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Victory 61 – Bird’s account, ten years later

Event ID: 744

03 September 1917

50.75955243805384, 3.0763453864199293
South of Bousbecque, above German lines

Source ID: 62

Inside the victories of Manfred von richthofen - Volume 2, James F. Miller, Aeronaut Books, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935881-43-8

Approximately ten years after his encounter with Richthofen, Bird wrote the following regarding the events of 3 September 1917, kindly provided by his son, Peter: 

“A Flight of No 46 Squadron of which I was a member had received orders to carry out the first Offensive Patrol on the morning of September 3rd 1917. In accordance with instructions the flight took off shortly after 6AM and having attained a height of about 14,000 feet proceeded over the lines to a point about 10 miles on the German side and commenced the patrol. Normally on these occasions we were treated to a liberal dose of Archie but on the morning in question everything appeared more than usually calm – an ominous calm as it proved. 

As far as my recollection goes we had covered our allotted beat once and had just turned to repeat the process when an enemy machine was seen some way below us and a flight commander indicated his intention of diving. I followed suit and by this time another enemy machine having appeared proceeded to attack him. It then became clear that we were involved in a scrap with a large number of the enemy. While chasing my particular opponent I took a glance over my shoulder to find myself being followed by two triplanes which I at once took to belong to an R.N.A.S. squadron with whom we occasionally cooperated. The next thing that I knew was that I was under a fusillade from machine guns at very close quarters; my engine cut out and I got one under my right arm which momentarily knocked me out. On recovering I found that I had got to do all I knew if I was going to stand a chance of reaching our lines. The two enemy triplanes were making wonderful shooting practice at me and my machine was being hit times without number, the splinters flying from the two small struts just in front of the cockpit, and from the instrument board. It was impossible to fly straight for more than a few moments at a time before they got their guns on me and my progress towards our lines was very slow compared with the height I was losing for my engine was a passenger only. It began to be quite obvious that I should not succeed in regaining our lines as I was now within a few hundred feet of the ground and looking for a place to put my machine down I found a field in which a German fatigue party were digging trenches, in this I eventually landed hitting I believe a tree in the process: all the while my assailants had kept up a heavy fire whenever they could get their guns on me. 

Upon my machine coming to rest it looked as if the trench digging party were going to finish the work that their airmen had begun but fortunate for me an officer drove up in a horse and cart and took charge, taking me to the HQ of a K.B. [kite balloon] section where I was searched, my flying kit removed and my wound dressed. This later proved to be very slight…” 


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