Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Jim Ludwig
THE BRIGHTON BOYS WITH THE FLYING CORPS
by Lieutenant James R. Driscoll
I. The Brighton Flying Squadron
II. First Steps
III. In the Air
IV. Off for the Front
V. Jimmy Hill Startles the Veterans
VI. The Fight in the Air
VII. Parker's Story
VIII. Thrills of the Upper Reaches
IX. In the Enemy's Country
X. Planning the Escape
XI. Through the Lines
XII. Pluck and Luck
XIII. The Raid on Essen
XIV. A Furious Battle
THE BRIGHTON FLYING SQUADRON
"The war will be won in the air."
The headlines in big black type stared at Jimmy Hill as he stood beside
the breakfast table and looked down at the morning paper, which lay
awaiting his father's coming.
The boys of the Brighton Academy, among whom Jimmy was an acknowledged
leader, had been keenly interested in the war long before the United
States joined hands with the Allies in the struggle to save small
nations from powerful large ones---the fight to ensure freedom and
liberty for all the people of the earth.
A dark, lithe, serious young French lad, Louis Deschamps, whose mother
had brought him from France to America in 1914, and whose father was
a colonel of French Zouaves in the fighting line on the Western Front,
was a student at the Academy. Interest in him ran high and with it
ran as deep an interest in the ebbing and flowing fortunes of France.
The few letters Mrs. Deschamps received from Louis' soldier father
had been retailed by the proud boy to his fellows in the school until
they knew them by heart.
Bob Haines' father, too, had helped fan the war-fire in the hearts of
the boys. Bob was a real favorite with every one. He captained the
baseball team, and could pitch an incurve and a swift drop ball that
made him a demi-god to those who had vainly tried to hit his twisters.
Bob's father was a United States Senator, who, after the sinking of
the _Liusitania_, was all for war with Germany. America, in his eyes,
was mad to let time run on until she should be dragged into the
world-conflict without spending every effort in a national
getting-ready for the inevitable day. Senator Haines' speeches were
matter-of-fact----just plain hammering of plain truths in plain
English. Many of his utterances in the Senate were quoted in the
local papers, and Bob's schoolmates read them with enthusiasm when
they were not too long.
Then, too, a number of the Brighton boys had already entered the
service of Uncle Sam. Several were already at the front and had
written thrilling letters of their experiences in the trenches, at
close grip with the Boches. Still more thrilling accounts had come
from some of their former classmates who were in the American
submarine service. Other Brighton boys who had gone out from their
alma mater to fight the good fight for democracy had helped to fan
the flame of patriotism.
So the school gradually became filled with thoughts of war, and almost
every boy from fourteen years of age upward planned in his heart of
hearts to one day get into the fray in some manner if some longed-for
opportunity ever presented itself.
Jimmy Hill---who was fortunate in that his home was within walking
distance of the Academy---commenced his breakfast in silence. Mr.
Hill read his paper and Mrs. Hill read her letters as they proceeded
leisurely with the morning meal. The porridge and cream and then two
eggs and a good-sized piece of ham disappeared before Jimmy's appetite
was appeased, for he was a growing boy, who played hard when he was
not hard at some task. Jimmy was not large for his age, and his
rather slight figure disguised a wiriness that an antagonist of his
size would have found extraordinary. His hair was red and his face
showed a mass of freckles winter and summer. Jimmy was a bright,
quick boy, always well up in his studies and popular with his teachers.
At home Jimmy's parents thought him quite a normal boy, with an
unusually large fund of questions ever at the back of his nimble
Breakfast went slowly for Jimmy that morning when once he had finished
and sat waiting for his parents. Mr. Hill was scanning the back page
of the paper in deep concentration. Again the big black letters stared
out at Jimmy. "The war will be won in the air." Jimmy knew well
enough what that meant, or at least he had a very fair idea of its
meaning. But he had sat still and quiet for a long time, it seemed to
him. Finally his patience snapped.
"Father," he queried, "how will the war be won in the air?"
"It won't," was his father's abrupt reply. Silence again reigned, and
Mrs. Hill glanced at her boy and smiled. Encouraged, Jimmy returned
to the charge.
"Then why does the paper say it will?"
"For want of something else to say," replied Mr. Hill. "The airships
and flying machines will play their part, of course, and it will be a
big part, too. The real winning of the war must be done on the ground,
however, after all. One thing this war has shown very clearly. No
one arm is all-powerful or all necessary in itself alone. Every
branch of the service of war must co-operate with another, if not with
all the others. It is a regular business, this war game. I have read
enough to see that. It is team-work that counts most in the big
movements, and I expect that it is team-work that counts most all
the way through, in the detailed work as well."
Team-work! That had a familiar ring to Jimmy. Team-work was what the
football coach had forever pumped into his young pupils. Team-work!
Yes, Jimmy knew what that meant.
"I can give you a bit of news, Jimmy," added Mr. Hill. "If you are so
interested in the war in the air you will be glad to hear that the old
Frisbie place a few miles out west of the town is to be turned into an
airdrome---a place where the flying men are to be taught to fly. I
expect before the war is over we will be so accustomed to seeing
aircraft above us that we will not take the trouble to look upward to
see one when it passes."
Jimmy's heart gave a great leap, and then seemed to stand still. Only
once, at the State Fair, had he seen a man fly. It had so touched his
imagination that the boy had scoured the papers and books in the
public library ever since for something fresh to read on the subject
of aviation. As a result Jimmy had quite a workable knowledge of
what an aeroplane really was and the sort of work the flying men
were called upon to do at the front.
The Brighton boys were all keen on flying. What boys are not? Their
interest had been stimulated particularly, however, by the news, the
year before, that Harry Corwin's big brother Will, an old Brighton boy
of years past, had gone to France with the American flying squadron
attached to the French Army in the field. True, Will was only a
novice and the latest news of him from France told that he had not as
yet actually flown a machine over the German lines, but he was a
tangible something in which the interest of the schoolboys could center.
An airdrome near the town! What wonders would be worked under his very
eyes, thought Jimmy. Flying was a thing that no one could hide behind
a tall fence. Besides, there were no high fences around the Frisbie
place. Well Jimmy knew it. Its broad acres and wide open spaces were
well known to every boy at Brighton Academy, for within its boundaries
was the finest hill for coasting that could be found for miles. In
winter-time, when the hillsides were deep with snow, Frisbie's slope
saw some of the merriest coasting parties that ever felt the
exhilaration of the sudden dash downward as the bright runners skimmed
the hard, frosty surface. The long, level expanse of meadow that had
to be crossed before the hill was reached from the Frisbie mansion
would be an ideal place for an airdrome. Even Jimmy knew enough about
airdromes to recognize that. He waited a moment at the table to take
in fully the momentous fact that their own little town was to be a
center of activity with regard to aviation.
Then he dashed out to spread the news among his schoolfellows. His
particular chums were, like himself, boys whose homes were in the town.
Shut out from the dormitory life, they had grouped themselves together,
in no spirit of exclusiveness, but merely as good fellows who, although
they appreciated the love and kindness of the home folks, yet felt that
they wanted to have as much of the spirit of dear old Brighton outside
the Academy as inside.
Jimmy caught sight of Archie Fox---another of the out-boarding squad of
Brighton boys, and a special friend of Jimmy's---hurrying to the Academy.
"Great news for you, Arch!" shouted Jimmy as he joined his chum.
"Shoot!" directed Archie.
And Jimmy told the great news to the astonished and delighted boy.
"Gosh whillikens!" yelled Archie. "A real live hangar in staid old
Brighton! Can you beat it? My vote says the 'buddies' should get
together and become fliers. Eh, what? The Brighton Escadrille! Oh,
Further down the street Dicky Mann and Joe Little, both in Jimmy's
class at the Academy, and then Henry Benson, known to all and sundry
as "Fat" Benson from his unusual size, joined the boys and heard for
the first time the stirring news.
It was truly an exciting morning at the Academy. The tidings of great
things in store at no far distant future spread like wildfire. Of all
the boys, only two of those who lived in the town, Jimmy Hill and Bob
Haines, had heard of the project, and none of the regular boarders at
the school had heard the slightest suggestion of it. Bob Haines
lived with his uncle in the largest residence in the town. What Bob's
uncle did not know of what was going on was little. Beside, Bob was
the envied recipient of a letter now and again from his father, the
senator, which frequently contained some real news of prospective
Bob held forth at length that memorable morning, and at noon time was
still the center of an admiring group, who listened to his comments
on all subjects with great respect and invariable attention. Bob was
tall and well built; taller than any of the rest of his fellows except
two or three. He had a way of standing with his head thrown back and
his shoulders squared as he talked which gave him a commanding air.
Few boys in the school ever thought of questioning his statements. But
that day Bob was so carried away with his subject that he strayed
from familiar ground.
"What sort of fellows are they going to train to fly?" asked Joe
Little, a shy boy who rarely contributed to the conversation. Joe's
mother was a widow who had lived but few years in the town, having
moved there to give her only boy such education as he could obtain
before her small income was exhausted. Joe was never loud or boisterous,
and while he took his part in games and sports, he was ever the first
one to start for his home. Being alone with his mother to such an
extent, for they lived by themselves in a little cottage near the
Academy grounds, Joe had aged beyond his boy friends in many ways.
No sign did he ever show, however, of self-assertiveness. His part in
discussions was seldom great, and usually consisted of a well-placed
query that voiced what each boy present had thought of asking, but
had been a moment too late.
Now Bob had no very clear idea just where the new flying material was
to come from. A habit of rarely showing himself at a loss for an
answer prompted him to reply: "From the men in the army."
"You're wrong, Bob," said Jimmy Hill. "Most of the flying men that
will see actual service at the front will be boys like us. I have
read a dozen times that it is a boy's game---flying. Most of us are
almost old enough. One article I read said that lots of boys of
seventeen got into the flying corps in England. One writer said
that he thought the fellows from eighteen to twenty were much the
best fliers. If that is so, and it takes some time to train fliers,
some of us might be flying in France before the end of the war."
Bob was frankly skeptical. "I see you flying, Jimmy!" was his comment.
"You will have to grow some first.
"Wrong again," said Jimmy in all seriousness. "It's those of us that
don't weigh a ton that are going to be the best sort for the flying
business, and don't you forget it."
