Picture – courtesy of Pinterest
Oberleutnant Ernst Udet – German Ace 1896 / 1942 Pt.3
Udet was assigned a new Fokker to fly to his new fighter unit F.F.A.68 at Habsheim. Mechanically defective, the plane crashed in to an hanger when he took off, and was then given an older Fokker to fly. In this aircraft he experienced his first aerial combat, which almost became his last. While lining up on a French Caudron, Udet found he could not bring himself to fire on another person and was subsequently fired on by the Frenchman. A bullet grazed his cheek and smashed his flying goggles. Udet survived the encounter but from then on learned to attack more aggressively.
He downed his first aircraft on March the 18th 1916, on that occasion he had scrambled to attack two French aircraft, instead to find himself facing a formation of 23 enemy aircraft. He dived from above and behind, giving his Fokker E.III full throttle, and opened fire on a Farman F.40 from close range. Udet pulled away, leaving the flaming bomber trailing smoke, only to see the observer fall from the stricken craft. This victory won Udet the Iron Cross 1st Class, later describing it he said, “The fuselage of the Farman dives down past me like a giant torch…a man his arms and legs spread out like a frogs falls…The observer. At the moment I don’t think of them as human beings. I feel only one thing…victory, triumph, victory”
That year F.F.A.68 was renamed Kampfeinsitzer Kommando Habsheim before becoming Jagdstaffel 15 on the 28th of September 1916. Udet would claim five more victories before transferring to Jasta 37 in June 1917. In the first of his victories on the 12th of October 1916 Udet forced a French Breguet to land safely in German held territory, then landed nearby to prevent its destruction by its crew. The bullet – punctured tyres on Udet’s Fokker flipped the plane forward on to its top wings and fuselage. Udet and the French pilot eventually shook hands beside the French aircraft.
To Be Continued………….
(C) Damian Grange 2019