The Flying Officer 09

If anyone ever fires at you, the golden rule is to move, and move quickly, Brown pulls up into the clouds, which are only a hundred feet or so above, and then, changing direction slightly, dives again in the hope of getting in a burst from his guns as he takes the enemy by surprise. He succeeds fairly well, but his fire does not seem to do very much harm. Again the Hun evades him, and pours back a stream of tracer bullets which come unpleasantly close. Backwards and forwards, round and round they go,

and it begins to dawn on Brown that he can‘t have very much ammunition left. His blood is up and he determines to take a chance and to settle matters – or be settled.

Ignoring all the rules of aerial combat, and throwing to the winds the precautions which have been drilled into him, he seizes a favourable opportunity and dives straight on the Hun’s tail. Withholding his fire until the last possible moment, in spite of all the German observer can do, he puts a burst right into the enemy pilot’s cockpit. Fortune is on his side. The L.V.G. rears up into the clouds, and as quickly emerges in a vertical nose-dive. Brown watches, almost hoping against hope that the Hun will pull out and save himself. But a cloud of dust marks the spot where the German hits the ground, his engine full on. The noise of the impact is distinct. Brown, feeling a little shaken, looks over his machine and observes with a curious feeling of nausea that his right bottom plane is torn, and that one of the instruments on his board has been smashed. A close call!

Our friend now thinks that he has done a full day’s work and that even the most exacting of Squadron Commanders can hardly blame him for “packing up.” The only difficulty remaining is that he has not the faintest idea where home is. His road, which he was following, has completely vanished, and his compass, which should give him at least the direction of our lines, is waltzing gaily round in a most unfortunate manner. Nothing he can see on the ground looks at all familiar, which is hardly surprising considering the fact that he is twenty-five miles over the lines, at a height of two hundred feet. Visions cross his mind of all those pilots he knows, or has heard of, who disappear and are presumed to have landed on the enemy side. It seems long odds that he will add to this number, especially as his engine just then gives a warning splutter and begins to fail.

Quickly! Turn the petrol tap over to the auxiliary supply. That will last for twenty minutes or so. No sooner said than done-and the engine picks up again. Life is at its blackest when the compass shows signs of settling down, and at last gives a more or less steady reading. If it can be trusted, a half-turn to the left should have him flying towards our lines.

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