THE TRAIN BOMBERS
 ONE of the uses of aircraft in war is to disorganize the enemy's lines of communication, a direction in
which much good work has been done by British airmen who have bombed transport columns and cut
To illustrate the kind of work done the following stories may be told, beginning with the exploit of
Second-Lieutenant H. Long (Durham Light Infantry and R.F.C.). Before going on to the recital of this
adventure, however, we will first record another incident in which the gallant Lieutenant was
On September 10th, 1915, he sped across the British lines, over 'No Man's Land' and beyond the
German trenches, to tackle an enemy observation balloon-shed, the balloon in which, from the British
point of view, had on several occasions proved too useful to the German artillery. Lieutenant Long
carried a special
 bomb, weighing one hundred pounds. Although he was fired at very vigorously by the German batteries
as he passed, the airman succeeded in arriving well over the shed without being hit, and prepared to
drop his bomb. He was flying in circles and taking aim, when an anti-aircraft battery close by the
shed made his position so hot that he decided to deal with the guns and leave the original objective
for the time being. So, mounting as high as was practicable, consistently with good aim, he darted
toward the battery, and, as he passed over it, released his bomb, which fell plumb upon the guns.
Exploding with a terrific roar, it reduced the battery to a mass of useless metal, killing some of
the gunners and wounding others.
Not a little pleased at his success, the intrepid airman now flew back to his base and loaded up
with another huge bomb, with which he returned to settle accounts with the balloon-shed. The Germans
were probably far from expecting that the airman would make a second visit. They were engaged in
packing up their balloon when the dramatic reappearance of
 the aviator caused something like consternation. Long lost no time in getting to business: as he
swooped over the spot where the men, looking like flies, were tugging at ropes to haul down the
captive monster, he let loose his giant bomb, and as he whirred away there came up to him the
resonant roar of the explosion. Looking down, he saw that his aim had not been so good as on the
previous occasion: the bomb had missed its objective, although only by a very few yards. No little
damage was done in the neighbourhood, however, which was some comfort to the plucky Lieutenant.
Three days later Lieutenant Long set out on a different adventure. Information had been received
that a number of enemy trains were being moved up toward the front, and it was desirable that they
should be stopped. The mark presented by a moving train is not as easy as the uninitiated might
imagine, any more than two sets of gleaming rails are quite the best targets. In order not to throw
away his bombs, Lieutenant Long, when he came within sight of the speeding trains,
 dropped to an altitude of only 500 feet, at which, naturally, he afforded a fine mark for
anti-aircraft guns and even for riflemen. He kept pace with the trains, which, on the appearance of
the aerial enemy, had increased their speed; but his bombs missed the quarry and ploughed up the
ground alongside the track. Determined not to be frustrated, the airman flew back to his base for a
further supply of bombs, and then, concentrating upon the foremost train, he returned to the attack
no fewer than three times, on each occasion flying at a greater height in order to make the best use
of his bomb-sight. It was a case of rapid travelling, quick manoeuvring and nice calculation of the
relative speed of the train and the aeroplane; a case, too, of taking hazards of being struck by the
incessant fire directed at him while over the train, and especially while returning for supplies of
bombs. But the Lieutenant courageously faced these perils, worked out his plans, and carried them
into execution, with the result that after three journeys he had torn up the railway lines in two
places, and so for a time at any rate had
 prevented troops from being transported to where they were sorely needed.
His success encouraged Lieutenant Long to essay a similar feat two days later, when he attacked a
crowded train from a height of 500 feet. Although pestered by concentrated rifle-fire, he managed by
most careful sighting to tear up many yards of rails.
Then, as though he had not done enough for one day, that very evening, when the ever-watchful
observers reported that troop trains were moving twenty-five miles away, Lieutenant Long gallantly
volunteered for further duty.
Again winging his flight over the enemy front trenches, he made for the trains, but a terrific
rainstorm, the gathering darkness, and the gusty weather were against him this time, and he was
unable to reach the trains in time to hold them up. Not to be denied, however, the airman turned his
machine and raced toward Peronne Station—a vitally important strategic point.
It was a flight filled with many dramatic moments, for in the raging storm the elements
 seemed to be combining to destroy the intrepid human who dared to ignore their power. Long held on
tenaciously, and presently, as he drew near to Peronne, other enemies joined in the struggle and he
found himself faced by a veritable curtain of fire which barred the approach to the station. The
roar of the elements was outdone by the crash of exploding shells, and the darkness was brightened
by red-glowing stars from whose beauty death might come swiftly at any moment. So incessant was the
fire, so menacing was the ever-changing pattern of the curtain in the sky, that the aviator perforce
gave up his self-imposed task, and, sweeping round, steered away from the darkened station. But not
to go home; the explosives he carried had not been used, and the intrepid pilot scorned to carry
them back with him! So, climbing rapidly to about 1500 feet, he made for a rocket battery, sent his
bomb hurtling downward, and heard it explode. Then the sudden cessation of fire from one of the guns
of the battery told that the aim had been true; he had put at least one gun out of action, and the
 danger had been justified, even although he had not succeeded in his first objectives.
On a certain day in the autumn of 1916 a bombing 'flight' of aeroplanes set off to harass the enemy
on his lines of communication. Among the British pilots were Captain Eric J. Tyson (General List,
R.F.C.) and Lieutenant John R. Philpott (General List, R.F.C.). At length, after many miles had been
covered, what looked like a big black worm was seen in the distance.
The two British machines darted off toward the crawling thing, for they knew that it was an enemy
train, hurrying up either munitions or troops. Captain Tyson reached the spot first, and dived from
a tremendous height until he was within about 300 feet of the train. The droning of his engine had
been heard; anti-aircraft guns barked at him, and riflemen sent up a perfect hurricane of bullets.
