In the Clouds of Glory p3 Bring the Pictures Home

I will start this after action report with a Royal Flying Corps mess song. It is sung to the tune of the 23. Psalm and it nicely sums up my feelings for the B.E.2c two-seater recon plane as it is represented in ICOG and as it performed on this day:

“The B.E.2c is my bus; therefore shall I want.
He maketh me to come down in green pastures.
He leadeth me where I wish not to go.
He maketh me to be sick; he leadeth me astray on cross-country flights.
Yea, though I fly o’er No-Man’s Land where mine enemies would compass me about, I fear much evil; for thou art with me; thy joystick and thy prop discomfort me.
Thou preparest a crash for me in the presence of mine enemies; thy R.A.F. anointeth my hair with oil, thy tank leaketh badly.
Surely to goodness thou shalt not follow me all the days of my life, else I shall dwell in the house of Colney Hatch* for ever.”

*on Google, “Colney Hatch” turns out to be a lunatic asylum.

The mission:
The target for the mission was a German marshalling area near Duai, around 10 kilometers behind the front lines. The Allied urgently needed to pinpoint the reserve troops of Falkenhausen´s 6th armee. Thus two RAF Be2c’s with camera equipment and escort were dispatched to get pictures of the area. But the formation was spotted as it crossed the lines and German Albatros Kampfeinsitzers were waiting over the target area.

The Ailled forces started behind the dotted line on the left while the Germans started above the target (red circle).

The forces:
The Allied forces consisted of the two BE2c’s (One green in colour, flown by O’Leary and the other beige flown by Burke). The allied fighter escort consisted of a Sopwith Pup (Libby) and the French: Two Niuport 17s (“13”, Munster. “22” Comté) and a SPAD S.VII (Camembert). The RFC being played by Yours truly and the Aviation Militaire being played by Andreas, a veteran of this game.

The German forces consisted of three Albatros D.II’s (Fuchs, Fürstenfeldt “camo” and Richstadt “White stripe”) and two Albatros D.III’s (Von Glück “red stripe”, Huber “Red heart”). Von Glück was a well known adversary (from this mission:…) and I would be a prize to bring him down.
The Luftstreitkräfte being played by Thomas (the other designer) pilots Fuchs and Huber, Mike (BGG:Ztiletto, “only” had Richstadt and Løfgren (BGG: Loeffe) had the notorious Von Glück and Fürstenfeldt.

The fighter pilots were rather evenly matched in skill. But the Germans generally being somewhat better in Gunnery ability and this in unison with the twin guns on the Albatros fighters and the very slow speed of the BE2c’s would make the recon planes very vulnerable. All the allied fighters only had one Vickers machine gun and this combined with the average gunnery skill left us somewhat lacking in killing power.

And then we will have to mention those BE2c’s again: Fragile, vastly underpowered and slow, sluggish, no fixed forward MG and with a horrible field of fire for the observer best described by others:
If there was ever an aeroplane unsuited for active service it was the BE 2c. The pilot sat slightly aft of the main planes and had a fair view above and below, except where the lower main plane obscured the ground forward; but the observer, who sat in front of him, could see practically nothing, for he was wedged under the small center section, with a plane above, another below, and bracing wires all round. He carried a gun for defense purposes but he could not fire it forward, because of the propeller. Back¬wards, the center-section struts, wires, and the tail plane cramped his style. – Cecil Lewis , Saggitarius rising 1918.

Pic: The very narrow filed of fire seen. Note that the Lewis MG would be physically moved to one of the 3 firing positions.

Sadly enough both crews in the BE2´s were good and capable of taking care of themselves had they flown a better plane like the RE8 or Sopwith 1½ strutter and could have been very dangerous in a Bristol Fighter. But in the BE2 they were but slow targets. “Kaltes Fleish”, Cold meat was the German nickname.

The action:

Round 1:
The initial turn saw the two sides closing on each other fast. The two allied recon planes kept together and veered slightly to their right flank in order to win the escorts some time to engage the oncoming Germans

End of round 1. Overview – The two BE2´s is seen in the lower left corner.

Round 2:
The sides rolled a mixed initiative (= situational awareness)the Germans loosing it on their left flank where the two-seaters were heading but gaining the upper hand on their right flank. Camembert, a otherwise very skilled French pilot got a bit to far ahead in his fast SPAD VII and got hit in the rudder from the side by Richstadt in the D.II, sustaining minor structural damage and loosing some manoeuvrability. Glück got of a long shot at one of the Nieuports but missed. The game was lined up for a confused melee.

