Produced by R.G.P.M. van Giesen
DASTRAL OF THE FLYING CORPS
Percy F. Westerman:
|THE AIRSHIP “GOLDEN HIND”|
|TO THE FORE WITH THE TANKS|
|THE SECRET BATTLEPLANE|
|WILMSHURST OF THE FRONTIER FORCE|
|THE PHANTOM AIRMAN|
|DASTRAL OF THE FLYING CORPS|
|THE EXPLOITS OF THE MYSTERY|
|BLAKE OF THE MERCHANT SERVICE|
|BUCKLE OF SUBMARINE V 2|
|OSCAR DANBY, V.C.|
4, 5 & 6, SOHO SQUARE, LONDOND, W.I.
DASTRAL OF THE
AUTHOR OF “BUCKLE OF SUBMARINE V2,” “THE TREASURE
GALLEON,” “OSCAR DANBY, V.C.” ETC., ETC.
S.W. PARTRIDGE & Co.
4, 5 & 6, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.I.
First Published 1917
OBSERVERS AND AIR-MECHANICS
THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS,
STORY OF ADVENTURE AND PERIL
THE GREAT WAR OF 1914 opened the floodgates of hatred between the nations which took part and this stirring story, written when feelings were at their highest, conveys a true impression of the attitude adopted towards our enemies. No epithet was considered too strong for a German and whilst the narrative thus conveys the real atmosphere and conditions under which the tragic event was fought out it should be borne in mind that the animosities engendered by war are now happily a thing of the past. Therefore, the reader, whilst enjoying to the full this thrilling tale, will do well to remember that old enmities have passed away and that we are now reconciled to the Central Powers who were opposed to us.
DASTRAL OF THE FLYING CORPS
DASTRAL WINS HIS PILOT’S BADGE
“One crowded hour of glorious life,
Is worth an age without a name.”
AT the time of which I write, the smoke of battle still filled the air. The freedom of men and nations, the heritage of the ages, hung in the balance, so that even brave men were often filled with doubt and despair.
The German guns were thundering at the gates of Verdun, seeking a new pathway to Paris, for the ever-growing British army had barred the northern route to the capital of France and the shores of the English Channel. But even the attempt to hack a way through Verdun was doomed to failure, and the first rift of blue in a clouded sky was soon to appear.
Against that glittering wall of steel, where the heroic sons of France lined the trenches against the tyrant, hundreds of thousands of Prussians, Bavarians and Saxons were doomed to fall, and the best blood of Germany was already flowing like rivers, for, though the poilus during times of great pressure slowly yielded the outer forts inch by inch, yet the price which the enemy paid for their advance was far too dear.
The future hung heavy with fate, and the civilised world looked on amazed, as the western armies, locked in the grip of death, swayed to and fro. The earth trembled with the shock of battle, and the very air vibrated with the whir-r-r of the fierce birds of prey, the wonderful product of the new age. Land and sea did not suffice as in days gone by, for in the heavens the struggle for freedom must also be fought. And many great men were beginning to say that the side which gained the mastery of the air, would also gain the mastery of Europe and the world.
In no country was this recognised more than in England, and at early dawn even remote villages were often stirred, and the inhabitants thrilled by the advent of the whirring ‘planes and air-scouts, whose daring pilots were preparing to wrest the mastery of the air from the enemy.
The most daring of our English youths left the public schools and universities, and strained every nerve, risking death a hundred times, to gain the coveted brevet of a pilot’s “wings” in the Royal Flying Corps.
So it happened that, during one fine morning in the early summer of 1916, a group of men, some of them wearing on the left breast of their service tunics the afore-mentioned brevet, were watching a young pilot undergoing his final test in the air before gaining his wings. The place where this occurred was over an aerodrome, somewhere near London.
“Phew! there he goes again. Just look at that spiral!” cried one of the onlookers.
“Ha! Now he’s going to loop; watch him!” exclaimed another.
The daring aviator, who was flying a new two-seater fighting machine with a twelve-cylindered engine, capable of giving over fourteen hundred revolutions a minute, seemed perfectly oblivious of the danger he was in, as seen by those below, for he careered through space at a speed varying from eighty to nearly one hundred and twenty miles an hour, and performed the most amazing spirals, twists, and gymnastic gyrations imaginable.
The people below, even the pilots, watched him with bated breath, and sometimes with thumping hearts. They felt somehow that he was overdoing it, and sooner or later he would crash to earth and certain death Several times even the experts, who were there to judge him, and award him the coveted brevet, felt sure that the youth had lost control of the ‘plane, for she swerved so suddenly, and banked so swiftly, as she came round, that one of them exclaimed:–
“Good heavens, he’s going to crash!”
“Phew! Just look there, he’s met an air-pocket, and it’s all over with the young devil,” shouted a civilian, evidently a representative of the New Air Board.
But, strange to say, all their prophecies were wrong, for, recovering himself, the daring young flyer, Dastral as he was called, had the machine under perfect control, and was just as easy and comfortable up there at three thousand feet–and far happier–than if he had been in an arm-chair in the officers’ mess at the aerodrome.
“There’s a nose dive for you!” cried the major who commanded the Squadron at the aerodrome, and who had done more than any one to encourage the lad, and bring him out. As he spoke, the youth was speeding to earth in a thrilling nose-dive which must have been at the rate of anything approaching a hundred and fifty miles an hour.
For an instant it seemed as if the prediction of one of the gloomy prophets would now be fulfilled and the aviator would crash; but no, after a dive of a thousand feet Dastral, as cool as a cucumber, jammed over the controls, flattened out for a few seconds, looped three times in succession, then spiralling and banking with wonderful and mathematical precision, shut off the engine, and volplaned down to the ground, touching the earth lightly at the rate of some fifty miles an hour, taxied across the level turf, and brought up within ten yards of the astonished spectators.
“Humph! He’s won his wings, major,” exclaimed one of the small crowd.
“So he has,” cried another. “He knows all the tricks of the air.”
“Yes,” exclaimed a third; “if he keeps on like that, he will prove a match for Himmelman himself, some day, should he ever chance to meet with him.”
Now Himmelman was the crack German flyer–the Air-Fiend of the western front–the man who had made the German Flying Corps what it was, and had earned for it the great traditions it had already won.