Good news, everybody. I’ve somehow managed to drag my wounded corpse back to the squadron aerodrome after a cunning escape I can only assume went somewhat exactly like this:
Yes, sir. It’s back to the war for me. Sitting about in German captivity was just awful. All that not having to fly a plane, regular meals, not being shot at, sitting about in the unreasonably pleasant late-summer sun, not having to listen to my squadmates recite their dreadful poetry… Ahem, yes, anyway. Back to the war. It appears that the Royal Flying Corps’ tradition of rewarding failure and injury with accolades and responsibility is still well established; I’ve been promoted to Flight Sergeant and awarded a bar for my Military Cross.
After messing about with the paint-scheme on my triplane some more, it’s back into the sky on patrol. I’ve emblazoned a big letter ‘S’ on the side of my aircraft in a random attack of vanity and vain hope that the Germans will take pity if they recognise me. No such luck, however, as it appears Jerry is as ruthless in the air as ever. Once again I’m engaged in the deadly twists and turns of a dogfight with enemy planes.
Weaving through ground-fire at low altitude, I slip onto the tail of an Albatros. Blasting away at him with both guns, I’m certain he’ll be next on my ever-growing victory tally. My fire rends deep scores into his fuselage as I aim for the delicate mechanics of his engine. However, having apparently not learnt my lesson from the previous mission, fate glances angrily in my direction once again.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t appear as though any of the enemy’s shots actually pierced the engine compartment. I’m left to conclude that, out of fear, fatigue or perhaps stubborn pacifism, my engine has decided without external input to spontaneously combust. I drift rather casually back to land, lamenting the loss of my eyebrows for the second time. Jerry seems too amused at my predicament to bother giving chase. The chagrin stings, but at least I’m still alive.
The next day, having made an effort to goad my engine back into working through sheer force of will, and maybe some slight assistance from the squadron’s ground crew, I’m back in the sky in time for a balloon attack. The idea of knocking about some dirigibles seems rather pleasant compared to the terrifying thrill of plane-on-plane combat.
Unfortunately, the Bosch have finally wisened up to our shenanigans. We manage to pop a couple of the wallowing gas-bags before an enemy squadron surprises us. It was a trap! I swerve out of the way, avoiding their opening barrage, but I quickly lose contact with the rest of the squadron. Deciding I’m easy prey, one of the Jerry pilots dives towards me, guns blazing.
I hear the bullets punching through the thin canvas body of my aircraft, impacting god knows what. I begin jinking and weaving, trying to save myself from his determined volleys. Just when I think I’ve finally managed to pick up enough speed to cut and run, he gets a lucky shot on one of my wing pylons.
The plane starts to lurch around violently and for a moment I think it’s all over and I’m about to slam into no-man’s-land to either be crushed in the wreckage of my aircraft or shot to pieces by enemy machine-gunners. Somehow, through luck rather than skill, I manage to hold the groaning triplane together. Jerry scores another couple of shots on my plane, one of which manages to graze my head. Probably thinking he can leave me for dead at that point, he overtakes me and starts climbing towards the continuing kerfuffle between our respective squadmates. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that I am still very much alive and my guns are still very much loaded.
Squinting through the blood, I pray I can get a bead on him before I faint or my plane falls apart. The German pilot finally notices his error and begins to swerve, right into my gunsight. I can’t match his manoeuvre with one of my wings hanging off, so I only manage a short burst. Fate seems to have forgiven my earlier hubris, as it’s enough to knock off his rudder and punch a couple of holes in his tailplane. The momentary loss of control is enough to send him ploughing headfirst into the grass.
I choose that moment to make my exit from the battlefield. I’ve used up more than my fair share of luck today. I slowly manage to wobble my way back to the aerodrome, compensating heavily for the damaged wing. Once in sight of the hangars, I cut the engine and make a gentle landing as slowly as possible. I skid and slide around the field for a bit, damaging the propeller, before coming to a complete stop. Once I’m certain nothing is going to burst into flames out of spite for my clumsiness, I tentatively inspect the damage to my plane.
I’m honestly surprised it survived long enough to make it back to the aerodrome. I guess that’s a testament to the sturdy design of the Sopwith Triplane. I’m rather pleased with how well she held together. Of course, knowing the attitude the RFC has to workable aircraft, I’m sure I won’t be flying her for much longer.