Round Two:
In the foreground: Richstadt hitting Camembert in the beige SPAD, below him Glück firing at the silvery Nieuport 17. In the background the two BE2´s can be seen with Libby in his Pup with the red cowling above them.

Round 3
Now things started to turn bad for us – But the combat was not one sided.

Camembert dove down in right turn in order to get out of harms way, but Fuchs took a chance and pushed every bit of turning ability in order to get around and get a tail shot at Camembert but in the process nearly breaking up his own plane, using his re-roll (derived from the pilot “luck” score) and damaging the plane.

But then came Richstadt who zoomed up in order to burn of some distance and swooped down on Camembert straight from above. In the process denying his Fuchs his long range shot from the rear as Richstadts D.II suddenly appeared in Fuchs sights. Richtstadt calmly hit the SPAD VII badly and the engine was knocked out and Camembert, behind enemy lines lost his will to fight on. Luckily the plane did not catch fire. Now we, the allies were two points behind.

At the same time Glück in the Alb.D.III dove on the green BE2 and hit it but surprisingly it did not break up. Libby in the Pup tried feebly to hit back at Germans and took a high deflection shot at Fuchs from the side and duly hit and the plane took structural. Thomas was forced to roll a structural integrity check (d20 against remaining Structure points) for Fuchs which he missed, the a re-roll which he also missed. The “missed structure roll” table was consulted and a d6 was rolled with the result of “1”. No effect. I was swearing as a 4, 5, 6 would have been a full wing collapse and 2-3 would have resulted in serious wing damage.

Round 3: In the foreground: Richstadt in the Green D.II diving vertically on the hapless Camembert in the beige SPAD S.VII. Behind and below: Glück diving on the BE2. Top: Libby in the Pup hitting Fuchs.

Round 3: Libby shooting at Fuchs – seen from the other side.

Round 4:
In order ensure a good result of the recon work we had to return home with at least three pictures from the target area. In this turn the recon planes both arrived over the target area and took the first pictures, each plane taking one picture. But taking the pictures would prove to be the easy part. Getting home again would be hard. Both recon planes were now in a very vulnerable position in a slow turn over the target area and with German fighter just overhead.

Round 4: Over the target area: “Look! They are assembling troops and guns.. take the pictures and lets get home…”

And then things started to turn really nasty for the allied side.
Richstadt pulled out of his dive after having dispatched Camembert and promptly got in a side shot on the beige BE2c (Burke) and duly set it on fire. A kill and two points for the Germans.

Round 4: The end af a BE2c. Richstadt strikes once more… In the background: The other BE2c, Alb.DIII (von Glück) and a Nieuport 17.

To make matters worse Fürstenfeldt dived on Munster in Niuport 17 “13” and with a seemingly long range shot from the side managed to cut the fuel the Nieuport. Munster observing the fuel sloshing around in the cockpit decided that enough was enough and tried to disengage. The fuel line damage forcing Andreas to make a Macho check (d20 against Macho score) for his pilot to stay in the combat and this failed – The pilot from then on, not allowed to take offensive action. The plane counted as “driven down” for one point for the Germans.

But as a consolidation price, Comté (Niuport 17,”22”) took a fast left “C” turn, in the process using up his re-roll in order to not break his wings off. But Comté succeeded in getting on the tail of the beleaguered Fuchs, who had just escaped his encounter with the Pup (Libby). The salvo hit Fuchs hard in his cockpit and a “Macho” check (d20 against remaining Macho of 6) was needed to stay in the combat. Fuchs missed the check and also counted as “driven down” and 1 point for the allied side. Fuchs plane still represented 1 point if it could be brought down.

Round 4: Comté wounding Fuchs.

A short status on this point of the game: We had lost one of the BE2c´s along with the picture it had taken, A SPAD VII (Camembert) was gliding down engineless and landing in enemy territory, One of the Niuports (Munster) were pulling out – its fuel line cut and he was also going to a POW camp. The Germans had one Albatros D.II with a wounded pilot pulling out of the combat. With only one recon plane and two active escorts against 4 fast and well-armed Albatros figthers the future looked bleak. We needed to get one more picture, dive for home and pray.

Round 5
Now it was make or break. But our hopes were vanquished quickly. Von Glück (“damn you, and your kind!”) a superior marksman dove down on the remaining BE2c (O´Leary), which were in the process of taking a second picture. Von Glück did not fail and the shots duly hit the fuel lines -a combined (Succes+1d20) critical result of 15 again! The recon plane now had 5 rounds of fuel left nowhere near enough to reach allied lines. Another 1 point for the plane and to ad insult to injury another 3 to the Germans for the missions “No allied pictures brought home” condition.

