The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Successfully to carry out a photographic reconnaissance it is necessary to have a clear sky, an engine in the best of running order, a good pilot who can stick to the course given him, and last, but certainly not least, a camera that does not jam.
Although the work is constant it is peculiarly fascinating, and a good deal of satisfaction is to be derived from successfully getting photographs of difficult gaps that are often necessary to complete some new map. It is generally advisable to make exposures at anywhere from 14,000 to 18,000 feet, and the necessity for an engine to be in perfect running order will be easily realized.
On one occasion we had been detailed to photograph a large strip of country in the vicinity of one of the main Hun aerodromes, but ill-luck dogged our footsteps. Leaving the ground at 08.00, the two machines climbed steadily side by side almost over our own aerodrome until we reached 10,000 feet, when the companion 'plane fired a light to indicate engine trouble, and made for home. We followed suit. Whilst the others were changing into ano ther "bus" we once again filled up with petrol and oil, and at 10.30, like birds of orey, we soared heavenwards; but on reaching 10,000 feet the same thing occurred and, considering discretion the better part of valour, we were compelled to follow the other lens to earth.
After lunch we made a third attempt, with considerably more success. After an hour's climbing we were over our objective at 15,000 feet, when, with stop watch in hand, I buried myself in the cockpit, ready to take my share of the photographs. About half way through the job, the engine, which until then had been running beautifully,
sputtered, missed, and finally cut out altogether with a suddenness that brought me out of the cockpit, to watch the manipulations of the pilot to locate the trouble.
Flying over a Hun aerodrome with a "dud" engine, and no hope of making our own lines without it, was fraught with—in the language of the Corps— extreme windiness. However, fate was kind, as, after fiddling about with taps and pumps of sorts, we picked up to a certain extent; but as the enginewas still rough asa bagof files, the pilot waved a "washout" and headed for home. Even after crossing our own lines we hugged the well known landing places that are to be found on various parts of the front, so that, if she did play any more tricks, we would glide to safety. When we finally succeeded in landing on the aerodrome intact, we were a happy little party. Next day we tootled off to complete the job so annoyingly interrupted; but after exposing about half a dozen plates, the jolly thing jammed, and in spite of the fact that I applied every known remedy, the camera refused to gee. Finding it a hopeless case, I signalled the pilot to fly-close to the other machine so that the observer would know what had happened and that the whole job devolved on him. Relieved from the responsibility of taking photographs, I was able to devote the whole of my time to looking out for Huns, who, fortunately, left us unmolested. Once over our own lines I waved the joy-stick at the pilot, and having fixed the controls, took charge of the "bus" and flew it home.