"Jimmy knows a lot about flying," volunteered Archie Fox. "He bones
it up all the time."
"I don't pretend to know much about it, but I am going to know more
before that airdrome gets started," said Jimmy.
"That's right," said Joe Little quietly. "It won't hurt any of us to
get a bit wiser as to what an aeroplane really is nowadays. Where do
you get the stuff to read, Jimmy?"
"Everywhere I can," answered Jimmy. "The weeklies and monthlies
generally contain something on flying."
"My father can get us some good stuff," suggested Dicky Mann. Mr. Mann,
senior, was the proprietor of the biggest store in the town; and while
he did not exactly pretend to be a universal provider, he could
produce most commodities if asked to do so. The store had a fairly
extensive book and magazine department, so Dicky's offer to enlist
the sympathies of his father promised to be of real use.
"I'll write to my brother Bill and get him to fire something over to
us from France," said Harry Corwin. "There is no telling but what he
can put us on to some wrinkles that the people who write things for
the papers would never hear about."
"My aunt just wrote me a letter asking me what sort of a book I wanted
for my birthday," put in Fat Benson. "I will write to-day and tell her
I want a book that will teach me to fly."
This raised a storm of laughter, for Henry Benson's stout figure bid
fair to develop still further along lines of considerable girth, and
the very thought of Fat flying was highly humorous to his mates.
The little group broke up hurriedly as Bob looked at his watch and saw
how time was slipping away.
"Back to the grind, fellows!" he cried. "We'll have another talk-fest
That random conversation was one day to bear splendid fruit. The seeds
had been sown which were to blossom into the keenest interest in the
real, serious work of the mastery of the air. Live, sterling young
fellows were in the Brighton Academy. Some of them had declared
allegiance to the army, some to the navy, but now here was a stouthearted
bunch of boys that had decided they would give themselves to the study
of aeronautics, and lose no time about it.
The seven spent a thoughtful afternoon. It was hard indeed for any
one of them to focus attention on his lessons. The newness of the
idea had to wear off first. After class hours they met again and
went off by themselves to a quiet spot on the cool, shady campus.
Seated in a circle on the grass, they talked long and earnestly of ways
and means for commencing their study of air-machines and airmen
"This," said Jimmy Hill with a sigh of pure satisfaction, "is team-work.
My father said this morning that team-work counts most in this war.
If our team-work is good we will get on all right."
Team-work it certainly proved to be. It was astonishing, as the days
passed, how much of interest one or another of the seven could find
that had to do with the subject of flying. They took one other boy
into their counsels. Louis Deschamps was asked to join them and did
so with alacrity, it seemed to lend an air of realism to their scheme
to have the French boy in their number.
Dicky Mann's father had taken almost as great an interest in the idea
as had Dicky himself, and Mr. Mann's contributions were of the utmost
Days and weeks passed, as school-days and school-weeks will. Looking
back, we wonder sometimes how some of those interims of our waiting
time were bridged. The routine work of study and play had to be gone
through with in spite of the preoccupation attendant on the art of
flying, as studied from prosaic print. It was a wonder, in fact,
that the little group from the boys of the Brighton Academy did not
tire of the researches in books and periodicals. They learned much.
Many of the articles were mere repetitions of something they had read
before. Some of them were obviously written without a scrap of
technical knowledge of the subject, and a few were absolutely
misleading or so overdrawn as to be worthless. The boys gradually
came to judge these on their merits, which was in itself a big step
The individual characteristics of the boys themselves began to show.
Three of them were of a real mechanical bent. Jimmy Hill, Joe Little
and Louis Deschamps were in a class by themselves when it came to the
details of aeroplane engines. Joe Little led them all. One night he
gave the boys an explanation of the relation of weight to horsepower
in the internal-combustion engine. It was above the heads of some of
his listeners. Fat Benson admitted as much in so many words.
"Where did you get all that, anyway?" asked Fat in open dismay.
"It's beyond me," admitted Dicky Mann.
"Who has been talking to you about internal combustion, anyway?"
queried Bob Haines, whose technical knowledge was of no high order,
but who hated to confess he was fogged.
"Well," said Joe quietly, "I got hold of that man Mullens that works
for Swain's, the motor people. He worked in an aeroplane factory in
France once, he says, for nearly a year. He does not know much about
the actual planes themselves, but he knows a lot about the Gnome
engine. He says he has invented an aeroplane engine that will lick
them all when he gets it right. He is not hard to get going, but he
won't stay on the point much. I have been at him half a dozen times
altogether, but I wanted to get a few things quite clear in my head
before I told you fellows."
The big airdrome that was to be placed on the Frisbie property gradually
took a sort of being, though everything about it seemed to progress
with maddening deliberation. Ground was broken for the buildings.
Timber and lumber were delayed by Far Western strikes, but finally put
in an appearance. A spur of railway line shot out to the site of the
new flying grounds. Then barracks and huge hangars---the latter to
house the flying machines---began to take form.
At first no effort was made to keep the public from the scene of the
activity, but as time went on and things thereabouts took more
tangible form, the new flying grounds were carefully fenced in, and a
guard from the State National Guard was put on the gateways. So far
only construction men and contractors had been in evidence. Such few
actual army officers as were seen had to do with the preparation of
the ground rather than with the Flying Corps itself. The closing of
the grounds woke up the Brighton boys to the possibility of the fact
that they might be shut out when flying really commenced. A council
of war immediately ensued.
"A lot of good it will have done us to have watched the thing get this
far if, when the machines and the flying men come, we can't get beyond
the gates," said Harry Corwin.
"I don't see what is going to get us inside any quicker than any other
fellows that want to see the flying," commented Archie Fox dolefully.
"What we have got to get is some excuse to be in the thing some way,"
declared Bob Haines. "If we could only think of some kind of job we
could get inside there---some sort of use we could be put to, it would
be a start in the right direction."
Cudgel their brains as they would, they could not see how it was to be
done, and they dispersed to think it over and meet on the morrow.
Help came from an unexpected source. After supper that night Harry
Corwin happened to stay at home. Frequently he spent his evenings
with some of the fellows at the Academy, but he had discovered a book
which made some interesting comments on warping of aeroplane wings,
and he stayed home to get the ideas through his head, so that he
might pass them on to the other boys. Mr. and Mrs. Corwin and
Harry's sister, his senior by a few years, were seated in the living
room, each intent on their reading, when the bell rang and the maid
soon thereafter ushered in a tall soldier, an officer in the
American Army. The gold leaf on his shoulder proclaimed him a major,
and the wings on his collar showed Harry, at least, that he was one
of the Flying Corps.
The officer introduced himself as Major Phelps, and said he had
promised Will Corwin, in France, that he would call on Will's folks
when he came to supervise the new flying school at Brighton. Mr.
Corwin greeted the major cordially, and after introducing Mrs. Corwin
and Harry's sister Grace, presented Harry, with a remark that sent
the blood flying to the boy's face.
"Here, Major," said Mr. Corwin, "is one of the Flying Squadron of
the Brighton Academy."
The major was frankly puzzled. "Have you a school of flying here,
then?" he asked as he took Harry's hand.
"Not yet, sir," said Harry with some embarrassment.
"That is not fair, father," said Grace Corwin, who saw that Harry was
rather hurt at the joke. "The Brighton boys are very much interested
in aviation, and some time ago seven or eight of them banded together
and have studied the subject as hard and as thoroughly as they could.
See this "---and she reached for the book Harry had been
reading---"This is what they have been doing instead of something much
less useful. There is not one of them who is not hoping one day to be
a flyer at the front, and they have waited for the starting of flying
at the new grounds with the greatest expectations. I don't think it
is fair to make fun of them. If everyone in the country was as eager
to do his duty in this war it would be a splendid thing."
Grace was a fine-looking girl, with a handsome, intelligent face.
When she talked like that, she made a picture good to look upon.
Harry was surprised. Usually his sister took but little account of
his activities. But this was different. With her own brother Will
fighting in France, and another girl's brother Will a doctor in the
American Hospital at Neuilly, near Paris, Grace was heart and soul
with the Allies. Harry might have done much in other lines without
attracting her attention, but his keenness to become a flier at the
front had appealed to her pride, and she felt deeply any attempt to
belittle the spirit that animated the boys, however remote might be
the possibility of their hopes being fulfilled.
Major Phelps listened to the enthusiastic, splendid, wholesome girl
with frank admiration in his eyes. Harry could not have had a better
champion. First the major took the book. Glancing at it, he raised
his brows. "Do you understand this?" he asked.
"I think so, sir," answered Harry.
"It is well worth reading," said the major as he laid it down. Then
he stepped toward Harry and took his hand again. "Your sister is
perfectly right, if your father will not mind my saying so. I have
been attached to the British Flying Corps in France for a time, and
I saw mere boys there who were pastmasters of scout work in the air.
The game is one that cannot be begun too young, one almost might say.
At least, the younger a boy begins to take an interest in it and
really study it, the better grasp he is likely to have of it. I am
thoroughly in agreement with your sister that no one should discourage
your studies of flying, and if I can do anything to help while I
happen to be in this part of the world, please let me know. You look
like your brother Will, and if you one day get to be the flier that
he is, as there is no reason in the world you should not do, you
will be worth having in any flying unit."
Harry was struck dumb for the moment. This was the first tangible
evidence that the plans of the boys were really to bear fruit, after
all. He stammered a sort of husky "Thank you," and was relieved to
find that Major Phelps mention of Will had drawn the attention from
everything else for the moment. The Corwins had to hear all about
the older boy, whose letters contained little except the most
The major, it is true, added but little detail of Will's doings,
except to tell them that he was a full-fledged flying man and was
doing his air work steadily and most satisfactorily. His quiet
praise of Will brought a flush of pride to Grace's cheek, and the
major wished he knew of more to tell her about her brother, as it
was a pleasure to talk to so charming and attentive a listener.
At last he rose to take his departure, and the Corwins were loud in
their demands that he should come and see them often. As the major
stepped down from the piazza Harry grasped his courage in both hands
"Major Phelps, may I ask you a question?"
"Certainly," said the major genially. "What is it?"
