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Title: Night Bombing with the Bedouins
Author: Reece, Robert Henry, 1889-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



   [Illustration]


   NIGHT BOMBING
   WITH THE BEDOUINS

   _By One of the Squadron_

   ROBERT H. REECE
   LIEUT. D.F.C., R.A.F.

   _With Illustrations_

   [Illustration]

   BOSTON AND NEW YORK
   HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
   The Riverside Press Cambridge
   1919



   COPYRIGHT, 1919, ROBERT H. REECE
   ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



   DEDICATION



    _In a spirit of the deepest reverence I dedicate this unworthy effort
    to the memory of a true sportsman, a loyal friend, and a gallant
    officer who was killed in action while serving his Country as a
    Pilot in the American Air Service,_

    LIEUTENANT SAMUEL PIERCE MANDELL

    _America has given of the finest of her Youth to uphold the Cause of
    Right, but she has given no one of more splendid promise than he,
    whose service was an example of devotion to duty, of readiness for
    action, and of undaunted courage._

    _His life was an inspiration to the living "to carry on" and finish
    the great struggle for which he died, that he and those like him may
    not have died in vain._



CONTENTS


   I. PER ARDUA AD ASTRA                                               1

   II. THE "BEDOUIN" SQUADRON                                         12

   III. THE BEDOUINS AT OCHEY AERODROME                               39

   IV. A NIGHT RAID                                                   50

   V. SOME EPICS OF NIGHT BOMBING                                     71

   VI. THE GUIDING HAND                                               86



ILLUSTRATIONS


   LIEUTENANT ROBERT H. REECE, R.A.F.         _Photogravure Frontispiece_

   JIMMIE WALKS UP AND DOWN THE TRENCH                                14

   ENTRANCE TO OFFICERS' MESS                                         40

   THE PATRIOTIC, SCIENTIFIC MECHANICS                                44

   AFTER THE LANDING                                                  84



NIGHT BOMBING WITH THE "BEDOUINS"



CHAPTER I

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA


In prehistoric times the first man to make for himself a stone hatchet
probably became the greatest warrior of his particular region. He may
not have been as strong physically as his neighbor, but with the aid of
so marvellous an invention as a stone hatchet he undoubtedly conquered
his enemies and became a great prehistoric potentate, until some other
great man made a larger and stronger hatchet; so down to the present
invention has followed invention and improvement has been added to
improvement to such an extent that it is difficult to imagine what new
weapon of destruction man can develop in the future.

What would the past generation have said of a man who had prophesied
great armies fighting in the air? Even in the early months of the war
there were but few who realized what an important part of the war was to
be carried on in the newly conquered element. When the infantry saw an
occasional box-kite-looking machine drifting slowly over the lines,
struggling to keep itself aloft, how many, I wonder, foresaw that in a
few months these machines would be swooping down on them like swallows,
raking them with machine guns by day and bombing them by night? How many
artillery officers laughed at the suggestion that a day was coming when
thousands of great guns would be directed from the air? Yet in a few
short months two great blind fighting giants, their arms stretching from
the Belgian coast to the Swiss border, learned to see each other; and
their eyes were in the air.

The first aeroplanes to cross the lines carried no armament; they were
for reconnaissance work only; they would fly a few miles back of the
enemy lines, have a good look around, and then come back and report what
they had seen. Often British and German machines would pass quite close
to each other. Flying was considered sufficiently dangerous, not to add
a further danger to it by attacking enemy machines.

The Germans, however, because they greatly outnumbered the British in
the air, had more eyes to see with; something had to be done; so rifles
were carried by the British and a finer sport than shooting ducks came
into vogue. This quickly led to the carrying of machine guns. Ingenuity
in devising sights to compensate for the speed of our own machines and
to gauge a proper deflection according to the speed and angle of
approach of the enemy machine, soon decreased the advantage the enemy
aviators had through superior numbers.

For example, if our machine was flying at the rate of one hundred miles
per hour and the enemy's machine was travelling past us in the opposite
direction at an equal rate, our fore-sight nullified our motion and
enabled us to shoot as if from a stationary base, while our back-sight
helped us to gauge that imaginary point at which to shoot where our
bullets and the enemy machine would meet. In other words, we shot at an
enemy machine although we ourselves were travelling rapidly, exactly as
a sportsman shoots at a bird on the wing.

Then a new aeroplane was developed, the single-seater tractor, with a
Vickers gun, synchronized to shoot through the rapidly revolving
propeller so as to avoid the blades. These machines were used to patrol
the lines and keep enemy machines from crossing, or to accompany a
reconnaissance machine as protector; for they were very much faster,
easier to manoeuvre, and altogether very much more efficient fighters.
At first they operated singly, but it was soon discovered that two of
these scout machines operating together invariably obtained better
success than when operating alone. This led to formation flying, and up
to the cessation of hostilities these formations grew in size and varied
in shape.

The reconnaissance work was soon divided into classes: long and short
reconnaissance and photographic reconnaissance. The long reconnaissance
dealt with enemy movements far behind the lines; the short
reconnaissance with enemy activities near the front. The photographic
reconnaissance consisted of taking aerial photographs of everything of
military importance within flying radius. These photographs pieced
together showed the enemy defences along the entire British front and
their changes from day to day.

Wireless apparatus was soon attached to aeroplanes, and this enabled an
aviator to communicate with people on the ground many miles away; and so
what was called artillery observation was developed. Roughly speaking,
this is the direction of the fire of our batteries against enemy
targets; but, just as specialization came in reconnaissance and
fighting, so now machines specialized in artillery observation. To-day
the efficiency of the artillery depends largely upon its direction from
the air. For instance, when a battery takes over a new area the gunners
may be called upon to fire at certain targets, such as cross-roads or
houses used as infantry headquarters or ammunition and stores dumps, at
a moment's notice. Consequently, if these targets are registered by
aeroplane, all the gunners have to do when called upon to open fire is
to refer to their registration book which will give them the necessary
angles to use on their sights, then, by allowing for the temperature of
the day and the direction and velocity of the wind, their shooting is
certain to be far more accurate than it would be if the target had not
been previously registered. The registration of targets to-day without
the use of areoplanes is very often impossible.

The registration of targets from the air, however, is not the most
important part of this work. For instance, a machine will be flying over
enemy territory; the observer will see the flash of an enemy gun and
will pin-point its position on his map, which is marked off into large
and small lettered and numbered squares. This operation enables him to
send by wireless what is known as a zone call, giving the exact
location of the enemy battery to all of our batteries within range. The
enemy battery then has to move suddenly, if it is ever to move at all.

Barrages can also be controlled very efficiently from the air, so,
considering the comparatively short time that aeroplanes have been used
in this work and the wonderful results that have been obtained, it does
not take much imagination to see the necessity for all future artillery
officers to be trained as aviators.

In the earlier stages of the war it was very difficult for Headquarters
to keep in close touch with the infantry during a "push"; consequently,
considerable loss of life might result from one portion of the line
advancing out of contact with another. Probably the eagerness of raw
troops to keep on advancing regardless of their objective has led to a
considerable and unnecessary loss of life. The aeroplane can be used in
these situations to great advantage, and after the development of what
is known as "contact patrol" the aeroplane became the connecting link
between Headquarters and the infantry.

It was not until 1916 that the full powers of the aeroplane as an
offensive weapon began to be realized. Bombing was done, but it was of a
desultory nature, and although the number of machines engaged in this
work steadily increased, and the work itself became more and more
diversified and specialized, it was not until 1918 that the
possibilities of the aeroplane as a purely offensive weapon were
appreciated.

An aeroplane can operate far back of the enemy lines, both in the day
and at night; enemy troops in transport can be bombed: railway stations,
sidings, etc., damaged; transports of all kinds delayed; and ammunition
dumps, when located, can be blown up. In fact, military targets of all
sorts can be attacked from the air that cannot be reached in any other
way. The very foundation of a nation's strength in war, its industry,
can be attacked from the air and, if attacked on a large enough scale,
can be destroyed. For instance, eighty per cent of the German steel
industry was within bombing range of the Allies. The Westphalian group
of high-grade steel industries centred at Essen is about two hundred
miles from Nancy. If this group had been bombed on a large scale the
source of supply of German guns and munitions could have been destroyed;
for a blast furnace destroyed cannot be replaced within nine months, and
the destruction of the central electrical plant of a steel factory would
place the entire factory out of operation for at least six months. The
hundreds of bombing machines which the English aeroplane factories were
turning out at the time hostilities ceased, and the thousands of men
being trained for bombing, make one wonder what would have happened to
the German industries if the war had continued through the spring of
1919.

