Paul and Otto (Gerbig) attacked the Lord who went down. Paul tells me that his guns jammed again when he was firing at the Pup* at 120 meters and Otto had to finish him off. He has to report this and have those guns replaced, they’re simply useless and will get him killed.
Paul and I, along with several others, go into the Staffel’s office with Otto (Gerbig) to fill out witness forms for his claim. If confirmed, this will be his fifth.
We fill the forms out as a draft in pencil for the Uffz to type up for our signatures.
Ulrich ** looks at the forms when we hand them to him. He says to Otto, “They look alright…but your name goes at the bottom Vize.” He lines Otto’s name out. In his excitement and haste, Otto has put his name in the space that says ‘Namen der Besatzung’ (Name of the Crew). This is where the names of the enemy aircrew are placed, if known. In this case, the name of the pilot killed.**
Otto goes white.
I slap him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it Kamerad…it means nothing. Forget it.”
But I could see he would not forget about it.***
* the SE 5 is often referred to by German pilots as a Pup during this time. Strähle, in particular, seems to have this habit.
** Uffz Ulrich Heidenfeld – a fictional character is the Staffel report clerk and telephonist, now the clerk for Jagdgruppe 7 as well, since Berthold has become Gruja (Jagdgruppenführer).
***This is based on the story told by Friedrich Rüdenberg about the death of Werner Voss. It is mentioned on Osprey’s book on Jagdgeschwader 1 on page 55.
There’s little time to rest as we go up with Vater Turck again only two hours later at 1030, flying toward the Polygon Wood.
Nine of us this time, Vater, Jahns, Seppl, Auffarth, Strähle, Keller, Otto, Klein, and myself. No lower patrol.
There's a layer of stratus coming from the enemy lines, moving east driven by a strong westerly gale. We’re thrown about by the strong wind. There are showers under the clouds.
We turn toward Langemarck. As we pass over Ballonzug 2, six Bristol two-seaters pass below us and four other scouts pass about 500 meters above us. Vater does not give the signal to attack but Paul drops down on this own, as we fly on. Keller waggles his wings at me, asking if we should follow, I shake my head no.
I see Strähle break off his attack and use his spin technique to get away before the lower scouts decide to pursue him. They do not.
We land back at Harlebeke before noon, Paul comes in ten minutes later. He’s upset that no one followed him but Vater quietly but sternly tells him his reasons, mainly that we could not attack the two-seaters without the scouts above us jumping on our necks and that we had two new pilots with us who were not yet ready for that kind of show. In addition, he ordered him not to attack alone in that manner again.
Paul says that after he spun away, he searched along the front at low level in the rain but saw almost no activity.
The hospital has confirmed that Weinschenk’s leg wound was in the flesh only, but he’ll be out of it for some time.
It rains on and off but it’s my turn so I have to go aloft to play chase with Keller.
He’s painted what he calls a star-burst on his aircraft in gold. It’s pretty when the sun hits it but it’s not quite as visible at a distance as it should be. Eiserne has allowed it though.
I showed him my bag of tricks, then he imitated me, even getting on my tail once.
After we had finished with that, we used about 300 rounds on the ground targets Eiserne had set up, just strips of cloth. I used only my left gun so as not to waste the incendiaries and had Keller use only one gun as well, he uses the incendiaries on both guns.
He used the target to the right side of the field and I used the left. We counted the bullet holes in both of them, about fifty hits in each, not bad, that’s about my average for this type of shooting.
This skin: off_Alb_DIII_OAW_ace_t_Jasta 18 1917_Personal_Sunburst is presently in the Alternative Skins Mod. It will be moved to a new mod which contains only Personal Skins when I'm able to post updates. This will be done as soon as the new Pfalz skins are released.
This personal skin was made for a non-ace wingman for my serialized story about Berthold’s fictitious wingman, Carl Eber.