It was a pretty picture for the artist, but a none too pleasant experience for the man sitting in
the frail steed of the air. Suddenly, when right over the train, Captain Tyson loosed his bombs,
 with resounding crashes and effectually stopped the progress of the train, many of the carriages of
which were in ruins.
Captain Tyson was in a tight corner, however. In addition to the firing from the ground he had now
to face several enemy aeroplanes which came rushing upon the scene and opened fire as he was dodging
'woolly bears' and rifle bullets. Meantime Lieutenant Philpott had come up and found that the train
had been wrecked. Apparently there was nothing for him to do there. Not far off, however, lay the
railway station—fair mark for any hostile aviator. He sailed right over, dropping his bombs as
he went, banked, turned, and made back to where Captain Tyson was engaged with the enemy machines.
During the fight the Captain had been severely wounded and his engine had been struck by an unlucky
shot, so that it would not fire properly, and was a source of annoyance and danger to its pilot. The
Captain, however, promptly shed his annoyance and forgot the danger in "the stern joy that warriors
feel" when they meet their opponents. Ably seconded by Lieutenant Philpott, he
 fought a good fight—too good for the Germans, who received such a mauling that they very soon
scudded to earth.
Meantime the Germans below were endeavouring to start another of their machines. Neither the Captain
nor the Lieutenant were inclined to allow them to effect their purpose, and, as though they read
each other's thoughts, they both dived toward the earth, braving a tornado of bursting shrapnel and
singing bullets. Feverishly the Germans toiled at their task, hoping against hope to get their
machine up before the dare-devil British should come within effective range: and hoping, too, that
one of their own guns might plant a shell where it would put an end to the flying of at least one of
They hoped in vain. With engines roaring—the Captain's making weird protestations at being
worked at all—the two assailants thundered into range, and gave the Huns a few missiles which
scattered them in all directions and dashed their hope of sending up the aeroplane. Then up again,
and with the wind whistling merrily through the holed planes, with
 crashing guns below them and screaming shells behind them, the Captain and his comrade took the
unmapped trail for home. It is pleasant to add that later they were awarded the Military Cross, an
honour which they had certainly earned.
Another officer who won the Military Cross for train-bombing was Lieutenant A. L. Gordon-Kidd
(Special List, R.F.C.), who from a height of 7500 feet sighted an enemy ammunition train—good
mark, and fair prey to the hawk of the Flying Corps. Down went the gallant pilot in a breathless
dive which carried him to within 900 feet of his quarry. Then, at a touch of the pilot's hand, a
bomb went whizzing through the air and crashed into the heart of that train-load of explosives. The
destructive missile had been well and truly sighted! There was an upward rush of air, the force of
which affected the British machine, and made it difficult for the aviator to keep the aeroplane on
an even keel. Below, however, was a sight to hold any man enthralled: the bomb had exploded the
 and what was left of the train was blazing furiously.
Another successful attack upon a train was the work of Lieutenant D. A. Colquhoun, R.F.C. This time
the train was freighted with horses—probably intended to haul heavy artillery or to serve as
draught animals for commissariat wagons. But, whatever their destined use may have been, few of them
lived to serve it, for suddenly out of the sky came humming the deadly aeroplane with tricoloured
circles on its wings. The engine-driver opened the throttle of his iron steed, the fireman stoked
till the sweat rolled off him. All in vain, the dreaded bird of ill-omen swooped like an eagle from
its tremendous height, and with such impetus that it seemed it must crash into the racing train. The
pilot, however, had his machine well in hand, and when at a height of about 500 feet he released a
bomb which fell with devastating effect full upon the unfortunate train. Many of the trucks were
instantly destroyed, and the aviator, from his comparatively short distance, saw
 the bodies of horses flung into the air and far away from the train.
Second-Lieutenant F. S. Moller (General List, R.F.C.) is another hero of the air whose Military
Cross was awarded for bombing a train. Together with several other airmen he took part in a raid
with the object of harassing enemy communications and effecting as much damage as possible to the
'dumps' containing accumulated stores of ammunition. Each man knew what he was expected to do, and
when, in due course, the raiders arrived over the scene of their proposed activities, Lieutenant
Moller set to work. Far below he could see a train on the move, heading toward the British lines,
and he knew that there was a fair chance of its being well laden.
Through his binoculars, Lieutenant Moller, as he dived to the attack, made out certain things which
convinced him that the train was carrying ammunition, and continuing his descent until he was only
about 300 yards up, he began to loose his bombs. The angry 'Archies' barked out their protests at
 daring aviator, who, however, took little notice of them, and the ammunition train soon felt the
destructive power of British explosives. Lieutenant Moller, having noted the success of his attack,
now darted in pursuit of three other similarly laden trains, the drivers of which were obviously
attempting to put as much space as possible between their freights and the airman. No doubt there
was not a man on those trains who did not know that if a bomb from the raider with the tricoloured
targets should fall upon the swaying line of cars there would be an explosion from which few, if
any, of them would escape. But a railway train is at a disadvantage as regards speed when compared
with an aeroplane, and Lieutenant Moller had no trouble in catching up with his foes; shells burst
around him as he flew, and shrapnel clattered upon the body of his machine. Undeterred, he came up
with the rearmost train, swooped, sighted, and his bombs fell with a resounding crash. Spending no
further time on the crippled train, the airman caught up with first one and then the other train,
treating them with similar severity.
 It was a very satisfied British airman who now returned to his base, and not even the incessant fire
of the anti-aircraft guns which battered his machine spoiled his enjoyment.
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