Besides these hundreds of aeroplanes under construction and the
thousands of men in training, the Royal Air Force had in operation,
November 11, 1918, over twenty thousand aeroplanes, over thirty thousand
aviators, and over two hundred thousand mechanics and other personnel.



CHAPTER II

THE "BEDOUIN" SQUADRON


The "Bedouin" Squadron, so called because as a unit it was constantly
moved from place to place, and because its members as individuals were
wanderers at heart, was formed in September, 1917, equipped with the
large Handley-Page bombing planes, and sent to the Nancy front to carry
out pioneer work in long-distance bombing. The "Bedouins," as the
officers of this squadron were called, first saw the light of day in
England, Scotland, Ireland, America, India, Canada, South Africa, and
Australia. Before becoming aviators many of them had fought in the
infantry on the western front, in Gallipoli, and in Egypt; some as
officers, some as privates, but for no general reason, unless the law
of nature which prevents squirrels from remaining on the ground also
applies to men, they one by one in divers ways drifted into the Flying
Corps, and flew different types of machines on different fronts until
brought together and formed, "willy-nilly," into the Bedouin Squadron.


I

There was "Jimmie," whose insides had been shot away in Gallipoli. He
was the envy of the officers' mess, because his newly acquired digestive
apparatus, composed principally of silver tubes, could assimilate more
wine without producing ill results than any other five members of the
mess. Jimmie was not a flying officer; by all the laws of nature he
should have been a corpse, but he had a heart which disregarded an
intestine designed by a surgeon who must have been a plumber in some
previous incarnation, and this great heart carried him through four
years of war, and made of him an energizing force to all who came in
contact with him. It was not until after the cessation of hostilities
that the soul of this hero was liberated from the poor maimed body with
its mechanical digestive system.

Jimmie was the First Lieutenant of the Station; it was his job to see to
the discipline of the two hundred and fifty mechanics, riggers,
carpenters, armorers, drivers, and officers' stewards. He did this in
such a way as to make all the men love him except the few, very few, who
were surly slackers, and these feared him worse than death itself.
Jimmie was always just, but he demanded results. To those who shirked he
was a just judge and an unsympathetic jury; so, under Jimmie, slackers
soon became demons for work, and later on learned like the others to
love him. To those who produced results, he was a father.

[Illustration: JIMMIE WALKS UP AND DOWN THE TRENCH]

I remember that shortly after the squadron took up its residence on the
Nancy front, the Huns came over and bombed us severely; many of the
mechanics were fresh from the factories in England and were quite
unaccustomed to seeing the damage that one hundred pounds of high
explosive can do to the delicate anatomy of the human being; panic
seized them; but a greater fear possessed them when Jimmie's orders
burst upon them like the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun; they marched as
if on parade into the trenches, recently dug behind the hangars; then
Jimmie, smoking an occasional cigarette, strolled up and down in front
during the three hours' bombardment.

So the men soon learned, under Jimmie, the value of discipline; it meant
their safety when under fire, and it meant freedom from military
punishments. They were quick to grasp the fact that any negligence on
their part might mean death to the aviator who flew in the neglected
aeroplane. Flagrant neglect they soon learned might cause other deaths
than those suffered by the unfortunate aviators.


II

There was Sammie, a prototype of the caricatured Englishman in our comic
papers. Every American theatre-goer has seen Sammie exaggerated on the
music-hall stage.

Sammie was a small boy with an eyebrow on his upper lip and an
apparently permanent window over his right eye. Before joining the
Flying Corps he had served seventeen months in the trenches as a
private; finally, driven mad with filth, rats, and other vermin, he
captured an enemy machine-gun emplacement single-handed, and was given a
commission. Shortly afterwards he joined the Flying Corps, probably
because he could not keep his new uniform clean while in the trenches.

Sammie was always immaculate, and as a uniform gives one very little
opportunity to express one's individuality in dress, Sammie carried his
handkerchief up his sleeve. Even Generals envied Sammie's field boots
and every one who met him wanted to know the name of his tailor.

In peace-time Sammie would have looked like a toy Pom with a ribbon
around its neck; but a more imperturbable man in the face of danger
never lived.

"My word" was the expression used by Sammie to denote every degree of
human emotion. If it was Sammie's lot to draw the occasional egg served
in the Bedouin mess, his only remark when it hopped out of reach would
be, "My word."

I remember one night when both of our machines were out of action,
Sammie and I, who slept in the same hut, went to bed at the early hour
of twelve o'clock; at about one in the morning the Huns dropped their
first bomb very close to us; a picture of Sammie's mother was on a stand
beside the head of his cot; a fragment of the bomb came through the wall
of the hut and shattered this picture; I landed, as far as I know
involuntarily, in the middle of the floor with a lighted torch in my
hand; Sammie saw the shattered remains of his mother's picture; "My
word, mother will be pleased," he said, turned over and was sound asleep
instantly. I know Sammie slept because he never remarked on my taking a
short cut to the trenches through the window.

Another time when a Hun bomb dropped in the officers' trench and failed
to explode, Sammie, who was but two feet away, tried to lift it, failed,
and then lay full length upon it, believing it to be of the "delay
action" variety; when our Major, a bomb expert, appeared on the scene a
few moments later and laughingly declared the bomb a "dud," Sammie's
embarrassment expressed itself in "My word." If the detonating apparatus
of this bomb had been all that the Huns intended it to be, Sammie would
have returned to minute specks of dust and his name would have been
added to the long list of dead heroes; but since the bomb was a "dud,"
Sammie was made the butt of his friends' wit.

Sammie was always philosophical. He was once ordered to take a new
machine on a very long raid. We had all examined this new aeroplane and
declared it a "dud"; so we cheered Sammie up as well as we could by
drinking his health and inquiring into his taste in flowers. Undismayed,
Sammie took the machine off the ground, with the wheel held into his
stomach; the rigging of the machine was such that it would fly on an
even plane longitudinally if the wheel was kept back as far as possible.
By all the laws of aeronautics this aeroplane should have crashed before
leaving the ground, but it did not. Sammie climbed it to five hundred
feet in an hour and a half. As Sammie now had seven and one half hours
petrol left and was still four hours away from his objective, it would
have been quite justifiable for him to return without going any farther;
in fact, it was the only reasonable thing for him to do; but Sammie
always trusted to luck rather than reason, and his luck did not fail
him. One engine "conked" and he was forced to turn back. He fired his
forced landing signal when approaching the aerodrome, but the aerodrome
was being bombed by the Huns in a very thorough manner and Sammie had to
land in complete darkness, the inevitable result being a crash. Sammie
extricated himself from the wreckage, found that both of his companions
were dead, rescued one of the machine guns from its damaged mounting,
together with several drums of ammunition and practised his marksmanship
on the enemy planes until an enemy bomb ruined his clothes and left him,
after a few months in the hospital, minus an arm.


III

There was "Jock," a "wee bonnie laddie," from the south of Scotland. He
stood five feet three inches tall when wearing field boots with
exceptionally high heels, but that did not prevent him from braining a
Hun with the Hun's own wrench some sixty miles back of the enemy's front
lines, and this is how it happened.

One morning, about three o'clock, information arrived, together with a
complete and undamaged Hun aeroplane and two friendly Hun aviators,
that at a certain German switch station a troop train and an ammunition
train were due to pass at a certain hour. Jock and his pal left the
congenial beer barrel, turned the friendly Hun aviators over to the
guard, made themselves acquainted with the Hun aeroplane, refilled it
with petrol and oil, and departed on a merry adventure. Forgetting that
the Hun machine would be subject to attack by our own aviators, Jock and
his companion were in a great dilemma when so attacked. Of course, they
could not protect themselves by a counter-fire, but when a man is born
in Scotland, and is a direct descendant of oatmeal-eating bandits, he
naturally has a keener brain than even the Jews can boast of;
consequently, by spinning nose dives and other signs of lack of control
the wily Scot gleefully gained the enemy's side of the lines. Here he
was unmolested, although Hun aviators must have been astonished to see
one of their own machines engaged in the British sport of
"hedge-hopping"; i.e., flying close to the ground and "zooming" up over
trees, houses, etc.

In due time Jock and his companion landed in a small field a few hundred
yards away from the all-important switch station. Here they descended
and under pretence of examining their engine, although the first one of
the ever-curious crowd was still several fields away, they looked up the
word "wrench" in an English-German pocket dictionary; they then marched
off to the switch station. Fortunately there was but one occupant, for
neither Jock nor his companion could talk German, and the idiocy of not
carrying a more serviceable weapon than a pocket dictionary never
occurred to the mad Scot until his companion began to make weird
gurgling sounds, evidently intended for the language of the Hun,
addressed to the astonished station-master.