The design is based on a statement by Capt. D.S. Hall of No. 57 Squadron describing a fight with Albatros fighters from Jasta 18. He stated that one of the enemy had a gilt circular marking the shape of a chrysanthemum.
This could be some sort of flower, but since it is guilt, it is probably a sunburst or bursting shell as I have depicted on this skin.
Berthold leads an evening patrol. The showers are more general and most Staffels would stay on the ground, but for Berthold’s Band der Adlern (Band of Eagles) there is no evening on the ground. He says “It does not rain on the Bluebirds; it rains with the Bluebirds.” It’s part of his idea of training and discipline. But, as in everything else, he is with us, he does what he expects us to do.
The wind is still as strong as earlier in the day and the visibility is poor. I think this patrol is pointless, we will see nothing. I hate flying in the rain, goggles streaming and steaming up, sitting in a wet seat, and the water makes Beomia’s wings heavy.
Paul is not with us; his machine guns are being replaced and he will be adjusting them. His mechanics will also be trying to do something about his motor as well. There are eight of us, der Eiserne, myself, Vater Turck, Auffarth, Keller, Otto Gerbig, Seppl, and Jan Klein. We take off all together at 2000 (1900 English time).
The air is bumpy and the close formation is almost impossible to maintain. We loosen it up on our own initiative, volcano or no volcano.
Three times we see machines at lower altitude and approach them but they all turn out to be our own working machines until we are over Passchendaele. I am surprised when we see three dark shapes whose bright cockades give them away, even in this poor light.
They’re REs. Otto, Sepple and der Eiserne dive on them from the front and receive a good spraying from the English observer’s paint brushes*, as do I as I follow Berthold.
* Slang for the observer’s flexible mount Lewis gun.
It is after 2100 when we taxi up to our wooden hangar sheds . I do not go to the Kasino tonight. It’s a cognac and a smoke while I take time to make a few entries in my diary, then straight to bed for me. It will be uncomfortable in the Kasino after Otto going down anyway.
On my way I pass and salute Auffarth as he goes to the hangars in old working clothes to help with the painting of his Komet.
Gerbig’s Jasta 18 Albatros DIII OAW. Interesting note about this skin – this is another one of those little glitches in WOFF. In the real world he was posted to Jasta 18 when Berthold took over and he has this skin, but he is not on the roster for this Staffel. His last fight had to be staged with me flying his plane.
The one good thing about this is that it makes this nice skin available as a personal skin.
Thanks Adger - the screenshots are a big part of it. The idea is to make the whole thing something like a graphic novel. The old "picture is worth a thousand words" thing. Enjoy Jb
I don’t dwell on Otto Gerbig’s fate, I’ve seen this happen many times before, men who apparently believe so much that they’ll die that they seem to make it happen. But still tonight, the dead haunt me. Battles in which I have fought, old comrades and their deaths, men I have killed in battle, enemies I have eliminated, fields covered with the dead and wounded after a battle, the stench. I dream of Otto too, although I have no confirmation of his death.
My mind awakens but I can’t move. Terrified, I believe I’ve awakened after being buried again and struggle to move my body but can’t. I try to scream and finally manage it.
I come to myself, sit up and realize that it’s just that my mind has become alert but my body is still deeply asleep again. It happens from time to time when I’m particularly troubled.
The clock tells me it’s too close to wakeup call so I don’t go back to bed. Instead, I get my lazy @#$ up, go downstairs and get a pale of hot water for a Huren baden and a decent shave.
When Bart comes by and sticks his ugly head in. In his garbled rural Bavarian he says something like, “Hallo Schatz. You look beautiful today.”
I return, “Morgen Zaubermaus.”*
“Der Meister received a call on the blower last night. Gerbig is confirmed dead.”
I simply grunt and he withdraws.
At breakfast there are further details about Otto. His machine made a crash landing near the ground observer’s post. He was shot in the lungs.
Eiserne sent a truck with a detail to retrieve the body. It’s being embalmed at one of the hospitals in Kortrijk. We are to have a short service for him tomorrow at Saint Joesph’s Church before his coffin is sent home.
