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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

While the Caudron was prepared for our flight


The

Captain of the "esquadrille" showed us, with quite pardonable pride, his "avions de reglage"--planes carrying no bombs or machine-guns, but equipped with wireless, which are used to correct the fire of artillery, and his "avions de chasse" or hunting-planes equipped with bombs, a machine-gun and a Winchester carbine. Some of these had the pilot sit behind and the observer in front operating the machine gun over the bow. Others had the pilot in front and the observer behind, in which case the observer, standing up, operated the machine-gun over the head of the pilot. Finally he showed us a splendid new Caudron biplane having two independent motors and two traction screws in front, so that if either motor were put out of business the plane could continue flying on the other.

I was so enthusiastic about this machine that the Aviation Captain turned to me and asked casually, "Would you perhaps like to go up and take a 'petite promenade' in the Caudron?"

Would I? It did not take me many fractions of a second to impress on him that I certainly would. But here Captain d'A---- demurred. It was, he said, absolutely forbidden that any one should go up in army aeroplanes except aviators on military duty. Those were the strict army regulations. He was quite right and entirely justified in his attitude. But Captain F----, who was a good sport and had become quite a chum of mine, said, "Oh, let him go up. After all, the Swiss

Military Attache went up the other day. I'll take the responsibility." And as he was in immediate authority while we remained with the 5th Army, Captain d'A---- good-naturedly shrugged his shoulders and let it go at that.

So I hurried down with the Aviation Captain to his tent to put on a warm aviation suit, while the Caudron was prepared for our flight. As we approached his tent, a single-motored aeroplane took aboard its pilot and observer, its propellers whirred and roared, and it rolled casually away up the gradual slope, through a field of standing grain, till near the hilltop it took to the air as easily as a bird and spiralled up toward the low-lying dark clouds.

In the Captain's tent I struggled into a heavy suit of black fur made like a suit of combination underwear, legs and body all in one piece, put on a pair of goggles and a heavily padded helmet, and emerged to meet the disappointment of my life. Down pattered some drops of rain, down spiralled the aeroplane which had just gone up.

"Too bad," said the Aviation Captain. "I can't send a machine up in the rain."

I pleaded with my staff-officers to wait here for an hour to see whether the rain might not stop. In vain. Even that good sport Captain F---- was adamant. We could not possibly wait, because it would completely throw out a visit to a horse hospital, and an inspection of an army corps supply-train which were both unalterably fixed upon our schedule. We were very late already. We must be off.


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