CHAPTER TWELVE - BACK FROM THE SLOPES. TANGLING WITH SOME GIANTS.
Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal July 14th, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun. Fokkerstaffel Sivry
Konrad leaned back in his seat, smiling to himself, as the train trundled gradually north toward the Belgian border. Immediately after his father’s funeral had concluded, he had upset his mother by declaring his intention to visit his old school friend, Otto, in Zermatt.
“I’m sorry mother but I have very limited time before I have to get back to my unit”.
“Yes, but why can’t you spend it here with me?”.
“Frankly, because I’d be bored stiff! Besides, I haven’t seen Otto in over ten years and he has just sent me this telegram to say that the glacier is open for skiing, so I simply have to go, don’t you see?”. He waved the piece of paper in front of his mother impatiently.
“So, you’ll be enjoying yourself in the mountains while your poor mother has to grieve alone”, she pouted.
“Nonsense. You’ll be partying with all the other widows, rejoicing in your new found freedom! I know full well that papa was a weight around your neck. He certainly never had a kind word for me and I expect it was similar for you too.” His mother gave him a mock look of disdain and he knew he was right.
Konrad made good use of the rest of his time away from the unit. He and Otto had managed to get in several runs each day, over the period of a week, and he was feeling refreshed by the mountain air. As the countryside rolled by he contemplated his return to the war, wondering if that blasted man Strunze had made it out of the hospital yet. Eventually, after a long journey, Konrad found himself back in Sivry. His hut showed evidence that, indeed, his room mate had returned, although he wasn’t actually there at this moment. Konrad growled to himself. A pity. He’d enjoyed his privacy while that annoying man had been laid up in a hospital bed. Oh well, all good things come to an end, he thought. He changed his clothes and made his way over to the office to report in.
Strunze had apparently been given leave, and was still recovering from his wounds, but would be back in the air soon. Konrad learned that nothing else terribly exciting had happened during his absence. Their field had been attacked a couple of times by that fearless purple Frenchman and his cronies, but other than that, it had been quiet.
The next morning they went up and Konrad had to get used to his new Eindecker once more. It was so much more powerful that the Halberstadts that the rest of the unit were flying. He wondered why they were deploying these machines instead, and was in no hurry to move to one himself. He soon got comfortable with his mount again, and became excited when his unit encountered a pair of those lumbering French 2 seaters. As usual, they had to climb to reach the slow giants. Konrad was the first to get there, due to the EIV’s superior climb rate. He should have waited for support but decided to approach the pair, keeping low and behind. His first pass was quite successful and he managed to put a few bullets into the Caudron before breaking off. However, on his second approach he caught some return fire. Nothing too serious, but with a couple of holes in his windshield, he decided to withdraw.
That afternoon they went up again and encountered yet another pair of Caudrons. Konrad thought he might fare better this time, but the results were similar, only this time he managed to keep his windshield intact. However, a stray shot from the rear gunner of one of the machines had nicked his fuel tank. Konrad could see the telltale vapor trail over his left shoulder and decided, once again, that caution was the best policy. He returned to Sivry for repairs.
The next day, gathered in the office, they were given news that shocked them all: the fearless French fighter pilot, Gaston Voscadeaux, the "purple terror" as he was known by the Fatherland, had been killed! A decision had already been made to fly over the Frenchman’s field and drop a wreath, in condolence and as a mark of respect. Konrad was not in favor of this, but he kept his concerns to himself. It was true that the French had done the same when Immelmann had met his end. However, it's simply a waste of flowers, thought Konrad, just as he had at his own father’s funeral. He turned his mind quickly back to the matter of engaging those 2 seaters. He needed a better strategy…..