Ok, due to reasons Archie Berry has been retired from service.
Introducing, Augustin Kolb. Latterly an accountant in a small finance firm in Cologne, now undergoing training at Maubeuge airfield, Belgium.
March 25, 1916.
Maubeuge aerodrome and zeppelin yard Belgium.
I am writing to you from Belgium after a long week of obstructions, bad food and uncomfortable travel. When my approval for flight training was granted by the certification board I felt sure that the problems and obstacles standing in the way of me realising my dream of flying would be over but it seems that they were just the beginning. No sooner had I arrived at the aerodrome here than did the weather take a turn for the worse, we've spent the last few days huddled next to a coke stove in the hangars the learning theory of flight and cockpit drills. Our flight kommandant, Hauptmann Auslösers, is a strange man, very uptight and with a tendency to hysterical outbursts but at the same time he can be quite lax in a very ungerman way. We're not quite sure what to make of him and his strange and capricious attitude but being in his presence is unsettling to say the least since, although his behaviour is altogether eccentric his eyes tell a different story to his actions. I can see him summing each and every one of us up like a hawk surveys a mouse on the field far below him. Auslösers has no time for jests and expects immediate obedience and complete focus during his classes which can be difficult to maintain in the freezing cold, with a poor diet and considering that we are kept awake half the night by the background noise of the aerodrome at night and our fears and misgivings taking their toll.
After four interminable days of snow, shouting and sleeplessness I finally went aloft for the first time and I must tell you that it is a marvellous experience. The weather cleared enough for us to wheel out an Aviatik biplane onto the field. Every pupil got to experience flight from the observer's cockpit which is situated ahead of the pilot while the others watched on, keeping an eye out for a change in the weather and hoping that their turn would not be delayed (or that it would in some cases). I was fortunate enough to be first, Hauptmann Auslösers helped me to situate myself in the front cockpit, checked that I was correctly secured by the safety harness and then clambered in behind me. The preparation for the flight seemed to take longer than the flight itself, which was over in what seemed like no time at all. I was giddy with excitement when we left the ground, there was so much to look at all of a sudden, the long grey rectangle of the Zeppelin shed which dominates the landscape of Maubeuge like the great barn of some fantastical leviathan. A long column of 30 or so trucks were rattling along the road East out of the aerodrome at what seemed to me to be impossibly slow speed compared to the 140 or so kilometers an hour that we were travelling at and Forests, Marie, as far as the eye can see. To see such things defies description.
Many people report a feeling of airsickness, I had fretted about this but the problem never eventuated until the very end of the flight when Hauptmann Auslösers pulled back on the throttle to make the aircraft descent for landing, the sudden lurch downwards and the fact that we seemed to come very close to the trees below caused quite a turmoil in my stomach. I managed to maintain my honour for the remaining duration of the flight but upon being helped down from the cockpit I'm ashamed to admit that I disgraced myself by vomiting on the Hauptmann's boots. Expecting a blow or some harsh words from Auslösers I flinched, looking up sheepishly at his sharp, fair skinned face. He was grinning broadly, obviously trying not to laugh.
"What do you think Flieger Kolb? Is flying the game for you?"
"Jawhol Herr Hauptmann!" I blurted out, straightening myself and wiping my mouth in an attempt to regain some dignity.
"Gut, we'll go up again then this afternoon, go have some breakfast." and then he did a strange thing, he slapped me on the back and cried "Hals und Beinbruch!". I'm not sure what that means yet but I did feel as though I had passed some kind of test.
Maubeuge Zeppelin Shed housing L.30.
Aviatik with Hauptmann Auslösers at the controls
Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.
Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein. "The best techniques are passed on by the survivors." - Gaiden Shinji