Good stuff! Raine, sad to see youth wasted so soon. RIP pilot Moore. Dramatic screenshot!
Hasse, looks like Julius is in for some serious work any day now!
CHAPTER TEN - NEW PILOTS, KONRAD TAKES A SPIN, A VICTORY OF SORTS
Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal June 27th, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun. KEK Sivry
Konrad entered the mess that morning to find new faces among them.
"Ah, von Blumenthal", Boelcke beckoned him over to his table. "Meet Leutnant Carl Haller and Oberleutnant Stefan Kirmaier". Konrad leaned over to shake hands with both men. Just at that moment another new face entered the room. "So, Bruno, finally, you're here, you old devil!", exclaimed Boelcke, clearly pleased to see the new arrival. All three men rose from their seats, ignoring Konrad for the moment as they turned to greet the latest member of the "Fokkerstaffel", as it had recently become known. This man was Bruno Loerzer, a pilot with a growing reputation and two victories to his name already. Konrad recognized him from pictures he'd seen in the newspapers. The squad was clearly ramping up for something important.
Out on the field the new Halberstadts were lined up and waiting. Konrad knew now the real reason why he wasn't flying one. Strunze was still unfit to rejoin, but clearly the new men were reckoned to be superior pilots to himself. His own EIV sat at the end of the line of Halbs, looking small and lonely, the odd craft out. Konrad climbed into the cockpit muttering to himself as the mechanic spun the propeller and the engine coughed into life. Moments later they were in the air, on their way to escort a lone Aviatik on a reconnaissance of the front at Etain. Konrad wondered if they'd meet those Nieuports again, and resolved not to run this time. After all, he thought to himself bitterly, he had all these brave men in the shiny new Halberstadts to look out for him!
However, within minutes, Konrad's mood lifted. He found that his Eindecker was more than capable of keeping up with the new machines. As for firepower, Konrad would rather have his twin Spandaus than the one machine gun mounted awkwardly to one side, as was the case with the Halberstadt. Perhaps the next few weeks weren't going to be so bad after all!
They had been patrolling around Etain for about ten minutes, while the Aviatik did it's work, when suddenly Boelcke banked hard to the left and started to climb. Konrad looked up and saw a dark speck descending toward them. Nieuports, again. Two of them it seemed. Well then, four against two! No reason not to get into this scrap. He followed Boelcke up and around to meet the threat. Very quickly the Nieuports split up and two separate dogfights began. Konrad sized things up and went after the second enemy aircraft, which was already being pursued by one of the Halbs. Down he went and to his great surprise, he found himself with a shooting opportunity soon afterward, as the Frenchman turned and flew right across his path, being chased by the Halb. Konrad tried quickly to turn to follow, but in doing so, misjudged his application of the rudder and immediately found, to his horror, that he had put his machine into a spin! Trying to stay calm, Konrad manipulated the stick, blipped the engine and was at last able to recover, looping and then climbing at the last moment, as the ground rushed up to meet him. He had no time to think about his near-miss, glancing to his left and seeing the battle continue. He banked back toward the fight and managed to get a couple of bursts on the Frenchman who immediately dived toward no man's land below. Konrad thought he saw several puffs of smoke... the Frenchman was nowhere to be seen.... had he just downed his first victim? Excitedly he looked around, but thought it wise not to spend too much time this low over the lines. He climbed away to the north east, back to the comparative safety of the foret de Spincourt. Unable to locate any of his flight members, he landed at Spincourt field.
When he finally arrived back at Sivry, he was eagerly greeted by his new mechanic.
"Sir! You're wanted in the office, immediately!". Konrad wondered what could be the matter. He didn't bother to get changed, but headed straight acroos the field to report in.
Boelcke was sitting at his desk. Loerzer and Kirmaier were standing to one side and they turned to look at him as he entered.
"Oh, von Blumenthal, you're back!", said Bolecke. "We received a report that a French craft went down over the lines eariler today, in the vicinity of our little go around." He paused, leaning forward with an inquisitive look on his face and continued. You don't think you might have winged one, do you?". Konrad felt a lump develop in his throat.
"Erm, I think I might have sir", he replied tentatively.
"Hmmm. Did you actually see it go down?"
"Well, yes sir! Well, I mean, I-I-I-I saw the smoke, sir, from the crash!" Konrad stammered. He was in too deep to change course at this point. Boelcke stroked his chin.
"Because you see, your fellow pilots here do not feel they have sufficient confidence to make a claim for themselves, given the hectic circumstances at the time." He leaned back in his chair. "But apparently, you do", Konrad felt his knees buckle slightly, but he held his nerve.
"Yes, sir", he replied, firmly. There was silence all around, for what seemed like an eternity to Konrad, until the Hauptmann finally spoke again.
"Very well, we shall put in a claim for you and see what transpires. All three pilots saluted smartly and marched out of the office. Outside, Haller turned to Konrad.
"Well, that's exciting for you, von Blumenthal. Let's see if it goes through, eh? First victory?", Konrad was almost in too much shock to be able to respond, but he managed a small nod. "Fingers crossed, then.", Haller gave him a slightly amused smile, nudged him in the chest with his fist and turned to walk to the mess. Konrad didn't know what to think. Had he really scored his first victory?