Flieger Augustin "Boots" Kolb KEK West (Jasta 12) Vivaise, Marne Region, France.
27th Mar 1916, 1030hrs.
It's only been few days since my last letter but I wanted to tell you that I have made my first successful operational sortie and seen, with my own eyes, the Western Front. The weather here is terrible, worse than it was at Maubeuge even, and I spent the best part of an hour over the lines patrolling one of our observation balloons being buffeted and thrown about by the March winds. I am completely exhausted and the nip of schnapps that is partaken of by all pilots on returning a patrol is making me sleepy so I will try to write quickly before I retire to my quarters to take a nap before lunch. 5 aircraft took of from Vivaise, Fokker E.II's and E.III's (Although I can't tell the difference between them yet, they all look the same). I have been assigned an E.II and, after the old Aviatik, it doesn't seem like there's much aircraft between me and the outside world.
It's bitterly cold here and I reek of whale grease and lanolin, substances we use to prevent frostbite. I have to wear so many layers of clothing that I need two men to assist me in finding the stirrup with which I must mount my aircraft and lift me aboard. You know how I never liked the cold, well, I can tell you that this place is hell but it is also fascinating. As I said our patrol took us within sight of the lines and I saw them, a wilderness of pockmarks and snow that stretches beyond imagining. The perverse absurdity of such massive destruction is fantastic, I cannot fathom how we as a species have come to this when I recall the few brief glimpses I got of that hell between struggling with my Fokker in the gusts and turbulence. Four of us set off, with another in reserve for top cover and for most of their flight we struggled along through the icy blasting of the French March wind. At one point I looked to my left and saw that an aircraft was missing, Leutnant Laack. He was with us one second, gone the next. We continued on, I learned what became of Laack later but his absence filled me with dread and, as though to mirror my apprehensions, the weather closed in half way through our flight. I felt as though I were lost in a forest, a forest in which I was very much a stranger but the other two Fokkers soldiered on and so I stayed with them.
It's very hard to see anything below you in the Fokker E.II, the broad wing hides the ground most of the time and I soon realised that I had precisely no idea of where I was, I just followed and followed for what seemed an age until the flight leader suddenly turned and descended. During our descent I saw ahead of us a distant aircraft. Initially I thought it may have been French but our course and the descent told me otherwise, it was our top cover aircraft, we were on the way home. The weather cleared a little just as we neared home, enough for me to see from the position of the sun that we had been up for an hour. I couldn't even see the airfield until we were right over the top of it, somehow it had hidden itself under my wing, so I have a lot of catching up to do in order to be a competent and useful pilot around here. Anyway, I was pleased to find Leutnant Laack waiting for us in the duty room, he had even stoked the stove for us and for the first time in forever I started to feel my circulation returning. It was painful but I daren't show it since we all suffer the same and Leutnant Laack's story of engine failure and his glide back to base made me feel as though my trials for the day had been minimal to say the least, he could very easily have been killed but he is an experienced pilot with 4 victories already!
We seem to have enough to contend with against the elements and our own aircraft here dear Marie, adding the increasingly hostile French aircraft to that equation is something that causes me grave concern. I am keen to hear from Laack about his victories and stories of fighting the French machines but he is taciturn and sometimes hard to approach, perhaps in time he will open up and divulge a little but I must be tactful.
Leutnant Laack silhouetted against the sun and sky shortly before his engine failure.
Life at Vivaise, taken after landing.
Last edited by Ace_Pilto; 04/15/1701:10 AM.
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