Reconnaissance! Casually flying around at low-altitude taking a peek at the enemy lines, recon is a fairly relaxed affair. I spend most of my time skimming treetops and buzzing towns, attempting to uncover enemy ground units, trains, vehicle convoys, that sort of thing.
Usually this type of mission is done by twin-seater aircraft, so somebody else can hold the camera, but, in their infinite wisdom, command has decided I should have to juggle the camera and the flight controls at the same time. Luckily there’s very little danger. That is until I cross paths with a couple of enterprising Germans with the same idea. I’m starting to think command is deliberately trying to get me killed. Probably something to do with the repair bill I’ve racked up so far.
We end up spinning around in a strange sort of ballet as I try and get a fix on him and he tries to evade me. It goes on for so long I start to get dizzy and really wish they’d invented the air-sickness bag by 1917. My plane is more manoeuvrable than the twin-seat German craft, but I can’t get him in my sights for more than a couple of seconds. As far as I can tell, none of my hastily fired shots make it home. This is bad. His gun can swivel; mine can’t. And just to prove that history has a habit of repeating itself…
…command is definitely trying to kill me. I’ve got the worst luck when it comes to tackling these German recon planes. And now I’m particularly cross. Despite the engine fluid splattering my goggles, I’m not letting this one get away. I just had this uniform cleaned, damn it! I swing around and, squinting through the mess, attempt to get a bead on my adversary. He’s been lulled into a sense of security, either by the groaning, gurgling and sputtering of my engine, or the trail of smoke I’m leaving behind me. He lowers his altitude, flying straight and apparently ignoring me. After a moment, the German pilot comes to his senses and begins to swerve out of my line of fire.
I’m anticipating another ridiculous dance around the sky. Not sure if I can keep it up with the damage to my engine, I begin to think my wily foe will get away. Then something rather unexpected happens. One of my stray shots from before must have clipped an aileron, his tailplane or maybe even wounded the pilot himself. The German plane starts flying dangerously low, too low to be deliberate. After a couple of seconds, he meets a rather nasty end when he fails to pull up over some trees.
I assume the trees won’t mind if I count this as a victory for myself. Unfortunately, the way command sees it, tailgunners exist as a sort of extension of the plane and not as people in their own right (how can I fault them really; I hate tailgunners) so I only get a single confirmed kill out of the mix. Any melancholy I had about shooting the enemy vanished with the water in my radiator. Speaking of radiators, the engine overheats and immediately conks out. I begin to recall a fitting quotation, something something learn nothing something something doomed to repeat something something, but it quickly eludes me as I plough headfirst into the dirt.
The amount of cranial trauma I experience on a daily basis really can’t be doing me any good. The good news is that the plane appears to be almost entirely intact this time. Being made out of mostly wood and canvas, it’s pretty bouncy. Unfortunately, despite how much the brain damage may have convinced me I can fly by flapping my arms, the rest of the mission is scrubbed. On the bright side, I ditched on the correct side of the trenches this time, so I spend the rest of the day dragging my plane back to the airfield. I’m sure everyone will be ecstatic to see I survived!