Dave was around for another Algy game last Friday and things certainly went better for the RFC. This was very pleasing as we had set out to ‘chart’ the progress of air combat through the latter part of WW1, starting in Jan 1917. After a couple of bruising encounters through the early months of that year we have now hit the summer. The SE5a has arrived and the general quality of RFC pilots is also up – these are the survivors of those brutal months. So we were hoping to see the tables begin to turn.
We decided to go Balloon Busting this time!! A German Observation Balloon has been calling down accurate artillery fire on the British preparations for the upcoming Big Push to break through the German lines and it has been decided that it has to come down!!
The British started with 3 Sopwith Pups with a Junior Ace, an Experienced Pilot and a Sprog. These were to attack the balloon and were to approach in formation with the Experienced Pilot leading, the Junior Ace on his right and the Sprog on his left. They were covered by 2 SE5as with a Junior Ace and an Experienced Pilot. Opposing them were 3 Albatross DVas with the Top Ace, a Veteran and an Experienced pilot. Here we see the Pups on the left approaching the balloon whilst, on the right, we have the SE5a top cover!
The Germans arrived promptly on the British right and moved to get on their tails:
It now really broke down into 2 separate combats, so let’s deal with the Pups first! They maintained formation well and made a superb approach to the balloon, diving as the balloon saw them coming and began to be winched down – the crew had jumped at the first sight of the approaching Pups! The German Veteran, however, was hot on their heels! he could tell the pilot on the left was struggling to hold his position and identified him as the easy target. He maneuvered into position but failed to get on the tail and on the Pups flew. Now in range, the Experienced Pilot, armed with Buckingham ammunition, opened fire – a hit and the gas bag was punctured but no explosion! Next up was the Junior Ace and he made no mistake – a long and accurate burst and the balloon exploded. All 3 Pups were rocked by the blast but all pilots retained control. However, the German Veteran took this opportunity to get onto the Sprog’s tail. As planned, the Pups reversed course and dove for home. All except for the Sprog, who lost control and, over the next couple of turns and closely watched by the German Albatross, spun into the ground.
Meanwhile the remaining 2 Albatross and the SE5as had a real dogfight. The German Top Ace decided to try and bag the Experienced SE5a and maneuvered to try and achieve that. His wingman failed to follow and the SE5a Junior Ace spotted his mistake, swung onto his tail and duly shot him down. Strike 2 to the RFC!! The German Top Ace, meanwhile, was on the tail of the other SE5a. A quick burst and the SE5a’s rudder jammed – thank heavens he was heading the right way – for home!
But help was at hand as the SE5a Junior Ace spun round and latched onto the German’s tail. Realising the balloon was down, that one Albatross was down and that the odds were unfavourable, the German Ace pulled hard away off his target’s tail, losing his own tail in the process, and both sides withdrew.
So, a much better show from the RFC. The better planes in the SE5a really made a difference and we are expecting the Camels to arrive next time – watch this space!
Monty the Desert Rat