When the German Triplanes turned back to search for other targets, McLeod did the unexpected. He turned back and started to chase them. It was so out of character for an observer plane, especially one that had just narrowly escaped being shot down, that they didn't watch for him. McLeod chased them until he had the nearest plane in his sights, and then shot it down. It was such an audacious move, that had an allied balloon observer not witnessed it, they wouldn't have gotten credit for it, no one believed McLeod's and Coomb's story.
McLeod, with another observer followed this up with an equally ambitious attack on a well protected German Observation balloon, well back of the line. That was followed up two days later, with a mission to mark an artillery battery so it could be located and destroyed. As they attempted to circle over it they were harassed by the accurate fire of an anti-aircraft battery. So McLeod turned his attention to that, flying through machine gun fire to drop his bombs on the anti-aircraft battery. While returning to finish the job they shot up a large column of infantry and then went about their business of directing fire at the artillery battery, until it was destroyed.
Granted two weeks leave in London for his exploits ironically almost killed him. The hotel he was staying at was bombed by a Zeppelin, killing almost fifty people and wounding more than twice that. He escaped unharmed and returned to France.
McLeod, on his return was again paired with a new observer, this one an experienced, decorated airman, Lt. A.W. Hammond. Their work was increasingly busy, the Germans had launched Operation Michael, a massive offensive designed to use their freed up troops from the surrender of Russia and the collapse of the eastern front. It was their attempt to finish the war before the arrival of large amounts of American doughboys.
McLeod's squadron flew as many as three missions in a day, artillery targeting, photographic patrols, and bombing runs. And on March 27th, 1918, three weeks shy of his 19th birthday, McLeod started off on the mission that would earn him the Victoria Cross.
McLeod and Hammond left on a bombing mission with six more aircraft, heavily loaded with bombs and extra ammo, at dawn that morning. They unfortunately had to land at another airfield shortly after because of fog, and in the process damaged their landing gear. It took until noon to repair the damage and by that time the others had left for home, the weather not having improved all that much. McLeod and Hammond took off on their mission anyway, alone.
As they headed for their target a Fokker Triplane came out of the clouds below them. Manouvering in for a shot, Hammond shot it out of the sky, but it wasn't alone, and soon they were being swarmed by seven other Triplanes. They managed to shoot down one more Fokker before luck turned against them, or rather the skill of a German Ace, Lt Hans Kirschstein.
Kirschstein came up from below and his machine gun fire not only wounded McLeod three times, and Hammond six times, but ruptured the fuel tank on the FK8, setting the plane on fire. As one more Fokker came in for the kill, Hammond revived and shot it down with his one good arm. It apparently did not crash but left the fight.
Their plane on fire, McLeod had to climb out on to the wing to avoid the flames, and controlled it so as to fan the flames away. The floor below Hammond burned away (remember these planes were mostly fabric over a wooden frame) forcing him to lie along the cockpit. But even in this conditions the two managed a shot at another Triplane coming in for the kill, putting it out of commission, but not before McLeod was wounded two more times. Lt Kirschstein continued his attack and his bullets took out Hammond's gun. The plane on fire and headed towards the ground he broke off his attack and went looking for other Allied planes, shooting down a Sopwith Camel later that flight.
McLeod continued to try and make across the front line to a safe haven, side slipping to keep the flames away from them, and finally crashed in No Man's Land. Both survived the crash, but Hammond, badly wounded and burnt was incapable of moving. McLeod got up and dragged Hammond away from the burning plane, until their bombs burst in the fire. McLeod was again wounded, this time with shrapnel from his own bombs.
So close to safety, McLeod was wounded yet again, this time by German Snipers. The two badly hurt men then laid in a shell hole until night fall, when they were rescued by soldiers from the South Africa Scottish Regiment. Both "smelt terribly of burnt flesh".
Both McLeod and Hammond faced a long recovery but in September 1918 McLeod had recovered somewhat and was awarded the Victoria Cross by the King (Hammond received a bar to his Military Cross). He was too weak to attend a reception in his honour though, and later that month returned to Canada to recuperate.
It is an amazing story, but alas its end is sad, and poignantly ironic. Having survived terrible wounds and against terrific odds he didn't escape the Spanish Influenza. The epidemic was also sweeping Canada by the end of the war and McLeod contracted the virus. Still weak, he was unable to fight the virulent disease and died November 6th 1918, five days before the Great War ended.
I'm grateful to the website Canadian Aces and Heroes from whence this information on Alan McLeod comes from. And I'm grateful for Fawn for showing that I actually had three "from"s in the prior sentence, although I'll keep the first one, because my dictionary says that even though whence means "from what place" from whence has been used by reputable writers since the 14th century and is broadly accepted in standard English.