Congrats, Fullofit! I can sympathize with you having to fly a mediocre plane. Julius is still equipped with the ancient Fokker E.III, which is by now entirely useless against anything but the Fees and Quirks. I can only hope he survives long enough to get one of those fancy new Halberstadt scouts...


“Of human virtues, patience is most great.”

- Cato the Elder

Bertincourt, June 11, 1916.

Julius was nervously pacing back and forth in the Abteilungführer’s office building. This had become a regular event in recent weeks. After a successful air combat, Julius would send a victory claim to the 2. Armee headquarters, where the claim would then be rejected with depressing certainty. Reasons of rejection varied, but the main argument against confirmation was typically the fact that Julius’s victim had gone down too far behind the wrong side of the lines, making it impossible for friendly ground troops to send a positive witness report. Julius was extremely frustrated by the situation, but he knew it was useless to struggle against the strict regulations of the Fliegertruppen.

Suddenly the telephone rang. The officer on duty picked up the receiver. Julius stopped his pacing and waited impatiently for the conversation to end. He didn’t have to wait for long. The expression on the face of the duty officer already told him what to expect from the call.

“Another rejection, right?”

“I’m afraid so. The forward observation post of the 52. Division did indeed saw a British two-seater descending towards southwest above the Bapaume-Albert road, but they didn’t actually see the machine crash.” The duty officer sounded apologetic, even though it wasn’t his fault that the army headquarters had again decided to reject Julius’s victory claim.

“Of course they didn’t! Now I did shoot its engine to pieces and even saw the propeller stop, but I suppose the observer then climbed on to the nose of the machine and repaired the engine, after which they both flew happily back home!”

“I’m sorry, Julius.” The duty officer replied to Julius’s outburst with a sympathetic voice, which made the frustrated aviator instantly regret his sudden loss of temper.

“No, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. This is just so very frustrating. But I’ll have to keep trying. And the British won’t run out of planes any time soon!” Julius managed to smile at the duty officer, despite his latest great disappointment.

Julius left the office building and walked back to his quarters in the brick house at a brisk pace. Weather was turning bad again, with dark clouds gathering above the field. The sky seemed like a reflection of his grim mood. Entering the building, Julius met two of his comrades, Leutnant Gustav Leffers and Offizierstellvertreter Martin Zander. The men were packing their backs in preparation for a trip to Berlin, where they had been ordered to test new fighter designs of Fokker and Halberstadt.

“How did it go?” Leffers was stuffing something into his pack and looked up as Julius entered the room.

“Business as usual. The ground observers saw the Blériot descend towards Albert, but that’s it. No positive confirmation.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. But don’t lose heart! Eventually, your luck has to turn.” Leffers spoke encouragingly to Julius.

“I can only hope it does! I’m starting to feel that the only way to get confirmation is to force an Englishman to land down next to the headquarters and then politely request him to write a letter of recommendation for me!" Julius sounded more dejected than he had intended.

Maul halten und weiter dienen[1], eh?” Zander said and grinned at Julius. If looks could kill, the one that Julius gave him would have been instantly fatal.

“Don’t push your luck, Martin! Now be a good lad and help me fix this strap. I haven’t used my pack in ages and it looks like something, or somebody, has eaten parts of it.”

“It must have been that mean-looking mechanic from Stuttgart. Let me see it…” Zander was distracted by Leffers’s request and didn’t try to annoy Julius any further. At that moment, the door opened and Hauptmann Viebig stepped inside. He was carrying a piece of paper in his left hand.

“At ease, gentlemen. Schreck, I have a telegram for you here. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting reading!” There was a curious look on the old eagle’s face.

Julius accepted the telegram. It had been sent from the Prussian Ministry of War in Berlin and contained only a few lines, which Julius quickly read. The message left him speechless for a while, so Martin eventually broke the silence. “Well, what does it say?”

Julius turned to look at him. “It says…” Julius paused for a moment. “It says that my brother[2] has been awarded the Pour le Mérite.”

There was a stunned silence. Then the men burst out laughing and congratulated Julius for his brother’s great honour. Julius himself could only think of how impossible it would now be for him to live up to his father’s expectations.

[1] An old German and Austrian army saying, roughly translated as "Shut up and carry on." Reflects how a soldier is expected to display fortitude and stoicism in the face of adversity.
[2] Julius's brother Hermann, who was a career officer in the Prussian army and currently leading a company of infantry at Verdun.

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"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