Then down through generations of oatmeal-eating bandits came a glimmer
of sense to Jock. He grabbed the first thing within reach, a wrench, and
brained the Hun station-master with a blow; then the mad but somewhat
sobered adventurers found and pulled the switch lever so as to bring the
approaching trains into collision, and departed. When Jock saw the crowd
which had collected about his aeroplane, he took a solemn oath never to
touch beer but to stick to whiskey; but the crowd, which included a few
Hun soldiers, respectfully made way for the "camouflaged" British
aviators and a few moments later, wet with cold perspiration, they were
in the air. Thoroughly sobered, they made for home with their engine
"full out." Six weeks later "intelligence" reported that a German troop
train and ammunition train had collided.


IV

There was "Mac," a North of England man. Before the war he was a typical
English sportsman; he lived for hunting, and polo was his hobby. Like
the rest of his class he pushed his way into the fighting line as soon
as possible, as a private in the First Hundred Thousand. But eventually
his genius expressed itself and leaving the known walks of man he became
a master of the newly conquered element. Mac's mind was not limited by
science, his soul was not dwarfed by religious prejudice, he held no
political position, and he had no personal military ambition. He fought
to defeat a threat to the civilization he believed in, to preserve a
form of government that his ancestors had bled and died for, and to
secure a future for his tiny son free from the hell of war. Mac, like
every other man who had the courage to fight, and if necessary, die for
his beliefs, hoped that the fighting man would be allowed to fight on
until these ends had been achieved so that those who had died should not
have made the great sacrifice in vain. He hoped, like all other fighting
men, that politicians would not be given the power to render valueless
to posterity the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives; but Mac
was merely a man, of fearless integrity, honesty of purpose, with
humanitarian ideals, and a believer in Democracy; he could not realize
that a large majority, because of selfishness, ignorance, and a lack of
the spirit of self-sacrifice, do not deserve the right to vote. But Mac
was a sportsman and a gentleman, the descendant of generations of men
who faced death willingly in a cause they knew was honorable and who
died happily in the thought that their death made life easier for
future generations. So Mac did not worry about the selfish ambitions of
men; he did all he could to win the World War.

I first met Mac a few months after he flew a Handley-Page machine from
London to Constantinople and back to Salonica, a distance of over two
thousand miles. Mac was a Captain then, he is a Captain now, but no
living man has done more damage to the Hun than Mac has done. A far
greater leader of men than his great uncle, who was a General in our
Civil War, Mac gave a soul to the Bedouin Squadron. To Mac's leadership
is due the first bombings of Mannheim, Coblenz, Thionville, Frankfort,
and Cologne.

It was Mac who flew a German aeroplane to Sedan, followed a "spotted"
train to a near-by station, swooped down as the German High Command left
the train and opened on them with his machine gun. It was Mac who
landed over ten times near Karlsruhe at night and returned with
invaluable information. But it is not because of the innumerable
suicidal adventures of which Mac is the hero that every Bedouin, no
matter in what part of the world he may be, always drinks a silent toast
to Mac whenever possible; it is because every Bedouin realizes that a
great man carried out a small man's job in a great way.


V

"Gus" was the president of the Bedouin mess, and probably because of an
early education at Heidelberg, he believed in starving the British
aviator. At all events, while Gus was mess president we all starved with
agonizing slowness, for Gus had but two ideas of what constituted a
menu. Our meals consisted solely of "bully beef" and Brussels sprouts;
this meal was varied occasionally by leaving out the sprouts. To every
indignant complaint from long-suffering members of the officers' mess,
Gus would answer with the incontrovertible statement that
"humming-birds' tongues cannot be purchased with tuppence"; this
incontrovertible statement always reduced the complaining member to
frothings at the mouth and other signs of inexpressible rage.
Nevertheless, under the starvation system of Gus's stewardship a large
credit balance was established at the Société Générale, which enabled
the succeeding mess president to replace the expert electrician, who by
army wisdom had been converted into a poisonous cook, with a Frenchman,
whose cooking was not cooking at all, but an art which filled the
Bedouins with admiration and destroyed their waist lines. Six-course
banquets, ending with a rare old yellow Chartreuse, became the order of
the day, and whenever some seductive delicacy defied analysis we would
ask Gus if it contained the tongue of the humming-bird.

But Gus, although a failure in always satisfying the epicurean tastes of
the Bedouins, won fame by being the first to bomb Cologne.


VI

"Mid" was a Yank who joined the squadron a few months before its
"bust-up." Mid had been a private in the first American contingent to
arrive in France; but because he was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and knew
that automobiles were manufactured in Detroit, Michigan, he was given a
commission. The Bedouins first met Mid in January, 1918. He had run his
car--Mid was always driving a car--into a snowdrift, and wandered a
couple of miles through a blizzard in search of help. Fortunately for
us, he tumbled into our mess in the midst of a "storm celebration";
i.e., a celebration in honor of a storm which forces birds and all other
inhabitants of the air to seek shelter. Mid was pounced upon, placed in
front of the fire, and given hot rum. A crew of men were sent off to dig
his "benzine buggy" out of the snow and convey it to Mid's station, it
having been decided that Mid should spend the night with the Bedouins.

Mid soon won the hearts of the Bedouins by showing a proper appreciation
for hot rum, and when he prefaced his first remark to the C.O. with
"Say, kid," the Bedouins realized that Mid gave every promise of making
this "storm celebration" unique in Bedouin history, and as far as Mid
was concerned it certainly was.

Mid entered into the spirit of the occasion with Western thoroughness
and learned a lesson in a few hours which it has taken some men years to
learn--that hot rum when taken on a cold and empty stomach must be
treated with respect; in fact, a certain amount of coyness is not out of
place. Mid was soon being supported on a chair while he delivered an
epic on the "soul of a jellyfish"; he was then tossed in the "sacred
blanket" and put through other Bedouin initiations; after which he was
tucked comfortably in Jock's bed, while Jock, bound hand and foot and
rolled in blankets, made horrid Highland remarks from the draughty floor
of the hut.

Dear old Mid, however, bore no ill-will to the Bedouins for what he
might have considered unceremonious treatment of an American officer who
was an honored guest. The next morning with a humble but dignified mien,
Mid apologized for everything that he had done. As a matter of fact, the
only disreputable thing Mid had done while under the influence of an
excess of hot rum on an empty stomach was to make friends with a few
men whom the Huns had sworn to kill on sight.

Nothing daunted, Mid soon "wangled" permission to become attached to the
Bedouin Squadron, and a more dare-devil spirit and lovable comrade than
Mid did not exist among the Bedouins. He was always as keen for work as
he was "full out" for a party, and he was always the life of a
celebration. I remember one night when the C.O. read out at dinner a
telegram which concisely stated that His Majesty the King had awarded to
one of the Bedouins a very great honor, Mid broke loose. "Say, kids," he
said, "I want to say right here that it's a great honor for my mother's
younger son to be a Bedouin, and since it's a 'dud' night I want to ask
your permission, Sir" (turning to the C.O.), "to present every Bedouin
with a quart of the best." Permission being given by the C.O. on the
condition that the C.O. himself would be allowed to share in the
"largess," every Bedouin had placed before him a quart of Heidsieck
Monopole. Songs and speeches followed, and Mid, since he could not "take
the air," took the floor.

"Fellow citizens," he said, balancing himself on an upturned beer
barrel, "it gives me great pleasure to be able to stand before you this
evening"; support given and applause. "It has always seemed to me that
the greatest country in the world might be considered a bit slow in
entering the war." [Hear! Hear!] "But, gentlemen, now that we are in, I
want to say that we will be the first out." [Loud applause!] "I want you
to understand that because the United States has always been considered
the historic enemy of Great Britain, Germany was enabled to persuade an
ignorant electorate that the United States and Germany were friends.
But now we are in, we are in to the finish. When I say finish,
gentlemen, I mean a finish to the fighting, but I beg of you to be
careful of the non-fighting part of my country's population, and their
representatives. More I cannot say, except this, if ever your King or
your sea-power is threatened, you may depend upon every true American;
we owe you a debt, and depend upon it every descendant of the founders
of our country will die before that obligation is allowed to be
repudiated." With loud cheers, Mid was lifted from his perch.


