below us and is last seen as a group of three dark specs, to our left and somewhat lower down. As we gain height, I settle onto a course that will take us to our assigned turning point above, but not across, the famous Lines. Grey and white clouds gather all around, but we plough on. The cloud stays fairly well broken and visibility is acceptable at our patrol height, which we reach after a long climb. With no ‘warp to next waypoint’ feature in WOFF, I much prefer to fly in real time. Even with autopilot, I dislike flying in accelerated time, but the short flights make this bearable. This, and the fact that if there’s a sim besides WOFF which captures with such uncanny depth the feeling you get from so many accounts of flying over the front in the First World War, I have yet to find it. Even over my own side of the Lines, with contact with the enemy not especially likely and with enemy fighters less so, I was kept busy enough scanning the skies above, around and below, in between admiring the view. And there is much to admire. For one thing, the Bristol, always one of the best-rendered kites in OFF, looks better than ever, in WOFF. As does the landscape, in this case including the battered town of Arras, near the Lines below us and soon to give its name to the battle that will spawn 'Bloody April'. The cloudscapes are equally good (especially with Arisfuser's cloud mod). They're not volumetric and sometimes it shows; but to my eye, they are as good or better than anything else in the business and their presence and appearance adds massively to the feeling that 'you are up there', over the front and at the mercy of everything from the elements, to the Archie (AA fire) and of course, the wily Huns, in the sun and elsewhere. But on we go, the eight of us, pilots and gunners, in our big new Bristol Fighters, ready for anything...we hope... ...to be continued!
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