In January, 1917, he wrote to M. Bechereau urging him to make all dispatch: “Spring will soon be here, and the Germans are working like niggers. If we go to sleep, it will be ‘couic’ for us.” Henceforth his correspondence, sometimes rather dictatorial, with the engineer was entirely devoted to the magic airplane,—its size, controls, wing-tips, tank, weight, etc. The margins of his letters were covered with drawings, and every detail was minutely discussed. In February he wrote to his father as if he had been a builder: “My machine surpasses all expectations, and will soon be at work. In Paris I go to bed early and rise ditto, spending all day at Spad’s. I have no other thought or occupation. It is a fixed idea, and if it goes on I shall become a perfect idiot. When peace is signed, let nobody dare to mention a weapon of any kind in my presence for six months.”
He thought himself within reach of his goal; but unexpected obstacles would come in his way, and it was not till July 5, 1917—the same day on which he received the rosette of the Legion of Honor from General Franchet d’Esperey at the Aisne Aviation Camp—that he could at last try the long-dreamed-of, long-hoped-for airplane. But in a fight against three D.F.W.’s, the splendid new machine got riddled with bullets, he had to land, and everything had to be begun over again. But Guynemer was not afraid of beginning over again, and in fact he was to give the airplane another chance in Flanders, and to see all his expectations fulfilled. The 49th, 50th, 51st and 52d victories of Guynemer were due to the magic airplane.
He managed to impose his will on matter, and on those who adapt it to the warlike conceptions of man, as he imposed it on the enemy. Then, spreading out his wings on high, he might well think himself invincible.
I. THE BATTLE OF FLANDERS
After the battle on the Aisne Georges Guynemer was ordered to Flanders, but he had to take to his bed as soon as he arrived (July, 1917) and only left the hospital on the 20th. He then repaired to the new aviation camp outside Dunkirk, which at that time consisted of a few rows of tents near the seaside. He was to take part in the contemplated offensive, on his own magic airplane—which he brought from Fismes on the 23d—for the Storks Escadrille had been incorporated into a fighting unit under Major Brocard. No disease could be an obstacle to a Guynemer when an offensive was in preparation. In fact, all the Storks were on the spot: Captain Heurtaux, now recovered from his wound received in Champagne in April, was in command, and Captain Auger (soon to be killed), Lieutenant Raymond, Lieutenant Deullin, Lieutenant Lagache and sous-lieutenant Bucquet were there; while Fonck and Verduraz, newcomers to the squadron but not by any means unknown, Adjutants Guillaumat, Henin, and Petit-Dariel, Sergeants Gaillard and Moulines, Corporals de Marcy, Dubonnet, and Risacher, completed the staff. As early as June 24 Guynemer had soared again.