FIGHTING A GOTHA OVER
THRILLING EXPERIENCE OF AN
BATTL B 15,000 FEET ABOVE THE CITY.
(By Arthur .Howden. Smith in thf>
New York Evening. Post.) Tho first definite description of tho measures taken by the British authorities for the .defence of London against German air raids was, given recently by Sergeant-pilot Dean Ivan Lamb,' formerly of the Thirteenth Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, a-nd the Nineteenth Reserve Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, who shot down a German Gotha over Hainault Forest, in the groat raid of July 7, and ! two minutes Inter was shot down himself, with his gunner dead, and the toes stripped off his own right foot. Lamb is an American boy, from Canton, Oregon, U.S.A., and after this experience ho got his discharge, in order that ho might come homo aud serve h's own country.
Until last spring Lamb -was a member of the Thirteenth Squadron of th© Royal Flying Corps, stationed on the ■western front in France, one of tha few non-commissioned pilots in the British army. He -was given tho chance to fly by his flight commander an Australian officer, who did not share the common British prejudice against non-commissioned pilots. According to Lamb, he was offered & commission conditional on his stating he was a Canadian, but ho declined to foreswear allogia.no© *-« his own country. After 10 months of bitter fightinjx in France, in tho course, of which tho personnel of his squadron was replaced several times, ho began tp feci the effects of the tremendous nervous and physical strain, and was detailed to tho Ninotccntth Reserve Squadron, a part of the air forces -assigned to the defence of London. LIFE A MATTER OF HOURS. " The life of an air pilot on the west front used to average 200 hours of flying," he explained simply., ''-Now it lis fonlv laboirt- 50 to 60 honre. In the first 30 days of the last spring offensive all tho pilots and observers of mv old squadron .in Franco went out—dead,, wounded, missing, or broken from shock and exhaustion.", Speaking* of the measures taken for the defence of London, Lamb said: "Tho headquarters of the,central authority of the Air Board is. AdastralHouse', on the Thames Embankment. There are about 20 aerodromes scattered about'the outskirts of ;the city. Each" of these aerodromes; .koops.ia raachino in the air all tho time, night and day, the machines working in shifts or'about two or three; .hours; each. A pilot goes up and stays up until ho sees another machino with tho number of his station on it. Then he knows ho is relioved, and can conio down. Eat-ly in the' summer, when. T was in London, most of the." machines, on tho patrol were the old BE, 12a,' 140 horse-power . with one syehrbnised gun, aind' .a speed...-of • 75 to 80 miles an hour. They.were nothing but death-traps, against fa«t, powerful German machines Ilk* the Goth&a.,. - „ " I flew a DH i ov«cr London, Th»x are very good fightingrhmchinefl, bntthey aro too fast to fly at night. You cannot mako a safe landing;in th« dark going at such - speed;' For night-flying tho BE 12« aro ideal,,only, as I said, they haven't a cltanc© against a machino like tha, (-rotha. My DH 4 was'the only plan* of that typo that I saw up to July 7, th« data of my last flight, but I dare j*ay th«y have added more fast machine** to the patrol since then.
GERMAN GOTHA-VERY DANGER
"The Gotha is a very dangerous inrention. The Germane adapted it, with improvements from a, British Handley-Pago machino, that came doivn in the Lille aerodrome in May, 1916, thinking that it was behind the Allied lines. Tht Gothas iii use this summer had a wing spread of about 87ft. They carried two Mercedes engines, each of 310 horse-power, driving two pushing propellers. In this respect they differed from the Hand-ley-Page and most other machines which are detractors. The Gotha carries three men and threo guns, besides 800lbs of bombs. They can do about 80 miles an hour. Lately their fusalages have been built semi-arm-oured, and the pilots have Avorri body armour and steel helmets thick, enough toward off shrapnel. Their' distinguishing characteristic, though, is a gun tunnel behind/ which enables them .'to fire not only behind, hut underneath. When, I tackled the Gothas over London, on July 7 I did not know about, this gun tunnel,.and it was the cause of my undoing. 7 ''Tbo way they Work it in the London aerodromes there are_.a certain number of machines detailed for duty duty in the air each day, and a certain, nil tuber in reserve, all. ready to go on duty. These machines held in reserve must not be used until ordered, out. except that the" engines must be started in the morning to war mtheni up. Their, tauj.es. are filled; they.. 'havo. .bfj'ts .adjusted te their guns, and spare.'-ammuni-tion on bonrd. The flying clothes of the crews must, be hanging on tho fusiUa-ge, and, tho pilots and gunners must be at hand all day. All you have to do 1° go into the air is to start your engine and have the mechanics remove the chocks from the wheels.
"On the "uiurning of July 7, about 10.45 o'clock, we 'got the usual preliminary warnin_ "bulletin from Adastral House:
" 'Take air-raid action and notify all machines in air.'
"That means to' place'a large H jn the centre of .the aerodrome as a signal, to the unarmed, training machines that may ha up to come down Vrithin 3000 feet of the ground, and be prepared to take cover .in case, the Germans should appear. . "When we. got that message I called my gunner, Dave Low, a Scotsman,. and w:e slipped into, our flying clothes and climbed into the fusillago of the bus. Presently the major came running up from the office at the end of the field, and handed me the second message. It road: " 'Large formation hostile aircraft reported, from. East Ooast..',.
" 'There you axe boy,' said,the major, as I handed it hack to him. 'You are to fly to Hendon for further instructions.'
" 'Is that all ' I asked. " 'Yes,' says ho. 'Go up and be a hero. Good Luck!'