VII

The Bedouin who held the unenvied record for crashes was known
throughout the service as "Killem." Almost every time he went on a raid
he crashed his machine, fortunately for him on this side of the lines.
One night, returning from a raid on the Boche magneto works at
Stuttgart, he lost his way and was forced to land, because of engine
trouble, in France, near the Swiss border. The topography of the country
here being mountainous, he was fortunate in merely "writing off" his
aeroplane. He might easily have killed himself and his two companions,
but he came out of the crash quite unhurt except for a severe chill
contracted by a forced sojourn in the icy waters of a shallow pond.
Pinned beneath the wreckage of his machine with an unpleasant ripple of
water in close proximity to his chin, Killem had an excellent
opportunity to think over his past sins while his companions in misery,
who had been thrown clear for no other reason apparently except that the
devil takes care of his own, struggled manfully, one with a broken arm
and the other with a wrenched knee, to release him from the pressure of
wreckage which held him helpless.

A few nights after this unpleasant experience the mad fellow "took off"
down wind. This idiotic method of leaving the ground resulted in his
being barely able to rise above the roofs of the near-by village and
brought him into direct contact with the church spire. The spire being
of solid construction withstood the impact; the aeroplane did not. So
Killem and his companions, together with the wrecked Handley-Page and
one thousand five hundred and sixty-eight pounds of undetonated bombs
descended onto the street below--UNDETONATED. It was exceedingly
fortunate for the inhabitants of the French village that the bombs
remained undetonated. Killem crawled out of the wreck, looked ruefully
at the church spire, and muttered, "I've always felt that I should have
gone oftener to church in my youth. Now look at the damned result of my
negligence."

It was Killem who tested out a new aeroplane one day while a south wind
equal to the air speed of his machine was blowing. While flying north he
travelled over the ground twice as fast as he travelled through the air,
but when he turned around over the city of Toul he remained stationary.
He was travelling through the air as fast as before, but now he was
headed south, and as the wind passed over the ground toward the north as
rapidly as Killem travelled through the air toward the south, the
inhabitants of Toul were amazed to see a heavier-than-air machine
remaining stationary above their heads. This situation greatly alarmed a
dear old lady of Toul, who eventually arrived at our aerodrome in a
donkey cart with the astounding information that one of our planes "had
run out" of petrol and was stalled directly above her house.



CHAPTER III

THE BEDOUINS AT OCHEY AERODROME


If you had visited the Bedouin Squadron at about eleven o'clock in the
morning you would have received quite a shock when entering the
officers' mess. In the first place, you would have found the mess
deserted except for several dogs of unknown species and innumerable
cats,--some proudly nourishing recent offspring, others in various
stages of anticipation of a similar pleasure. Secondly, you would have
been surprised at the comfortable, if not artistic, interior of our
exteriorly unattractive hut. In the centre of the "ward-room" or
sitting-room was an open fireplace of ingenious design. On a stone and
earth base, covered with sheet iron, rested a large cast-iron box with
many peculiarly shaped apertures resembling as far as possible the
incomprehensible design of a lady's lace mouchoir. The fire-box was
supported by four cast-iron "whirly-gigs," the artistic effort of a
mechanic detailed to construct legs for the support of the aforesaid
fire-box. Above this box a large hollow pyramid, the apex of which
connected with a pipe, which in turn after divers wanderings led through
a hole in the roof, offered an exit for the smoke. Needless to say, this
offer was frequently ignored. Around this fireplace was a foot-railing
constructed from the main spar of a crashed Handley-Page. The rest of
the furniture fortunately was not homemade. Large easy-chairs and
lounges, the gift of a friendly merchant of Nancy, often made progress
from one end of the room to the other,--a feat requiring considerable
skill in navigation. A piano was wedged into one corner of the room;
"Sin-fin," a mad Irishman, appeared with this piano one day together
with an exhilarated French officer driving a lorry. No one ever found
out how the piano had been secured, but since a sweet little
"demoiselle" now rides "Sin-fin's" Irish hunters, we may believe, if we
wish, that a rickety piano formed the basis of an international romance.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO OFFICERS' MESS]

The walls of the room were draped with rich damask; as the officers'
steward who produced this incongruous luxury was an ex-convict, no
inquiries were made concerning it.

In the same hut with the ward-room and adjoining it was the mess or
dining-room and beyond this was the "galley" or kitchen. While the
Bedouins were inflicted with a cook who had been in pre-war days an
expert electrician, the kitchen would not have been your most attractive
route to the officers' sleeping-quarters.

Presuming that you left the mess through its more congenial exit, the
ward-room, the next hut you would have come to was the officers'
quarters. There at eleven o'clock in the morning you would have heard a
full symphony rendered by twenty lusty sleepers. "Is this war?" you
might have asked yourself if you did not have in mind that you were
visiting a night-bombing squadron. The officers in this hut had returned
but five or six hours previously from an all-night raid over Germany.

Beyond this hut are the men's quarters which are deserted at this hour.
Across the road is the workshop or repair factory which, under the eye
of "Bill," the engine officer, runs "full blast" from six in the morning
to nine or ten at night. Next to this miniature factory is the armorers'
hut where all the machine guns are overhauled daily, ammunition tested
as regards rims, sunken caps, etc., and every possible precaution taken
to render the guns thoroughly efficient.

Near by are the huge, camouflaged hangars, or buildings containing the
aeroplanes. Here the mechanics are "tuning up" the engines; the riggers
are trueing up the aeroplanes, tightening a flying wire here, loosening
a landing wire there, testing controls; in fact, doing all that
scientific knowledge and care can do to reduce the chance of accident
from mechanical imperfection. And upon these patriotic, scientific
mechanics, working for their country and their ideals and recompensed
from a pecuniary point of view with a shilling or two a day, rested to a
large extent, the lives of the aviators and the success of their various
adventures.

Back of the hangars and near the officers' quarters is the squadron
office. Here are several clerks constantly engaged in recording all the
details relating to the men's pay, their military records, their issues
of clothes, blankets, etc.,--in fact, recording and filing everything
dealing with the squadron's activities.

Next to the squadron office is the large map-room. If a squadron on
active service can be compared to the human body, the map-room is the
brain of the squadron, for here is kept all the information essential to
the aviators. On one wall is a huge map of the whole war zone from the
coast to the Swiss border. On this the front-line trenches are
accurately marked, with their changes made from day to day. On the wall
next to this map and at right angles to it, is a large-scale map of the
entire region over which the squadron operates. On this map are numerous
conventional markings which would have no meaning to the casual
observer.

[Illustration: THE PATRIOTIC, SCIENTIFIC MECHANICS]

In maps of the enemy territory are hundreds of red drawing-pins. These
mark the positions of enemy anti-aircraft batteries. As soon as
information is received of the movement of one of these batteries,
the pin which represents that particular battery is moved to the new
position. Small yellow squares or oblongs with minute black marks
represent the enemy aerodromes and hangars. These conventional signs
correspond accurately to the aerial photographs of these aerodromes.

Small blue crosses represent the position of enemy balloon barrages and
their height. The position of these barrages must be known accurately,
for to run into them is fatal and at night they are very apt to trap the
unwary. Roughly, they are a series of balloons supporting a huge wire
net or cable streamers. The balloons, anchored to the ground and
carrying the nets with them, are sent up to a considerable altitude
about large cities and important industrial centres. They are to the
night aviators what the spider's web is to the fly.

Another conventional sign of this map which is always puzzling to the
uninitiated is a series of small pins with streamers attached. These
streamers are marked with green dots. One streamer will have one green
dot, another two green dots, another three, etc., while others will have
different spaces between the dots. These pins mark the position of what
is called the "Hun green-ball batteries," and these green balls, fired
up to a height of about six thousand feet, direct the Hun aviators to
their respective aerodromes when returning from a night raid.

A better system than this for directing aviators at night has never been
devised, for low clouds or mist cannot obliterate the signal and they
are visible to the aviator for over fifty miles. In fact, this type of
signal was so very excellent that our knowledge of the exact positions
of the various batteries was of great assistance to us in our raids
over Germany.

On our side of the lines this map was marked with conventional signs
similar to those which marked the position of enemy anti-aircraft
batteries, aerodromes, and balloon barrages; but on our side of the
lines there were large areas marked in red to indicate what was called
"prohibited areas"; i.e., areas over which no aeroplane, Allied or
enemy, could fly without being subjected to the fire of our
anti-aircraft batteries.

There were also white drawing-pins, each bearing a letter, placed at
irregular intervals. These located accurately the position of small
lighthouses which are usually about fifteen miles apart and from three
to ten miles back of the front-line trenches; the letter marked on each
drawing-pin designates the letter flashed in Morse code by that
particular lighthouse. This system of signals, used by the British to
direct their night aviators to their aerodromes when returning from a
raid, had but two great faults. In the first place, the signal was
obliterated by low clouds and mist. In the second place, the flash of
the light only carried a few miles even under the best conditions. On
the other hand, the letters which the lighthouses flashed could be
readily changed and consequently were of very little assistance to Hun
aviators.

