The Flying Officer 07

The pilots chosen for the low reconnaissance are to set out two at a time at intervals of an hour. We will follow the adventures of one of them, whom we will christen “Brown."

Brown had not been out in France very long and, although he had been in several scraps and had helped to shoot down enemy machines, he had yet to “get a Hun” single-handed. His taking-off time is 2 p.m., and as this

hour draws near he gets into his dying gear, after searching his pockets to see that he has no document on him which might prove of assistance to the enemy if he were captured. With the same idea in his mind, he places his service hat and a pair of shoes in his machine, avoiding in this way the possibility of having to finish the war hatless and in a pair of thigh-length fleece-lined flying boots. He folds conveniently the map of the roads he is to cover, gets into his machine and takes off.

Crossing the trench area he catches glimpses of our infantry, Someone gives him an encouraging wave, He has never before been over the lines as low as this. Landmarks which are distinct at high altitudes are unrecognisable or non-existent at 500 feet. Fortunately, Brown has been warned of this by his Flight Commander and has a compass-bearing in his mind which gives him his direction. These thoughts are rudely interrupted by the sound of a machine gun, apparently directed at him. A couple of slight turns, an alteration in height, and he is past. From now on every minute is marked by machine-gun fire from below. Fortunately, Brown does not ‘happen to go over an anti-aircraft gun battery, or he might be given something to worry him.

He is flying along one of the usual straight French highroads, bordered on either side by the stumps of trees. So far, all seems deserted, but in the distance about a mile away there is something on the road. Brown tests his guns by firing three or four rounds from each, and hopes for good hunting.

What luck! Reserve troops on the march toward the lines. Brown climbs as high as he can without entering the clouds and then puts his nose down towards the head of the column. No one could miss such a target. With a savage feeling of delight, the triggers are pressed and the troops scatter.   Mowing them down, Brown flies straight along their once-orderly lines, finishing his burst of fire and pulling out of his dive only a few feet over their heads. A climbing turn, and he is on them again. By this time the road is clear except for the dead and wounded, and the target is nothing like so compact. Remembering that he carries four sixteen-pound bombs he drops these in a line along the hedge in which as many as possible

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