ALL IN THE.DAY'S AVORK "It was all in the day's work, yon know, and nobody said anything. The mechanics drew out. the chocksj and I taxied across the field, got my start, and rose to 500 feet. I reached Hendon about five minutes later, and came down in the field. The orderly officer was waiting for me, and ran out to meet tho machine. " 'All we can tell you,' he said, 'is that the enemy was flying high. It is advisable to ly M i 'ght up. and a bit to the east. Good luck, bo-, ' "Jast Miny r pelh r began to hum again I heard some- fool close by yoll: '" 'Wot'c ver fivourits flower, Bill?' " "I cliutbod straight up, and believe me, you can climb some wjth those de Haviland machines.. We never spiralled; we went straight. I
reached 10,000 foot in ten-minutes, and. Kent on to 15,000 feet, making that- altitude 15 minutes ffcter. One© wo had. got our altitude, Low unbuckled his belt and stood up to get tho view. It's a' funny thing, by Ihe way. but.there's a sort of telepathic connection between the men on a bus.- If the pilot, gets, his 'wind un,' as they say—gets worried about anything—-the gunner will feel jt, too. ' Well, Low sighted the hostile machines off to the north oast, and he pointed thorn, out to me, "I want to tell you that true a Bpeotaclo. I guess you hay* fcneft the pictures tho nancrs had of thorn afterwards—3l Gothos in a big V forma-tJion. Th'oso pictures also ■showed, three other machines by themselves to the left. Well, those were BEI2 « of tbo patrol, and thoy were the only other British plan_e I ,saw, although others wero up. They wore coining up as I was, but they had no chance against the Gothas. because they couldn't go any. faster, and thoy Were undergunned. The Gothas had threo guns to their one, that is
FLEW IN V-FORMATION "A& soon as I saw tho Germans 1 began to climb again, and rose to between 17,000 and 18,000 feet. Low took off his heavy gloves, keeping on 3i:is thin under-gloves -,ao lie coma handle the Lewis, and wiped his R oggles. That was a peach ot a morning. There was the regular London haze up. to about 'oOOOIt., but on our level the sun was shining brightly, it was dear and cold. W there irtere only a lew thick clouds. Somewhere Mow 18,0001:1. I altered to the horiaantwl, and'-s^%l. : > round tho oncOraWniass ot Gothas, travelling in #; V;-&ith;thc [ point ol the wedge in the Tear.* Ihe tlOlit rank wa. at about 15,000 feet and oaoHi rank behind was banked up 100 feet higher ..in order, to neutralise the effect of anti-aircraft fire ] from the ground. "There were four Gothas lagging I behind all tbo rest, and 1 made for , the hindmost of these, d™%°"_} l "£ from an altitude at least 1000 a aids above him. I turned loose both my synchronised Vickers guns that 1 I with what we call a joystick ' a<- ive came within oO yards ot bim.' When 1 was within 20 yards of his tail be went into a 'spin, and I turned to climb for the next Gotha. As wo were turning Low emptied a drum from his Lewis into the tailing German , , . , "All this happened a lot quicker than T am taking to tell it. in much than ft minute, I should say. 1 oniy -fired about 25 rounds from each gun at that first chap. When I climbed 500 ft up 1 dived for the second Gotha. I failed to get him, but as I swept by, about 15yds from lua ailerons, I saw his forward gunner either crawling back among the fuselage or else wounded. Realising that I had failed this time, I did the beat thing I could think of. I made what we call an Immelmann turn —that famous German flyer invented it,--which is to turn sharp to your leftand downward with all cpeed on, and then com* up behind the other man ■ from underneath.
DEATH OF LOW. "I thought" I'd get beneath his blind sido if I attacked from beneath for I didn't know then about the gun-tuunel in the rear of the Gothas. I had tho surprise of my life as 1 came up to him, without effect, although I could see tho holes ripped by mv bullets in his planes. I wa» puzzled at not hearing any shot* from Low, and as I put pressure on the left rudder bar to turn off, I glanced back at him. Dave had gone West. He wa.s lying back, with his head and chest riddled, kept m his seat by the wind pressure. In the same -moment I. felt a terrific pain. in my right foot, and it was jerked off tho rudder bar. "I had already begun to press on th« left rudder bar in order to turn to «et clear of the Gotha, and when my "right foot was jerked off he right rudder-bar my left foot pressed spasmodically on the left rudder-bar, aud with m.v ailerons banked over for the turn I naturally went into a spin. I was suffering intensely at the time, but my head was clear. I saw several German 'planes start after me and thou return to their formation, evid-
ently convinced I was done for. I throttled down the engine, and when I was well below 10,000 ft I straight-
oned out of the spin and took my bearings. "I saw a- mass of woods, and close by an aerodrome. I didn't know it at the time, but I was rapidly becoming 6omi-conscious, but the woods were Haiimult- Forest, and the aerodrome was Hoinaxilt Farm, one of the land-
ing stations in the air-defence system. I spiralled down to tho aerodrome, and landed with a little bump. Then I caved, for my foot wae in a pool of blood. Tho last thing I saw was another machine with a crowd around it close by. "What machine is that?" I muttered to the men who started to lift me from my seat.
"But I, didn't hear what they answered. I didn r ti know anything after that until I was in the ambulance on my way to the King George Hospital. Afterward they told me that it was the Gotha I had brought down. All three men of her crew were wounded, and her petrol tank was shot full of holes."
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AVIATORS., Feilding Star, Volume XIV, Issue 344, 15 January 1918
AVIATORS. Feilding Star, Volume XIV, Issue 344, 15 January 1918
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