The Flying Officer 10

Over with the rudder-there is no time to be lost with less than twenty minutes’ petrol in the tank.

For ten minutes nothing eventful takes place. Several targets are observed on the ground, but for obvious reasons they must be ignored. Brown tries to find some landmarks to fix his position, but everything seems completely strange. Trenches, support lines, begin to show up, and he

knows he must be getting nearer home. A minute or two longer, the usual machine-guns from the line, and he is over our own side once more.

In front he sees a British machine, apparently making for its aerodrome, and remembering the old adage of any port in a storm, he decides to follow and land to find out his whereabouts. A little later his wheels touch the ground, and as he switches off his engine in front of the hangars he suddenly feels a hundred years old and tired out into the bargain.

Mechanics run up. He gets out, enquires the way to the Commanding Officer’s quarters, and goes off to report.

The C.O. is interested and, incidentally, informs him that he has landed fifty miles north of his own aerodrome. A telephone call is put through, and in half-an-hour or so he has the pleasure of speaking to his own C.O., reporting his safety and giving particulars of the troops he has shot up and of the Hun he has shot down.

Hoping to get home that night, he walks back on to the aerodrome to find someone to fill up his machine with petrol. There is a small crowd of mechanics round the “Camel,” and as he approaches they make way.

"Sorry, sir, but it’s not going to be much good filling her up. Look at this-and this."

“These” are not pretty. A fuselage longeron all but shot through, and a main spar almost in halves. The machine will never fly again; in fact it is amazing it flew at all since the scrap.

Brown turns away towards the Mess, and it comes as something of an anti-climax when he hears later that when he landed he had only a tea-cupful of petrol left in his tanks.

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