I've been terribly busy with real life, but here's finally a new entry for Julius. Then I'll have to do some catching up with all the other stories posted here during my absence... I know they'll be worth it.
There have been some organizational changes in Julius's outfit, and soon he will get his opportunity to fly an Eindecker! But that will be the topic of another story...
8. BACK IN BUSINESS
“You cannot wage war with sentimentality. The more ruthlessly war is conducted, the more merciful is it in fact, for it finishes the war the sooner.”
- Paul von Hindenburg (1914)
March 2, 1916.
Julius sat on an uncomfortable wooden bench in the hallway of the army field hospital at Bapaume. He had been staying at the hospital since his crash on February 21st. Now he was finally declared fit for service, and had already checked out at the hospital office. A car had been sent from the Abteilung to take him back to the field at Bertincourt. Julius hated hospitals, and this one had been even worse than the army hospital in Königsberg. The concussion had troubled him for only a few days, but the doctors had refused to let him rejoin his unit and begin flying again until they were absolutely sure he had suffered no long-term injury which would impair his senses.
The hospital reminded Julius of a factory. It functioned in three shifts around the clock, treating a continuous stream of patients flowing in from the sector of the 2. Armee. Yet it wasn’t even a so-called busy sector of the front right now; nevertheless, the patients just kept coming in. The concussion had been uncomfortable, but Julius’s injury was insignificant compared to the horrible mutilations some of the men being treated there had suffered in the trenches. If there was any chivalry left in war, it was not of the kind he had read about in adventure books aimed at youngsters.
The door to the hallway opened, interrupting the dark thoughts of Julius. He looked and saw a familiar figure standing in the doorway - Leutnant Leffers! Julius felt instantly better. “Gustav! Over here!” Julius yelled and stood up quickly. Leffers noticed him, smiled, and with a few brisk steps he was shaking hands with Julius.
“Good to see you, old fellow! We heard they’ve had enough of you here, so we thought it best to send a car to pick you up. Since the weather is no good for flying, I volunteered for the job. How are you doing?” Julius was now also smiling. “I’m fine - have been for a few days now. But only now they let me go. I was nearly bored to death.”
“I believe you. Well, the sooner we leave, the quicker you can get back to flying! Weather permitting, of course. It has been downright terrible in the past few days. You haven’t really missed much, staying here with the nurses.”
“Very funny. You know I’m not like that. Now let’s get out of here!” Julius had no personal belongings to speak of with him, so the two men simply walked out of the building. The weather was indeed bad, with wet snow pouring down from the dark clouds. The small Mercedes car of the Abteilung was parked nearby. The men quickly walked to the car and Julius helped Gustav to start it. Soon they were leaving the premises of the field hospital and driving along the Bapaume road towards Bertincourt.
“This weather is crap! I hope we’ll manage to stay on the road!” Leffers grumbled as the car slipped dangerously when they were passing a horse transport column on its way to the front. Eventually, the going became easier, and the men were able to relax and talk about things.
“So Hauptmann Viebig won’t be kicking me out for wrecking the Aviatik? And I'm still getting a chance to fly one of the new Fokkers we've now received from the depot?”
“Of course not, and yes, you’ll be getting your chance to fly a monoplane now just like everybody else. You’re not the first, nor the last, pilot to lose a plane in this war. It’s easy to buy a new crate; but it’s much harder to train a new aviator. Fortunately your head was thick enough to survive the blow!”
“I’m not even sure what happened. We were flying as usual, with Max getting ready to some photographs of the British lines, and then all of a sudden the engine went crazy and began to spurt out oil everywhere. I couldn’t see well because of it, and the landing was terrible.” Julius grimaced at the memory.
“It happens. You know how I wrecked that Fokker last autumn? Viebig wasn’t too happy about it, but at least I suffered no injuries. Experiencing sudden mechanical failures is just one of the perks of being an aviator!” Leffers winked and grinned at Julius. “Oh! I almost forgot. I have a couple of letters for you that were delivered while you were away. Maybe you’d like read them now. After all, it’s going to take a while on this road to get to the field.” Leffers reached for his pocket and pulled out a small stack of papers. “Sure, why not.” Julius accepted the letters and studied them. There was one letter from Leni, another from Tante Emmi of Königsberg (probably chastising Julius again for not writing often enough) - and a postcard from his brother Hermann. Printed on it was a painting of one of the Metz fortresses in Lothringen. Julius turned the card over and read the short note written on it, apparently with great haste, because normally his brother had an excellent hand.
Julius was silent for a while, and then spoke with a hint of worry in his voice.
“It’s from Hermann. His company is going to Verdun.”
"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