Alright, we’re back with Tommy Sparrow this time, and I was right. So long, Sopwith Triplane, your overabundance of trailing edges served us well. 10 Squadron retired the aircraft in October of 1917 and replaced it with the Sopwith Camel. When most people think ‘bi-plane’ they think of the Camel. It is possibly the most recognisable aircraft of the First World War.
It is slower and less manoeuvrable than the triplane. But it makes up for the decreased speed and agility with two guns (instead of the triplane’s standard one which I upgraded to two anyway), the ability to carry a few small bombs for concussing Jerry, and racing stripes. Lord knows what possessed the commander of 10 Squadron to decide this was a sensible colour scheme, but it beats the standard British khaki any day. The squadron’s first mission in these new planes has us chasing down a reconnaissance plane. Oh good god I hate these things. There’s a special place in hell reserved for tail-gunners.
I don’t waste any time pumping as many .303 rounds into the dastardly kraut flier as I can. The tail gunner swerves around, trying to get a bead on me as I duck and weave in and out of his sightline. I’m not getting my new engine blown apart by another one of these bloody things. The taste of engine oil still lingers in my mouth and any sense of mercy I once had for my enemy died with the hair on my eyebrows. I get a bit overenthusiastic with my damage dealing and manage to deplete my reserves of ammunition. I mash the trigger button in annoyance and am met with only a click from both of my Vickers machine-guns. I needn’t have worried though, as the delayed effect of all my wild bullet-spraying becomes apparent.
The wings of the DFW C.V shear off along the dotted lines created by my shooting. As the aircraft tumbles to its demise, the tail-gunner continues to blast away at me. Even when faced with inevitable death they won’t cease their attempts to ruin my day. In his helpless death-throes he actually manages to clip one of my ailerons. What was a dive quickly becomes a plummet as I struggle with a broken control surface. Wrenching the stick back I manage to control my descent enough to ensure I don’t end up in little bits all over the Western Front, but not so much that I don’t wreck some poor infantryman’s day when I crash right on top of his trench.
It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t end up nose-first in the mud. This section of the front is manned by Australians at least, so I can count on a good couple of ANZAC biscuits while I wait for a lift back to the aerodrome. Of course, as a pilot I’m slightly more expensive than the average soldier to train, so they throw me into a field hospital first to make sure all of the appropriate limbs are still attached. Shame they don’t heal pride, but who’s to complain when you get to spend a few days with the VAD ladies.
It’s only a few days of cheerful nurse flirting before they turf me out and I’m back at 10 Squadron headquarters, ready to be thrown into the meat-grinder again. Not before I’m the victim of the RFC’s rather cynical approach to rewarding their pilots, though. A Military Cross with two bars and a Distinguished Service Order are what I get for advancing the science of aeroplane pedology.
With this much metal on my chest it’s a wonder I can even take off, Jerry will hear me jingling about miles away.