WE went on a shooting expedition on the twentieth of April. We came home very late and lost Schäfer on the way.
Of course everyone hoped that he would come to hand before dark. It struck nine, it struck ten, but no Schäfer was visible. His benzine could not last so long. Consequently, he had landed somewhere, for no one was willing to admit that he had been shot down. No one dared to mention the possibility. Still, everyone was afraid for him.
The ubiquitous telephone was set in motion in order to find out whether a flying man had come down anywhere. Nobody could give us information. No Division and no Brigade had seen anything of him. We felt very uncomfortable. At last we went to bed. All of us were perfectly convinced that he would turn up in the end. At two o'clock, after midnight, I was suddenly awakened. The telephone orderly, beaming with pleasure, reported to me: "Schäfer is in the Village of Y. and would like to be fetched home."
The next morning when we were sitting at breakfast the door opened and my dear pilot stood before me. His clothes were as filthy as those of an infantryman who has fought at Arras for a fortnight. He was greeted with a general Hurrah! Schäfer was tremendously happy and elated and tremendously excited about his adventure. When he had finished his breakfast he told us the following tale:
"I was flying along the front intending to return home. Suddenly I noticed far below me something that looked like an infantry flier. I attacked him, shot him down, and meant to fly back. However, the English in the trenches did not mean me to get away and started peppering me like anything. My salvation lay in the rapidity of my machine, for those rascals, of course, would forget that they had to aim far in front of me if they wished to hit me.
"I was at an altitude of perhaps six hundred feet. Suddenly, I heard a smash and my engine stopper running. There was nothing to do but to land. I asked myself whether I should be able to get away from the English position. It seemed very questionable. The English noticed my predicament and started shooting like mad.
"As my engine was no longer running I could hear every single shot.
"The position became awkward. I came down and landed. Before my machine had come to a standstill they squirted upon me heaps of bullets from machine guns in the hedge of the village of Monchy near Arras. My machine became splashed with bullets.
"I jumped out of it and down into the first shell hole. Squatting there I reflected and tried to realize exactly where I was. Gradually it became clear to me that I had landed outside the English lines, but cursedly near them. Happily it was rather late in the evening and that was my salvation.
"Before long the first shell came along. Of course they were gas shells and I had no mask with me. My eyes started watering like anything. Before darkness set in the English ascertained the distance of the spot where I had landed with machine guns. Part of them aimed at my machine and part at my shell crater. The bullets constantly hit its rim. "In order to quiet my nerves I lit a cigarette. Then I took off my heavy fur coat and prepared everything for a leap and a run. Every minute seemed to me an hour. "Gradually it became dark, but only very gradually. Around me I heard partridges giving a concert. As an experienced shot I recognized from their voices that they felt quite happy and contented, that there was no danger of my being surprised in my hiding place.
"At last it became quite dark. Suddenly and quite close to me a couple of partridges flew up. A second couple followed. It was obvious that danger was approaching. No doubt a patrol was on the way to wish me a happy evening.
"I had no time to lose. Now or never. First I crept very cautiously on my chest from shell hole to shell hole. After creeping- industriously for about an hour and a half I noticed I was nearing humans. Were they English or were they Germans ? They came nearer and I could almost have fallen round their necks, when I discovered our own musketeers. They were a German patrol who were nosing about in No Man's Land.
"One of the men conducted me to the Commander of his Company. I was told that in the evening I had landed about fifty yards in front of the enemy lines and that our infantry had given me up for lost. I had a good supper and then I started on my way home. Behind me there was far more shooting than in front of me. Every path, every trench, every bush, every hollow, was under enemy fire. The English attacked on the next morning, and consequently, they had to begin their artillery preparation the evening before. So I had chosen an unfavorable day for my enterprise. I reached the first telephone only at two o'clock in the morning when I phoned to the Squadron."
We were all very happy to have our Schäfer again with us. He went to bed. Any other man would have taken a rest from flying for twenty-four hours. But on the afternoon of this very day friend Schäfer attacked a low flying B. E. above Monchy.
