8 January 1917

Our airmen, very justly, have earned a big reputation for their skill and daring, but the ‘Allyman’ can still give them points in cuteness. The word ‘Allyman’ is probably new to you, but is the word used by our Irish boys for the enemy. They picked it up in France and it is simply a corruption of Les Allemands, the Germans.

Time after time I have seen our air squadrons sailing up and down, looking in vain for some Boche to devour and then the moment they went back to the rear for lunch out came the cautious Hun, took all the photos he wanted, noted positions of guns etc. and returned safely to his lines in peace, without a nasty air fight, in which he generally comes off second best.

This afternoon I saw a very clever bit of work. One of our planes was going along on its usual beat when literally, like a bolt from the blue, a German airman shot down on him from the sky. He had crept up at such a height that even our vigilant observers had not noticed him, then fixing his bearings by means of a powerful telescope he dived straight for our man before the latter realised what was taking place. There was a loud rattle of machine gun fire and the enemy was off as fast as he had come. I saw a thick column of black smoke rising from our aeroplane – a bullet had struck the petrol tank and the next instant it burst into flames.

Wherever the pilot was he was certainly a brave, cool fellow. To dive at once for safety would have meant destruction, for the rush of the wind would have carried the flames to the wings of the machine, and so with the petrol tank blazing fiercely behind him, he brought his plane slowly to the ground and saved his own and his observer’s life, though he was badly burnt in doing so.

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