On the third wall of the map-room are aerial photographs of enemy
aerodromes, railway stations, sidings, etc., and large-scale plans of
German towns and factories.

On the table in the centre of the room are the various instruments by
the aid of which the aviators are enabled to figure out their magnetic
courses. Every afternoon the map-room is crowded with aviators. Here all
the plans for the raid are made, the courses figured and marked on
individual charts, the photographs or plans of targets studied and the
best methods of approaching the target discussed. In the evening the
wind soundings made by the meteorological expert are reported and again
the map-room is crowded with aviators figuring out "drift" and "ground
speed" and making out charts which will facilitate their navigation when
in the air.



CHAPTER IV

A NIGHT RAID


Every precaution having been taken, the engines run, the controls
tested, the compasses swung, the courses made out, the charts prepared,
and the drift figured, the Bedouins sat down to dinner free from care or
worry. The dinner hour was always set, winter or summer, at least two
hours before the night's raid was to start.

A guest of the Bedouin mess on the night of an important raid would have
been surprised if told that the jolly, laughing officers, who apparently
had no thought in the world other than the enjoyment of various wines
and viands, were soon to set out on a pioneer raid against a far-distant
German industrial centre. For the Bedouins made the best of the
present; they all knew what a long-distance raid over Germany usually
meant; many of their jolly comrades would not be seen again. So they
made merry at dinner and drank each other's health. The wine, however,
was light, and even the most reckless Bedouin drank it in tiny sips, for
the work to be done was important. The personal dangers of the raid the
reckless Bedouins might ignore, but they knew that these raids fitted
into the general tactical plan of operations; consequently, every
Bedouin was imbued with a spirit of determination in spite of an
apparent frivolity.

On entering the ward-room a few moments before dinner, the guest of the
Bedouin mess would have been greeted joyfully by the officers who were
singing lustily in perfect tune with a piano which was very much out of
tune. A few moments later he would see these rollicking fellows stand
silently at attention on the entry of the Commanding Officer until
"Good-evening, gentlemen," from the C.O. granted them permission to
"carry on."

Before the chief steward announced dinner, "apéritifs" were passed
around; then the C.O. led the way from the ward-room into the adjoining
mess, where the officers stood at attention on each side of the long
table until the C.O. said, "Gentlemen, be seated." If any one came in
late to dinner, he apologized to the C.O. before taking his place at the
table; and no matter how oily and dirty he may have been a few moments
earlier, he entered the mess clean, freshly shaven, and in neat uniform.
This mess etiquette, as it was called, did not interfere in any way with
the good-fellowship existing between the C.O. and his junior officers;
but it prevented men who had been away from home and the society of
ladies for many years from growing lax in manners and careless of
personal appearance.

After dinner, decanters of port were passed around and the King's health
was drunk: "Gentlemen, The King."

This toast means nothing to us Americans unless we have drunk it among
British officers at the front. Under such conditions, "Gentlemen, The
King," is a call to patriotism, a spur to endeavor, and an ideal of
courage which must be lived up to. We Americans are so apt to think of a
king as a despot or tyrant that it takes us a long time to understand
the love which the Englishman has for his King. The King of England is
as much of a symbol to Englishmen as the Stars and Stripes are a symbol
to us. The King, as an individual, has no power, except the power of
influence. This power is great when the influence exerted is in the
right direction, but the King has no dictatorial power similar to that
which may be granted to our Presidents. The King is merely a symbol
which stands in the minds of Englishmen for patriotism, justice,
democracy, and humanity. So when the Bedouins raised their glasses to
the toast, "Gentlemen, The King," they paid a tribute to all that Great
Britain and her Allies were fighting for--democracy, justice, and
freedom of the individual from oppression.

After this final toast, every aviator went to his quarters and clambered
into his bulky but warm flying clothes. There was no hurry or bustle,
but each aviator, thoroughly equipped for the raid with maps, charts,
and instruments, arrived at the map-room on a definite moment. Here he
received a few final instructions from the Commanding Officer; then,
smoking a last cigarette, he made his way through the dusk to his own
aeroplane.

While the aviators drank to "Gentlemen, The King," the mechanics were
warming up the twin motors of each aeroplane, the bomb-racks were being
filled with fourteen one-hundred-and-twelve-pound bombs, the guns were
being mounted, and by the time the aviators arrived on the aerodrome the
huge Handley-Page bombing planes were in readiness for a nine hours'
flight over Germany.

After climbing up a ladder to their respective positions, the aviators
made a final survey of the machine on the reliability of which depended
the success of their adventure. The engines were again run up to see
that they gave the proper revolutions, the gauges inspected, the
controls tested, and the return spring of each gun weighed. When
thoroughly satisfied, each aviator took his place and his pilot
signalled for the "chocks" to be withdrawn from in front of the wheels.

While the aviators carried on this final inspection of their machines,
the aerodrome officer, stationed on a high platform situated in one
corner of the field, awaited the signal to light the "landing T"; i.e.,
a huge "T" of electric lights headed into the wind, which shows to the
aviators the taking-off and landing path. Each machine is given its
respective letter for the day, which is flashed in Morse code on the
navigation lights by the aviator when ready to leave the ground; he then
awaits an answer from the directing stand. Simultaneously with the
lighting up of the huge "landing T," the letter flashed from the first
machine ready is repeated by the signal officer. The answer received,
the machine taxies across the aerodrome to the starting-point, turns,
hurtles down the flare-path and leaves the ground at the head of the
"T." Under this simple method of direction I have seen twenty aeroplanes
leave an aerodrome on a pitch-black night in twelve minutes without a
single mishap.

On leaving the ground the aeroplanes fly dead into the wind for a couple
of miles, circle back to the left around the aerodrome, and head into
the wind again until the height at which the flight is to be carried out
is reached. The first aeroplane to reach this height passes directly
over the aerodrome and then steers a course to the first lighthouse. A
comparison of this course with the previously figured course, and a
comparison of the previously calculated ground speed with the time taken
to travel from the aerodrome to the lighthouse enables the aviators, by
the use of instruments and a few simple calculations, to gauge their
drift. This process is continued on another course to the next
lighthouse and the previously tested direction and velocity of wind are
accurately checked in this way and future courses altered accordingly.
These calculations are all important to the long-distance night bomber,
for although roads show up in the moonlight like white threads, they are
too numerous and interwoven to be followed for great distances, and
although rivers and lakes look like silver ribbons and blotches, the
moon may be obscured at any moment or the ground itself may be
obliterated by low clouds or mist. Accuracy in aerial navigation,
therefore, is of the utmost importance in long-distance night flying.

The night aviator, however, has many things to think of besides a
constant checking and readjustment of his course according to variations
in direction and velocity of wind. On his own side of the lines he is
constantly challenged by searchlights which must be answered immediately
if the aviator wishes to avoid the risk of being shot down by his own
anti-aircraft guns or of being attacked by his own night-patrol
machines. The method of answering these challenges is extremely simple.
All that is required of the aviator is to shoot at the searchlight with
a large pistol loaded with an enormous cartridge. The aviator, intent on
his calculations and annoyed by any interruption, often wishes that this
pistol was a deadly weapon, but it is not. It merely fires a certain
colored light which floats slowly down changing in its descent to
certain other colors, which prove to the officer in charge of the
challenging searchlight that an Allied aeroplane is above him. The
colors which are shown on one night, however, will not do on another,
for these "colors of the day," as they are inappropriately called, are
changed every night and the utmost secrecy is maintained in regard to
them. Even the aviators do not know the "color of the day" until ten
minutes before the start of a raid, neither do the officers in charge of
the anti-aircraft batteries. The reason for this secrecy became
apparent to the Bedouins one night when a Hun flew over our aerodrome
shooting down our "color of the day," blinking his navigation lights,
and finally firing down a red light which was our prearranged
forced-landing signal. The aerodrome officer, believing that one of the
Bedouin machines was returning from that night's raid with engine
trouble, lit up the "landing T" and brought upon himself a shower of
bombs which carried him into the Unknown.

After crossing the lines the aviators are intent on steering an accurate
compass course, checking their position from time to time by various
landmarks such as canals, rivers, cross-roads, and woods, and figuring
changes in wind. The bursting shells of the enemy anti-aircraft
batteries must be disregarded, for a slight détour around a particularly
heavy barrage might mean an error of several degrees in their course
which, unless corrected, would bring them twenty to thirty miles away
from their objective after a flight of one hundred and seventy miles or
more, and an accurate correction of a compass course after a wide détour
is always difficult and sometimes impossible. Therefore, it is of the
utmost importance for long-distance night bombers to hold their course
regardless of the enemy's efforts at destruction.