"Well, sir," began Harry, "we Brighton boys have been wondering how
we can get inside the new airdrome. Summer vacation is coming, and
we could all---the eight of us, in our crowd---arrange to stay here
after the term closes. We want to be allowed inside the grounds, and
to have a chance to learn something practical. We would do anything
and everything we were told to do, sir."
"Hum," said the major. "Let me think. You boys can be mighty useful
in lots of ways. I'll tell you what I will do. Find out whether or
not your friends would care to get some sort of regular uniform and
take on regular work and I will speak to the colonel about it when
he comes. I think he will be here to-morrow or next day. Things
are getting in shape, and we will be at work in earnest soon. The
colonel is a very nice man, and when he hears that you boys are so
eager to get into the game maybe he will not object to your being
attached regularly to the airdrome for a while. You might find
that the work was no more exciting than running errands or something
like that. Are you all of pretty good size? There might be some
useful things to do now and again that would take muscle."
"I am about the same size as most of the rest," replied Harry.
"You look as if you could do quite a lot," laughed the major, as he
walked down the path, leaving behind him a boy who was nearer the
seventh heaven of delight than he had ever been before.
Before the end of the week the colonel came. The boys had their plans
cut and dried. Harry's sister Grace had taken an unusual interest
in them, and had advised them wisely as to uniforms. Major Phelps
seemed interested in them, too, in a way. At least, he called at the
Corwin home more than once and talked to Grace about that and
Colonel Marker was rather grizzled and of an almost forbidding appearance
to the boys. They feared him whole-heartedly the moment they laid
eyes on him. His voice was gruff and he had a habit of wrinkling his
brows that had at times struck terror into older hearts than those of
the Brighton boys. But he was a very kindly man, nevertheless, in
spite of his bluff exterior.
Major Phelps told him about the eight lads, borrowing, perhaps, some
of Grace Corwin's enthusiasm for the moment, and the colonel was
favorably impressed from the start with what he called "a mighty
fine spirit." He thumped his fist on the table at which he sat
when the major told him of the boys and their hopes, and said
"Wish there were more like them in every town out here. We are too
far from the actual scene of war. Some people who are a lot older
and who should have a lot more realization of what we need and must
have before this war is over might take a good lesson from such
youngsters. I would like to see them."
That settled it. When the colonel took a thing up he adopted it
absolutely. In a day or so he would be talking of the little band
of Brighton boys as if the original project had been his from the
very start. "Boy aviation corps? Why not. Good for them. Can find
them plenty to do. When they get to the right size we can put 'em
in the service. Why not? Good to start young. Of course it is.
Splendid idea. Must be good stuff in 'em. Of course there is.
Send 'em to me. Why not?"
Thus, before the boys were brought under the colonel's eye he had
really talked himself into an acceptance of the major's idea. The
morning he saw them, a little group of very eager and anxious
faces---bright, intelligent, fine faces they were, too---he said
without delay: "I have a use for you boys. I have thought of
something for you to do. Get some sort of rig so I can tell you when
I see you, and come to me again and I will set you at work."
Not long after, vacation time had come, and with it the new uniforms,
in neat, unpretentious khaki. Garbed in their new feathers and
"all their war paint," as Mr. Mann called it, they reported at the
airdrome main gate just as the first big wooden crate came past on
a giant truck. Inside that case, every boy of them knew, was
the first flying machine to reach the new grounds. They felt it
A few minutes later they were in the austere presence of Colonel
Marker, who was frankly pleased with their soldierly appearance
and the quiet common-sense of their uniforms, which bore no fancy
additions of any sort.
Grace Corwin had seen to that, though more than one furtive suggestion
from one boy or another had to be overruled. Bob Haines thought the
letters "B.B." on the shoulders would vastly help the effect. Crossed
flags on the right sleeve would have suited Dicky Mann better. Fat
Benson's voice was raised for brass buttons. Jimmy Hill's
pretensions ran to a gilt aeroplane propellor for the front of each
soft khaki hat. But Grace was firm. "No folderols," was her
dictum. They were banded together for work, not for show. Let
additions come as the fruit of service, if at all. And she had her
way. Grace usually did.
"Glad to see you, boys. You will report to the sergeant-major, who
will take a list of your names, assign you your duties, and arrange
your hours of work. I am afraid there is no congressional grant
from which to reward you for your services by a money payment, but
if you do your work well, such as it is, I will keep an eye on you
and see if I cannot put you in the way of learning as much as you
can about the air service."
That was their beginning. They saluted, every one, turned smartly
and filed out. Bob Haines, the tallest of the group and the acknowledged
leader, was the only one to answer the colonel. Bob said, "Thank you,
sir," as he saluted. They looked so strong and full of life and hope
that the tears welled to the colonel's eyes as he watched them tramp
out of his room. He had seen much war, had the colonel. "It's a
shame that such lads will have to pay the great price, many of 'em,"
he sighed, "before the Hun is brought to his knees. But it's a fine
thing to be a boy." The colonel rose stiffly and sighed. "I would
give a lot to be in their shoes, with all the hardship and horror
that may lie in front of them if this war keeps on long enough," he
mused to himself. "It's a fine thing to be a boy."
Out went the eight Brighton boys to the sergeant-major, their work
begun. They too felt it a fine thing to be boys, though their feeling
was just unconscious, natural, effervescent---the sparkle of the real
wine of youth and health and clean, brave spirit.
A month after the Brighton boys had commenced their duties at the
airdrome at the old Frisbie place, they would have been missed by more
than one person about the camp if they had failed to put in an
appearance some morning. It was astonishing to see how much routine
work could pile up around the headquarters' offices.
The machines arrived in some numbers. One by one they were unpacked
from their great crates and set up, then wheeled into their respective
places in the broad hangars which had been built to house them.
The first one of the Brighton boys to settle himself into a regular
billet was Fat Benson. He had been watching the uncrating of box of
spare engine parts one afternoon when no specific job claimed him for
the moment, and fell into conversation with the short, stocky
sergeant who was to be the store keeper. The sergeant was tired and
He had counted a consignment of sparking plugs twice and obtained a
different total each time. Worse, neither of his totals tallied
with the figures on the consignment sheet. He was fast losing his
Fat was of most placid, unruffled temperament. He saw that trouble
was toward, and was about to walk away and avoid proximity to the
coming storm when he thought: "This may be a chance to help." He
turned and said to the sergeant: "If you like, I will count those
plugs for you while you sort out the spanners from the other crate."
"Good boy!" at once said the sergeant. "I have got to a point where
those little red pasteboard boxes sort of run together, and I couldn't
count them correctly to save my life. If you can make them come out
to suit this consignment number they have sent with the plugs you
will be a real help, I can tell you."
Henry set to work with a will, and not only checked the number of
spark plugs, which he found to be correct, but at the sergeant's
direction began placing them in neat piles on the shelf of the
store-room that had been set aside for plugs of that type. He was in
the middle of this task when who should come by but the sergeant-major!
"Hello!" exclaimed that worthy, who was nothing if not a martinet, "who
told you to be puttering about here?"
Before Fat could answer, the stores sergeant spoke up. "This man is
giving me a hand, and I need it," he said. "If you don't need him
for something else to-day I wish you would let him stay with me. I
am supposed to have a couple of soldiers detailed for this job, but I
haven't seen anything of them yet. Why can't I have this man?"
Fat seemed to grow bigger than ever round the chest as he heard
himself referred to as "this man." That was getting on, sure enough.
More, he was mightily pleased that someone really wanted him.
"I guess you can have him if you want him," answered the
sergeant-major. "Have you anything else to do to-day, Benson?"
"Not that I know about," was Fat's reply.
"Stay here, then, until the sergeant is through with you."
That night the stores sergeant suggested that Fat come to him next
day. The stores were just starting, and the work of setting things
in their proper places was far from uninteresting. The boy took a
real delight in his new task; and when, three days later, the
sergeant-major called into the stores on his way past and said to
the stores sergeant, "Are you going to keep Benson here for good?"
the stores sergeant replied without hesitation, "I sure am."
To have been among the stores from the time they were first unpacked,
and to have assisted in the work of first placing them where they
belonged, gave Fat a sort of sense of proprietorship. Stores still
poured in every day or so. The two soldiers who were to help at last
made their appearance, but neither of them seemed to particularly
appeal to the stores sergeant, who was by that time depending more
than he realized upon the quick intelligence and persistent application
of his big-bodied boy assistant.
Fat's prime chance came at the end of the first fortnight, when the
stores sergeant was kept in bed for a few days from unusually severe
after-effects of vaccination. The pair of soldiers had not been in
the new stores sufficiently long nor taken keen enough interest in
them to be of much use except when working under direction. So the
real storekeeper was Fat for the interim. The sergeant-major
discovered the fact and reported it casually to Major Phelps, who
spoke to the colonel about it. Both of these officers had their
hands very full at that time, and both of them had felt the blessing
of having the ever-ready and ever-willing Brighton boys always on
tap, as it were, to run quick errands and be eyes and feet for anyone
that required an extra pair of either.
It was a source of gratification to Colonel Marker that the boys were
doing well; and that one of their number had worked his way into the
organization of the camp unostentatiously, on his own merits, pleased
the colonel immensely. He even went so far as to stop in the stores
on his way to dinner and say a kindly word to Fat, whose coat buttons
seemed ready to burst in consequence.
Thereupon Fat became a fixture in the stores, studying carefully
everything that came through his hands, until at length he knew at a
glance what each part or store might be, and whether it was in good
condition or not when received.
The dark French boy, Louis Deschamps, was a general favorite. So
much so, in fact that he could have had almost any job that it lay
in the sergeant-major's power to offer him. One day Louis casually
mentioned that he wished he could get nearer the engine work, and
the sergeant-major at once decided the boy should have his wish.
No finer fellow on the grounds could be found than the big Scot,
Macpherson, who was head engine hand of the first lot of mechanics
to arrive at the airdrome. Macpherson talked little unless he was
speaking to some prime favorite, when he became most voluble. The
sergeant-major and Mac were cronies. Consequently it took little
laying together of heads before the sergeant-major went before the
colonel one day and asked if Louis Deschamps could be spared from
headquarters to go and give Macpherson a hand as helper.
