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.