There was one slight delay while the pilot went off in search of a thicker coat for McColl—“It’s bloody cold up there!”—and another when Plumley arrived to wish them luck. Eventually McColl and his suitcase were squeezed into the underslung sidecar, Lansley and his bombs into the B.E.12’s single seat, the propeller set in motion. The biplane drove steadily across the field, suddenly accelerated, and seemed to almost leap into the sky. As it climbed and turned, McColl could see the distant rows of lights that marked the two front lines. It was indeed “bloody cold,” and the exposed area of skin between flying cap and scarf soon felt coated with ice. McColl clasped his collar shut in front of his throat and tried to look on the bright side—he might be freezing to death, but at least he was still aloft, with an hour’s respite until the dreaded moment arrived. Or moments. If the chute surprised him and actually opened, there was still the small matter of getting down in one piece. At least he didn’t have a basketful of restless pigeons in his lap, as most of his predecessors had done. According to Lansley, hundreds had been taken into occupied Belgium, each with a tightly rolled piece of paper containing a list of questions about the occupation, which locals were asked to answer and return with the homing bird. The pilot had also told him, with a perfectly straight face, that scientists in England were trying to crossbreed pigeons and parrots, so that verbal reports might be delivered.