The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 8, pages 66-74


Count Holck was not just a sportsman on green turf. Flying as a sport seemed to give him just as much satisfaction. He was a pilot with special abilities especially in critical situations. He was first class in battle against the enemy.

We flew several great reconnaissance missions. Who knows how far we went in the direction of Russia. Although he was a young pilot I never felt uncertainty and several times in critical moments he gave me a feeling of security. When I looked around and saw the determination in his face it bolstered my courage.

*

Just about everything went wrong during our last flight together. We actually had no distinct order to fly. Being in the air is the greatest sensation. One feels completely free and master of oneself.

We had changed landing fields and were not quite sure which meadow was the right one. So as not to risk too much while landing our crate we flew in the direction of Brest-Litowsk. The Russians were in full retreat. Everything was on fire — it was a gruesome sight. We wanted to investigate the enemy columns and flew over the


burning city of Wiczniace. A giant smoke cloud, perhaps ascending two thousand meters, kept us from continuing our flight since we were only flying at fifteen hundred meters to get a better view. Holck thought for a moment. I asked him what he wanted to do. I advised him to fly around it, which would take us about five minutes out of our way. Holck did not agree. To the contrary, whenever danger escalated he became more daring. We'll go through it! I was pleased to be together with such a daring fellow. But our lack of care could have cost us dearly for scarcely had the plane's tail disappeared into the smoke that I noticed shaking in the aircraft. I couldn't see anything because the smoke burned my eyes. The air grew considerably warmer and I saw a giant wall of flames. Suddenly the aircraft lost equilibrium and pitched steeply forward. I quickly grabbed a strut to steady myself otherwise I would have fallen out. The first thing I did was look at Holck's face. I regained my courage, for his demeanor was one of pure determination. The only thought I had was, it's really stupid to die a hero's death for such an unnecessary reason.

Later I asked Holck what he was thinking at the time.


He indicated he didn't anticipate how bad it would be.

We dove down to five hundred meters above the city. It may have been pilot's accuity or divine providence or perhaps both, but we suddenly descended beyond the smoke cloud. The good albatross started to fly correctly again as though nothing had happened.

We were fed up with airfield changes and wanted to return as quickly as possible to our old line. We were still flying only five hundred meters above the Russians. About five minutes later I heard Holck say, "The engine is failing."

I must add that Holck didn't know as much about an engine as he did an oat-burner [a racehorse] and I was completely clueless. I only knew that if the engine stopped working we would have to land among the Russians. We had gone from one dangerous situation to another.

I convinced myself that the Russians were marching quickly. I could see that well enough from five hundred meters but I didn't have to see it to know that the Ruskies were also shooting at us with machine guns. I could hear them. It sounded like chestnuts cracking open in a fire.

The engine stopped running all together because it had been


hit by gunfire. We descended lower and lower until we barely floated over a forest and finally landed at an abandonned artillery post about which I had reported the evening before as being occupied by Russian artillery.

I related my suspicions to Holck. We jumped out of the cockpit and attempted to reach the nearby group of trees in order to protect ourselves. I had a pistol and six bullets. Holck had nothing.

We went to the edge of the forest and stopped. Through my eyeglass I could see a soldier running towards our plane. In my horror I established that he wore a cap rather than a spiked helmut. I thought this was a clear sign he was a Russian. As he got nearer Holck issued a cry of joy that the soldier was a guard of the Prussian Grenadiers.

Our elite troops had stormed the position in the gray light of dawn and broken through the enemy batteries.

*

I remember that during this time Holck lost his darling little dog. He took the small animal with him on every flight. The dog laid quietly on a fur placed in a lower section of the cockpit. We had it with us in the forest. Shortly after we had spoken with the Grenadier guard,


troops passed by. These were the staff of the Guard and Prince Eitel Friedrich with his adjutants and ordnance officers. The prince lent us horses so that we could once again be proper cavalry officers on true horse-driven engines. Unfortunately during the ride back we lost the dog. It must had run off with another troop.

Later that evening we arrived back at our airfield on a cart. Our airplane was mangled.