We get a late start because of heavy fog. This allows Keller and the others who wish to do so to attend and early Mass. We’re not airborne until 0915. It’s 20 degrees by this time (67 degrees Fahrenheit). A strong west wind clears off the fog and the sky is hazy but visibility is reasonably good, there are large strato-cumulus developing.
This morning the upper patrol will practice Paul’s spin. Berthold will waggle his wings twice to direct Paul to demonstrate, then, when he has returned to the formation, der Eiserne will attempt it. Each of us will practice the maneuver at his signal.
The upper patrol led by der Eiserne consists of Veltjens, Klein, Strähle, Keller. myself, the Oberleutnants, Turck and Auffarth.
There are only three in the lower patrol, Jahns, Richard Runge, and Schober. They’ll get their turn at the spin when we return from this patrol.
After we reach our intended altitude, der Eiserne gives the signal and we begin. When it’s my turn, with my heart in my mouth, I sideslip out of formation and throw Beomia into a head over heels spin. I would have prayed had there been anything to pray to. But just as Paul’s English friends had written, after about 500 meters of spinning with slack controls, I push the stick right and forward and Beomia comes out of the spin beautifully and with both wings still intact. I’m slightly dizzy but not much worse for wear, it passes.
We patrol as far as Bixschote and the flooded area but there’s little air activity. Over the lines a Spadstaffel attempts a diving attack on the lower patrol but we frighten them off. We return to Haralebeke at about 1030.
We won’t be going out again until this evening. Berthold cancels the usual mock combat and allows us to have more practice with the spin. So everyone is taking turns, as Paul says, “spinning merrily.”
The Offizier zbV gives me the task of collecting Otto’s personal belongings to have them sent to his home.
His quarters are one door down from mine. The clothing, boots, etc. will go to the supply depot where they can possibly be reissued. Everything is in short supply and nothing must be wasted.
I open his door and feel that quiet, waiting feeling that the room of a dead man always has. The room is spartan, like all the rooms the enlisted men inhabit. The only decorations are the old, ornate curtains and a few color prints from Die Jugend* that he had tacked onto the plain wallpaper and the picture of a girl in a frame.
His letters, pictures, books, medals, and other personal items, I place in the box to go to his parents. A sad collection. Several copies of Vorwaerts**and Die Jugend I take to put in the Kasino, that should put der Meister’s nose out of joint. I’ll have to make sure no one sees me put them there.
There are a few papers I keep for myself. Copies of combat reports, his flight log, which should probably go to his parents but it’s going in my collection. He kept no diary.
I also keep two boxes of Heer und Flotte *** cigars, one with four and the other with three cigars, half a bottle of Bols gin,**** a little money here and there which I put in the box, except for one 50 pfennig silver piece for which I have plans. Someone else will take it, no doubt, but it somehow doesn’t feel right for me to do so, not this time anyway.
There is some good underwear, almost new. Three pairs of heavy home-knitted socks. I filch these as well. They aren’t the first dead man’s clothes I‘ve worn. I’m sorry for Otto, but practicality over sentiment.
Otto was a dependable man, a good comrade, quiet, and an alt Adler (pre-war flyer) who got down in the grease with the mechanics. He leaves a big hole in the Staffel, der Eiserne is quite upset by the loss.
He was twenty-three. Rest in peace Otto.
* ‘Young People’ a Munich illustrated weekly, focusing on art but also filled with satire and criticism of Far Right politicians and the influence of the church
** a Socialist paper frowned upon for officers to read.
*** Army and Fleet – military ration cigars.
**** Dutch distillery, operated since the 1500s, liqueurs, vodka, gin
When I take the box to der Spiess* in the office, I ask Ulrich if he still has the handwritten copy of Otto’s claim report from this morning. He’s thrown it away, but retrieves it from his waste basket. I’ll place this among my collection as well.
