Sample Chapter from “Oswald Boelcke”


... A few days later I caught my number twelve, which netted me a handwritten note with congratulations from His Majesty the Kaiser and a phone call from my competitor Immelmann from Douai. He congratulated me, but complained that I ought to wait with the next one so he could catch up. Hmm, I really could not promise him anything. He would have to put some effort into not getting left behind in his score. And who would have guessed it, my string of successes continued the very next day. But first I had to clear up a misunderstanding. I was patrolling the front and noticed two Farman biplanes which were heading towards our positions. I was higher than the two of them, closed up on one of them unseen from behind and opened fire. At the same time, the balloon defense artillery also began shooting at the Farmans. My customer did not like having bullets buzz around his nose and initiated a steep dive to escape me. I kept firing at him but we rapidly approached enemy positions at low altitude. I had to abort my attack and let the Frenchman escape. This incident was reported as a victory by the balloon defense gunners, to be precise, they claimed it as their victory. Additionally they claimed that a Fokker pilot had attacked the biplane after they had hit it, whereupon the French pilot had landed on the German side, had repaired his machine and had taken off again. What bullshit! This report upset the aviation staff officer, who gave me a call and demanded to know how this was possible. I reported what had really happened and assured him that neither had the enemy airplane crashed nor had it landed on our side. Too bad this cost the balloon defense gunners a “victory”! During the same flight I surprised a different Farman biplane in a dogfight with a German. I was in a favorable position to get involved. From behind and above I attacked the already very busy Frenchman. With the engine and pusher propeller in the back, the gunner had free field of fire to the front but he could not defend himself against an attacker from behind. I closed in on him very quickly and fired several rounds into him from up close. I was just about to pull up to avoid colliding with him when his airplane caught fire and exploded. He fell burning like a torch, drawing a black column of smoke behind him. I did not allow myself to contemplate their terrible death, but I hoped it would be quick. I had probably hit the fuel tank, which was located above the engine. That would cause the fuel to drip on the hot engine. These machines always caught fire so easily. Fortunately the arrangement was much better in our airplanes. That had been quick and easy with my number thirteen. Sorry Max, that I could not wait for you!