James McCud­den

BBC History Magazine - - Wwi Eyewitness Accounts -

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”

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