A Coward in a Camel - An Iron Man flight sim diary

Tim Stone at

August 13

This is madness. A 10 m/s westerly wind is buffeting St Eloi and still we’re expected to fly. The moment I lift Camilla’s tail-skid off the ground she’s pivoted 90 degrees by the gusts. I’m forced to taxi between tents and take off from a neighbouring field. I’m still fuming when we run into a pair of Hun scouts busy molesting one of our gasbags. Take that, red-nose! Blimey, I think I got him. A head-on snapshot sends one Albatross into a flat spin. Moments later, the other balloon-botherer slides obligingly into my Aldis. I keep him there with a touch of left rudder and a blip of the throttle, and thumb the fire button until one of my red-hot MGs jams.

Back at base, an unseen hand chalks a triumphant ‘5’ next to my name on the squadron blackboard.

A few hours later, the same hand will draw a line through the stats of Henry Fisher.

August 14

Too wet for Hun harassing. All jobs are scrubbed.

August 16

Say ‘Bonjour’ to the latest recipient of the Croix de Guerre. I nailed another three Albatrosses today. An evening of mess excess is just getting underway when the news comes through that Gilbert Howard has gone down in flames over Douai. I guess Davies will take the reins of RNAS 8 now.

August 18

I can’t believe it. Davies, Cox, and Knight, all gone. Two days of fierce fighting has ripped the heart out of the squadron, and turned a nervy probationer into a semi-seasoned stalwart. I’m now our leading scorer with 11 kills. Camilla is finally starting to feel like a friend rather than a foe; I know all(?) her wicked ways, and yearn for the comforting familiarity of her cockpit. It’s been a month since I arrived at St Eloi. Am I over the Camel hump?

August 19

Rise of Flight’s France needs more joie de vivre. Contour-chasing on the way back from a fruitless patrol, I search unsuccessfully for staff-cars to spook, and villagers to amaze. The thrill of rattling rooftiles and rustling treetops never fails to intoxicate, but how sweet it would be to skim a world that lived, looked up, and waved occasionally.

August 20

Evening over Lens. Clouds drift past like Spanish fireships. Is that speck down there one of ours or one of theirs? Only one way to find out.

Where are you off to this fine evening, Herr Pfalz? A particularly warm corner of Hell if I have anything to do with it. I’m on him in a flash, eyes narrowing, guns blazing. Lead kindles flame and flame licks hungrily from engine to cockpit. Out-of-control, the Pfalz careers earthward dragging a pennant of black smoke behind it.

I roll to get a better look at the final moments of Victim No.12. I’m still watching, waiting for that little puff of mud and fire, when the pilot at the controls of the blue-nosed Albatross behind me commences firing.