"Train of Gold" Explodes Under British Attack
June 1918... a German train laden with ammunition and gold bullion was headed east, where it would stop on a bridge and have its cargo loaded onto a barge which would then make its way along a canal to German headquarters. A British two seater unit was scrambled into the air under orders to destroy the Train of Gold at any cost, or at least find a way to prevent the gold and ammunition from reaching its destination. The British flight consisted of two Bristols (Joe, AJ) and a DH 9 (Bob). If they couldn't destroy the train itself, they were ordered to sink the barge or demolish the bridge in order to prevent the gold and ammunition from reaching its destination.
The German Jasta charged with protecting the train's cargo was grounded by a heavy rainstorm, so two ace fighter pilots who were visiting a nearby two-seater squadron were ordered to round up whatever airplanes they could find and get into the air immediately. LTN Nicholson Bob (Ethan, 15/2) found a 160 hp Fokker DVII in a nearby shed while VZFW Gerald Holzhauser (Stephen, 14/3) was offered the unit's only stand-by Fokker DrI.
The Germans tried to engage the attacking British two seaters but were plagued with missed shots. Bob's DH 9 dove into the canal and scored three direct hits followed by Joe's Bristol, which added two more. The barge was decisively sunk before it could even reach its rendezvous point to pick up the gold and ammunition.
AJ's Bristol had circled south to line up a bombing run on the train which turned out to be tremendously successful. With the help of a secondary munitions explosion, his crew took out five of the six cars on the train, leaving only the engine to arrive at the rendezvous bridge two turns later.
But the anti-aircraft fire had taken a toll, especially on AJ and Bob, who were fleeing in opposite directions while the last remaining Britisher (Joe's Bristol) succeeded in destroying the locomotive to make the British victory complete. Nicholson's DVII (Ethan) pursued AJ's Bristol and managed to score two long-distance bursts with maximum damage, but the Bristol refused to go down. Both AJ and Joe would save their crews and return home safely.
But Bob's DH 9 had already sustained four engine hits from Flaming Onion AA fire. Holzhauser's faster Triplane closed the gap and scored 9 hit factors with a 50 foot bottom shot that gave the DH 9 its 6th and 7th engine hits. The engine damage roll turned up a pair of "1's" ("Roll high, Bob!") and the DH 9 disappeared in a massive explosion. And since Bob's De Havilland was the only plane with a mounted camera, the Brits had no photographic proof of their overwhelming victory and their hopes for a bravery medal were snubbed by the English high command.