Let’s Crash in Rise of Flight, Part Seven

We’re being exceptionally unsporting and mean today. That’s right, ground attack! It just doesn’t seem fair to drop things out of planes at people trapped by gravity on the surface, but apparently it’ll help the war effort somehow. Heaven forbid Field Marshal Kitchener doesn’t get his extra metre of dirt to brag about, especially in this delightful autumn weather.

Foggy skies.
They said slight chance of fog. Slight.

Command’s hope, it would seem, is that nobody else would be foolish enough to fly around when it’s bloody cold and the clouds are hugging the terrain. Not to worry though, they can always count on us! If I still have a nose by the end of this mission, I’ll be surprised.

Our targets are a couple of German motorised convoys. While there may not be anything special about trucks these days, most military transportation of the time relied on literal horse power.

Look at these fancy pants horse riders. Don't they know it's the 20th century?
Look at these fancy pants horse riders. Don’t they know it’s the 20th century?

While cavalry regiments quickly became obsolete due to the inability for a man on a horse to avoid being shot a lot by machine guns, moving stuff around behind the lines was still predominantly a horse-based endeavour. As such, our attack on a motorised convoy is an exercise in wrecking something pretty jolly expensive. The Germans won’t be happy, and it’s expected there’ll be a lot of Flak and Machine-guns covering them. The perfect environment to send fragile, wood and canvas aeroplanes into.

Once we locate the convoy, a shock of accurate intelligence stunning us all, we notice something else. It happens to be passing by an entire airfield of enemy fighters that nobody apparently noticed.

Here we go again.
Here we go again.

Once more we’re engaged in the deadly dance of aerial combat. From what I can see we’re up against two very angry flights of Albatross aircraft. Some in black markings, others in yellow and red. I left my German paraphernalia guidebook back at the aerodrome, so only God knows what that mess of stripes actually means. We seem to be getting good at this, and quickly the squadron dispatches a number of Jerry planes. It appears the Germans were equally as surprised to see us barreling over the horizon as we were to see they’d set up camp in this particular spot. Scrambled pilots are never as effective as they ought to be. Probably caught them in the middle of bratwurst and sauerkraut. Remember children to wait an hour after eating before you fly a combat aircraft.

I manage to bag myself one enemy pilot, his plane dressed in black and white livery. There’s a brief moment of comradeship, due to recognising my own, equally silly colour scheme, but it’s short lived before he makes intimate acquaintance with the ground.

Who knew grass could reflect bullets so easily?
Who knew grass could reflect bullets so easily?

After the rest of the rudely awakened Albatrosses are dispatched, we move on to interfering with German logistics. It’s only 1917, so the convoys are dreadfully slow things. Not much in the way of suspension either, so I consider the fact we’re probably doing the crews a favour mitigating their inevitable future spinal injuries.

Soldiers in trucks manning Flak guns scramble to get a bead on us as we swoop low to the ground, but we’re moving too quickly. The fox is loose in the henhouse, as they say, and the hens aren’t particularly good shots with their 75mm Krupp anti-aircraft guns.

You can almost see the terror on their faces.
You can almost see the terror on their faces.

I still haven’t got the hang of dropping bombs out of my plane, so most of them end up scarring the landscape rather than doing damage to anything useful. I also have a tendency to be going too low and slow while dropping them, so each blast buffets my plane a little, giving me a fright.

Luck prevails in the end, however, and I manage to land a bomb on the last truck in the convoy, it having stalled while the rest of the motorcade, in callous but predictable military fashion, left it behind.

Blammo!
Blammo!

My bomb rack depleted, I have to resort to strafing the rest of the convoy. Where the rest of my squadron has gone, I’ve got no idea. They were hereabouts the last time I checked, but they seem to have scarpered since. Nice to know my competence has such a high reputation that they’ve seen fit to let me complete the mission by myself.

Of course, now I’ve said that. Whether I was being sardonic or not, the First World War is an environment that prides itself on irony. Any and all statements about how well things are going, especially the dreaded “how could it possibly get any worse”, the monster will awaken. Cheerfully it will dismantle all hopes, obliterate any kind of self-assurance and tactfully remind you that it will always, always be watching. Such as it was when I went for a particularly low strafing run over the convoy and forgot where my landing gear was.

Don't 'spose any of you chaps know the way to blighty?
Don’t ‘spose any of you chaps know the way to blighty?

The worst part of the ordeal wasn’t the crash, the damage to my aeroplane or even the damage to myself. The worst part was how the convoy straight up ignored me and continued on its merry way. I mean, I had sort of been shooting at them. And bombing them. And shouting mean epithets at them. But that’s no excuse.

Bloody Germans.

Let’s Crash in Rise of Flight, Part Six

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.

Stripes make you go faster.
Stripes make you go faster.

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.

Daka daka daka
Daka daka daka

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.

Quit while you're ahead, Fritz.
Quit while you’re ahead, Fritz.

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.

Terribly sorry, old chap.
Terribly sorry, old chap.

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.

They're a cheerful lot in here.
They’re a cheerful lot in here.

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.

They're pretty good as improvised ground-attack munitions with those pointy corners.
They’re pretty good as improvised ground-attack munitions with those pointy corners.

With this much metal on my chest it’s a wonder I can even take off, Jerry will hear me jingling about miles away.

Let’s Crash in Rise of Flight, Part Five

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.

Brilliant.
Just what I always wanted.