The colonel smiled. He knew what was in the wind. The Scot knew well
where he could obtain helpers in plenty if he needed them. But
Colonel Marker was as ready to help the Brighton boys as was the
sergeant-major, so he smilingly acquiesced, and the next morning Louis
came to camp attired in a suit of blue dungarees over his khaki.
In ten days' time Macpherson had taken the French lad to his heart,
and was never so happy as when working away with him over a refractory
engine and chatting along in a seemingly never-ending stream of
engine small-talk. All of which was meat and drink to Louis, and was
rapidly acquainting him with much that it would otherwise have taken
him years of experience to acquire.
Joe Little and Jimmy Hill had a council of war with Louis Deschamps
one night. These three were fast growing to be closer than brothers.
What one of them had he was anxious the other two should share at
"I think I can see my way to get you fellows working in the hangars,"
"Mac will help us. I never saw such a good friend. I told him you
fellows were anxious to get closer to the planes and he is turning
it over in his mind. He will have a scheme soon, and when he does,
it will go through all right."
Macpherson had a scheme, but just how and when to try to put it into
operation was the question. He had a talk with Parks, the head
instructor, one afternoon, and told Parks about the Brighton boys
and their keenness to learn more about flying.
"You could do with those kids," said Mac "They are really too big by
now to be called kids, as a matter of fact. Why, they will be flying
soon themselves. Why don't you ask the major if you can't have two
of them down here to help clean and tune up the school machines?
It is a bit irregular, but so is their being here at all. I don't
see why, if the Old Man can use them around the offices, we can't
have a couple of them here. I have had the young Frenchman here
with me now for some time, and he is worth a lot to me. He says two
others, one named Hill and the other Little, want to get down to
the hangars. Be a good chap and ask the major about it."
Parks did. The major was very busy at the time, and said, "I guess
so," and let the matter go at that. Parks passed that laconic
permission on to the sergeant-major, and the two boys reported to
That left Bob Haines, Harry Corwin, Archie Fox and Dicky Mann at
headquarters to be generally useful. They had come to be on the best
of terms with the sergeant-major, and when they pointed out to him
that the three boys in the hangars were "having all the fun," he
suggested that he so assign them to duty that but two of them would
be "on" at the same time. Thus when Bob and Dicky Mann were standing
ready for whatever might be required of them, Harry and Archie were
free to spend their time in the hangars, where the sergeant-major
could lay his hand on them in case of sudden calls.
Thus the summer was not far advanced before the Brighton boys were
in the very thick of the flying game, not as onlookers, but as parts
of the machine into which the various component parts of the camp
and its numerous units were rapidly becoming merged.
If they had not tried to learn, the Brighton boys must have picked up
some general information about aeroplanes and flying. With their
special eagerness they were rapidly becoming well acquainted with
most details of the work of the airmen. No casual word in their
hearing fell on barren ground. When one of them mastered a new idea,
he passed it on to the others.
None of the boys studied the machines themselves more devotedly than
did Harry Corwin. Close application to many a dry volume bore good
fruit. He felt he could set up a Farman type biplane by himself.
One morning Harry was standing beside a monoplane of the Bleriot type,
which had come from somewhere as an old school machine, and had not
been much in demand owing to the fact that no other monoplanes were
in evidence at the camp, when an army airman, an entire stranger to
Harry, came out of the hangar and glanced at the engine in evident
preparation for a flight.
The airman was about to start the engine when Harry noticed that the
elevator control wires were crossed. Whoever had attached them had
done so mistakenly. Harry could hardly believe the evidence of his
eyes, yet there it was, undeniable. Stepping forward, he said to
the airman: "Excuse me, but your control wires are not right."
The flying man was little more than a novice, and sufficiently young
to resent interference on the part of one obviously younger than
himself. Besides, he had connected up those control wires himself.
He glanced hurriedly at the terminals, and seeing that they were
apparently secure, thought the boy beside him must be mistaken.
He missed the crossed wires. He said to Harry, with just a suspicion
of superciliousness, "Oh, she is quite O.K., thanks," and started his
engine and sprang into his seat as the plane moved off across the meadow.
Harry stood watching the receding plane with something akin to
consternation in his heart. Naturally shy, he did not think of
pressing his opinion, but he knew trouble was in store for the young
airman, though in just what form it would come he could not figure out.
The monoplane had not gone far along the grass before the flier tried
to raise it. As the machine did not answer properly to the elevator,
he thought something must have stuck, and jerked the lever as if to
free it. Afterwards the airman was not clear as to just what happened.
Harry could see the airman was trying some maneuver, and as he looked,
the plane rose nose first from the ground, almost perpendicularly
and then took an odd nose-dive head into the ground. The plane was
not many feet from the earth when it dived, but was far enough up to
come to the ground with a bad crash. Harry could see a dash of
white spray in the sunlight as the gasoline splashed upward at the
moment of the smash. The monoplane heeled over and the pilot went
out of sight behind the wreckage. The graceful white tail stood
high in air.
Running as fast as he could, Harry got to the scene of the accident
before the airman had risen from the ground. The strap which had
held him into his seat had burst, and he had suffered a nasty spill.
Investigation showed, however, that he was but little the worse,
save for the shock and the fright. He was as pale as a sheet.
Harry helped him to his feet and assisted him to take stock of his
injuries. By the time they had discovered that no bones were broken
and the bruises the young fellow had sustained were quite superficial,
Parks, the head instructor, dashed up in a motor car. As he leaped
out beside the wrecked plane, there was a frown on his face. "Another
smash?" he queried.
Harry learned later that the young airman had already smashed up two
machines that week before demolishing the old monoplane.
"What was wrong this time?" Parks spoke sharply.
Without hesitation the young pilot answered: "I must have hitched
the old girl up wrong, some way. This friend here," nodding toward
Harry, "was good enough to tell me before I started that I had mussed
things up before I got into her. I was a fool not to have listened
to him, but," and he paused, smiling, "but he looked pretty young to
be giving advice. I wish now I had listened to him."
Parks turned to Harry. "You knew where the trouble was?"
"The control wires were crossed," Harry answered simply.
"You noticed that, did you?" continued Parks. "When have you seen
this type of plane before?"
"This one is the only one I have ever seen," was Harry's reply. "I
have read up on this type, though, quite a bit. I had a book that
contained an awful lot about this particular sort of machine, and I
could almost put one together. It's easy enough to see crossed wires
if your eye happens to light on them."
"Yes," said Parks. "It's easy enough if you have the right sort of
an eye. That's the real question. You are one of those boys from
Brighton Academy, are you not? Are you in the same bunch that Hill
and Little came from? If you are, I guess I can use you in the way
I am using them. Would you like to get some practical experience
round the hangars? You youngsters seem to be under the chief's eye,
from what I hear, and I understand he wants to see you all get a
chance to push on."
"We all want to get into the hangars when we can be spared from our
regular work," answered Harry. "There are four of us left, at the
headquarters' offices, and whether or not they want us to stay there
I don't know."
"Humph!" Parks had not great respect for anyone around an airdrome
who was not intimately connected with the actual flying. "Lot of
good you will be doing there. If they want to see you boys amount
to something, why don't they let me have a chance to see what's in
you? Fellows who know at a glance that elevator wires are crossed
ought to be encouraged. That's my view." Parks left the subject
and turned his attention to the bruised pilot, who came in for a
curtain lecture. Harry Corwin busied himself with trying to ascertain
the extent of the damage to the wrecked plane. As Parks finished
talking to the pilot he stepped to Harry's side and asked: "What is
left of her?"
"Plenty," said Harry. "She will need a new propellor and her running
gear is crumpled up badly, but I doubt very much if the planes are
damaged, and I don't see that the engine has suffered." Park's
critical eye ran over the wreck and he nodded. Without further
comment he jumped into his car. As it started away he said: "Don't
bother with the old girl any further. I will send a gang out to tend
to her. I will see if a chance won't come along soon to get you boys
into better jobs, if you want them."
"Want them?" said Harry. "I should think we do."
But Parks was a very busy man, and as the work at the new air camp
increased he found his hands so full that his promise to Harry was
for the time being crowded out of his mind.
The four boys held at headquarters chafed a little, but were careful
to keep the fact to themselves. Archie Fox felt it most keenly of all,
for he was very fond of Jimmy Hill, and thought it hard fate indeed
that took Jimmy away from him. Jimmy was learning rapidly. He had
made friends with one of the instructor pilots, a little man named
Reece, who spent much time tuning up and going over the school machines.
Reece was never idle, never quiet. An hour in which nothing had been
done was to him an hour wasted. If he had nothing else to do he would
go over work just completed and make sure it had been done well. In
consequence, Reece had few accidents, and rarely suffered delays and
waits while something was being "put right." Jimmy appreciated this
quality in Reece, and saw its results.
By tuning his inclinations and point of view with that of the instructor,
Jimmy got into very close touch with the little man, who was never
tired of answering questions and making explanations. Reece had been
for some years working for one or another of the crack international
fliers who traveled in various parts of the world. He had no ambition
to become a star himself, but knew most of the well-known airmen of
two continents, and contained a store---house of anecdotes about them
and their doings.
Jimmy always walked or rode home with Archie when he could, and much
of their time on Sundays was spent together. The colonel had from
the first insisted that they should have the Sundays to themselves
and they had got into the habit of going to church each Sunday morning
in uniform, with the army men, who always turned out in some force.
Sunday afternoons generally found them at the airdrome, and often
they might be found at work, but they were considered free to do
as they chose. These Sunday afternoons were of great value to Archie,
for Jimmy Hill, whether working or not, never failed to give Archie
a sort of resume of what he had picked up during the week.
One Thursday afternoon the colonel was making a round of the hangars.
Archie was on duty with him, accompanying him as a sort of extra
orderly, the soldier orderly having been sent to the town with a message.
As they passed down the front of the hangars the colonel turned to
watch one of the pupils trying his first "solo," or flight by himself,
not far away. "Handles her nicely," he said, half to himself. Then,
turning to Archie, he added: "How would you like to be up there in
To his surprise Archie looked very thoughtful and shook his head
soberly before he replied: "I hardly know, sir."
"What!" said the colonel. "Have I found one of you Brighton boys
that is not anxious to fly?"
