30 October 1915 – Prisoner

Today, the RFC issued its 19th communique. Instead of the usual reports of combat and news from the front, this issue is almost entirely devoted to the interrogation of Lt Buchholz, observer of the Albatros shot down on 26 October.

“Captured German Observer

Examination of Lt Buchholz, taken prisoner, 26th October, 1915, in U.I.d.

The above-named prisoner is 17 years of age and started his military
career as an Infantry Officer in thx IXth Army Corps, where he won the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.

On re-cross-examination he gave information that the IXth Army Corps had been recently withdrawn from its position in the 1st German Army area, and had been replaced by some other Corps of which he could give no information.

He volunteered for the Flying Corps last May and was sent to the chief aeronautic school in Berlin for special training as an observer; all the observers of the German Flying Corps being officers. He remained in this school during the months of June and July and having successfully passed the necessary tests, he was ordered to join the 33rd Feldfliegerabteilung at Moorseele. Here he went through further instruction in flights over enemy’s lines, practice in bomb dropping, skill in photography, knowledge of wireless and skill in the use of automatic rifles and machine guns.

The 33rd Feldfliegerabteilung is attached to the XXVIIth Reserve Corps under command of Hauptmann Springer, with Headquarters at Moorseele.

The Feldfliegerabteilung consists of six aeroplanes, all of the Albatros type, but he states that this number cannot be regarded as definite, as some abteilungen have as many as ten to fifteen aeroplanes. It is curious to note that three out of the six aeroplanes in his abteilung were mounted with Colt machine-guns, which the prisoner states are called Canadian machine guns.

The prisoner stated that he had never used an automatic rille in any of the aeroplanes attached to his unit, but the only information he gave was about a very light air-cooled machine-gun, somewhat similar to the Colt gun. He said that the special points about this new German gun was that it was very much lighter and easier to handle and did not jam as frequently as the Colt.
.
The prisoner has been mainly reconnoitring the country around Ypres and during thx last reconnaissance of Vlamertinghe and vicinity, he was tired at by anti-aircraft guns somewhere bear Ouderdom. He states his engine immediately started to misfire, the engine having apparently been hit by bursting shrapnel. One of the planes, also, of the machine suffered and as he could not fly against the strong east wind, he had to set his course, instead of due east, to the south-east. He had no idea where he was landing, and the ‘first thing he did was to secure information as to his bearings. The pilot, Unteroffizier Gereld was severely wounded in the groin by Cape Loraine of the 5th Squadron, attached to the VIth Corps, who pursued the aeroplane until it was brought to earth.

The prisoner was further cross-examined on the basis of a series of
special questions compiled by G.H.Q. Owing to the inexperience of this observer a great number of these questions could not be answered. The prisoner was very willing to answer any questions put to him to the best of his ability. He further stated:

(1) All orders and instructions were issued to his Feldfliegerabteilung by Hauptmann Springer.
(2) Staff officers are not sent up on reconnaissance, this duty always being performed by trained observers.
(3) Observers are obtained from volunteers. They are generally trained at an aeronautical school in Berlin. The training consists in flying observation, use of machine-gun bomb-dropping, photography, wireless telegraphy, and a special course of shooting in the air on hostile aircraft. All observers have to pass a standard test before they are sent up on reconnaissance. he prisoner could give no definite information as to the nature of this test.
(4) There is no shortage of pilots. Officers are keen and frequently volunteer to become pilots.
(5) The prisoner could give no information regarding the Feldfliegerabteilung who make use of the various aerodromes in the areas occupied by the German Armies. Buchholz had flown in no other type of aeroplane than the Albatross. He could give no information as to new types of German machines. If a machine is damaged, the pilot and observer are immediately supplied with a new aeroplane.
(7) He stated that the Squadrons are not told off specially for fighting in the air. He could give no information as to whether German aeroplanes were much damaged as the result of combats in the air.
(8) Asked as to why their pilots so often broke off their combats and dived straight towards their own lines he replied that he was of opinion that the German aviators dived either on account of lack of ammunition or jams in machine-gun.
(9) The prisoner stated that our anti-aircraft guns did very poor registering and their pilots were not often hit by them.
(10) He knew of no sights being used in bomb dropping and could give no information as to types of bombs or special squadrons provided for bomb dropping.
(11) Much use was made of photography orders for which are frequently issued by the Staff.
(12) The majority of machines are fitted with wireless apparatus, which according to the prisoner is used only for the purpose of artillery registration.
(13) Night flying is very seldom undertaken and apparently only for bomb dropping.
(14) Asked why pilots seldom reconnoitre very far over our lines, the prisoner stated that aeroplanes go on far reconnaissances, when specially required to do so for the Staff.
(15) The prisoner had never been on the Russian front and consequently knew nothing of aeronautical matters on that front.
(16) As far as he knew no recognition signals were used in his unit but he did know that any signals which were being used for other purposes were being constantly changed.
(17) No special signals are used to mark their aerodromes.
(18) There is no shortage in the supply of petrol. Buchholz stated that they could always obtain as much petrol as they needed.
(19) The Albatros type of aeroplane could carry enough petrol to last for six hours. Generally the rate of speed which could be obtained from this type of machine was 130 kilometres per hour, and in order to climb to 3000 metres it generally took somewhere in the neighbourhood of an hour.

The Albatros aeroplane brought down in our lines was equipped with a Benz 6-cylinder engine. Very little space is required to land. No armour plate has been used on any machine seen by the prisoner and when questioned as to recent experiments which have been made regarding the protection of petrol tanks he said that in his unit this had not been tried.

The camera salvaged from the wrecked aeroplane is of the pistol type fitted wide a very powerful Zeiss-Tessar lens. The size of the photograph taken with this camera is 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches, but a new camera is being introduced which would enable them to make photographs 12 inches by 12 inches.These later cameras being much heavier than the present type would in some way be fixed to the plane. Photographs are usually taken at a height 3000 metres, and these under only very favourable circumstances.

He stated that each Squadron numbered and lettered the squares to suit their own requirements, the artillery in each corps having a duplicated map.

When shown the map captured on a previous occasion from a German aeroplane, He at once volunteered the information that there was no standard in the Flying Corps regarding the marking and numbering of squares.

In his case the squares are lettered horizontally and numbered vertically.

The wireless signals found in his notebook are not to be taken as reliable and are not used in his corps. These signals, K=short, W=over, G=range, R=Right, L=Left and T=Target, all of which were to be repeated three times, were used for instructional purposes only.”

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