The Flying Officer 04

We knew that whatever wanted doing would be done smartly and efficiently and by their keenness our flight hands gave us the impression that we were all one team, each of us playing for the side and doing our very best in our own respective places. On landing from a patrol after taxying to the hangars and switching off the engine, the nearest man would ask, “Any luck, sir?” and close behind him would be the armourer, anxious to know how the guns had worked. To be able to report that we

had shot down an Albatross and that the guns had fired to perfection was to see that our mechanics were every bit as pleased as we were. The loss of a pilot was felt as keenly on the Mess Deck as amongst the officers themselves, and a decoration bestowed on any individual was rightly taken not only as a personal honour but as belonging to the whole of the flight and to the Squadron itself. I cannot express too clearly the very real debt which every officer owed to this spirit of unhesitating keenness.

In the previous chapters accounts have been given of the usual patrols which formed our main work. Apart altogether from flight operations, until 1918 it was possible to indulge in a certain amount of private warfare. That is to say that when the day’s patrols were completed, one or two of the more experienced pilots were allowed to go off on their own, either to attack some announced objective or, more often, to lay in wait for some particular enemy machine which it might have been noticed formed a habit of crossing our lines or working at the same hour every day. It was curious how persistent was the German trait of working to a timetable, and how we were able consistently to shoot down two-seaters which habitually did the same thing at the same time. One would have imagined that after a while they would have arranged escorts or even laid traps for us, but though naturally we occasionally got the worst of the bargain, generally speaking these individual efforts were extremely successful.

Another important duty with which we were entrusted was the interference with enemy wireless machines. Two pilots were constantly in readiness on the aerodrome, alert at a moment’s notice to get into the air. Word would come that an enemy two-seater was spotting for their guns in a certain named area. Our two machines would immediately take off and proceed to the spot as quickly as possible. With any luck they would establish contact with the German wireless machine and, if they were not able to shoot it down, they almost invariably drove it so far behind its own lines that it was entirely unable to carry on with its work of spotting.

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