"I am anxious enough to fly. It's the machine I was thinking about."
"What's the matter with the machine?"
"I don't know if anything is the matter with her, but that is the old
biplane they call the 'bad bus.' She has given more than one man a
spill, sir. Everything goes well with her for a while and then she
plays a trick on someone. Last time I saw her cutup she side-slipped
without any explanation for it. Some of us have got the idea that
she has always got to be watched for sideslip. I would not mind going
up in her after I had learned to fly, but she would not be my choice
for my first solo."
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Colonel Marker. "You talk as if you knew
all about the different machines. You have never worked around them,
"Those of us that happen to be off duty at headquarters generally spend
our spare time around the machines, and, of course, we hear the talk
that goes on. I am sorry if I have said what I shouldn't, sir."
"Tut, tut!" from the colonel. "You have said nothing wrong. You may
be quite right. I have known of machines that had bad habits, plenty
of them. But if they let that lad take his solo in the machine it
must be all right."
Ten minutes later Colonel Marker was at the back of a hangar inspecting
a newly arrived scout machine of a much---discussed type when he heard
a shout from outside. A moment later a soldier came into the hangar
and reported a bad smash. The colonel walked to the door. There
across the meadow, was a wrecked airplane. Men were picking up the
still form of the pilot beside it. Parks, seeing the colonel,
pulled up in his runabout to take the colonel with him to the wreck.
"Looks bad, sir," said Parks. "They had orders not to let novices
go up in that machine. I hope the boy is not badly hurt."
"Was it the 'bad bus' that smashed?" asked the colonel.
"Yes, sir. That is what some of the boys called her. She is not a
really bad machine, but plays tricks."
"Did you see what she did this time?"
"Yes, sir. I was looking at her from the end hangar. I was some
distance away, but I happened to have my eye on her as she crocked."
"Did she side-slip?"
"That is just what she did do." Parks glanced at Colonel Marker
inquisitively. What was the colonel driving at?
"The reason I asked," said the colonel, "was on account of something
one of those Brighton boys remarked to me not more than ten minutes
before the smash. He said the 'bad bus'---as he called it---side-slipped
at times unexpectedly. Those youngsters do pick things up, don't they?"
Just then they reached the scene of the accident, and both of them
forgot the Brighton boys for the moment.
The machine was smashed badly and the young pilot had received a
broken leg in addition to a nasty shaking.
"I think I will let that plane go," said Parks as he and the colonel
drove toward the hangars. "I will just pile up the old thing and let
her sit in a corner until I need her worse than I do now. She has
played her last trick for a while. You were speaking of those
Brighton boys, sir. What are you planning to do with them?"
"Make flyers of them some day."
"I have three of them in the hangars now. You have one at headquarters
named Corwin that knows a bit for a lad. Why not let me have him?"
"The four I have at the offices are really valuable, but I suppose if
they are to learn flying they had better be with you. Can you find
something to do for the lot?"
"I guess so. If they are all as good as the three I have already
I can do with them."
"Well, it's rather irregular, the whole business. But they began
with us when we came here, and they are just the sort of stuff, as
far as I can see, that we want in this game, so the sooner we push
'em along the better, I think."
Thus it was settled. The Brighton boys were one step further on their
way to membership of an air squadron at the front, far off as the
front seemed to them. With Fat Benson in the stores and the other
seven boys in the hangars, they felt themselves truly part and parcel
of the airdrome. This feeling of responsibility was aging them, too.
Already they looked years older, every one of them, than they had
looked on that day in the previous spring when they had decided to
study aeronautics in concert.
IN THE AIR
Bob Haines was the first of the Brighton boys to go up in an aeroplane.
It was due to no planning on his part. It was not to please him that
he was taken as a passenger. One of the pilots was trying a machine
new to him and came down complaining of its lack of stability on the
"Any little puff that catches her sudden makes her wiggle herself
in a way I have never seen another plane do. I suppose these chasers
have little habits of their own, but it would take my attention off
what I was doing, to have her monkeying around that way. What do you
think it is?"
The instructor addressed was unable to answer. "You have been up in
her. You know more than I do about her."
"Perhaps a passenger would help her," suggested another pilot.
"I don't see how." The flier shook his head. "Anyway, I would like
to see how she climbs with two up. From the little I tried her out,
I think she is the fastest climber I have been in anywhere. Come up
for a bit, John."
"Can't," said the pilot. "About ten minutes ago the major sent word
he wanted to see me at once. If I don't get a move on I will catch
it." He started off in a hurry.
"Come on, Fanshaw," said the pilot, turning to the instructor.
"Not me," was the reply. "I have a swat of work. There is ballast
for you, though, over there by the shed." Bob Haines was the ballast
indicated. He was putting the final touches on an aeroplane propellor
to which he had administered a coat of varnish.
"What lot?" queried the pilot.
"Bunch of young fellows from about here. Sort of volunteers. Idea
of the colonel's, I think. Nice lot of boys. Young, but getting on
fast. I have seen one of them, a French boy, quite a bit lately, and
if they are all as good at locating engine trouble as he is they will
go far in this game before they are old men. Ask the tall youngster.
He will be tickled to death. I don't suppose he has been up before,
but he will be a good passenger. Be careful and don't scare him.
Don't try any stunts. Shall I sing out to him?"
"I guess so. I don't much care who it is so long as he weighs up to
average, and that fellow looks pretty husky."
"Here, young fellow! You are needed here for a minute," called out
Bob trotted over to the plane at once.
"What were you at?" asked the instructor.
"Varnishing," replied Bob. "Just finished."
"This is Lieutenant Fauver. He is trying this new chaser. She is
the finest thing we have seen here, and he wants to give her a spin
with a passenger up. Hop in if you like."
The pilot smiled and shook Bob's hand, then added another invitation.
It was hardly necessary. Bob was overjoyed. Often the boys had
discussed going up, but a fair frequency of minor accidents made the
officers at the camp chary about any unnecessary risks. Consequently,
the Brighton boys had decided that their best plan was to say nothing
about flying as passengers until someone suggested it to them. That
one of them might be of any possible use as a passenger had never
entered their heads.
A few moments after, the new chaser was soaring upward with a roar
of engine exhaust that told of pride of power. Bob was in the snug
front seat undergoing an experience whose like he had never dreamed
of. His youthful imagination had often tried to picture what it
would be like to be up in a swift flying-machine, but the sense
of power and the exhilaration of swinging triumphantly through space
gave him a new sensation.
"This," he thought, "is the greatest game of all. This is what one
day I will be doing to some purpose."
His mind went out to that day when he would be guiding his own machine
on a hostile errand, over the enemy's country, perhaps. The fine,
high enthusiasm of youth rushed through him and his pulses beat faster
as he pictured himself, a knight of the air, starting forth on a
quest that might mean great danger, but would, with sufficient
foresight, care and determination, result in disaster for the
antagonist rather than for himself.
Higher and higher climbed the swift plane, no faltering in its stride.
The beat of the engines was as rhythmical to experienced ears as the
regular swing and lilt of some perfectly rendered piece of music to
the ears of a master musician.
Bob noticed the country below, but was too much absorbed with his own
thoughts to give much attention to details of the wonderful panorama
that stretched away for miles and miles, until they had soared to a
height that made blurred lines of roads and hedges far under them,
and caused even houses and outbuildings to grow increasingly
indistinguishable. Only the silver band of the little river, winding
in graceful curves and catching the afternoon sun, remained an unfailing
Then suddenly came an abrupt silence. Bob's heart leaped to his
throat. What had happened? No sooner had his inner consciousness
asked the question than his common sense had answered it. The pilot
had shut off the engine, of course. Already the powerful plane
was heading downward over the trackless path up which it had risen,
and was gliding with a soft rush of air which produced a floating
"How did you like that?" asked Lieutenant Fauver.
"Great," said Bob. Great! He wanted to say more. He wanted to
explain that a new world had opened to him. That he had felt the
call that would leave him restless until he, too, had mastered one
of those marvelous steeds of the air, and was free to soar at will
wherever he chose to direct his mount. Great! The word expressed
so little. Bob thought of a dozen things to say, but heaved a big
sigh of genuine content, and left them all unsaid.
Fauver was of much the same mold as Bob. He caught something of the
younger boy's mood. He knew how the lad felt. His memory took him
back to his own first flight. How long ago it seemed! How impressed
he had been at his first real taste of the sweets of the air-game!
How utterly incapable of expressing his feeling!
So he respected the frame of mind of the lad in front of him and
volplaned down in silence, trying the stability of the plane by wide
spirals, banking it just enough to be delightful to a passenger,
without going far enough to cause the slightest apprehension or
It was proving a priceless experience to Bob. He seemed transported
to another existence. Then the earth began to come nearer. Things
below took quick form. Bob realized that soon they would be landing.
Just at the last he thought the ground was rising toward them at an
astonishing rate. Surely this was not quite right! They must be
dropping like a stone. Up, up, came the ground. Bob unconsciously
braced himself for the impact. They were going to come down with
a mighty smash. He held his breath and set his teeth. At the very
moment when all seemed over but the crash, the graceful plane lifted
its head ever so slightly, the engine started roaring again, and
they glided to earth and ran along so smoothly that for the life
of him Bob could not have told the exact moment the wheels touched
When they stepped out of the machine Bob did something on the spur
of the moment that he laughed about afterward. He stepped to the
lieutenant and put out his hand. As Fauver took it in a friendly,
firm grasp Bob said: "That was the biggest experience of my life."
Again that similarity of temperament between the two told Fauver
something of the depth of Bob's feeling, and he said quietly: "I
am glad to have given you a chance to go up, and next time you happen
to be around when I am going up, if you can get away for a little
while, I would be glad to have you go along. One of these days I
will give you a good long flight, if I get a chance."
Bob went back to the hangar an older boy. The enthusiasm still held
him close. The days would drag, now, until he could begin flying.
He was sure of that.
When the other Brighton boys learned that Bob had actually been up
in the air, there was a natural desire among them all to do likewise.
