Some of your pilots are already well on their way to becoming aces! It's interesting how much action they are seeing. In Julius's career at FFA 32 in Bertincourt, it feels like a very different kind of war. I actually prefer it that way, because things will become so deadly as the war progresses. Already in mid 1916, the skies will be full of fighter squadrons, making life miserable for two-seater pilots.
I'm glad there have been no fatalities yet. Once you really get to know the DID pilots, it's always unfortunate when one of them becomes a casualty of war.
Anyway, here's my latest entry...
“We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland. All the same, we are not often sad.”
- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929).
Late January, 1916.
Having spent three weeks flying daily missions (weather permitting) with the Aviatiks of Feldflieger-Abteilung 32, life had settled down into a rather comfortable routine for Julius. Up in the air, one could almost imagine there was no war being fought at all - at least until one looked down and saw the trenches and shellholes spreading across the landscape like scars left by some hideous disease on the face of Mother Earth. The job of the Abteilung involved mostly photographic reconnaissance over enemy lines and rear positions and directing the artillery fire of the guns of XIV. Reserve-Korps in the Cambrai sector. Occasionally they dropped bombs on enemy positions, but it was intended as more of a nuisance to the British than as a serious attempt to harm their forces. The bombs were simply too small and their method of delivery too inaccurate to cause damage worth mentioning to the “Tommies” covering in their trenches.
Since his first encounter with a British B.E. 2 on early January, Julius had spotted enemy machines on several occasions. However, none of them had been looking for trouble, and because the job of the Aviatiks was not to hunt enemy airplanes, Julius and his observers had never attempted to intercept the British machines. It was almost like an unwritten agreement between the opposing forces to not bother each other unless absolutely necessary. Only the hunting missions of the Abteilung’s two Fokkers, flown by Leutnant Leffers and Offizierstellvertreter Martin Zander (another rising star of the Fliegertruppen) disrupted this peaceful coexistence in the sky. Leffers had managed to shoot down another B.E. 2 on January 19th, but the machine had gone down behind enemy lines, so the victory remained unconfirmed. Leffers had been disappointed, but he had nevertheless completed the mission assigned to the Fokker pilots: to drive the enemy two-seaters away from German lines.
Julius was enjoying his work as a pilot. Finally he felt like he was doing something useful for the war effort instead of just waiting in the safety of some training centre far from the front. The Army postal service was doing a good job with delivering letters to and from the Abteilung, and Julius was always excited to read words of encouragement from the letters Leni wrote her.
However, there were rumours circulating of a possible new offensive already being planned by the High Command. Were they only rumours? Or was the current rather peaceful situation in the West only the calm before the storm?
Only time would tell. In any case, Julius was firmly determined to do his best and not let down the expectations of his father, come hell or high water.
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps