James qualified as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He started flying DH2 scout planes with 29 Squadron on the western front that August, and shot down his first German aircraft in September. He became a 2nd Lieutenant at the end of 1916. On 23 January, 2nd Lieutenant James McCudden was leading his patrol of DH2 planes south of Arras when he saw a German plane below him engaged in artillery observation work. I dived and opened fire, from 500 feet above, and from his right rear. Then I closed to 200 feet, and changed quickly from his right to his left rear. My drum was finished about 50 yards away at the most, and I saw my tracers pass across from his left to his right wing-tip. As I turned away to put on a new drum, I did not close on him again, because by the time I got a new drum of ammunition on he was too far off east to re-engage.
I missed that Hun because I did not at that time possess that little extra determination that makes one get one’s sight on a Hun and makes one’s mind decide that one is going to get him or know the reason why, for that Hun was an absolute sitter. But still, in my case it was little incidents like this which proved useful lessons, for they caused me to be furious with myself and I said to myself that if I was going to be any good at shooting down Huns, which was my sole ambition, I would certainly make more of my opportunities in the future.
“I did not at that time possess that little extra determination that makes one get one’s sight on a Hun”