August 24th

On August 24th we did our next “ground straffing” show, it was at Bapaume. We went out in pairs, I went with Ritter (an American attached to our squadron)[Ritter]. We arranged to go over on top of the clouds to see if there were any huns there. If there were not any we were going to dive through over Bapaume and go down to our straffing. There were no huns about so I dipped my wings and dived straight through the clouds, I came out plumb over Bapaume. I circled round waiting for Ritter, but he did not come through, I went back to the lines and looked for him there but there was no sign of him so I went down to do my ground straffing. I spotted a column going in a N.E. direction about three miles E of Bapaume. I went down to about two hundred feet to make sure they were huns. It appeared to be a hun battery on the retreat.  There was a wagon in front then a column of men, then three limbers, then another column of men, then several more limbers. I tried to drop my bombs on the leading wagon, but missed. I saw two burst on the side of the road, then I started shooting them up with my machine guns.

I broke an extractor on my lewis gun  before I had fired my first drum, but I fired every round I had in my Vickers. I certainly gave that battery hell, the men scattered to each side of the road, the limbers ran forward a few yards, then stopped and ran on a few more yards. Unfortunately I could not see what damage I had inflicted because I was fired at by two Albatross scouts, I had to clear off as soon as I could, when I got back, Ritter had not turned up but he landed about a quarter of an hour after I did, he had missed me when he came out of the clouds, so he had flown to our balloon line and stayed there hoping to pick me up. That was the best thing he could have done because he did not know the country and had done very little time over the lines. We went up again after tea, this time we went over under the clouds, when we got to Bapaume we saw a big formation of huns there, so all the ground strafing machines had stopped work and were climbing to engage the huns. I joined one bunch of camels and SE5 however before we got up to their level the huns had cleared off, so I left the formation to get on with the ground straffing,  Ritter did not follow me, he stayed up there along with three other machines, so I went down and shot up the Bapaume Cambrai road. I did my straffing from about a thousand feet this time, there was nothing particularly startling except one or two parties of huns walking along. When I got back Ritter had not returned again but I thought he had probably stayed with the other machines when he found I had left, what happened to him I can’t think, but he was missing I think most probably he got lost and wandered off over hun land.







The Flying Diary of Wallace A Smart