Mission No. 6 for Hauptmann Kiener
The morning of the 21st was again marked by some rather horrible weather, strong winds gusting, and low, dark clouds suffocating the landscape. The Hauptmann did not mind the clouds, but the winds, he knew, would be difficult to tolerate in the nimble Eindecker. His multi-colored one was still being repaired, and so he again took up one of the unpainted monoplanes. Hutzenlaub was to accompany. And the two resident Aviatiks would also be going up. It was to be standard fare that day - a bombing and spotting mission around the batteries parallel to Ledegem. Or, at least, that was the initial, promising idea.
No sooner had all four ascended and made a wide turn around the 'drome at Ghistelles than the Leutnant, waving to Kiener, was seen to descend with his Eindecker, towards one of the less cluttered fields below. Hutzenlaub's Oberursel was sputtering, and soon ground to a halt; fortunately, the landing was uneventful and Kiener did a couple of circles around the area, saluted, and was off to escort the Aviatiks that had both now gained considerable altitude, leaving Kiener slightly below and about a kilometer behind.
The trio proceeded this way south, to the area roughly parallel with Passchendale, when the Hauptmann spotted a solitary Nieuport drop down from the many clouds, and begin rattling away with its Lewis M.G. at the Aviatiks. Kiener was still too far behind to interfere. 'I do hope that the observers have good aims today,' he thought to himself, and was not disappointed. Return fire from the Aviatiks was heard, with the Nieuport attempting a few more attacks - before sliding away towards the right, in the direction of the lines. Kiener now followed, with good tactics, not to be spotted, and with a stable aim and patience. About 50 meters from the Nieuport, and slightly below, and nearing the lines by that point - he pressed the trigger on the control stick - to be met with silence. 'Impossible!, not now,' he groaned. Out came the miniature hammer that was stowed in the cockpit, with several hits on the Spandau, and again the trigger was depressed - and nothing. 'It is useless,' thought Kiener, 'but while I am here, let us get a good look at this fool.' And so he did, even daring to fly right next to him and raise an arm, which was also greeted with a wave from the Nieuport before the other pilot finally crossed over the lines.
'Most likely out of ammunition or another unreliable M.G.,' thought Kiener; and he then did a wide, ascending turn to head for the 'drome at Sint-Eloois-Winkle - since the winds were again unbearable, tossing the Eindecker about, and it would be too risky to attempt returning to Ghistelles now. It seemed as if it was about to rain, and then the Hauptmann began hearing a grating sound emanating from the Oberursel, with the reverberations becoming stronger and stronger. 'This is madness!,' was his next thought - 'at this rate I will be vibrated to pieces and so too will the propeller.' He immediately switched off the magnetos and closed the fuel valve to the engine. The grating disappeared, the Eindecker was still gliding, and in the fog below a field opened up, as if to greet the Hauptmann. He rolled uneventfully to a stop underneath a German observation balloon, and conveniently next to a small dwelling that housed both the balloon's maintenance crew and some telephones.
Ghistelles was rung up to indicate his whereabouts; also contacted was the closer 'drome at Sint-Eloois, which would send a fitter over later in the afternoon to repair the Oberursel. Although, with the ever-worsening weather, the Hauptmann was compelled to stay the night here. Everyone turned in early that evening - with the wind now howling outside the door of the house, and thumping repetitively at the window panes. These repetitions, however, soothed Kiener; and he was soon fast asleep.