Henry Farré was an observer with French bombers during the Great War and was thus in a position to have a clear understanding of the subject of his writings. This fascinating book is partly comprised of Farré's own experiences and his view—combined with contributions from his comrades in arms—of the French effort for the war in the air. Within its pages we share the experiences of the French Aces and join the bombers on raids in daylight and night-time. There are interesting observations and anecdotes of aerial photography flights, the bombing of enemy held cities and harbours and the work of the aviators who operated far out to sea to torpedo German submarines. This is a vital book for every student of the early air forces in combat.
There was no fault to find with the pilot, for from the moment he saw the body of Captain Féquant fall, he retained his presence of mind; he seized the body by the clothing and kept it from falling, and he held it so, flying through space until he landed—a tragic enough landing and the most wonderful in the history of war, past and present. Niox was given the military cross at once and by telephone, as the only just reward for such courage. Captain Féquant’s brother, who was told of the loss, did not shed a tear; he bore the shock like a true soldier. His one consolation was the knowledge that he had revenged him without knowing it, and that the man he had brought down was really his brother’s slayer.<br>
Such was the life and duty of the bombarding flyers then, and it continues just the same today with only such changes as were made necessary by the constantly improving defence of the enemy.<br>
The heavens are barred up to a certain altitude, which varies in the neighbourhood of four thousand meters; one must pass over enemy lines at least that high, for otherwise one runs the risk of being struck by enemy shells. Even at that altitude it is hard—in fact almost impossible—to get back again without an encounter, for the enemy has been warned and has had time to prepare.<br>
After several of these undesirable experiences, we admitted that night bombardment was an absolute necessity, and to the 101st Squadron, V.B., fell the honour of putting it into practice. This honour was their due, for had not Lieutenant Mouchard and Sergeant Maillard lost their lives at this work six months before?<br>
The railroad station of Metz was our first objective. Captain Laurens, the successor of Captain Féquant, as the latter had been called to command a pursuit group, took charge of the V.B. 101. They bombarded more often at night than they did during the day. The valley of the Meuse and of the Moselle offered splendid objectives; the French factories, manned by the enemy, turned out iron and shells used against us, and it was very necessary to destroy them, to put them out of business. Cantonments, too, made excellent targets, as well as big railroad stations and running trains. The Germans were greatly surprised at these night bombardments, and for a long time were at a loss to know how to defend themselves against an invisible enemy who struck in the dark.<br>
In repelling the attack on Verdun, a steadfast and strong defence was required. The flying squadrons of Malzeville were detached and flew to the rescue of the menaced city. A part of the V.B. 101, which arrived first, took counsel of its previous experience, and harassed the enemy continuously all night. They kept him from getting any rest by dropping bombs on woods, where bivouac fires plainly indicated the position of the troops. On railway stations and on cantonments there was a perfect rain of bombs.<br>
During the daylight hours our fighting planes kept up a series of real aerial battles in which Navarre distinguished himself, and in which Boilot and many others found a hero’s death. About a week after this, the supremacy so valiantly striven for fell into our hands, and we remained masters of the air.<br>
As we had so much more to do here than elsewhere, some reinforcements were found necessary, and the second part of Squadron, V.B. 101 and 114 was installed nearby at Autrecourt.<br>
Dear old Mouchard could not be there, but if his body had gone, his spirit remained behind, so that inspired by his memory, our squadron accomplished every night the feats that he had dreamed of, and the Boches made no reply, for they had not yet dared to risk themselves in the dark, though by now we found that very agreeable.<br>
It was about this time that I took part in my first night bombardment, for I had to do and see everything if I was to be a painter of aviation. I rarely mention my paintings, for it does not seem necessary, and I only show them to you as illustrating this book and as an accompaniment as we go along, but they were never made for that purpose.