Feldwebel Lazlo Halász, KeK Nord, Bertincourt, France August 20th 1916
Lazlo was born in the small Croatian fishing village of Gradac. His mother struggled desperately in bringing her first born into the world, since Lazlo weighed only slightly less than five kg. He measured 22 inches from the top of his head to his feet. The neighbour that delivered him swore she had never seen a baby as large in her entire life, and she had delivered a number of babies during her time. At birth he'd had a shock of reddish ginger hair which only became a deeper red as grew up. As a young man, Lazlo would frighten his fellow fisherman whenever he boarded one of their boats, due to the sudden rocking back and forth that he would cause.
"My god, Lazlo, you're going to sink us all!", his uncle would complain, but he was used to these kinds of things being said. He would simply smile and get on with things. No one dared to annoy him for fear of what he might do in response, and yet, no one had ever seen him lose his temper. He was truly a gentle giant.
When the war finally commenced, Lazlo's village immediately and unavoidably became swept up by it. A base was established just along the coast and the Austro Hungarian military had plans to fight the Italians from the air, using flying boats. They had the pilots, but what they needed were observers capable of managing things at sea, should the planes have to "ditch" for any reason. Lazlo was fascinated by all the activity at the base and would often wander down the road to stand and look through the fence at these incredible "airboats". The first time that he saw one take off he was enthralled. It captured his imagination to the extent that he just knew he had to fly in one. As luck would have it, one of the base commanders came to their village one day in search of able bodied seamen looking for adventure. They could hardly hold Lazlo back! At first the commander was a little unsure due to Lazlo's sheer physical size, but he eventually agreed to enlist him in the observer training course. Such was his keeness and determination to fly that he quickly completed the requisite training. Two months later he was in the air, hurling incendiary devices over the side of his Lohner type L seaplane and manning the machine gun to ward off any approaching enemy craft. His finest hour came when, after experiencing engine trouble, the pilot of the machine he was in had to make an emergency landing almost 20 miles off the coast, hitting his head and falling unconscious in the process. Lazlo, unaided, had rowed the seaplane back to shore. He was hailed as a hero for accomplishing this mighty feat. Over the course of the next year, Lazlo seized his chances to pilot the seaplane and gradually learned how to fly. He became quite adept and eventually his commander encouraged him to apply to join Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches.
It was August of 1916 and Lazlo found himself comically wedged into the sidecar of a motorbike being driven at speed through the French countryside, his legs dangled outside the passenger compartment. He hoped there would be a little more room in the Fokker Eindecker that he was to be assigned to. They were five miles from Berrtincourt when the engine began to cough and splutter. They pulled to the side of the road. Lazlo would have to walk the rest of the way.....
To be continued......
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