Russia -- Ostende

From Two-Seater to Large Fighter Plane

Later in Russia our offensive came to a stillstand. I was suddenly assigned as a career officer in the large fighter plane unit in Ostende (August 21,1915.) I met an old acquaintance, Zeumer, and became entranced with the term "Large fighter plane."

I arrived in Ostende in August 1915. At the railroad station in Brussels I called up my good friend Zeumer. I had a pretty good time. There was little evidence of war there. However the time spent in training to become a fighter pilot was indispensible. We flew often, had few air battles and never success.


But the other aspects of life were pleasant. On the coast of Ostende we requisitioned a hotel. We swam every afternoon. Unfortunately the other spa guests were all soldiers. We sat on the terrasses of Ostende covered in our colorful bathing robes and drank afternoon coffee.

*

We sat again as usual on the beach with our coffee. Suddenly the siren sounded: an English sea squadron was announced.

Naturally we didn't allow such an alarm ruin our good time. We continued to drink. Then someone called, "Ah, there you are!" We could see on the horizon, though not clearly at first, smoke stacks then later ships. Quickly eyeglasses were pulled out and observations made. We saw a substantial number of ships. What they intended to do was not immediately clear but shortly afterwards we learned more. We climbed to the roof to see better. A moment later a whistle, a giant bang, and a shell hit the beach where we had just been in the water. I had never moved so quickly to a bomb shelter in my life. The English squadron shot three, maybe four more times at us and then aimed the


guns at the Ostende harbour and train station. Naturally they didn't hit anything but they put the Belgians in a state of panic. One shell hit the middle of the beautiful Palace Hotel on the beach of Ostende. This was the only damage. Happily it was only the product of English money that they had destroyed.

*

We flew a lot at night. During one of our flights we went far out into the sea with our large fighter plane. The thing had two engines and we were testing out a new stearing system which would allow us to fly straight ahead on one engine. As we fly quite a ways out I look down not at the water but at what appears to be a ship swimming under the water. It is very strange. From above one can see into a peaceful sea down to the sea floor. Naturally one can't see forty kilometers below but one can penetrate a few hundred meters down. I wasn't deceiving myself. The ship was swimming under the water, not above it even though it looked as though it were above the water. I showed it to Zeumer and we descended to get a closer look. I'm not enough of a navy man to say exactly what it was but I was cognisant enough to recognize that it was a U-Boat.


But of what nationality? That was another difficult question that in my estimation could only be answered by a sailor. But then maybe not always. The color couldn't be distinguished and the flag wasn't apparent. Furthermore there was no other U-Boat like this one. We had two bombs on us and I was in a quandry: Should I drop them or shouldn't I? The U-Boat hadn't seen us since it was half under water. We could have quietly flown over the thing and waited until it surfaced then dropped out eggs. This is a critical point for consideration by our sister branches of military service. After we had played around with the options for a while I noticed that our cooling system needed water. As copilot I found this disconcerting and I made my pilot aware of it. He pulled a long face and indicated he must get us home. However we were about twenty kilometers from the coast and wanted to fly over the submarine first. The engine began to stall and I prepared myself for a cold, wet bath. Then suddenly the engine steadied. Our giant, apple-shaped tub's motor and new steering system wonderfully kicked in and we reached the coast and landed at our new field.


It must have been sheer luck. If we hadn't been testing the new steering system that day we would have drowned without chance of rescue.

A Drop of Blood for the Fatherland

(Ostende)

I've never been wounded. At the critical moment I've always moved my head or sucked in my stomach. I've often wondered why the bullets didn't hit me. One time a bullet went through both furlined boots; another time it was my scarf. And once it traveled along my arm through my fur and leather jacket but it didn't touch me.

One fine day we flew our large fighter plane to delight the English with a few bombs. We reached the target and the first bomb fell. Naturally it's of interest to determine whether the bomb did its job. You at least want to see that it made an impact. My large fighter plane is well equipped for dropping bombs but there's one stupid oddity that might be considered bad for observing the impact. After dropping the bombs the plane obscures the view with its fuselage.


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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks