This is my After-Action-Report from Flanders in Flames XXII Campaign Session 3.
Session 3, Saturday 26th September, 2015 – 18:00GMT
In some aspects, war becomes boring after a while. Again and again I have to do escort for bombers, most of the time for these big birds, brought to us by Igor Sikorsky: the S-22 Ilya Muromets. Mate, I tell you, this is an ugly, slow and huge aircraft. It’s so huge, the German Eindeckers can’t miss if they’re shooting at it. I’m glad, that I’m not a bomber pilot and have to fly these coffins. But for some reason my comrade Adler feels very comfortable with this plane – He’s really proud of calling the S-22 his Baby. I always suppose, that he must have had a liaison with an Elephant-Lady.
However, as usual I was assigned to an escort flight for Adler and Falke who started in a S-22 from Udshtera field. Our escort flight took of from Ankjzobov field with Mueller. He was the flight leader which was a great hounor because he’s also Commander in Chief in our Sector. Our flight started with four S-16 but soon we lost one of our comrades. We three were heading North-East for a rendezvous with the bombers. After some minutes of constant climbing we spotted them and followed them in South-West direction. We have climbed at about 2200mtrs, right above the clouds and catched up with Falke when I spotted three Eindeckers ahead. They turned into our direction. Adler, who was at about 2500mtrs altitude and almost 1000mtrs ahead turned back, but too late. The three Eindecker attacked and damaged him badly before we could enter the fight. While our escort flight was going to enter a dogfight with these German fighters, Falke had turned North and tried to escape. When we got contact with the Fokkers, they entered into a diving spiral together with Mueller and another S-16. I lost my orientation for a moment and when I saw them again, the three Eindecker and my two comrades were far below. Adler was heading back home and almost save over our territory so I tried to find Falke to support him if there are some more German aircraft around. After one or two minutes I found him and surprisingly there was another S-16. It was the comrade we lost soon after take off. We followed Falke to the North. When we reached Markowsky, he turned West, now we were over German territory and somehow we lost the other S-16 again. While Falke was searching for his target I was wide awake, turning around him spotting for Enemys attacking us. And actually I noticed a small black dot in the blue sky. I kept an eye on that dot which soon became a silhouette of a monoplane. Damn Eindeckers I thought, but this time it was only one. The E.III was turning left in a wide bow which brought him finally to Falke so I started my pursuit. It looked like he haven’t spotted me and was extending from me but he came closer and closer to Falke in his S-22. I tried to distract him and fired a well aimed short burst from my machine gun towards him. And it worked, he turned and entered a fight. Hell this pilot wasn’t a rookie on that E.III. Most of the time I was turning and twisting like crazy trying not to be an easy target.
He managed his energy very well and stayed above while I was waiting for the right moment to gain some energy on my own. Then the moment had come and with a displacement roll I forced him to overshoot. Now I was above and behind, so I started my attack and surprisingly he made a mistake. He climbed up right before my gun and I pulled the trigger. I saw fabric, wood and oil coming off his aircraft.
After that he enterd into a steep dive and I was following him, aiming and shooting again. Then, after a while I noticed, that his Propeller stood still. I must have hit his engine. First I thought now he’s a static target, an easy kill. But while diving on him I thought that it wouldn’t be very chivalrous to kill a defenceless pilot so I rocked my wings and broke off. Later I learned that this was the famous Ltn. Hans-Georg von der Marwitz of Jasta 30.
I climbed again to about 1000mtrs heading East to find our airfield at Pjnko. There I spotted another S-22 circling over the airfield to gain altitude. I catched up and then I saw, it was Adler again. So he must have had a safe landing. I wiggled my wings and he turned West, heading for his target. I was turning around him watching out for any Germans when I saw his gunner waving at me on his prominent seat. With my next pass I got a little closer and recognised that it was our old chap Sturm. What a hell of a job I thought – Sitting with his butt on the tank on the top wing of an aircraft that is flying 110km/h and 2200mtrs high. I wouldn’t swap.
After a while, again I spottet an Eindecker on an interception course… but wait, there were two, no three of them. Finally there were four Eindecker and a Roland attacking us. I send a prayer up to the sky, fastened my seat belt and engaged facing the certain death, well knowing that there was no escape for us. Two of the Eindeckers attacked my and after seconds I was in the middle of a dogfight, fighting for my own life. I had no chance to support my dear mate Adler. He was attacked by the other two Eindeckers and the Roland. But soon I saw no more defence fire coming from the S-22. They must have wounded or killed poor old Sturm.
But I had no time to feel sad about him. These two Eindeckers were Boom’n Zooming on me taking turns and I was contantly turning, avoiding them aiming on me. It was a hard fight, it must have been hours but from the beginning of the dogfight to it’s final down on the ground it lasts only 4 minutes. While turning all the time and trying not to loose to much altitude one of them pulld up and then turned left into a dive – straight ahead of my machine gun. There was the chance I have waited for.
Instantly I pulled the trigger of my gun, firing an angry burst from my Vickers into him. I must have hit, because after my attack he lost fuel and disengaged. One for me I thought, let’s go for the second one. I turned around to find him – Holy Jesus, he was on my six! I saw him firing and I thought, this is the end. But somehow I stayed unharmed. Although my engine was hit. I heard a loud ‘Clank’ and hot castor oil sputtered into my face and on my goggles. I broke off into a Split-S, the Fokker in pursiut. Again and again I rolled over and dove out. When I was at about 100mtrs I turned left, bliped my engine and watched out for a place to land my crippled plane. Through my oil splattered goggled I saw a forrest clearing that looked good and I started my approach.
Looking back, I saw the Fokker diving on me. I was a perfect target, defenceless with a damaged engine and elevator. I pushed on my stick to get some energy and to get out of the Fokkers line of fire. But he send some bullets into my upper right wing and one hit my right shoulder. I was so slow that he overshoot very fast and before his next pass I touched ground. I loosed my seat belts, grabbed the map and my compass and jumped out of my poor S-16 running into the woods. Looking back I saw the Fokker turning back and strafing my plane.
I took a look at my compass and headed East starting my long walk home. My wounded shoulder hurts and I was thirsty.