Sunday, 14 January 2018

World War One - air warfare

British Sopwith Snipe somewhere over the Western front.

It was a quiet morning, the sun shone softly through the puffy white clouds floating gently above the inhuman and senseless carnage in the French fields below.

Smudge Smith liked this time of day, and if he could takeaway the gnawing fear from the pit of his stomach, it would almost be a pleasant experience. But ultimately he was on a combat mission over the trenches with the sole aim of intercepting and shooting down enemy aircraft.

His wing man was a newly qualified Belgian pilot flying a Sopwith Camel aircraft.

Smudge looked at the fields below and thought it looked so peaceful - if only this was a flight during more fortunate times.

Blinking, he watched two dots appear on the horizon over enemy lines. His stomach tightened, enemy aircraft!

Turning slightly to starboard, and glancing over a shoulder to ensure his new Belgium comrade was following, he made a straight line to intercept the two dots, that even now, were growing bigger on the horizon.

Tally Ho!

The four planes headed straight towards each other, each pilot fighting his own demon of fear. The average life expectancy of a World War I pilot on the Western front was not very long at all. Smudge Smith had already used up his nine lives. He prayed that his luck would hold out for one more fight.

Below he could see a river and a small French town. Smith wondered who controlled this part of France, there have been some fierce fighting below and ground had been won and lost in equal measure.

All too soon that four combatants were in engaged in a deadly aerial ballet above the town.

The enemy pilots were aggressive - charging in to fire close range against him. A couple of times he swore their planes even collided with parts of his own. He was confident that he was giving as good as he got.

He saw that his Belgian wing man was closing head-on with the German fighter marked with red stripes, he could hear the clatter of machine-gun fire as they both closed on each other.

Both planes seem to splutter and shake, slowly dipping then plunging from the sky. Suddenly two large mushrooms appeared. ‘ Parachute ‘ Smudge thought.....’ they are allowed parachutes!’

Both pilots were slowly gliding to the town below.

The sound of machine gun fire brought him back to the now.

He twisted and turned, and both pilots fought for their lives. Things were desperate, his plane was full of holes, his rudder almost shot to pieces. In a last ditch effort he turned sharply and fired at his gallant foe.

First smoke, then fire and slowly the enemy plane turned and dropped toward the ground.

Smith turned for home, passing over the town to get his bearings. He wanted to be sure of the position his wing man landed. A rescue mission was in the offing!

Last pass over the town.

To be continued........

“Unleash hell”

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