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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

But the pilot sat still back above me


Now the carpets stopped as we sailed over a forest of dense dark green with little mirrors stuck in it, which, when looked at through my field-glasses, proved to be not the tops of greenhouses, as I had at first imagined, but big lakes.

And now the wisps of mist became banks of fog. As we still climbed on upward through these white banks the earth could only be seen in isolated dark patches. Higher and higher we climbed, till finally the earth was entirely veiled by the clouds below us. At a height of 3,000 metres, or 9,900 feet, we straightened our angle and on an even keel headed away toward the front. It was a magnificent sight. We were flying along in a clear belt between the lower and the upper clouds. Below us stretched an unbroken white ocean of these lower clouds. The sun was just high enough to shed its slanting beams along the surface of this snow-white sea. Above us were the lowering masses of the higher clouds.

[Illustration: Page 6

"BELOW US STRETCHED AN UNBROKEN WHITE OCEAN OF THESE LOWER CLOUDS"]

In this lonely world of our own we flew forward at 130 kilometres (80 miles approximately) an hour. The air was very thin and cold, but for some reason there was no rush of wind against my face. If I moved my head to right or left I could feel the wind from either propeller, but in the middle it was relatively calm. The air felt very thin to breathe and I had to swallow constantly to keep clearing my ears and the tubes back of my nose.

On and on we flew, until finally I felt, instead of hearing, a violent rapping. Turning my head, I saw the pilot hammering with his right fist on the deck between our cockpits to attract my attention. He grinned amicably and opened his mouth wide. I could see he was shouting at me, but could not hear the faintest sound over the roar of the propellers. He pointed to the whiteness below us a little to the right. Then he wrote an imaginary word with his forefinger on the deck between us. I could not read it upside down. I opened my leather coat, and with the cold instantly biting into my chest, hauled out my notebook and pencil and stretched them out to him. He shook his head and indicated that he could not take both hands away from steering. So I buttoned up my coat again in some perplexity.

Then, without abruptness, with a certain sickening majesty, the aeroplane stood on its head and swooped down onto the surface of the white sea below us. As it swallowed us we began to spiral rapidly around as though we were tobogganing down a giant corkscrew. As we went on down through this white nothingness I became very dizzy. The propellers had slowed 'way down and I thought the engines had failed, and that we were either falling 10,000 feet or making a forced descent. But the pilot sat still back above me, so I did likewise.

Suddenly we spiralled violently down through the bottom of the cloud into sight of the earth again. Instantaneously the engines broke into their old roar and the aeroplane stopped pointing straight down and assumed a steep slant. If any one ever heaved a sigh of relief I did it then.

I felt the rapping behind me. Looking round, I saw the pilot pointing down at the earth, ahead and to our right. I shook my head. Then, as we careened downward, he stopped his motors for a fraction of a second, and in the sudden deafening silence he shouted out, "The front!"

Here, if my hopes had materialized, I should be able to give a most striking picture of a battle as seen from an aeroplane. But honesty compels me to say that any one who wants to get a good clear view of the front had much better go there on the surface of the earth, and not through the air.


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