The crew in the other BE2c (Burke and gunner Cod) had some luck as the fire in their burning plane died out (1 on 1d6 and a 6 would have meant a explosion) and they now searched for a good spot to make a emergency landing.
Meanwhile the wounded Fuchs tried to diveaway from Comté but the frenchman would not let the wounded German get away and used the Niuports superior manoeuvrability to make at tight turning dive and shot at the Albatros again, this time missing the mark.

Round 5: A confused melee. In the bottom right Von Glück disabling the remaing BE2c. In the foreground Comté firing on the wounded and retreating Fuchs. Far below a Munster pulling out and the BE2c seeking a spot to land.

Round 6
This round saw the two remaining active allied fighter take action. Libby in the Pup took a tight turn and got on the tail of Huber in the Albatros D.III for a long range stern shot. The salvo hit the cockpit area but missed the pilot. The only clear result being a whopping minus 6 to the next initiative roll on top of the minus 4 for having a EA in tailing position for a total minus 10 for the next initiative roll (normally Reaction score + an open ended 1d10).

Below Comté stayed on Fuchs and got in another salvo, this time fatally. Fuchs Albatros broke up in mid air. Vengeance.

Round 6: left in the blurry foreground Comté finishing off Fuchs. Rigth: also blurred – Libby shooting at Huber in the inverted albatross D.III in the backbround.

Round 7-8 
These rounds did not see much action exept for that frantic combat taking place between Libby (Pup) and Huber (D.III). Huber desperately pulled his plane into a tigth downward split-S but Libby flying slower in a more nimble airplane followed , not quite able to get on the tail but got in very close for a side shot. The salvo hit Hubers wings forcing a structural integrity check, but the plane held together.
The next round saw the same scenario between the two planes: Huber violently evading, diving his aircraft into the second half oft the vertical S-curve and Libby making a vertical scissors manoeuvre and again getting of a shot from the side, this time missing the mark. Both planes were down on the deck and as they were pushing the flight envelope to the limit a mistake here would result in the planes spinning to their deaths.

Round 8:”Why..wont.. you .. die!” Libby firing at Huber for the third turn in a row. His very average shooting ability not helping him.

Round 9-10
Finally Huber was relived as Richstadt came to the rescue – Moving in from above to cover his beleaguered college and Libby was forced to let his quarry go or risk having Richstadt in the tail. I saw no need to give the man his third kill on this mission!.

All around the area the stricken allied planes made their emergency landings:
Munster landed just outside the town. The “Down behind the lines” table the lines” table were consulted and a d20 roll was added to Munsters Macho score. A firefigth with the German ground forces ensued, but then Munster had enough and surrendered.

The Beige, scorched Be2c came ind to land in a field but ended up in a ditch and turned over. In the process killing the Gunner (Cod) and wounding the pilot Burke who was taken POW.

And by the end of round 10 the last BE2c ran out of fuel due to the fuel leak caused by Von Glücks attack. And no pictures of the reserve build-up could the reach the allied lines as both planes landed in German occupied territory.

Meanwhile Camembert successfully landed his stricken SPAD S.VII in a grass field below. Now trapped behind enemy lines, waiting out the rest of the war as a POW seemed a certain. Again the “Down behind the lines” table were consulted and Andreas rolled a d20 for his trapped pilot – and rolled 20 which was added to Camemberts Macho score of 13 for a whopping 33 result. Thus Camembert sneaked through the lines the following night and reported to the Escadrille commander early in the morning. Camembert being his best pilot Andreas felt more than lucky!

Some lessons: I never hope to see a BE2c again. The Sopwith Pup is wonderfully agile and able to hold its own but is lacking firepower with its single Vickers MG. I am looking forward to when its bigger brother; the Camel gets here and beats the crap out of the Albatrosses.

We lost the mission 9-2. Ouch! And we lost the first quarter of 1917 in the campaign. And with that loss a lot of good crews –Myself striking a record with 4 lost two-seater crews and a fighter pilot totally in 3 missions. The next month in the campaign has late become known as “bloody april”…. But after that the new types will arrive, and the heyday of the Albatros will be over for good.

I will end this report with the drinking song I had hoped would be approprate:

Hans vos my name, und a pilot vos I.
Out mit von Karl I vent for to fly.
Pilots of Kultur, ve vos, dere’s no doubt.
Each of us flew in an Albatros Scout.
Ve looked for B.E.s for to strafe mit our guns.
Ven last I saw Karl, I knew he was dones.
For right on his tail vere two little Sops.
Oh hush-a-bye baby, on the treetops!

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