Willi Aaron Rosenstein Born 1 Dez. 1892, Stuttgart. Pilots License #170,5 Date of issue 12. August 1912
I was the first born son of Ernst and Pauline Rosenstein, and together with my brother and sister I grew up in Stuttgart. My farther was a partner in the LW Rosenstein Company, a firm that produced medical equipment which they sold world wide. The Company became very profitable and my family lived in relative comfort. My brother and I were sent to boarding schools in Berlin. My farther had decided that I was to become a Doctor, a surgeon preferably. He had some connections with the Charitè Universitätsmedizin in Berlin and so my whole life was being prearranged and I was to comply with my father's wishes. I suppose he only wanted the best for me, like all fathers, but inside I knew I was meant for something else. I just didn't know what though.
Autumn 1911, I passed the entrance exams, squeaked by more like it, which pleased my father immensely. My fate had been decided. Unfortunately I found myself struggling to keep up with the curriculum. The longer I studied the more I knew this wasn't for me, but duty to my father's wishes forced me to continue. Luckily, Berlin offered many a distraction for restless souls like myself. While sitting in a dubious Establishment one evening, I was reading the local newspaper when I noticed a small add........
One should know that Berlin was packed by a new fever called flying. The Johannisthal Flugplatz was relatively new, and thousands would pay to watch these new God's fly against each other at races put on by the local Flying clubs or schools. I had never been there myself. I was bored and looking for something different, and thus decided to spectate one of these races myself.
One sunny day in March 1912 I took the tram out to Johannisthal. It was filled with so many gay and well dressed people. Everyone was awed by what they saw. All these modern heavier than air craft lined up for all to walk around, and some lucky few were even allowed to mount these wonders under the guidance of their owners. To the left of the lined up aircraft was a row of large sheds, and one of which had the words “Melli Beese” painted in large red letters. I remembered the little add in the paper and wondered over to the shed. A small door was open so I knocked and went inside the shed. Inside was a huge machine that somewhat reminded me of a dove. On it's flanks were painted the big black letters “MB”. A Woman around my age, dressed in dirty overalls, was standing close to the engine when she looked at me. I inquired about the add I had read and if the owner was present to talk to. I said I was very keen to learn flying.
After my initial shock, she reassured me that her name was Melli Beese and that she was indeed the owner and Instructor of the school. Later that day, I and a few others who were also interested, joined Melli at the nearby canteen at shed#6 to discuss our future adventure. To cut things short, I had at last found the one thing I wanted to do, and my career as a Pilot began March 1912. The next few months I spent every free hour at Johannisthal, and so neglected my study's that it was only a matter of time before my father would be informed. But I didn't care anymore. I was in love with flying and the engineering that went with it.
1.August was perfect day for flying and this was also when I passed and received my Pilots License #170,5. I now belonged to those golden few. That summer I had great fun, and represented our club at a few races that were held at Johannisthal. In fact I was judged good enough to become an Instructor, and when Melli asked me to work for her.... I said yes of-course.
Eventually my father found out what had happened and ordered me home to explain myself. He was infuriated by my selfishness. I was supposed to be a Doctor and not some “Quack” flying around Berlin, squandering my youth on some sports club for the elite! I promised to go back to school and fly on my spare time just to placate my father. All through 1912 till summer 1913 I plied myself to the books and endless lectures, reading till deep into the night just to keep pace with the required literature of the first year. My Grades were still comparatively low and I found myself drifting more and more to the airfield and Melli. At Johannistal I made a great many friends from different aircraft firms like Rumpler, Albatros and Fokker. I even helped Melli with an aircraft patent.
As fate would have it, nothing lasts forever. In the summer of 1913 we had another airshow, and this time we had a fearless stunt pilot from Paris. Adolphe Péguod was in Berlin ! His flying skill was wonderful to say the least. He could figure eight, loop the loop, and his spiral of death caused many a faint heart to stop. I was so impressed by him that I wanted to prove before others that I too could fly like Pèguod. So one evening in August, I asked Melli if I could stunt around with her small monoplane. She looked at me, smiled, and forced me to sign a waiver in case I ended up hurting myself. I signed and went to the aircraft.
The monoplane started easily and I took off and climbed to 500m. I started with figure eights while climbing to 1000m. I wanted to start a loop by pushing my nose down but became quite afraid by the sudden speed and noise of the wires and pulled up on the column. To this day no one knows why or how such things happen, but I started to spiral or “spin” as they call it now. I had lost control and the airfield was getting closer real fast. I just panicked and pushed and pulled everything, at the same time too. The monoplane straightened itself up but I was right on top of shed #7 and crashed into it.
When I regained consciousness, I found myself in the hospital. I seem to of broken my left ankle, that has forced me to limp till this day. A suspected spinal injury was also the cause of many a sleepless night as well. To make matters worse, Melli came by to wish me luck and that I shouldn't worry about the Monoplane, but that our working relationship was now ending. I had to go back to Stuttgart, and my father.
Funny how one moment can change your life. I resigned to my fate, took a job in my fathers firm and started an apprenticeship as a fine tool maker...... And then the war started.
Like all young men I jumped to volunteer. My mothers heart was broken, and my father, the socialist, saw no need for me to run off and be slaughtered for some Kaiser. And why not, with a war coming, medical equipment and supplies would be in great demand. But I could not see myself just sitting in a room when a whole generation marched on without me. In Dezember 1914, I was turned down as being medically unfit for service and that I was doing the Kaiser a greater service with the job that I already had.
By mid 1915, after the slaughter of so many men, the Kaiser needed even more of my generation to maim and kill. I applied again. This time I said that I wanted to fly and that I already owned a pilots license. And so, after weeks of waiting, here I am now at the Aviatik Militaer-Fliegerschule in Freiburg.
p.s...Had to cut this story short. After starting it I could see this chapter turning into a whole book!