Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke – The German Father of Air Fighting 1891/ 1916
Oswald Boelcke was born in 1891, He was born in Saxony and was the third of six children. Both studious and athletic as a child, Oswald excelled in Maths and Physics. His father a Schoolteacher and staunch Nationalist and Militarist. Under his father’s influence At age 13 Oswald wrote a letter to the Kaiser to Military School. His wish was granted, but his parents objected so instead he attended Herzog Freidrich’s Gymnasium from which he graduated in 1911.
After attending Kreigsschule in Metz, he was promoted to Leutnant in the Prussian army. In mid 1914 Boelcke transferred to the Fleigertruppe. His flight training took place from may to August at the Halberstadter Fleigerschule, he passed his pilots exam on August 15th 1914. He was immediately transferred to active duty.
At his own instigation, Boelcke transferred to FFA62 in April 1915 which was based at Douai, This unit flew LVG C2’s on reconnaissance and artillery spotting duties. In July 1915, Boelcke, along with Immelman, Parschau and Wintgens were allowed to fly three of the five prototypes of the Fokker E1 Monoplane. Parschau was the first to fly it on the strict understanding that they kept within their own lines, The High Command had no desire to see it fall in to the hands of the enemy.
Kurt Wintgens was the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft flying the new Fokker E1. Boelcke won his first aerial combat on the 19th 0f August 1915, he also became an hero on the ground, he dived in to a canal near his Aerodrome, fully clothed to rescue a young French boy who was drowning. The boy’s parents requested that he be awarded the French Legion d’Honneur but instead he was awarded the Prussian Lifesaving Medal.
On the 22nd of September Boelcke was transferred to Metz, but was moved back to Fa62 in December, by the years end he had shot down four more aircraft. His friend and rival Max Immelman had scored his first victory before Boelcke, between them they had almost what amounted to a race of victories, with first one then the other in the lead.
The deadly effect of the new Aircraft led to what was known as the Fokker Scourge in 1916. On 1st November 1915, the day after his sixth victory, Boelcke was awarded the Royal House of Hohenzollern, the first pilot to gain this award, six days later his close friend and rival Immelman received the award. The scores were standing at Immelman 7 Boelcke 6 and Wintgens and Buddecke 3 each.
To be continued…..
(C) Damian Grange 2017