Feldwebel Lazlo Halász, KeK Nord, Bertincourt, France August 22nd 1916
Leffers and Von Keudell stood by the hangars gazing out at the line of craft being readied for action. The former was dressed in his flying suit, the latter was taking the day off. He planned to indulge in a spot of fishing later, since the weather promised a warm day.
"This should be interesting", Von Kuedell nudged Leffers in the ribs. "Do you think he'll manage to get into the thing?". Out on the field two mechanics were bending and locking their hands together to form a human step lift. Lazlo towered over both of them, his hands resting on their shoulders for support, as he prepared to climb up to the cockpit. As soon as he attempted to do so, the two mechanics collapsed to the ground, unable to take the weight of the man for more than just a few seconds. Lazlo, apologizing profusely, hauled each of them back to their feet in one swift motion. The two pilots at the edge of the field marveled at the strength of the giant man. Von Kuedell turned and headed into the hangar behind him.
"This requires a better solution". He marched back out again a few moments later with a long step ladder balanced on his shoulder and headed over to the Eindecker where the three men were stood, scratching their heads and wondering what to do next. "Here! Try this!", Von Keudell called out. Together they set the ladder up next to the machine. Lazlo tentatively mounted the first few rungs while the mechanics and Von Keudell did their best to steady it. Lazlo went a few rungs higher and reached out toward the plane's cockpit. As he did so, the ladder buckled underneath him and he was pitched head first toward the fuselage. Somehow he managed to hang on and was able to scramble forward and swing his legs down into the body of the machine. Once seated, Lazlo found that there was precious little room for him. His girth wasn't the problem. It was the length of his body and legs that were. Getting his feet onto the rudder plates entailed having his knees bent at an extremely uncomfortable angle, and there was hardly any room to move the stick. However, he was finally ready for his first flight with schwarm zwei. Breuer waved to him cheerfully from the Eindecker next to Lazlo, trying to encourage him. Von Keudell had already retreated back to the hangar to wish Leffers good luck, and from there he watched as, one by one, the craft took to the air. First it was Leffers in his Halberstadt. Lazlo's EIII lumbered over the grass and eventually the nose lifted and he began his ascent. Satisfied, Von Keudell turned toward his hut to fetch his fishing pole.
Lazlo gazed at the glorious countryside spreading out all around him. He was managing to stay in formation quite well but his knees were already aching from their cramped position and his shoulders hurt from being overly tensed up. Nevertheless, he was very content, a smile stretched across his broad face. Then he began singing to himself, a deep baritone humming of old folk tunes from home.
The mission took them up to their side of the lines. Lazlo felt his stomach tighten at the prospect of being near no man's land and he kept a keen eye out for unwanted visitors. He had an alarming moment when, upon hearing the sound of a concentrated barrage of shells from below, he leaned over the fuselage to try to see the bursts. The whole craft tipped sideways, causing Lazlo to momentarily panic, until he was able to correct things with some opposite rudder application. It was a finicky beast to fly but gradually Lazlo got the hang of it.
After ninety minutes or so, they headed back to Bertincourt. Lazlo tried to make a mental note of the various landmarks near their home field. His landing was not perfect, but acceptable. The mechanics were there to greet him and once again the ladder was set up for him. Lazlo found it a little easier getting down for some reason. Probably gravity related. Despite a brief wobble, the ladder held firm as he descended to the ground. With great relief, Lazlo gave each mechanic a bear hug in thanks. It was comical to watch due to their disparity in size.
That evening, Lazlo pondered way in which he might have his EIII adapted. He had some ideas and resolved to discuss with his new mechanic friends the following day. First flight under his belt, this time Lazlo did have the energy to brush his teeth before turning in for the night.
To be continued......
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