My first official day out in France, fresh from flying school and I find myself [(Chipper, the pilot) and Beanie (the observer/gunner)] flying in a "Noon Patrol" over the front to protect our "assets" from the Hun. A strange sort of mission to fly in an RE8, nevertheless the High Command must have a plan in the 'Grand Scheme of Things'. Ours is not to wonder why, or so the padre keeps telling us. My fellow and much more experienced combat pilot (by almost two weeks), the flight commander Tim, was unperturbed at the unorthodoxy of using an RE8 in the fighter role, so why should I worry? Thus following in the wake of three RNAS Pups and savouring his last words of advice "Lets not fly at the same level as each other, that's how we lost Douglas and Callum last week, nasty affair, bits of them all over the place" we take to the air.
Well we soon lost sight of the flight of fancy Sopwith Pups as they tried to pounce on a lone Boshe coming straight at them from Hunland (see above, left middle). Unexpectedly I also lost sight of my flight leader Tim, but did manage to spot four Huns coming straight for my 'old crate' which was flying like a brick I may add. Two Albatrosses, an evil looking Pink 'two-seater' Thing and an ugly, cumbersome yellow 'two-seater' that looked like nothing out of my aircraft recognition manual brought from England (see above, right middle). Having made it as far as the front line I thought it best to swing back to protect a large observation balloon we had put up on our side of the trench line.
So much for the flight instructor in England telling me that the sky was empty of aircraft, it's like a hornets nest. In fact so crowded that one German model has been replaced with a WoW (Wings of War) card template to avoid a messy model superposition and cracking of plastic. Meanwhile I am in the process of swinging my blessed crate around for my gunner Beanie to get a bearing on them (see above).
To my left the daring German pilot dives underneath the patrol line of Pups by a cunning Hun trick of loosing altitude. I later discovered this tactic is called diving, I wish they had taught us that in flight school. Well it sure fooled the RNAS boys, but then again they were still half-cut from the previous nights celebration in the mess, apparently they were all a bit squiffy. Hate to think what the Castor oil from the engines did to their system after an hour into the patrol. Wouldn't fancy being an artificer tasked with cleaning out one of those Pups when (or rather if) they got back to base.
I turned my tail in true text book fashion (oh how the instructor would have been overjoyed to know that I can now bank an aircraft, see above) waving at a friendly Sopwith Pup who had come to my assistance. You can always trust the Navy to come to your help in a time of need. Then to spoil it all the Huns appeared (see below) and the Sopwith disappeared in a huge ball of flame. It certainly put the wind up me I can tell you. If that's what happens to a fast scout what was going to happen when they catch up with my RE8? You couldn't miss the blooming thing if you tried.
I dropped the RE8 like a stone (yes 'diving' I believe it's called) and Beanie rattled off a few rounds at the Pink Devil before his gun jammed (I later found my ammunition pack was full of duds and practice rounds, we weren't going to hurt anything this bar ramming into something). The lumbering yellow German bus (now so close as to be as big as the moon) swung past me and we exchanged shots. My few to his many. Holes appeared everywhere in the RE8, fabric was tearing and black smoke started streaming from the engine. Beanie gave out a yell and clutched his arm, the crate was barely holding together. I waved my fist at the pilots of the Pink Terror and Yellow Bus but all I could see was their skull like faces mocking me. I tried to get one last shot in but that dirty yellow bus had a rear gunner with spider eyes. The German Spandau spluttered back into life (it had previously been jammed) and I hard a fatal crack in my wing struts. Suddenly and all too fast the ground came into view and we smashed into a large water-filled "rear echelon crater" more out luck than good judgement.
With the sound of an express train still ringing in my ears I was pulled out of the water by some friendly Frenchies. My RE8 slipped beneath the scum of the "cess-pool" I had clearly landed in (oh the smell). In the distance I saw our observation balloon falling in flames and it truly felt the most miserable day of my life. The infantry battalion commander (a fellow Tommy) took pity on us, filled us up both with scotch, for Beanie somehow too had survived and sent us back on our ways to the airfield later that night in a lull between the shelling. Thus despite being battered and bruised "Chips and Beans" live on to fight another day.