I’ve been collecting such paperwork since late in 1916 when der Eiserne brought me in to Jasta 14 from being Zwischengeparkt. **
Ulrich was Berthold’s clerk at Jasta 14 and he brought him with him to this assignment. He’s been providing me with a duplicate of the War Diaries and many other documents since that time.
He’s an easy bribe, all he wants is money. He wants to start a business when the war’s over, get married, all that sort of thing. I’ve tried that a number of times in my life, it usually turns out badly in the end for everyone involved, so I avoid attachments. Besides, war will always find me no matter where I go.
Ulrich agreed to do this for me if I cleared it with der Meister. That too was easy. I caught Berthold in a good mood, told him I planned to write a book about serving under him and felt it would be of great interest to people and be inspirational to the next generations of young men.
I really poured it on about what an honor it was to serve under him. My inspiration for this performance was Seppl, who really feels this way. I just thought; “What would Seppl say?”
He is flattered, as I knew he would be, anything to bolster his ego is always welcome. He was surprised at my desire to be a ‘scribbler’ but was agreeable to the idea. Of course, it was highly irregular but he saw no reason why not, as long as nothing classified was copied and it didn’t interfere with Uffz Heidenfeld‘s work.
His parting comment as I left his office was, “You are a strange creature Felix.”
I managed to get Ulrich to provide me with transcribed copies of the war diaries of both these Staffeln going all the way back to their founding, all the combat reports for the Staffel and now for the four Staffeln of JagdGruppe 7, since this was now the Stab Staffel.***
Periodically I gather this material up from Ulrich and send it, via some old associates of mine who can provide that service, to my man of business in Switzerland. There is some possibility that this could be misconstrued as espionage but I’m willing to take that chance. I’ve never encountered any problems with it that I couldn’t bribe my way out of. Everyone has their price.
* Spiess – slang term for the Sergeant Major, similar to ‘Top’ for a first sergeant in the American army.
I haven’t properly explored the area around the aerodrome, so I light one of Otto’s cigars with my petroleum lighter, the one with the naked lady, and stroll around the area to get the lay of the land. I have, of course, seen it from the air, but I find it a good habit to have a close look at what’s around me.
The landing field itself is located in the fork between two roads leading out of Kortrijk, or Courtai as the French call it, above a bend in the River Lys.
The hangars and sheds are located along the smaller road that runs along the western side of the field. The road that runs along the eastern side is the major road which leads on to Ghent, roughly paralleling a rail line running along its east side.
A dirt side-road runs north through the middle of our landing field
On the other side of the rail line is a major rail hub and supply depot. An ammunition dump is just to the south of the depot along with a small rail station.
A small cemetery is between the main road and the rail line
The location given to Harlebeke and Houle airdromes on the WOFF map and terrain is incorrect. WOFF has these airfields south and west of Kortrijk, whereas they were north and somewhat more east of that city. Harlebeke should also be right by the Lys River and very near the rail line coming north out of Kortrijk. The rail head and supply depot is missing as well.
This is not intended as a criticism. This information was not as readily available when the Sim was created. Now you can Google to find just about anything, including trench maps.
The map I have used and modified is from a 1/20,000 trench map on the Library of Scotland website.
The aerodrome had been vacated when this map was made near the end of the war. I have drawn in the tents and hangars to look like the standard German aerodrome in Rob Wiggins’ Consolidated Custom Facilities Mod. What it actually looked like is anybody’s guess.
Location of Harlebeke on the WOFF in flight map. It is where the green aircraft is flying.
Behind the hangars is the chateau where we pilots are billeted, with a small park on its western side. A water filled ditch with a row of hedges along it, runs from the chateau almost to the edge of the town where the bend in the river starts..
A long barracks has been built near the fork of the two roads closer to the town.
The Lys runs just below the bluff, beyond the chateau on the west side of the aerodrome
I stand for a few minutes, watching the two Flemish boys the Kommandant der Stadt (Town Commandant) has assigned to cut the grass on the field with a horse drawn mower.
