Feldwebel Eugen Bonsch – Austro – Hungarian Ace 1897 / 1951
Bonsch was born in Velka Upa, Austro Hungary on the 1st of May 1897. He studied mechanics at the State Trade School. He originally joined the Army in 1915, but after completing basic training transferred to Aviation. His original assignment was as a mechanic with Fliegerersatzkompagnie 6.
He requested flight training in 1917. He completed it at Flek 8 on 22nd of June 1917. His promotion to corporal followed six days later. He was assigned to Flik 51 on the Italian Front. He scored his first victory shortly after on the 1st of September, teamed with Franz Wognar. He became a balloon-buster with his next victory on the 28th of September, it took several firing passes at 700 metres altitude through heavy ground fire, dodging a couple of enemy fighters to finally down the balloon. For his tenacious courage Bonsch was awarded the Gold Medal for Bravery, the highest award for a non-commissioned officer.
The following Day he shared in the destruction of a Nieuport with two other pilots. On the 3rd of December, Bonsch and Fw Istvan Fejes disposed of another balloon, but he was reminded of just what made these sorties so dangerous e4xactly a month later when he was shot down south of Motta by Anti- Aircraft fire.
He returned to action in the New Year, He shared in bringing down Camels on the 21st of February and the 16th of March 1918. April saw Bonsch attack a variety of Italian ground targets, Including a balloon destroyed southwest of San Biaggio on the 3rd of May, although this was not confirmed he was awarded his second Gold Medal for Bravery.
He had better luck on the 16th of June amid the battle of the Piave, although it was only his third pass amid intense AA fire flying at only 50 metres that his target finally exploded in flames near Bred Di Piave. Bonsch downed a Reconnaissance plane on 20th of June. Although the Battle of Piave was an allied victory, for his part in the battle, Bonsch was awarded his third Gold Medal for Bravery, this was an honour he shared with just five other N.C.O’s during the war.
As the fortunes of war turned against Austro – Hungary, Bonsch downed another balloon near Vascon – Carbonera on the 8th of August. On the 5th of October Bonsch burned his fifth balloon, west of Ponto Piave. and on the 27th – the third day of the battle of Vittorio Venero, he bought down an R.E.8 along with another Camel in concert with Rudorffer. On the 29th he claimed an Hanriot for his 16th victory, before being shot down in flames. Bonsch took to his parachute and landed safely west of the Piave. He crossed the river and rejoined his unit.
His final Victory total was 16, this included 5 balloons. After the war, he became an Innkeeper. He re-joined the Air Force on the outset of World War Two and was promoted to Hauptmann.
(C) Damian Grange 2018