5 July 1915 – Boelcke’s writes up his first victory

Oswald Boelcke one of the three pilots selected to receive the new EI scout scored his first aerial victory yesterday. It was not in the EI, however, as it has not yet arrived. Boelcke continues to fly his Albatross CI two-seater with his observer Leutnant von Wühlisch. The victim was a French Morance Saulnier . Boelcke’s combat report describes the battle:

“I was ordered to protect Lieutenant P., who was out range-finding, from enemy ’planes. We were just on our way to the front, when I saw a French monoplane, at a greater height, coming toward us. As the higher ’plane has the advantage, we turned away; he didn’t see us, but flew on over our lines. We were very glad, because lately the French hate to fly over our lines. When over our ground the enemy cannot escape by volplaning to the earth. As soon as he had passed us we took up the pursuit. Still he flew very rapidly, and it took us half an hour till we caught up with him at V. As it seems, he did not see us till late. Close to V. we started to attack him, I always heading him off. As soon as we were close enough my observer started to pepper him with the machine gun. He defended himself as well as he could, but we were always the aggressor, he having to protect himself. Luckily, we were faster than he, so he could not flee from us by turning. We were higher and faster; he below us and slower, so that he could not escape. By all kinds of manœuvers he tried to increase the distance between us; without success, for I was always close on him. It was glorious. I always stuck to him so that my observer could fire at close range. We could plainly see everything on our opponent’s monoplane, almost every wire, in fact. The average distance between us was a hundred meters; often we were within thirty meters, for at such high speeds you cannot expect success unless you get very close together. The whole fight lasted about twenty or twenty-five minutes. By sharp turns, on the part of our opponent, by jamming of the action on our machine gun, or because of reloading, there were little gaps in the firing, which I used to close in on the enemy. Our superiority showed up more and more; at the end I felt just as if the Frenchman had given up defending himself and lost all hope of escape. Shortly before he fell, he made a motion with his hand, as if to say: let us go; we are conquered; we surrender. But what can you do in such a case, in the air? Then he started to volplane; I followed. My observer fired thirty or forty more shots at him; then suddenly he disappeared. In order not to lose him, I planed down, my machine almost vertical. Suddenly my observer cried, “He is falling; he is falling,” and he clapped me on the back joyously. I did not believe it at first, for with these monoplanes it is possible to glide so steeply as to appear to be falling. I looked all over, surprised, but saw nothing. Then I glided to earth and W. told me that the enemy machine had suddenly turned over and fallen straight down into the woods below. We descended to a height of a hundred meters and searched for ten minutes, flying above the woods, but seeing nothing. So we decided to land in a meadow near the woods and search on foot. Soldiers and civilians were running toward the woods from all sides. They said that the French machine had fallen straight down from a great height, turned over twice, and disappeared in the trees. This news was good for us, and it was confirmed by a bicyclist, who had already seen the fallen machine and said both passengers were dead. We hurried to get to the spot. On the way Captain W., of the cavalry, told me that everyone within sight had taken part in the fight, even if only from below. Everyone was very excited, because none knew which was the German and which the French, due to the great height. When we arrived we found officers, doctors and soldiers already there. The machine had fallen from a height of about 1,800 meters. Since both passengers were strapped in, they had not fallen out. The machine had fallen through the trees with tremendous force, both pilot and observer, of course, being dead. The doctors, who examined them at once, could not help them anymore. The pilot had seven bullet wounds, the observer three. I am sure both were dead before they fell. We found several important papers and other matter on them. In the afternoon my observer, W., and I flew back to D., after a few rounds of triumph above the village and the fallen airplane.”

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