RIP fictional RAF No. 3 Squadron Leader Francis Hall

I’ve been playing a bit more IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte Career mode recently and my very first career pilot for the title was a pilot I created was Francis Hall, Squadron Leader of No. 3 RAF Squadron flying Tempests out of Volkel. Unfortunately, on a sortie I flew this morning, there was a catastrophic crash between a Bf109 and Francis’ Tempest and it was all over. A fun few recaps from this pilot career and comments on the Career mode in IL-2: Great Battles.

Sorties over the front

Flak gunners turn their gun battery to face a Tempest as it strafes a nearby target.

Career mode for IL-2 offers a lot of positives but not every career appears to be equally interesting, however, flying for No. 3 Squadron RAF definitely offers some excitement. The Tempest is a terrific aircraft and extremely well suited to the kind of low altitude operations that are typical in Bodenplatte careers.

Squadrons like No. 3 RAF flew Tempests from the late summer through to the spring of 1945 and the end of the war ranging over the frontlines at low and medium altitudes bouncing fighters, attacking vehicle convoys, attacking rail depots, and performing everything that you can imaging might be covered by ‘tactical fighter’ duty.

Strafing targets at a railway junction. These are always hazardous missions!

Career mode in IL-2 is mostly the same. The most common mission types are railway junction attack, free hunt, and then a mix of attack plane intercept and bomber escort missions as well. There’s even the odd airfield attack mission that I flew.

As it is at this point in the war, most of the opposition is flying Bf109G-6’s, G-14’s, and Fw190A-8’s so the opposition isn’t quite at the same level of performance as the Tempest which means that you can use the aircraft’s massive speed advantage at the low and medium altitude to dominate the fight. And dominate it does! Against some of the most challenging AI currently available, I was able to collect an impressive kill tally.

Memorable missions

A Fw190A-8 explodes as another breaks away.

While a lot of Career missions can be repetitive and there are some annoyances, others can be quite spectacular. One mission flown just days ago featured a railway junction attack mission where we never actually made it to the junction facing significant Luftwaffe defenses and seeing our flight of eight Tempests confront almost twice as many Bf109s and Fw190s. Ammunition ran out and the target remained undamaged.

But it was a tense run and gun battle from the moment our Tempests clashed with a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters. It was everything that I imagined from a chapter in Pierre Closterman’s The Big Show.

Another mission saw us fighting Fw190s at low altitude over a Luftwaffe airbase with flak all over the trees appearing only as a blur in the windscreen.

My second to last mission involved a tense defense against attack planes with over a dozen Luftwaffe fighters entering the area while our squadron of Tempests put up one heck of a fight. Tempests and 109s everywhere with some Me262’s dropping bombs on the target (although I damaged one of them before he sped away).

Things I’d like to see improved

Tail section chewed up by a couple of flak hits low over a target.

I like Career mode quite a lot. It offers some good variety at times and it can be quite fun even when the mission type is the same time after time. Rarely do two missions play out in the same way.

There are, however, some things I’d love to see changed and improved. Free hunt missions end up entirely as air to air operations but I’d love to see a variant of those feature more random convoys or trains that count as valid targets. This was particularly true on the western front with Allied tactical fighter squadrons flying to attack any target spotted both on the air and on the ground.

After the wingtip of a Bf109 hit my propeller blade, I managed to make a safe belly landing at Volkel airbase.

Career mode also features no ship/barge attacks but these were common on the western front during this time (there’d be some relevance to Stalingrad and Kuban as well). I’d love to see some sort of nod to those at some point in the future as Career mode evolves.

I’d also love to see a little more interactivity in terms of triggers that happen during a mission. If enemy fighters do happen follow you back to base I’d love to see the base eventually scramble some fighters to help or to be able to call control and request back-up.

Rest in peace Francis Hall

The final mission of Squadron Leader Francis Hall was on another cloudy morning. We proceeded towards another railway junction when Fw190s and Bf109s emerged from the cloud on their own strike mission. Eight Tempests quickly broke to attack and there were fighters everywhere.

I managed to get on to the tail of a Bf109 that was attacking another Tempest and rake him with 20mm cannon fire. That Bf109 lit on fire and fell away. Another Bf109 emerged from the fight in front of me and after a quick turn was in my gunsights. Several strikes on that fighter and he was going down as well with the canopy ejection and enemy pilot falling past on the side.

I made a 180 to bring myself back into the fight. A Tempest flashed under me with a Bf109 trailing distantly… I tried to cut the angle and get a shot head-on with the Bf109 but it wasn’t the other Tempest that this Bf109 was after – it was me.

Francis Hall’s second to last kill.

Guns erupted on both sides, tracers filled the sky, and in a split second the Bf109 and Tempest flew straight into each other with both aircraft exploding instantly. Keep in mind that, because of the speeds involved, my turn, acquisition of the Bf109 and the resulting crash happened in maybe a second to a second and a half.

And then it was over and my pilot was dead.

He did receive a posthumous Victoria Cross so there’s that…

Like a similar obituary that I wrote for another virtual pilot in IL-2 Career mode, giving your virtual pilot a name, a backstory, and a squadron association, all helps to build some connection with this virtual life. There’s a sense of loss when a treasured career mode pilot is gone and that is definitely the case for me today and that’s why I think 1CGS has a very good thing going with Career mode and why I want to see this feature continue to get more mission types and more revisions to its core. For single players… its hard to beat the variety and versatility of this gameplay style.

Screenshots from recent missions

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Blue 5 says:

    May he rest in peace. A true hero, meeting a fighter pilot’s death in the war-torn skies over the Rhein.

    Like

  2. Mischiew Rithe says:

    May he rest in peace, and his family appreciate the sacrifice he made defending everyone’s freedom.

    Career mode is nice. The fact that there are sometimes more “empy” missions make it realistic, and give some time to breathe between more intense missions. But these quiet missions seem to be fewer, or maybe it’s just me?

    I just miss the cold start and taxi part, but I understand it’s not what most of IL2 public wants. I’m still hoping one day we’ll see start options “in air”, “on runway” and “from parking”… who knows? Same for landing back to the correct area.

    We should soon be able to rearm and refuel though, right?

    Like

  3. Percy Danvers says:

    RIP. I really hate losing a career pilot, especially when I’ve put time into the career.

    I definitely agree about the free hunt, though. It seems like a lot of what 2nd TAF was doing was roaming around looking for trains and trucks to blow up, and that would be really fun to do in IL-2.

    Liked by 1 person

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