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.

It's not personal, you know.
It’s nothing personal, you know.

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.

That's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit.
That’s why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit.

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.

You'd think they'd stop using these things.
You’d think they’d stop using these things.

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 really don't want another medal this badly!
I really don’t want another medal this badly!

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.

Oi! I need that.
Oi! I need that.

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.

Glad to see overconfidence isn't just a weakness intrinsic to me.
Glad to see overconfidence isn’t just a weakness intrinsic to me.

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.

Revenge!
Revenge!

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.

Nothing a roll of gaffer tape won't fix. They had gaffer tape in 1917, right?
Nothing a roll of gaffer tape won’t fix. They had gaffer tape in 1917, right?

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.

Let’s Crash in Rise of Flight, Part Four

Hello, everyone. You may notice something a bit different about today’s adventure.

I got a haircut!
I got a haircut!

That’s right, we’re flying a different plane! This is the Sopwith Triplane. Triplanes are a unique feature of aerial battles in the First World War. They look a bit ridiculous at first, but they come with a few neat advantages. Strapping three wings onto your aircraft instead of two has the effect of increasing the rate at which you can climb, as well as allowing tighter turning. This should make those hectic dogfights a little more exciting, assuming I don’t get a little too ambitious and tear the plane apart. This particular model is the Sopwith Triplane in service with the Royal Navy’s 10 Squadron.

Getting to fly this beauty wasn’t the only reason for my transfer, however. That impulse was particularly driven by the increasing danger to life and limb I experienced while flying with 56 Squadron. That danger wasn’t just due to the well-practiced capacity I had for creative landing procedures, nor was it the increasingly treacherous missions I was being sent on in penance for my ingenious aircraft remodeling. No, the biggest danger was the trigger-happy tendencies of my allies combined with what I could only assume was an extremely lax standard in friend or foe identification.

Not the face, not the face!!
Not the face, not the face!!

The hail of lead from every direction, ally and adversary, landed me in the hospital not once, but twice.

I'm not sure if that's engine fluid... or brain matter.
I’m not sure if that’s engine fluid… or brain matter.

Honestly, it started to get a bit old, and when I was awarded with the Military Cross for my sterling effort at being shot at mercilessly by every pilot and his dog, I began to think command was taking the piss. I submitted my transfer papers and hoped that wherever I ended up, I’d be flying something a bit more distinctively friendly in the company of other fliers who weren’t criminally insane.

Drive faster, I think I see the squadron commander wielding a cricket bat.
Drive faster, I think I see the squadron commander wielding a cricket bat.

And that’s how I ended up with 10 Squadron. So far I haven’t been shot at by a friendly pilot once. The Triplane is brilliant to fly, the tighter turning is especially useful in catching those cunning jerry pilots, and after a couple of missions I even get to pick out a custom paint job. I opt for a nice blue trim, just to make extra sure I’m not mistaken for the bosch, and I fix another gun to the front as well, hoping that the extra firepower makes up for the increased ammunition consumption.

Flying in style.
Flying in style.

I’m raring to go and bring the fight all the way to Berlin, so I’m a bit disappointed when I keep getting assigned to escort patrols and balloon attack missions. I’m itching for some action.

Action doesn’t take long to arrive, however, because I’m soon rostered onto an offensive patrol over jerry’s side of the front. Here I encounter my first enemy fighter pilot since I joined up with the 10th. He’s flying an Albatros D.V, a relatively new German plane that entered service in May of 1917. He begins to evade me, but with my new plane’s increased manoeuvrability, I quickly end up on his tail and give him both barrels of my twin Vickers.

Deutschland uber this, pew pew!
Deutschland uber this, pew pew!

My rounds tear through canvas, ripping gaping holes in his wings as a rather distressing amount of smoke begins to disgorge from his engine. Jerry holds steady, keeping his plane under control with some expert flying. Impressed but not deterred, I follow him, firing burst after burst of machine-gun fire into his tail, trying to force him down. Eventually he loses it. His wounded craft begins to spiral down to earth. He gives one last valiant attempt to flatten out his trajectory before impacting the dirt with a terrifying bang.

Ouch.
Ouch.

He won’t be goosestepping away from that one. Feeling the adrenaline coursing through my veins and the weight of the remaining ammunition in my plane, I scan the horizon for more targets. My vanquished foe must have been on a solo patrol, because I can’t find a single other enemy plane in the sky. With that established, I take out my frustration on a nearby observation balloon.

"Mein Gott, drei Flügel! Wie genial!"
“Mein Gott, drei Flügel! Wie genial!”

Today isn’t a good day for the Prussian bird-watching society, as I send their airship plummeting back to land. I start to feel rather pleased with myself, maybe I really can be a heroic fighter ace! I should have checked my overconfidence, however, as the Imperial German Army decides to take that moment to teach me some humility.

Someone's been practicing.
Someone’s been practicing.

A direct hit from a flak gun sends both my plane and my ego tumbling back to earth. Any moral lesson life chose to teach me is rather cut short by the impact, and I once again find myself getting to know the French countryside rather intimately.

Bollocks.
Bollocks.

I land almost right on top of a German camp. Is this it? Is the war for me over? Am I doomed to eat nothing but sauerkraut and bratwurst for the rest of my life in captivity? Am I going to stop making ridiculous racial epithets that are quite possibly offensive to the German people?

Nah, she’ll be right.