The field itself is about 700 meters long and 400 wide at the northern end and about half that on the south, the western portion of it slopes off toward the bluff above the Lys. The northern border of the field drops off to a small brook. Here a Schwarzpecht *follows me about from tree to tree, eyeing me. I greet him, [/i]“Hallo roter Kopf (red head). Keeping an eye on me for my[i] sator (sire, progenitor usually devine)?” He makes a trilling call and bangs on his tree.
Going down to the Lys, I can see a light rail bridge about one hundred meters and a larger bridge just five or six hundred meters south with a windmill before it and a church spire just beyond it on this side of the river.
On the other side of the Lys I see only fields on rising ground.
I’ll explore more later, when there’s time. The woodpecker leaves me as I start back toward my quarters.
*Black woodpecker, a crow sized woodpecker common in Germany. The woodpecker is one of the familiar animals and birds associated with Mars.
The Upper patrol consists of der Eiserne, myself, Auffarth, Jahns, Jan, and Seppl.
Vater Turck leads the lower patrol with Runge, Schober, von Barnekow * and Keller.
There are almost no clouds in the sky but visibility is only average because of the haze.
Over Menin, there are three British machines above us which we’re unable to reach.
* Raven Freiherr von Barnekow, according to ‘Jasta Pilots,’ is supposed to be in FEA 5 for training. He is listed as assigned to Jasta 4 in September 1917. WOFF has him in this Staffel, I do not know on what evidence. But hey, here he is so I added him to the patrol. He disappears on 4 September.
We hunt toward Polygon, Zonnebeke and then up to Langemarck. The Flak is moderate and ineffective.
Over Bixschote where the flooded area begins, our lower patrol has a Luftkampfes (air fight) with some amazingly maneuverable single-seaters, I believe them to be SE 5s.
On the way back, four SPADs attempt to attack but only make a number of ineffective diving attacks. Another flight of Albatrosn appear and this chases them away.
We touch the ground at Harlebeke at 2040.
Otto is only mentioned a few times this evening, there is some moderate drinking and we raise a glass to him.
Paul and I have a disagreement about the aircraft the lower patrol was fighting. He says they’re Sopwith Pups. They look nothing like the Sopwith Pup, they have a squared off nose and an in-line engine. I don’t think he knows what a Pup is, but I let it go. I must also take into account that I have a much higher than normal acuity in my vision. I tell him “as long as you can tell a cockade from a black cross, we’re alright, though there was the incident with Jahns.”
Paul laughs and retorts, “Berthold is right, you are a Schwein.”
He’s also seeing SPAD two-seaters all the time. I haven’t seen one of those since I came up to Flanders. I think what he’s seeing are the new Bristol two-seaters.
On the way to breakfast I see Berthold come out the door of the chateau to get into the Benz. He’s representing us at the Kaiser’s review of the 4. Armee near Kortrijk.
He’s in his red piped feldgrau regimentals with a stiff collar, puttees just so and all aglitter with blue and gold at his throat. I come up and salute him. “How lovely you look Herr Oberleutnant.”
Returning the salute he smiles only slightly, saying, “And you look like warmed over $!##, go and shave before you enter the Kasino my most insolent Schwein.”
I salute again, “At your orders Herr Oberleutnant!” Without returning my mocking salute, he moves on to the car.
I watch him go. His belt gathered around the waist of his uniform jacket emphasizes how emaciated he’s become and he’s still limping rather badly from his last leg wound. I hope he took plenty of drugs this morning.
I can think of nothing I would like to do any less than stand about in a field, waiting for some Royal to stroll by, letting f@&ts while a gaggle of Generals behind compete to sniff them up.
I wanted to tell him to ask the Kaiser how God was, since they’re such close friends.
Bart is out with Berthold’s three West Highland Terriers and I play with them before going into the Kasino.
I do not shave before going in to breakfast. I’ll accomplish this when I’m done, with some hot water from the kitchen.