Wulfe - hope your man's hangover wasn't too painful.
Fullofit - you didn't happen to encounter a couple of Eindeckers over the lines on June 3rd did you? I could swear it was Violette that knocked Konrad over!
CHAPTER THREE - AN AIRMAN RETURNS, SEVERAL CAUDRONS GO DOWN... AND SO DOES KONRAD
Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal June 3, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun. KEK Sivry
Konrad was up early. He looked over at Strunze's cot. Empty. The pilot had failed to return from yesterday afternoon's sortie across le foret de Belnoue and up around the war ravaged city of Verdun. Last evening, after a moment of sympathetic concern, Konrad had hardened. Good riddance, he thought. The man had a way of getting on Konrad's nerves. He got up, washed and dressed for the day before wandering across to the canteen, whistling softly to himself. No sooner had he assembled his plate and sat down, a bedraggled and bleary eyed Strunze stumbled into the room. His fellow pilots jumped up to welcome him, all except for Konrad, who stayed at his table, chewing lethargically on his array of breads and cold meats. "What happened to you? We though you were lost!" Excited voices all clamored at once for answers. Strunze smiled wearily. "I was lost! For a while at least. I thought I was going to have to put down near the lake south west of Etain. My engine was making some very strange noises, but I eventually managed to get across to the safety of our lines. I left her under the watchful eyes of our troops there and made my way home. Had to walk several miles in darkness." At that moment, Bolecke entered the canteen and barked his orders. "Everyone outside! We have work to do! You too, Strunze. You look dreadful. Get cleaned up first and be quick about it". "Sir!" replied Strunze, saluting sharply. Ugh, thought Konrad, what an idiot. I guess I'll have to suffer him some more. Maybe next next time he won't come back!
Their morning patrol took them north to their own airfield at Stenay. Konrad was improving his ability to stay in formation, holding closely to Hptmn Boelcke's right plane, but he would still get left behind once Boelcke adjusted the mixture on his EIV to gain speed. Konrad had just caught back up to the formation when he spotted puffs of artillery fire over the rail depot south of Stenay. He felt pleased that he had spotted them even before Boelcke, who was some way ahead of him, and was turning toward the smoke to see what was going on. Konrad turned also and soon spotted another Eindecker down low, in pursuit of a much larger craft. As he got closer Kondrad identified it as a Caudron G4. It was already in serious trouble and as Konrad neared, he watched it plunge into rail tracks and explode, emitting a huge tower of black smoke. Kondrad smiled at the thought of one day sending one of these beasts into the ground himself. While he'd been witnessing all this, his formation had disappeared. He circled the area and decided to head up to the field at Stenay. There he found Ltnt. Loerzer in the process of landing, so he joined him. "Everything OK, sir?" Konrad inquired. "Yes, fine thank you young man, just a few holes." "Well, congratulations on the Caudron,sir!" "Not mine, actually, von Zastrow's. He gets the credit for that one."
The two pilots waited for their transport back to Sivry, enjoying some chilled lemonade, sitting in the warm June sunshine. They got back around 1pm.
A quick lunch and then back out for the afternoon patrol of enemy lines east of Verdun. After nearly an hour of flying in clear, quiet skies, they turned for home. Konrad began having fond thoughts of an evening meal comprised of Bratwurst and beer when he was jolted back to reality. Ahead of him he saw Boelcke, Mallinckrodt and Strunze turning to dive. He quickly scanned below and saw two more Caudrons. He hurried to join the pursuit but Boelcke, with his more powerful engine, was there in a flash. In just moments it was all over for the French 2 seaters. Boelcke turned away to the north east and Konrad dropped down in formation behind him. No sooner was that excitement over than Konrad happened to glance upward, horrified to see two biplanes preparing to swoop down upon them. The Caudrons must have had an escort, he suddenly realized! The very next moment a hail of bullets whipped by him, his windscreen stopping two of them. They must have passed inches from his head but he had no time to think about. Jinking the unwieldy Eindecker from left to right using the rudder control and diving rapidly toward the ground below, Konrad had but a moment to peek over the right side of the cockpit at his compass. More bullets zipped past him as he corrected course in a vain attempt to get further north over the lines. He knew he had to put down or risk getting shot to pieces by the aggressive enemy scouts. He managed a landing in no man's land and sat stock still in shock, looking up as his pursuer circled away. He studied his assailant who was now climbing into the setting sun and thought it might be a Nieuport of some kind...with purple planes? His thoughts were interrupted as in the next moment, urgent French voices were shouting at him and he was dragged from the cockpit and manhandled to the nearby trench. "Vite, vite!" was the cry as they now came under fire from the opposing trenches! Konrad was bundled over the edge where he fell, unceremoniously, on his backside. So much for bratwurst and beer! He'd be lucky if got any supper at all!
Once the French soldiers had determined that Konrad was fit enough to be moved, they tied a blindfold around his eyes and marched him through the trench system, eventually emerging some 200 metres behind the lines, finally depositing him in a field latrine and locking the door from the outside. Konrad retched from the odor, trying not to puke. He could hear urgent voices seemingly discussing what was to be done with him, but soon all went quiet, except for the ever present sound of shells bursting some distance away. Through a crack in the door, Konrad could see it was getting dark. No one had even thought to tie his hands and feet, so he knew he had a chance to escape before anyone returned. He dug furiously with his bare hands at the earth underneath the doorway and finally managed to wriggle out on his belly. Then followed an extremely tense crawl across no man's land. As he neared the German side he began an urgent but subdued request for help. "Don't shoot! I'm an escaped airman! I was shot down earlier this evening. You must have seen, please don't shoot!" Suddenly out of the darkness two German soldiers rushed up and grabbed him. For the second time today he was hurled into a trench, only this time he was actually delighted about it. Konrad would live to fly another day......