Jimmy Hill made up his mind it would not be long before he had a
flight. Adams, one of the instructors who had recently arrived,
wanted a hand to help him tune up a new school machine that was
fitted with dual control, i.e., that had a double set of levers so
that the novice could guide the machine while the instructor had a
restraining hand on them in case of emergencies. Reece, Jimmy
Hill's great friend, was called away to make a test flight just
as Adams spoke to him about a good helper, and told Adams that he
could not do better than give Jimmy a chance to lend a hand.
"The boy will do what he is told," said Reece. "All you have to do
is to explain just what you want done. He is dependable. Try him.
He is a nice boy, too, and you will like to have him round."
So Jimmy worked that day and the next on the new school machine.
Finally it was ready.
"Wait till I take her up for a bit and see how she pulls and I will
give you a runaround in her," said Adams to Jimmy. The instructor had
been highly pleased with the way the boy had worked, and felt anxious
to give him a treat.
Thus Jimmy had his first flight. Further, he was shown by Adams how
to hold the controls, though he was careful to put no pressure on
them. Next day Adams said, "Come on. I will show you how we start
teaching flying where I come from."
Before half an hour passed Jimmy found he could "taxi," as Adams
called running along the ground, quite well. That was but a beginning.
Three times in the following week Adams took the boy out for a lesson;
and the practical experience, though limited, gave Jimmy a very good
idea of what was required of much of the adjustments and finer points
of tuning up that he had learned to see Reece do in the sheds.
At last Adams made a short flight and let Jimmy handle the machine
for a few moments alone, the instructor removing his hands from his
control levers and leaving the job to Jimmy. It was a simple enough
little flight, but Jimmy had the knowledge that he had been actually
flying the machine for a time, all by himself, which pleased
him beyond measure.
One of the red-letter days the Brighton boys were long to remember
was that on which they first watched a new arrival to the airdrome,
an experienced flier, loop the loop and nose-dive on one of the fast
chasers. The whirling, darting plane seemed so completely at the
mercy of the pilot that the boys were rapt in silent wonder. That
exhibition of what the birdmen of to-day call real flying was a
revelation to them.
It held out promise of long study and careful practice far ahead
before they could hope to equal or excel the cool, modest young
aviator who came down so gracefully after a series of side loops
that made most of the spectators hold their breath.
Summer days passed rapidly. Joe Little and Louis Deschamps were
sitting in a hangar one Sunday afternoon, chatting about a new type
of battle-plane that had arrived that week.
"I could fly that bus," said Joe, "if I had a chance."
"That is just the trouble," commented Louis. "Getting the chance is
what is so hard. I am tired of fussing around on those school
machines they let us on now and then. What is the good of trying to
fly on a plane that won't rise more than a couple of dozen feet? I
have never had a chance to fly anything else. I get to thinking,
working so much on real planes, that those school machines for the
infant class are not fliers at all. They are a sort of cross between
a flying machine and an auto."
"You are in too much of a rush," Joe admonished. "I think we are
lucky to get a go in one of those now and then. Jimmy Hill goes up
in that old dual-control bus with Adams, but to my mind that sort of
thing is out of date. I have got the idea of lateral control as well
on that school bus that Parks let me out on, as I could have got it
from any of the chasers. Another go or two and I will get horizontal
control down fine, and then I am ready for a real go. I can land the
school bus like a bird. I am getting swelled up, Louis."
"All right. But don't get so swelled that you play the goat, Joe.
I know you won't, for that matter. You are one of the careful ones,
all right. But this does not get us any nearer flying a real machine."
"I wish I had a machine of my own," said Joe mournfully.
"Wishing won't get it, Joe."
"I wonder why we can't get hold of a machine that has been finished
off by one of these cheerful student chaps, and still has some good
stuff left in it, and get Parks to let us patch it up and get a flight
"Parks can't be all that generous of government property, old man.
If a plane is worth fixing up the chief wants the rest of the use of
it. If it is no good to him it would not be worth anything to us;
that's the rub there."
"I've got it!" exclaimed Joe, slapping his knee. "Why not hit Parks
for that old 'bad bus' that gave the young fellow the broken leg the
last time it smashed? There is plenty of life left in that old girl.
I wonder they haven't taken the engine out of her if they don't
intend to fix her up, The engine is all right."
"Maybe the engine is out of her. Where is she?"
"Down in number twelve hangar, covered up in the corner."
"Let's go and have a look at her."
The two lads trotted off to inspect the damaged plane, which they
found under a pile of canvas, just where it had been brought the day
a bad side-slip had resulted in smashing it up.
"The engine is in her, sure enough," said Louis, "and it is by no
means a bad type of engine either. It might have more power, but it
is reliable enough. What was the matter with this bus, anyway, that
made them decide to shelve her?"
Someone told me that she side-slips badly at times. I never heard
why. Planes don't do things like that without there being a reason,
Louis. Maybe she needs a bit of fixing that she has never had. It
would be fun if we could rig her up so that she would fly properly,
wouldn't it? Wonder if there is any use asking Parks?"
"Parks could only ask the colonel, I suppose. He is a real good
fellow, and always seems willing to help us in every way he can.
I don't see, if he does not intend to repair the 'bad bus,' why
he wouldn't let us do it in our spare time, I know he would trust
me to do the engine. He said the other day I could tune up an engine
as well as anyone he had under him."
"You could fix up the engine easy enough," said Joe "It is the rest
of the machine that would take some doing. She is in pretty rocky
shape, an would want a lot replaced. Harry Corwin could help us
with her. He has had a lot of work with frames lately. For that
matter, I guess all the lot would help. We could come in early and
get some time on her before work starts, stay a bit later at night,
and most Sunday afternoons we could hammer away at her without
interruption. It would be rather fun to have the seven of us trying
to show what we have learned and putting it into practice that way.
If we got the old bus right I don't think they would mind our having
a flight or two on her now and then, do you?"
"Sure not," replied the French boy. "But will the colonel give us
"We will know before many days have passed."
Parks shook his head at first when the boys broached the project to
him. "I don't think the colonel will agree," was his comment.
"I had better wait for a good time to introduce the idea. There
is no telling what he might think of it. Personally, I was undecided
what to do with that machine. I have just let it set there waiting
till I made up my mind. I can't recommend scrapping a plane merely
because it has the reputation of being unlucky. That is about all
the bad name of the 'bad bus' amounts to, after all. I am not sure
that you boys would not turn her out in better shape than the repair
men turned her out last time. I can't see the harm in the plan."
Parks generally got his way about the hangars. Colonel Marker depended
greatly on Parks' judgment, which the colonel was fond of calling
"horse sense." So when the head instructor spoke to the colonel about
the proposal the Brighton boys had made to repair the "bad bus" in
their own time, and obtain, as a special reward for good work,
permission to do a little flying on the machine when opportunity
occurred, Colonel Marker felt inclined to leave the matter to Parks,
and said so. That really settled it, for Parks had decided to plead
the cause of the boys.
The weeks that passed were very full ones for the Brighton boys, who
worked like Trojans on the machine they had undertaken to put in
order. They made some mistakes, and more than once had to apply to
Parks for help and advice. These he gave cheerfully. Louis and
Macpherson overhauled the engine, and pronounced it in A-1 condition
when it left the test bench. Every one of the boys learned much
about aircraft construction, at least so far as that type of biplane
was concerned, before they were through with the job.
Finally the day came when the "bad bus"---rechristened the "boys'
bus "---was wheeled out for its trial flight after the completion of
the repairs. Adams was chosen to make the trial trip, which went
off without incident. He flew the big biplane six or seven hundred
feet above the green carpet of the airdrome, and came down with a
graceful volplane that caused the boys to feel like applauding.
"Who is next?" asked Adams as he sprang from the seat and the biplane
came to rest beside the little group.
The honor was voted to Joe Little, as the originator of the idea
of getting hold of the machine. Joe was not very eager to go up
when it came to an actual trial of the plane. He thought he would
have no difficulty in flying it, for the controls were very familiar
to him, and a straight flight, or even a wide circle of the flying
ground proper, offered no apparent difficulties. Joe was naturally
a shy and retiring lad, and felt that he was very much in the limelight
as he climbed into the seat of the biplane.
Joe got off well enough to suit the most critical instructor, and
after rolling until he was quite sure of himself, he raised the
elevator slightly and the machine left the ground in a most satisfactory
Joe did not try to fly at a great height, but once well clear of
the ground settled into his seat and started to gently turn to the
left, commencing a wide circle that would land him, should he choose
to come down at the end of one circuit of the grounds, at the point
where the Brighton boys and Parks were watching him.
There was so little wind that it had no noticeable effect on the
plane. The controls worked perfectly, and Joe felt increasingly
at his ease. When he had made the first circuit he decided to continue,
rise to a somewhat greater height, and come down with a nice, simple
volplane at the feet of his fellows.
All continued to go well. Nothing was necessary but to watch that
no sudden gust caught the plane and found its pilot unprepared. The
plane was banked so slightly that he had no need to fear side-slip.
He concentrated all his powers on making a fine landing. When he
was ready to come down he shut off his engine and dipped the
biplane slightly. She answered like a bird, and started gliding
earthward delightfully, planing at a perfect angle.
While Joe was not far up, he had never flown a machine before at that
height, and consequently his volplane seemed to occupy a longer
time than it should have done. His fingers itched to start the
engine again and raise the elevator just enough to arrest the downward
swoop, and transform it into a soft glide, nicely calculated so
that it would bring the wheels of the chassis into contact with
the ground without any shock. He was over-keen on that landing,
realizing that so many pairs of eyes were on him.
The earth came up toward him just a shade too fast to suit him.
Then he decided that the right moment had come, lifted his elevator
slightly, started the engine for a few turns, and wondered if he
had done the thing well.
He had not.
Joe, in his anxiety and inexperience, had pulled up his machine a
little too quickly. Its headway stopped, as it was still a dozen
feet from the ground, along which Joe had hoped to glide gracefully
to rest. The biplane hung a moment in the air, as if undecided
what to do. Fortunately Joe had shut off the engine when his intuition
told him all was not right. He could not tell what distance the
wheels of the chassis lacked before they would rest on terra firma,
but hoped against hope that they were nearer than they seemed to be.
