Phew, that was some catching up to do with so many reports to read! Fortunately they're all excellent and entertaining stuff. Of course I was sorry to read of our first casualty in this DID campaign. Better luck with your next pilot!
The Battle of Verdun is now happening, but things are still quiet on the sector of FFA 32. However, Julius has had some serious engine trouble...
7. ANY LANDING…
“Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide.”
- Henri Barbusse, Le Feu (1916)
February 21, 1916.
“Julius! Can you hear me?” It sounded like the soft voice of Leni, only somehow muffled. “Julius! Wake up!” Julius felt sleepy, but responded to the demanding voice and slowly turned his head towards the sound. His eyelids were heavy, but with some effort he managed to open them. It took a while for his eyes to focus. Everything was oddly blurry, but Julius thought he could see the heart-shaped face of Leni close next to him. Then she lifted her hand to touch Julius’s cheek… and suddenly she was gone. In her place, the dirty face of a young, moustachioed man appeared. Normal sounds and colours were now returning to Julius’s consciousness.
“Julius! Thank God you woke up! We went down hard and you must have hit your head. You were out for a couple of minutes. And your nose is bleeding!” Julius thought he knew this man. He was… Oberleutnant Weber? The observer?
Weber kept talking. “Can you speak? Can you stand up? The engine’s out, but there’s oil everywhere and I think we should leave the wreck before it catches fire!”
Julius attempted to speak but the words seemed to get stuck in his throat. He had a strange taste in his mouth? Was it blood? Julius coughed and managed to clear his throat. The Aviatik was down and they had to move away from it. “Max… I feel a bit wobbly, but I think I can move. Help me up!” Weber grabbed Julius under the arms and with some difficulty, succeeded in pulling him up. The wings of the Aviatik were still attached to the fuselage, but the crash had bent them into a strange position, especially on the right side of the machine. The cockpit was not in a straight line either, which actually helped Weber to lift Julius out of it. Julius felt very dizzy, but with Weber’s support he was able to slowly walk away from the wreck. The ground was covered with a layer of snow, but it was very wet, thanks to the dismal weather of recent days, which had made flying either impossible or extremely challenging. The highly variable temperature and humidity levels had possibly caused the engine failure of Julius’s Aviatik. Fortunately they had been flying behind friendly lines, so Julius had been able to bring the stricken machine quickly down. However, the landing in the soft terrain of Flanders had been anything but smooth.
Slowly but surely the two men made their way to a fence lining the road leading from the front towards Bapaume. Exhausted by the effort, Julius finally collapsed down against the fence. They were now a safe distance from the Aviatik. Julius felt like he was about to vomit. Weber supported him just in case he lost consciousness again. “You don’t look too good! But we made it this far. I can already see some Landsers coming our way. We’ll get you to a hospital! Hang in there!” Weber’s voice slowly faded away as Julius passed out for the second time.
When Julius regained his consciousness, he was lying on his back on a stretcher that was lifted up on two wooden supports. “He’s coming back now, Herr Stabsarzt.” An unknown voice spoke somewhere close to Julius. Then a portly fellow with a bald head and eyeglasses appeared next to Julius. He was wearing a green uniform and had a white band with a red cross around his left arm. The man reminded Julius of his father, except that he was fatter and shorter than the hard-boiled Prussian staff officer.
“Can you hear me?” “Yes, I can.” “Good. How many fingers do you see?” The man lifted his left hand in front of Julius’s face. “Three.” “Very good! Now that you’re back with us, I imagine you must be feeling rather confused. This is the main dressing station of 28. Reserve-Division, and you, my young friend, have just survived a hell of a crash! Fortunately you were wearing a helmet. It just may have saved your life!” The doctor stopped for a second and smiled encouragingly at Julius. “Based on what your comrade in arms told me, I presume you have suffered a concussion of the brain. But I will have to examine you better to make sure, so lie still and try to calm down.”
The doctor turned away to get some medical tools from his assistant. Something made Julius look to his left. A dark shape was lying on a stretcher some distance from him. The side nearest to him was covered by a blanket, and Julius thought he could see a pair of feet sticking out from under the other end of the blanket. The shape was not moving.
Julius turned his head away and closed his eyes.
"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