The hatred in the hearts of the Huns, expressed by the constant "whonk"
of bursting anti-aircraft shells, contrasts disagreeably with the
loveliness of the moonlit panorama. All man's disfigurements of the
earth are obliterated by distance and nothing but a scene of inspiring
beauty is in view from the aviaors' lofty outlook at a height of several
thousand feet.

The flashings of the guns, the "flaming onions,"--i.e., strings of
phosphorus balls shot up to light the sky and to ignite any inflammable
substance with which they come in contact,--and the black puffs of smoke
from the bursting shells add a weird and startling brilliancy to the
surroundings. No matter how many times a man may fly at night the
immensity of the heavens above him, crowded with unknown worlds, cannot
fail to impress him with his own insignificance in the general scheme of
the universe, and Death itself appears of small importance compared to
the way in which he faces it.

The aviators, however, have little time for reflection, for on a long
flight they must keep a constant outlook for such landmarks as will
enable them from time to time to mark their exact position on the chart
and by comparison with their compass course and "ground speed" vary
their course according to changes in direction and velocity of wind. An
instrument called the "pitot tube" indicates the speed at which the
aeroplane passes through the air, but the speed at which the plane
travels in relation to the ground depends on the direction and velocity
of the wind. They must also watch the flashes from anti-aircraft
batteries and pin-point them on their maps if possible; aerodromes which
are lit up, train movements, the lighting of towns, the blaze of steel
factories; in fact everything of military importance must be recorded
and reported upon, if accurately located. The night aviator, however,
must be extremely careful in his observations, for it is very easy to
get lost and it is extremely difficult to keep an accurate check, on the
charts, of your exact position over the ground, even after long
practice; especially is this true when the flight covers three to four
hundred miles in distance and lasts from eight to nine hours.

After several hours of intense concentration the aviators approach their
target, and although they have charted the course constantly they now
spend some time in flying back and forth while they check off on a
large-scale map the landmarks about the target and satisfy themselves
that their long flight will not be valueless if the bombs are dropped
with accuracy. In the meantime the sound of the motors, together with
the telegraphed intelligence from other Hun towns, tells the enemy that
Allied night bombers are in the vicinity. The Huns in charge of the
anti-aircraft defences stationed about the target direct huge beams of
numerous searchlights toward the sky and an intense barrage is put up
above and around the target by the Hun batteries. The air is filled with
shrapnel from bursting shells at the altitude at which the machine is
flying, for the Huns have accurate instruments which gauge the altitude
of an aeroplane from the sound vibrations of its engines. The aviators,
however, are still intent on picking out their target (probably a
factory which manufactures war material) and have not yet entered the
barrage. The Huns, I imagine, often wondered why British bombers flew
about a town for such a long time before bombing; the inhabitants always
had more than enough time to enter the dug-outs before the bombs
dropped. The British bombers, however, were not making war on women and
children; they were intent on destroying a poisonous gas factory or
other targets of military importance; so they flew about the town until
the target was accurately located; then and not till then, they
throttled down their engines and glided swiftly down between the
searchlight beams and below the barrage of bursting shells, for once the
engines are throttled down the enemy's sound instruments are valueless
and the anti-aircraft barrage ranged at the previous altitude of the
aeroplane fills the air with shrapnel far above the rapidly descending
plane. A quick adjustment of bomb-sights to compensate for the altitude,
speed, and drift of the plane and the front fore-sight soon is in line
with the target, and after a pause the back fore-sight coming in line
with the back-sight gives, with the previously adjusted stop-watch, the
exact moment for releasing the first bombs. The plane passes over the
target and turns on a steep "bank," while the aviators watch for the
burst of the bombs. The bomb-sight is readjusted to the reduced
altitude, another sight taken, the remainder of the bombs released, and
then, nose down, engine "full out," the huge plane rushes through the
lowered barrage for more congenial surroundings.

Great care must be taken when bombing a factory, for usually very close
to it the Hun has located an unprotected prison camp filled with Allied
prisoners, and we have official information that prisoners have so
infuriated the Hun guards by singing "God save the King" or the
"Marseillaise" during a bombardment of the near-by factory that they
have been bayoneted to punish them for their "insolence." As soon as the
aviators are away from the barrage, they steer a straight course for
home, and again an intent outlook is kept for landmarks which will
enable them to mark their position on the charts and figure their ground
speed and drift. If their course is correct, they will see after a few
hours a lighthouse several miles away dimly flashing a letter in Morse
code. They head straight for this, and when over it they steer a course
which will bring them to the lighthouse situated near their aerodrome.
As they approach the aerodrome they fire down the "color of the day" and
if the aerodrome is not under bombardment by the Huns the flare-path is
lighted and the pilot spirals slowly down while the allotted letter of
the plane is being flashed in Morse code on its navigation lights; as
soon as this signal is answered from the ground, the pilot glides
swiftly down to the flare-path. When fifteen to ten feet from the ground
the Holt's flares attached to the wing tips of the planes are lit by
electrical contact and the landing is made in a momentary but brilliant
blaze of light.

It is interesting to sit in the officers' mess of a night-bombing
squadron and watch the returning aviators enter. They are cold and stiff
and all are very tired, for no man can fly without fatigue from dusk to
dawn under conditions which demand intense concentration and entail a
considerable amount of nervous strain, but now is shown the difference
in temperament; some return with bloodshot eyes and haggard faces which
indicate a condition of intense fatigue; others come in gaily as though
home from a late dance; still others thoughtfully quiet. All of them,
however, show signs of nervous strain and mental tension and they must
relax their taut nerves before going to bed, especially if the raid was
but another similar to those that had been carried out on several
previous nights. So, while relaxing they eat bully beef sandwiches and
drink hot chocolate or beer or, if the night has been particularly cold,
a glass of hot rum. Deafened by the roar of the engines and the sudden
change in atmospheric pressure they either whisper or yell if they speak
at all, during the first few minutes after entering the mess. But the
raid is over, so very little is said about it; every now and then some
one looks at his watch and sees that nine hours have elapsed since the
raid started; he says nothing but he and all realize that the machine
which has not returned has used up its supply of petrol and that the
fate of a dear friend will remain unknown perhaps for weeks, perhaps for
all time.



CHAPTER V

SOME EPICS OF NIGHT BOMBING


I

In the summer of 1917 the Germans were rushing troops up to the Ypres
front, where the activities of the British threatened them at this point
in their line. This movement of troops was made at night, as usual,
_because_ if made in daylight they would have been plainly visible to
our reconnaissance and artillery observation squadrons. These troops
were detrained at Menin and were transported by motor lorry along the
Menin-Gelevelt road. On a certain evening the first night-bombing
squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, then situated west of Nieppe Forest,
was ordered to delay in every possible way this movement of enemy
troops. The result must have been satisfactory, for the General in
command of the British Army on that front sent us, a few days later, the
glad tidings that no German reinforcements arrived at the critical
moment and all the British objectives had been captured and held.
Whether or not the only night-bombing squadron engaged in that action
was responsible for the tie-up of the Hun transportation system is
problematical, but all the members of the squadron remember that night
and hope that their efforts were of value.

The only thing out of the ordinary that evening in the squadron's
routine was the mounting of double guns in the aeroplanes and an earlier
dinner hour; the dinner, possibly, was gayer than usual. The machines
left the ground in daylight, gained their height over Nieppe Forest and
crossed the lines at dusk, swooped down over Menin Station and dropped
their bombs at an altitude of one thousand to five hundred feet. Then,
nose down, engine "full out," they raced away from Menin and followed,
in the brilliant moonlight, the road to Gelevelt, flying within one
hundred feet of the ground.

A heavy fire at close range at the transports on the road and at the
shadows of the trees cast by the moon, as the case might be, soon
exhausted the drums of ammunition. Each aviator did his level best to
get results, all the time trying to avoid landing on the tree-tops; some
of them did so land; they were shot down by the Huns. As soon as their
ammunition was gone they headed for home and, crossing the lines at a
low altitude, were shot at by anti-aircraft batteries and machine guns
from the ground and "bumped" here and there by the air displacement of
passing shells from the steadily flashing guns of both their own and the
enemy's artillery.

When they arrived at their aerodrome there was a breathing-spell for the
aviators while the bomb-racks were being refilled with bombs, the empty
ammunition drums replaced with full ones, and the engines replenished
with petrol, oil, and water. The planes then roared into the air again,
climbed for a short time, and then headed for Menin, where railway
communications were again bombed and the Menin-Gelevelt road was again
raked with machine-gun fire.