The machine, losing all impetus, simply sat down with a bump. The
chassis and the under plane smashed with a sound of ripping canvas
and splintering wood. Joe had a good bump, too, but was none the
worse for it physically. He stepped out of his seat before the
boys could run to the wrecked biplane. They were all sympathy and
eagerness to see if Joe was hurt. He had not dropped far, but had
come down with such a thud that even Parks was anxious. Bob Haines
was the first of the Brighton boys to reach the machine. "Are you
all right, Joe?" he called out as he came up.
"Guess so," was the reply. "I feel jarred---but look at the poor old
bus! How did I do it? After all our hard work, she is completely
wrecked again, and I did it." Joe felt that it would be a relief to
get away from the scene of the smash, and had to down a temptation to
walk off by himself. He was almost heartbroken when he thought of all
the work that his mistake had undone.
"Never mind," said Parks. "Everyone has to learn. I will bet that
you don't pull up short when landing another time."
Joe was not to be thus easily comforted. Sensitive to a degree, his
heart entirely in his work, he was utterly disgusted with himself
for having had the temerity to try the flight. What hurt most was
the knowledge that the plane the Brighton boys had so looked forward
to having for practice flying they could hardly hope to get otherwise
for a long time to come, was _hors de combat_, and possibly beyond
Recognizing Joe's frame of mind, the boys grouped round the broken
biplane in silence, searching their minds for a word that would give
a crumb of comfort to their comrade. The more they looked over the
wreck, the less they knew what to say.
As they stood there, watching Parks poking round the smashed machine,
Colonel Marker came up with Major Phelps. They had not been far away
when Joe had started on his experimental round of the airdrome, and
had witnessed the whole episode.
"You did not do so badly until you landed," said the colonel pleasantly.
"You should have stayed up."
The boys had never before heard the colonel essay a joke, and were
by no means sure that his first remark was not the preface to serious
condemnation of Joe. Colonel Marker had often been heard to treat
the subject of smashed machines in a manner decidedly uncomplimentary
to the luckless aviator who was responsible.
Poor Joe felt his heart in his throat. A very deep feeling of shame
came over him and his eyes filled with tears. His face showed real
The colonel turned to Joe from an inspection of the plane and as he
did so saw the boy's eyes. Colonel Marker was a kindhearted man,
for all his gruff exterior, and he had, too, a great interest in
the Brighton boys and their progress. He felt, the moment he
realized how much to heart Joe had taken the accident, a sense of
sincere sympathy for the lad.
Placing his hand on Joe's shoulder, he said: "My boy, what counts
most is the way you have worked to get that old machine into flying
shape, and the fact that you were ready and willing to have a shot
at flying her, with all your inexperience. Those things show keenness,
enthusiasm, and pluck. A flying man has to possess nerve. He has to
take chances sometimes. You did the best you could do. The fact
that you were inexperienced was against you, but in failing to get
through without accident you gained experience. I do not care half
so much about the machine as you might think. I might have left it
unrepaired if you boys had not taken on the job. Don't feel so
badly, my boy."
Joe had difficulty in finding his voice. "But, sir," he said in
a low tone, "the boys had looked forward so much to getting a chance
to learn to fly on the old bus. Now that is all knocked into a
cocked hat. I feel that I have robbed them of something I can't
give them again. They are too good to say so, but every one of them
feels the disappointment as much as can be."
"Well," said the colonel, "there is no need for too much downheartedness
on that score. Maybe I can play fairy godmother along that line.
You Brighton boys have worked hard and studied hard. I have watched
you. I am pleased with you. You are all big enough now to begin
the game, I think, or at least you will be soon. What do you think,
"I think you are right, sir," replied Major Phelps quietly. "If any
boys deserve to be taken into the service these surely do. They may
be a bit on the young side, but they will be quite old enough by the
time they get to France."
To France! The Brighton boys could hardly believe their ears. That
casual sentence quickened every pulse. To France! The bare
suggestion made them glow with anticipation.
"How do you feel about it?" asked the colonel, turning to the seven.
"Every one of us is ready to go into the service the very first day
we can be taken in," answered Bob Haines. "We started with that
idea in view. We all hoped some day to join up, and we think we
could be of more use in the Flying Corps than anywhere else. I don't
mean by that that we want to pick our jobs, sir, but we would like
to get into the air service for choice."
"And a very good choice too," commented Colonel Marker. "Major
Phelps, suppose you look into the individual work that each of these
boys has been doing lately, and see if those under whom they have
worked recommend them all. Is this the lot of them?"
"One more, sir," spoke up Bob. "Benson, sir, in the stores."
"Benson has proven to be mightily useful," said the major.
"All right," concluded the colonel. "Come on, Phelps. We must look
over the ground for those new hangars. You can tell me what you find
about these Brighton boys when you have finished your inquiries."
They walked away together, leaving seven of the proudest and happiest
boys in the world.
"Give a hand to get this wreck into the shed," said Parks. "You
fellows are all right now. The old man knows well enough you boys
have been doing well. That is just his way. You had better find out
what your folks are going to say."
Each of the boys felt confident that the news would be well received
at home. They fell to with a will and soon had the biplane moved into
the shed. That night they went home in high spirits. They were boys
no longer; they had become men. They pictured themselves in real
service uniforms, and longed for the day when, as Major Phelps had
said, they would "get to France."
Harry Corwin and Joe Little lingered for a moment at the gate of the
Hill home for a final word with Jimmy, who was very much excited. "It
all came out of your smash, Joe," said Harry. "The colonel might not
have thought of us for a long time yet but for that. You could not
have done it better if you had planned it."
Joe had gotten over the worst of his chagrin. He smiled. "I am
glad it has taken the minds of you fellows off of my smash, anyway,"
Each family into which that news came that evening took it differently.
None of the parents of the Brighton lads who heard of the colonel's
promise were quite prepared for it. All thought the boys might be
taken in some day, but it had seemed a long way off. Bob Haines'
uncle was very proud of Bob, and telegraphed Senator Haines that
Bob was going into the army as a matter of information rather than
a request for permission.
Mrs. Mann was anything but glad to hear Dicky's "good news." She
was a timid little woman, with a horror of all fighting. Mr. Mann
took Dicky by the hand, however, and said, "God bless you, son,"
in a way that made Dicky feel closer to his father than he had ever
been before. Jimmy Hill's mother was away from home.
Mr. Hill took the information as a matter of course. "I thought
they would take you in one of these days," he remarked. "You boys
ought to prove a credit to us all. I would give a lot to be as
young as you are and have your chance, Jimmy. You will have to
represent the family, though, I guess. They won't take men of my
age, at least yet." Jimmy made up his mind then and there that he
would represent his father, of whom he was intensely proud and very
fond, and represent him to the very best of his ability.
Harry Corwin's folks seemed little surprised. Grace kissed him very
tenderly, and his mother drew his head down and pressed his cheek
close to hers. "That will take both of my boys," she said quietly.
In the conversation that followed at the dinner table Harry was
struck with the familiarity with which they all spoke of the
possibility that the boys would be taken into the service at once.
They had not discussed the matter in such detail before in his
presence. Grace mentioned more than once something that "the major
said," and Harry finally came to the conclusion that his people
had been closer in touch with the matter than he had been. Major
Phelps saw a good deal of Grace. Perhaps that had much to do
The Bensons and the Foxes took the news less seriously. "I guess
it will be a long time before you boys see France," said Mr. Fox.
"It is the right thing, though, and if you get a chance, take it."
Louis Deschamps was to receive a bigger piece of news from his mother
than he gave to her.
"Next week we leave for France, both of us," said Mrs. Deschamps.
"I have not told you, Louis, for you were so happy with your work
at the airdrome I wanted you to enjoy it while you could do so.
You are French, my son, and thank God you are becoming old enough
to take a hand in the war. When we get home I will see what can
be done to place you at once in our own flying service. If you
have learned much here, as I think you have, it will all come in
well when you are fighting for France."
Louis was overjoyed. He liked his comrades of the school, but he
was, after all, a French boy and had a French boy's heart. More,
he had a French mother, with a French mother's devotion to her country
and her country's cause.
"For France!" an expression often heard in the Deschamps' household,
meant more than mere words could utter. All the fine, high resolve;
all the passionate belief in the justice of the French cause; all
the stern determination that the war must be won, whatever the cost---all
that went to make the magnificent French women of to-day the splendid
heroines they have shown themselves to be, was deeply rooted in
Mrs. Deschamps. Her husband in the trenches, she might well have
begrudged her only son, so young and such a mere boy in all his ways.
Not she. She was a true mother of France. The highest sacrifice
was not too great to make for the republic.
So Louis was soon to leave the Brighton boys, to go on to France
ahead of them, and to be enrolled in his own army, by the side of
which his American school chums hoped one day to be fighting a common
Another mother of one of the Brighton boys was of the same heroic
mold as the brave French woman. Joe Little's widowed mother took
the news calmly. She had felt it would come one day. Her mind
went back, as it had done frequently after the boys had commenced
their work at the airdrome, to the days of the short Spanish-American
war. Joe's father, impulsive, had joined the colors at the first
call and gone to Cuba. Mrs. Little's only brother, very dear to
her, had volunteered, too, and was in the First Expedition to the
Philippines. Neither had come back. War had taken so much from
Mrs. Little, and left her so hard a bed to lie upon, that it seemed
cruel that she should be asked for still more sacrifice. She had
fought it all out in the quiet of her bedchamber, where, night after
night, she had prayed long and earnestly for guidance and strength
Well Mrs. Little knew that if she told Joe the truth about her finances
and what his going would mean to her she could doubtless influence
him to stay and care for her. There were many others who could be
sent, who did not, could not, mean so much to those they would leave
behind. Joe was all she had. She was growing old, and her little
store of money was dwindling surely if slowly.
By the time Joe came home that night and told her of what the colonel
had said, Mrs. Little had steeled herself to give her boy to her
country and humanity. It cost her dear, but she set her teeth and
placed her offering on the altar of what she had come to believe
her duty, with a brave, patient smile in her eyes, in spite of the
clutch at her heartstrings.
"Splendid, Joe," she said with what enthusiasm she could put into
her words. "You are glad, aren't you, dear?"
"Not glad, mother darling." Joe placed his arm around her slender
waist tenderly. They were very close, these two. "Not glad. That
does not express it. I couldn't be glad to go away and leave you.