The Anti-Richthofen Squadron
THE English had hit upon a splendid joke. They intended to catch me or to bring me down. For that purpose they had actually organized a special squadron which flew about in that part which we frequented as a rule. We discovered its particular aim by the fact that its aggressive activity was principally directed against our red machines.
I would say that all the machines of the squadron had been painted red because our English friends had by-and-by perceived that I was sitting in a blood-red band-box. Suddenly there were quite a lot of red machines and the English opened their eyes wide when one fine day they saw a dozen red barges steaming along instead of a single one. Our new trick did not prevent them from making an attempt at attacking us. I preferred their new tactics. It is better that one's customers come to one's shop than to have to look for them abroad.
We flew to the front hoping to find our enemy. After about twenty minutes the first arrived and attacked us. That had not happened to us for a long time. The English had abandoned their celebrated offensive tactics to some extent. They had found them somewhat too expensive.
Our aggressors were three Spad one- seater machines. Their occupants thought themselves very superior to us because of the excellence of their apparatus. Wolff, my brother and I, were flying together. We were three against three. That was as it ought to be.
Immediately at the beginning of the encounter the aggressive became a defensive. Our superiority became clear. I tackled my opponent and could see how my brother and Wolff handled each his own enemy. The usual waltzing began. We were circling around one another. A favorable wind came to our aid. It drove us, fighting, away from the front in the direction of Germany.
My man was the first who fell down. I suppose I had smashed up his engine. At any rate, he made up his mind to land. I no longer gave pardon to him. Therefore, I attacked him a second time and the consequence was that his whole machine went to pieces. His planes dropped off like pieces of paper and the body of the machine fell like a stone, burning fiercely. It dropped into a morass. It was impossible to dig it out and I have never discovered the name of my opponent. He had disappeared. Only the end of the tail was visible and marked the place where he had dug his own grave.
Simultaneously with me, Wolff and my brother had attacked their opponents and had forced them to land not far from my victim. We were very happy and flew home and hoped that the anti-Richthofen Squadron would often return to the fray.
We Are Visited By My Father
MY father had announced that he would visit his two sons on the twenty- ninth of April. My father is commander of a little town in the vicinity of Lille. Therefore he does not live very far away from us. I have occasionally seen him on my flights.
He intended to arrive by train at nine o'clock. At half past nine he came to our aerodrome. We just happened to have returned from an expedition. My brother was the first to climb out of his machine, and he greeted the old gentleman with the words: "Good day. Father. I have just shot down an Englishman." Immediately after, I also climbed out of my machine and greeted him "Good day. Father, I have just shot down an Englishman." The old gentleman felt very happy and he was delighted. That was obvious. He is not one of those fathers who are afraid for their sons. I think he would like best to get into a machine himself and help us shoot. We breakfasted with him and then we went flying again.
In the meantime, an aerial fight took place above our aerodrome. My father looked on and was greatly interested. We did not take a hand in the fight for we were standing on the ground and looked on ourselves.
An English squadron had broken through and was being attacked above our aerodrome by some of our own reconnoitering aeroplanes. Suddenly one of the machines started turning over and over. Then it recovered itself and came gliding down normally. We saw, with regret this time, that it was a German machine.
The Englishman flew on. The German aeroplane had apparently been damaged. It was quite correctly handled. It came down and tried to land on our flying ground. The room was rather narrow for the large machine. Besides, the ground was unfamiliar to the pilot. Hence, the landing was not quite smooth. We ran towards the aeroplane and discovered with regret that one of the occupants of the machine, the machine gunner, had been killed. The spectacle was new to my father. It made him serious.
The day promised to be a favorable one for us. The weather was wonderfully clear. The anti-aircraft guns were constantly audible. Obviously, there was much aircraft about.
Towards mid-day we flew once more. This time, I was again lucky and shot down my second Englishman of the day. The Governor recovered his good spirits.
After the mid-day dinner I slept a little. I was again quite fresh. Wolff had fought the enemy in the meantime with his group of machines and had himself bagged an enemy. Schäfer also had eaten one. In the afternoon my brother and I accompanied by Schäfer, Festner and Allmenroder flew twice more.