Feldwebel Lazlo Halász, KeK Nord, Bertincourt, France August 21st 1916
"Mein Gott im himmel!", exclaimed Von Keudell, staring intently out of the officer's mess window into the fading evening light. "It's like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale!",
"Your favourite author", quipped Leffers, getting up from his armchair to take a look. "Oh my goodness, he must be at least 2 metres tall. Probably weighs all of 140Kgs! Who the devil is he?",
"Well, they said we had a new fellow coming in today. He was supposed to be here already. Croatian chap, supposedly comes with an interesting background, flying 2-seater sea planes over the adriatic". The two pilots watched as Lazlo made his way over to the office. He had to duck his head to be able to get inside. Leffers punched his friend's arm playfully and made his way back to the armchair.
"I think this fellow's going to provide us with some fun!". He sat down and reopened his newspaper.
Lazlo was trying to explain his reasons for being so late to report and was getting a little flustered in the process. The duty officer wasn't making things any easier for him.
"Your German is terrible! Your accent is so difficult to understand. And how did you ever manage to get so big?"
"God decides on these things", replied Lazlo thoughtfully. "I am what I am. How did he make you so small?".
"Are you trying to be funny with me?", snapped the man, thrusting some papers at Lazlo. "Sit over there and fill those out for me". His accent was bad but his reading and writing in German was even worse. Thirty minutes later he handed back the partially completed forms. The duty officer scanned them quickly, muttered under his breath and placed them in his "to do" pile. "Go on then, get over to the mess and introduce yourself. Your quarters are hut D. You are sharing with Breuer. You'll fly an EIII.....IF you can fit into it!". Lazlo left the office and crossed the field in the direction the duty officer has pointed to. The door opened before he could reach for the handle.
"Greetings, welcome to Kek Nord!". Von Keudell offered his hand and stared up at Lazlo, who towered above him, even from the lower step of the mess. Lazlo's firm grip completely engulfed the pilot's hand. "Hey, steady on, that's my stick hand!", the pilot yelped.
"Oh, please forgive me. It was not my intention to hurt you!" Lazlo looked crestfallen. He was intensely aware of the need to build friendships with these men. Not a good start. "People say I don't know my own strength", he offered.
"I'll bet they do", replied Von Keudell, standing aside to let Lazlo enter and shaking his hand from the pain. Lazlo stepped inside, straighted himslef and removed his hat to reveal a mass of unkempt orange. A series of astonished murmurs went around the mess.
"Der Grosse Rot Reise!", someone whispered in awe. The name stuck immediately. Someone else called out,
"Hey, Big Red, come in and sit down, but don't break the furniture!" That set all the men off laughing and Lazlo smiled, relaxing slightly. He found himself a place to sit and spent the next two hours telling stories of his war adventures thus far. After far too many drinks and with a little help from his room mate, Lazlo found his way to hut D.
"You'd better take the bottom bunk, I suppose. I'll switch", said Breuer. "I don't want you crashing down on me in the middle of the night!"
Lazlo fell almost immediately asleep, too tired to even brush his teeth.