Though, for that matter, you will be all right. I feel sort of an
inspiration I can't explain. It is all so big. It seems so
necessary that I should go, and I felt that I should be so utterly
out of it if I did not go one day. When the colonel spoke that
way it seemed like a sort of fulfillment of something that had to
come, whether or no. I might call it fate, but that does not describe
it quite. It is bigger than fate. It sounds silly, mother, but
it is a sort of exaltation, in a sense. It had to come, and I feel
it is almost a holy thing to me."
Joe's mother put her two hands on his shoulders. Her eyes were moist,
but her courage never faltered. "Joe, such boys as you are could not
stay at home. You are your father's son, dear."
"And my mother's," said Joe soberly. "It is from you I get the
strength to want to do my duty, and I will not forget it when the
strain comes. I will always have your face in front of me to lead
me on, mother."
OFF FOR THE FRONT
Months passed. The training of the Brighton boys went on steadily
after they entered the service until each one of the six of them
that were still at the home airdrome was a highly efficient flier
and well-grounded in the construction of air-machines as well.
Louis Deschamps had gone, with his mother, to France. Fat Benson
had been passed on to a more important job. His work had been so
thorough in the stores department that he was now being used as
an inspector, traveling over half a dozen states, visiting all sorts
of factories that were being broken-in gradually to turn out the
necessary aeroplane parts in ever-increasing quantities as the war
Then came the day when the contingent into which the Brighton boys
had been drafted started, at last, for France. Final good-bys were
said, last parting tears were shed, the cheers and Academy yells
at the station died into the distance as the train pulled out, and
the six young airmen, proud in the security of full knowledge that
they were no novices, were truly "off for the front."
The days of embarkation, the dash across the Atlantic, and the landing
in France came in due sequence. They had expected some excitement
on the ocean voyage. The group of transports, of which their ship
was one, steamed warily eastward, convoyed by a flotilla of grim
destroyers, swift, businesslike, determined. Extra precautions were
taken in the submarine zone; but none of the German sea wolves rose
to give battle with the American ships.
The coming into port, too, was less exciting than they had thought it
would be. The French people who were grouped along the quayside
cheered and waved, but the incoming American contingents were arriving
with such regularity that the strangeness had worn away. America
was in the war to do her utmost. France knew that well by the time
the Brighton boys crossed the ocean. The welcome was no less warm,
but there was no element of novelty about it.
A troop train, consisting mainly of cattle trucks, puffed away from
the coast town next morning, and attached to it were the cars containing
the new air squadron. Late that night it had reached one of the
huge airdromes, the vastness of which unfolded itself to the astonished
gaze of the boys at daybreak of the morning after. They had not
dreamed that such acres and acres of hangars existed along the whole
front. The war in the air assumed new proportions to them. They
were housed in huts, warm and dry, if not palatial.
During the day, given leave to wander about the airdrome, the six
Brighton boys took a stroll in company, eager to inspect at close
quarters the latest types of flying machines.
"These airplanes are stronger than any we have ever seen," remarked
Joe Little, as they paused before a new-type French machine.
"Yes," cheerily commented an aviator---a clean-cut young Englishman---who
was grooming the graceful plane. "This very one crashed into the
ground two weeks ago while going at over sixty miles an hour. She
is so strongly built that she was not hurt much and the pilot escaped
without a scratch. This is what we call a 'hunter.' She has an
unbeaten record for speed---can show a clean pair of heels to anything
in the air. She has tremendous power; and the way she can climb into
the clouds---my word!"
"Is she easy to fly?" asked Dicky Mann.
"Not bad," was the answer. "The high speed makes for a bust-up once
in a while. A pilot who gets going over one hundred and fifteen
miles an hour, and yanks his machine up to six thousand feet in
seven minutes, as he can do on this type of plane, and then drops
straight down from that elevation, as the 'hunter' fellows have
to do sometimes, puts a mighty big strain on his bus. Little by
little this sort of thing dislocates important parts. Of course
the pursuing game makes a pilot put his machine into all sorts of
positions. He has to jump at the other chap, sometimes, at an angle
of ninety degrees. I have known of cases where the air pressure
caused by such a drop has been so great that the planes of one of
these 'hunters' have been broken off with a snap."
"Jiminy!" ejaculated Dicky.
At this the aviator laughed, saying smilingly: "Accidents of some sort
take place here several times a day. If they didn't we would not get
on so fast either in the study of aeroplane construction or the art
of flying itself. Accidents tell us lots of things. Between studying
accidents and watching for Boche ideas, especially when we get hold
of one of their late machines, we are never standing still at this
game, I can tell you."
"Do you get many German planes?" asked Jimmy Hill.
"We _down_ lots of 'em, but we don't get many---which is different,"
and the aviator smiled. "You see the Boche fliers stay their side,
mostly, and when we drop one he goes down among his own lot. Now
the hostile hunters for instance, rarely go over our lines. Their
business apparently is to remain over their own territory. That is
their plan. They are brave enough. But the Germans look to their
hunters chiefly to prevent our observers from doing their work. They
wait for our observation machines where they know the observers must
come. That is their game. Just get some of the fellows who have
been over recently, when you get up front a bit, to tell you how the
new Fokkers hide themselves and pounce on our lot.
"Maybe the Boches look at it this way: if they have their fight at
their base of operations, over their own lines, and win out, they
may make a prisoner; if the machine is not destroyed, that may be
utilized. If their man gets put out of commission we don't get
the beaten machine and therefore cannot learn their latest construction
dodges from it. It's a different plan of action. We go right out
over the German lines with our hunters and tackle their observers,
who do their reconnaissances from a bit back of their lines. Only
in the very first part of the war, when the Germans outnumbered us in
fliers to an enormous extent, did they try to do much from our
top-side. Nowadays we do our observing daily from well over the
enemy's lines; and the Germans do most of theirs from well on their
own side. It's a different way of looking at it."
"Surely our way must be more efficient," said Joe Little.
"We think so," assented the aviator. "We know more of their lines
than they can possibly know of ours. For the rest of this war I
guess we will have to do so. We are going forward from now on, and
the Teutons are going back, and don't you forget it. We have to know
their lines well, and lots of other things, such as their routes of
supply and reinforcement, and their gun positions and munition dumps.
Our guns look to us, too, in a way they did not look to us a year ago,
even. It's a big game."
The Brighton boys walked on slowly, without comment. Yes, it was a
big game, in very truth. The closer they came to it the bigger it
"Hello! There is a monoplane. I thought there were no monoplanes
in use now," said Bob Haines as they passed a round-bodied fleet-looking
machine with a single pair of wings. It was a single-seater. They
walked up to it and round it, gazing admiringly at its neat lines.
"What sort of a plane is this?" asked Bob of a mechanic who was
standing beside the machine.
"An absolute hummer," was the reply. "Want to try her? You have to
be an Ace to get into her driving seat, son."
Bob flushed, and was inclined to answer sharply, but Joe Little stepped
forward and said quietly: "We have just got here from the States.
Came last night. This is our first look-around, and we want to
learn all we can. We did not know monoplanes were being used now.
The only aeroplanes we have flown have been biplanes. Won't you tell
us something about this type?"
"Certainly," said the mechanic. "I was only joking. No one can
fly this sort of machine except the most experienced and best pilots.
It is the fastest machine in the world. It is a Morane, and they
call it a 'Monocoque.' Someone told me that the latest type German
Fokker was modeled on this machine. It is a corker, but the trickiest
thing to fly that was ever made. We have only got one here. I heard
a French flyer say the other day that the Spad biplane was faster
than this machine, but I don't believe it."
"What is an Ace?" queried Jimmy Hill.
"That term started with the French," answered the mechanic. "We
use it here now, sometimes. It means a superior aviator, who has
brought down five adversaries, in fair air-fight. The bringing-down
business, at least so far as the exact number is concerned, is not
always applied, I guess. They just call a man an Ace when he is
a real graduate flyer, and gets the habit of bringing down his Boche
when he goes after him."
Every conversation around that part of the world seemed to have a
grim flavor. The Brighton boys were getting nearer to actual war
every minute, they felt.
The boys found a row of S.P.A.D. machines not far distant. The
"Spads," as the aviators called them, were fleet biplanes. They
found a genial airman to tell them something of the planes, which
he described as the latest type of French fighting aeroplane. "This
sort has less wing surface than any machine we have had here," said
the airman. "It is mighty fast. These four have just come back from
a good pull of work. I think this lot were all that is left of two
dozen that were attached to the B squadron just before the last
"Cheerful beggar!" spoke up another pilot within earshot. "Are you
trying to impress a bunch of newcomers?" He walked toward the boys.
"Are you not some of the crowd that got in last night?"
"Yes," answered Bob Haines. "We're the Brighton Academy bunch. We
have just come over from home."
"Do you know a fellow called Corwin?"
"I am Corwin," said Harry.
"My name is Thompson. Your brother Will was over here last week
looking for you, and told me that if I was still here when you arrived
I was to look you up. He may not get a chance to run over again for
a bit. He is some distance away."
Harry was delighted. He introduced his companions to Thompson, who
told them Will Corwin was fit and well, and had become quite famous
as a flyer. Thompson promised to dine at their mess that evening.
He did so, and after dinner sat and chatted about flying in general,
telling the Brighton boys many things strange to them about the
development of the flying service since the beginning of the war.
"I was in England in August, 1914, when the war broke out," Thompson
said. "I had been interested for some time in flying; had learned
to fly a machine myself, and had watched most of the big international
flying meets. I knew some of the rudimentary points about aircraft,
and as I had a cousin who was in the motor manufacturing business in
England, I had been put fairly into touch with aeroplane engines.
I don't know how much is known at home about what the French and
British flying corps have done out here, but to get a fair idea
of what they have accomplished one has to know something of the way
both France and England were caught napping. I think it is fair to
say that there was not one firm in all Great Britain at the outbreak
of hostilities which had proven that it could turn out a successful
"The English War Department had what they called the Royal Aircraft
Factory, where some experimental work was done, but the day war was
declared the British Army had less than one hundred serviceable
flying machines of all types. What proved to be the most useful
plane used by the British for the first year of the war was only
a blueprint when the fighting started. France was better off.
She had factories that could make aero engines. But as to actual