Lou, pull rank? Gaston is still getting used to it. They keep changing so fast. At this rate he should make general by 1917. Looks like Swany is on vacation, gallivanting all over England with no Hun in sight. By the time they decide to send No. 70 to the front, the Strutter will become obsolete. Can’t wait for those Brits to make up their minds to come across the Channel and help.
3 May, 1916 05:45
Feldwebel Hans Grünn was sipping his morning coffee. It was still warm and the mug kept his hands toasty. 750 meters above the ground the air was chilly despite a fine May morning. The Drachen he was occupying with Gefreiter Schultz was overlooking the northern part of Madine Lake in the back end of the St. Mihiel salient. He was looking forward to taking a dip in the lake later today. The brisk swim in the cold water was always invigorating. “- Hey Junge! What are you scribbling down there? Another love letter to that French chippie?” The young Gefreiter sitting on the floor of the balloon basket with his back propped against the wall, was writing on a notepad in his lap. He pulled himself away from his work with an annoyed look on his face, “- She’s Belgian, not French.” “- Bah! You say sauerkraut, I say pickled cabbage. Give me a Bavarian wench that can handle my Bratwurst! You know what I mean?” The older soldier made a loop out of his thumb and forefinger by touching the fingertips together, then pierced the loop with the forefinger of his other hand. He made rude noises while reciprocating the finger inside the makeshift ring. Schultz rolled his eyes and got back to his letter. Feldwebel Grünn was already amusing himself elsewhere with his daily practical joke: “- Let’s see what we’ve got in our bag today.” Every day he would bring an object and drop it on the unsuspecting Flak battery crew below. If the object missed, laughter and mocking taunts would be heard from below. If the object found its mark, very often the response would be several blows to the tether cable with a metal mallet. The vibrations would upset the balance of the balloon and the occupants. More often than not laughter was the typical response to Feldwebel’s pranks. “- Aha! An army boot!” Grünn pulled the shoe out of his bag with exaggerated theatrics and begun to aim at the head of one of the soldier’s below. “- Do you hear this?” The young German raised his head from his notepad. “It sounds like an aero engine.” “- Nah, I don’t hear anything. You must be imagining it. Now stop moving or you’re going to throw my aim off!” The old German was holding the boot by the shoelaces over the side of the basket. “- No, seriously. I can hear an engine!” Schultz insisted. “- Maybe the flyboys across the lake at Thiaucourt aerodrome are starting their day early today?” Hans Grünn was lining up his line of sight along the shoestring. He kept the other eye firmly shut. “Just a few degrees to the right ...” “- Listen, listen! It’s not an Oberursel! I can tell the difference!” The young man was on his feet. The two men were listening intently. The rumble of the engine was getting closer and then it stopped. Silence. A violet silhouette of a Nieuport emerged from the clouds hanging over the balloon. The silence was replaced by the dreaded “whoosh” of Le Prieur rockets being fired. “- Mein lieber Gott!”
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."