After a brief respite on the return from this second raid, the machines
again took off and raided the Huns for the third time that night. All
that were left of this weary group of aviators returned from this third
raid in broad daylight, with nerves strained to the verge of a
breakdown; some were in tears, some striving to be gay, and some were
very quiet, but all were happy in knowing that they had "done their
damndest."

When afterward they learned that the "push" had been successful and that
the Hun reserves had failed to appear, their grief for the "missing" was
softened by the thought that _their_ sacrifice had not been in vain; it
had brought about the full accomplishment of the purpose of the
raids--C'est la Guerre--


II

Probably the first time that a Rhine town was bombed on a densely cloudy
night was in the spring of 1918 and it was bombed by a small Scotchman
called "Jock."

The wind that night was from the northeast, a favorable wind from the
aviators' point of view because it was against them on the outward
voyage. Shortly after crossing the lines, however, dense clouds coming
up with the wind obliterated the earth, and all the aviators except Jock
turned back hoping to find their aerodrome before it was also blotted
out by the low-lying clouds.

Jock, however, was "keen" on bombing Hun factories, and the objective
that night was the Badische Works situated on the river Rhine; so Jock
held to his compass course and flew for over four hours without once
seeing the ground. When a sufficient time had elapsed to bring him over
his target, if his previous reckoning, of course, of ground speed and
drift was correct, and if the wind had not varied in velocity or
strength, Jock "spiralled" down through the clouds and, finding the
ground beneath him nothing but dense blackness, glided lower and lower
until eventually a large town directly beneath him became visible and
then the river Rhine, passing between Ludwigshafen on the west and
Mannheim on the east, was lit up by the rays of the moon coming through
a sudden rift in the clouds. Jock by now was only eight hundred feet
above Mannheim; he opened up his throttle and circled around the city
while his navigation officer on his large-scale chart compared the
landmarks momentarily made visible by the rift in the clouds.
At last, thoroughly satisfied as to their position, fourteen
one-hundred-and-twelve-pound bombs were dropped as near the factory as
possible. If some of these bombs dropped in the town itself, it was not
due to intention on the part of the aviators, who, blinded by
searchlights, could not be sure of sending all the bombs with accuracy.
With over one hundred and sixty miles to travel in a plane riddled with
shrapnel from the bursting shells, the prominent thought in the minds of
the aviators was, that their work being accomplished, their next move
was to "beat it" in the direction where lay friendly country.

After the release of the bombs, Jock climbed up through the clouds and
steered a direct course for home. Since the ground could not be studied
because of the intervening clouds, the aviators devoted their entire
attention to compass, time, and the stars. During this flight above the
clouds the efficiency of the Hun's sound instruments was thoroughly
demonstrated, for, although the clouds were too dense for any
searchlight to penetrate and this effectually screened the machine from
observation from below, again and again Jock's plane was surrounded by
the black puffs of bursting anti-aircraft shells.

After flying for a sufficient number of hours to bring them above their
aerodrome, if their calculations were correct, Jock and his companion
discussed the advisability of coming down through the clouds; the
unanimous decision, however, was to continue on until a lack of petrol
would force them to land, for changes in wind might have created a
considerable error in their calculations, unchecked as they were by
observations of landmarks; so after flying for another hour they came
down through the clouds and succeeded in making a safe landing near a
small French village just before their supply of petrol was exhausted.


III

One evening in August, 1918, there was a strong southwest wind blowing
across the eastern part of France and severe thunderstorms were reported
to be approaching. Nevertheless, certain Bedouins were selected to raid
the railway station and sidings at Frankfort; "intelligence" having
reported important rail movements in that vicinity. The Bedouins were
ordered to return if they found, after testing the air, the weather
conditions unfavorable for a flight of such long distance. As an
alternative target to Frankfort they were given the Burbach Hutte Works
at Saarbrucken.

After gaining their height above the aerodrome, Jock and his navigation
officer steered a direct course for "D" lighthouse, situated north of
Barcarat and but a few miles from the front-line trenches. Having
accurately figured their drift and ground speed on this course, Jock and
his companion calculated that, by steering a straight course to
Frankfort, spending five minutes over the target, and steering a
straight course back to their aerodrome, they could make sufficient
headway against the wind on the return voyage to bring them safely home
with a ten minutes' supply of petrol left in their tanks; any error in
course necessitating a deviation, or any increase in the velocity of the
wind, might mean a prolonged sojourn in a German prison camp if not
subjection to the well-known tortures of a German hospital.

After an accurate calculation of direction and velocity of wind, a
course of thirty-nine degrees was steered from "D" lighthouse; the river
Saar was crossed north of Saarburg; Bitsch and Pirmasens were passed to
the north and Kaiserlautern to the south and then, the Vosges Mountains
having been crossed, Jock and his companion looked down on the Rhine
valley. The Rhine River was crossed north of Oppenheim, and from an
elevation of six thousand feet, Mainz, at the juncture of the rivers
Main and Rhine, showed clearly in the moonlight. Still holding their
course, the aviators looked out to the left, followed up the river Main
to Frankfort, here they throttled back the engines, glided swiftly down
through the anti-aircraft barrage and searchlights and released their
bombs as accurately as possible. Then, after an almost vertical "bank"
so sudden was the turn, Jock steered a straight course for the nearest
point in the lines, which was considerably over one hundred miles away.
Now the aviators had to face a strong head wind and steer straight into
a rapidly approaching storm. The time taken to fly from Frankfort to the
Rhine River, together with a change in drift, proved to the aviators
that the wind had varied slightly in direction and had increased
somewhat in velocity. They immediately decided not to lose time by
climbing above the approaching storm, but to pass beneath it. This they
did, and those aviators never went through a nastier experience than
this homeward journey. Blinded and stung as they were by the downpour of
rain, while their aeroplane was hurled about by the wind to such an
extent that it appeared to be completely out of control, the voyage
seemed interminable. The clouds above belched flashes of lightning in
apparent unison with the Hun anti-aircraft batteries below. Held in the
beams of the enemy's searchlights and plainly visible against the dark
clouds above, Jock's plane was an easy target for the Hun gunners.

But who can account for the fortunes of war? Jock brought his plane,
riddled with shrapnel, into the moonlight beyond, showing up
Kaiserlautern directly below, with its searchlights sweeping the sky
while its anti-aircraft batteries filled the air with bursting shells;
but in spite of this "hate" it was a pleasant sight to the aviators, for
it showed them that their course was correct and that there was still
time to gain the lines unless the wind increased. Again they passed
below another dense bank of clouds, to experience again being blinded
with the rain and shaken by the violence of the wind by which their
plane was tossed about, all the while subjected to an attack by
lightning from above and by anti-aircraft guns from below. It is a
little trying to the nerves to fly for an hour without being able to see
the earth beneath, and surrounded by the incessant flashings of
lightning and the "whonkings" of bursting shells, but when homeward
bound these little incidents are of minor import.

[Illustration: AFTER THE LANDING]

For the second time Jock brought the plane, tossing about like a cork on
a mountainous sea, out into comparative light. As landmarks were
recognized, the course was checked and changed, when a third storm was
encountered. This last storm was furious, and it was impossible to hold
the plane on a compass course; fortunately, however, the storm lasted
but a short time, and when Jock brought his plane out into the breaking
dawn, the Marne-Rhine Canal was visible to the south. A few moments
later the lines were crossed and a direct course was steered to the
nearest aerodrome. Just then the engines spluttered, then stopped, the
petrol was exhausted, and Jock was forced to land in a field near
Lunéville after a sustained flight of eight hours and fifty minutes.



CHAPTER VI

THE GUIDING HAND


Mysterious Dick, or "Mystery" as he was usually called, was a slender,
anæmic-looking boy with deep brown eyes. He was nicknamed "Mystery" for
several reasons. In the first place, he gave every one on first
acquaintance an uncomfortable feeling; no one could explain this, but
every one admitted that he was a "bit queer." When he looked at you his
eyes never appeared to be focused on you, but to be looking at something
back of you; I have seen a man to whom Dick was talking suddenly turn
and look over his shoulder. Another very noticeable trait of Dick's was
to answer an unasked question, or to interrupt a man at the beginning of
an argument with a refutation or agreement, as the case might be.

I remember coming into the mess one morning about five o'clock after an
all-night raid; our machine was the third back. It was a bitter cold
winter's night and "upstairs" it was absolutely numbing. In the mess
there were Mac and Dick and one or two others, thawing their congealed
blood and numbed brains with hot rum. It had been a nasty trip that
night, dense, low clouds and a head wind on the return voyage; there
were many machines still unaccounted for, although the supply of petrol
would "keep them up" but another fifteen minutes. So in the mess we
sipped our hot rum and sat and thought, or just sat.

"I think they were south of Dieuze"; it was Dick who broke the silence.

