first time: World War I

   origin of the word Archie

Warfare in the air was still in the gentleman-like stage, and I have a note in my diary under September 15th, 1914 that No. 5 Squadron call the anti-aircraft gun (there seemed to be only one which gave them trouble in those days) Archibald, from the song 'Archibald, certainly not'. This was the origin of the word archie which was soon to be adopted by the British Army and to pass into the language.

Maurice Baring, not a pilot but Intelligence Officer, Flying Corps Headquarters 1914 - 1918 (1920)
any info on this song is welcome!

first time

   and then I saw them

Upon a dawn patrol I had my first taste of combat with enemy aeroplanes. I perceived some ten miles away a cluster of Archie bursts. It did seem that the firing came from much farther inside our lines than was usual. Flying south I aimed for a point just ahead of the most recent bursts, rejoicing in the speed of my BE 2c. At full throttle flying level she made seventy miles an hour - a fine and fast machine! The only fault to find being that the German machines were considerably faster.

And then suddenly I saw them. Two German aeroplanes, beneath us, astern and a little to the east. They were almost stationary in relation to us, travelling in the same direction. They looked like a couple of venomous insects, the black crosses like the markings on a moth's wing. The pair of them were no more than five hundred feet below, so close that I found myself clutching the arm of my seat with exitement. But in front of me the observer still sat facing forward. He had seen nothing. I shouted at the top of my voice; I banged the top of the fuselage between our seats, slapped it hard with my open hand. No good. Then I waggled the control stick backwards and forwards to make him move; but I jerked it too fast, the machine did not respond, and I saw those German machines coming up closer and closer behind us.

It was worse than a nightmare. But let me not mince words or seek grandiloquent imagery - I was scared stiff... At length the observer turned. He was a big man and the violence of his move shook the whole machine; yet he did not turn because he had heard me, but because he heard, as I did too, an ominous crack-crack of passing machine-gun bullets. The machines below were firing at us. I looked down fascinated. Then for a moment the German disappeared under our stern. What was to be done next?

I hesitated. But not for long, not for more than two seconds at the outside. And yet when I looked out over the far side of the fuselage expecting to see the enemy bobbing up alongside or else climbing hard and following us, I was amazed to find that he had turned back towards the lines. Already he was a long way off, and he had stopped firing.

Duncan Grinnel-Milne, Wind in the Wires (1926)

first time

   armed with a camera

After ten hours of this came my first real job - to photograph the enemy second-line trences. If there was ever an aeroplane unsuited for active service, it was the BE 2c. The pilot sat slightly aft of the main planes and had a fair view above and below, except where the lower main plane obscured the ground forward; but the observer, who sat in front of him, could see practically nothing, for he was wedged under the small centre section, with a plane above, another below and bracing wires all around. He carried a gun for defence purposes; but he could not fire it forward, because of the propeller. Backwards, the struts, wires and the tail plane cramped his style. In all modern machines the positions are reversed.

They saw some Archie puffs, and a howitzer shell at their own height 'turning slowly over and over, like an ambling porpoise', and kept on a steady course to photograph the line -

I flew on to make the last exposure, when the sergeant suddenly stiffened in his seat, cocked his gun, and pointed. 'Fokker!'
I got the last photo as he opened fire. He was, I know now, an inexperienced pilot, he should have held his fire. We replied with a chatter that deafened me, the muzzle of the Lewis gun right above my head. The Fokker hesitated and then turned at us again. The sergeant pulled his trigger. Nothing happened. 'Jammed! Jammed!' he shouted. He pulled frantically at the gun, while the stuttering Fokker came up. There was a sharp crack, and the little windscreen a foot in front of my face showed a hole with a spider's web in the glass round it. A narrow shave.

Instinctively I stood the machine on its head and dived for home, turning sharply as I did so to offer a more difficult target to the Fokker. But, luckily for us, he did not pursue. He had us at his mercy, had he known. We laughed. It had all happened in much less time than it takes to tell, and we were still alive, safe!

Cecil Lewis, Sagittarius rising (1936)

first time

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