Mac jumped and looked hard at "Mysterious Dick," and as we all looked at
him inquiringly a faint flush rose to his face, he gulped down his rum
and left the mess.

"It's queer," said Mac, "how often he does that."

"Does what?" I asked.

"Answer your unasked question," replied Mac. "The green balls must have
been south of Dieuze just as 'Mystery' said, for after leaving Mannheim
I followed up the Rhine to Hagenau Wald, turned west and crossed the
Vosges over Zabern; here we went above low clouds and I didn't see the
ground again for over an hour. I steered my course all right, but was
fearing a change of wind when just ahead of me I saw the Hun signal of
two green balls come up through the clouds; as the last 'intelligence'
placed these two balls at Morchange, I changed my course from 270° to
245°. It was only luck that about half an hour later a rift in the
clouds showed me 'F' lighthouse, and as that is about thirty miles
south of 'B' lighthouse, my original course over Zabern of 270° must
have been about right to strike 'B' lighthouse. So the green-ball
signal, as 'Mystery' said, must have been moved from Morchange to south
of Dieuze, and that is just what I was puzzling out when Dick answered
the puzzle for me. He's queer, all right." And Mac called for another
rum.

And "queer" is the best description of Dick that any of the Bedouins
could have given you, if you had asked them, until one night he was
finally coaxed after many "treats" to tell about his earlier war
experiences.

"In 1912 I was a subaltern in the Indian army," Dick said quietly; "a
row over a woman resulted in my court martial and disgrace.

"When the war broke out I joined as a dispatch rider; I was wounded and
was in the hospital for over five months. When I came out I succeeded
in getting into the Royal Flying Corps and eventually was granted a
commission. But as a pilot I was a complete failure; I 'wrote off'
several machines and in my last crash I nearly 'wrote off' myself. I was
unconscious for over a month and it was over eight months before I left
the hospital.

"I finally got back to France as a recording officer to a Handley-Page
squadron; here I ran into an old pal of mine, and one night, when his
navigation officer was sick, my pal took me on a raid without saying a
word to any one. It was the first time I had ever been in a Handley-Page
aeroplane and it was the first time I had ever flown at night, but my
pal was the best pilot in the squadron and the way to the Gontrode
aerodrome was an open book to him, for he had been there many times
before; he took me as a passenger for the experience.

"I remember as we 'taxied' over the aerodrome that the roar of the
engine on each side of me, the flashing of lights, the other machines as
they passed us or waited with slowly 'ticking-over props' for us to
pass, the different-colored lights which were being fired down from
machines already in the air and the lights fired up from the ground, all
combined and whirled through my excited brain like a meaningless
nightmare. Then there was a deafening roar and we shot down a path of
light, bumped hard, bumped less hard, bumped again, and the huge plane
with its great load of bombs was in the air. Lights on the ground and
the lights of machines in the air became mixed until I could not tell
one from the other.

"As we rose higher and higher, ground lights far off in the distance
came hurtling toward us like the navigation lights of a fast approaching
machine; I would clutch Jack, yell, and point out the lights in order
to avoid a collision as it seemed to me; Jack would grin, pull me down
on the seat beside him, and tell me the lights were on the ground and at
least ten miles away. Gradually I got control of myself and tried to
find the aerodrome we had just left; it was nowhere to be seen. There
was a network of white threads on a black background, an occasional
winding silver ribbon with here and there a silver blotch and
queer-shaped blacker blacknesses on the general blackness; these were
roads, rivers, lakes, and woods as they looked from the air at night.

"How long we had been in the air I don't know. Time seemed nothing, or
an eternity. We were suspended in a sphere. Lights or stars rushed at us
or receded or whirled about. Time and distance became mere words without
meaning and I had fallen into a state resembling hypnotic sleep when
suddenly roused by Jack. 'There are the lines,' he shouted, and as far
as the eye could see, to left and right, out of the darkness beneath us
were the constant flashes of the never silent guns of the Flanders
front. Every now and then we got a sudden 'bump' as a shell passed near
us. I had fallen into an almost semiconscious state when
'tut-tut-tut-tut-tut' jumped me off my seat; I realized that I was
surrounded by a dazzling whiteness; the machine itself was brilliant.
Amidst the 'tut-tut-tut' of our own machine guns shooting down at the
searchlights there was a constant dull 'whonk,' 'whonk,' 'whonk,' and
the whole machine seemed to be enveloped in puffs of black smoke as the
anti-aircraft batteries found the range.

"Suddenly the nose of the machine went down and my breath left me in the
crazy rush, my hands grasped at anything, and somehow, momentarily
blinded with fright as I was, my right hand involuntarily clutching Jack
conveyed the truth to my brain. Jack was dead. He had fallen forward on
the wheel and the giant plane was rushing, roaring down to destruction.
With a spasmodic effort I pulled his body from the seat onto the floor
at my feet and pulled back the wheel. With a sickening change and a
shrill singing of wires we were climbing. How the fuselage and tail
plane stood the strain of it, God knows. I was in Jack's seat now
pushing the wheel from me, pulling it toward me, turning it to the
right, then to the left, pushing the rudder bar with my right foot, then
with my left. Panic was in control. We must have dropped three thousand
feet before a sudden calmness came over me and I found this aerial
monster as gentle to manage as a perfectly bitted horse.

"But there was Jack, huddled on the floor at my feet with part of his
head gone. I remember leaning down and trying to pull him out of his
cramped position, and then came an eternity of stargazing. I wondered
why the stars didn't run into each other and crash. I leaned across the
fuselage and turned a pet-cock; a little spray of petrol came out with
the escaping air; the hands of two dials on the left side of the
cock-pit began turning slowly anti-clockwise; I forgot them and looked
at the stars. Later I pressed a button on the dashboard and looked out
at my starboard engine; a small dial was lit up. I looked at the port
engine, a similar dial was lit up. I took my right hand from the wheel
and pulled the throttle slightly back; again I star-gazed as if in a
dream and without any volition I closed the pet-cock which I had
previously opened.

"This was my first time in a Handley-Page, and I knew nothing of
pressures or temperatures. How long I flew I don't know; what direction
I should have flown I did not know at that time. Occasionally I glanced
at the compass and as well as I can remember the needle pointed west
generally, but I gave it no thought. Finally I pulled back the throttle
and began to glide. I leaned over the next seat and pulled two levers.
Remember that at this time I had never heard of shutters for the
radiators. Down I came into heavier and heavier atmosphere. I was calm
and happy. I never even gave the ground a thought, never even glanced at
it. I remember taking from a rack on my left a stubby revolver with a
huge bore, pointing it over the side and pulling the trigger, and I
watched a green light go slowly down and searchlights that were blinking
up at me went out. A few seconds later a knob on the dashboard seemed to
rivet my attention; it was a small knob exactly like an electric-light
switch. I began to play with this. To do this I had to lean forward and
stretch out my left arm; this action brought my face around to the
right, and as I played with the knob I saw a light blinking on my right
wing tip. I remember laughing at this.

"The plane took a sudden dip and I sat up. Just off to my right and very
little below me were lights on the ground in the shape of a 'T,' and
other lights were flashing at me. I turned toward the 'T' and stuck down
the nose of the machine; I pulled the throttle farther back, and just as
I seemed to be running into dense blackness I leaned forward and pressed
a button; a brilliant light sprang up under the machine; there was the
ground not two feet away, apparently. I yanked back the wheel and a
moment later there was a great bump, another and another, and we came to
rest on our own aerodrome.

"The doctor told me that he had never seen such a collapse. I had been
unconscious for hours after being lifted from the machine together with
my dead pal. I was awarded this decoration, gentlemen, for bringing that
machine home safely. Since that time I have been awarded these other
decorations for feats you have all heard of. But I want to tell you,"
and "Mystery Dick" stood up with flushed face and blazing eyes, "that I
have never flown an aeroplane in France. Jack, my old pal, dare-devil
Jack, whose head was blown off beside me during my first trip across the
lines, flies my machine. Jack, dear old Jack, has won these medals I
wear."

And Dick, no longer "Mystery Dick," left the mess. I say no longer
"Mystery Dick" because from that day on there was nothing mysterious
about Dick to the "Bedouins."

Explain it as you may, call it God, the spirit of a dead friend, or a
thought vibration to which their mind is attuned, explain it as you
choose, or try to explain it not at all, every member of the "Bedouin"
Squadron has felt the "Guiding Hand" and every "Bedouin" knew, as every
man who makes constant companions of danger and death must eventually
know, that the dead still "carry on."

THE END


The Riverside Press

CAMBRIDGE · MASSACHUSETTS

U · S · A





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