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Oberleutnant Ernst Udet – German Ace 1896 / 1941 Pt.4
In January 1917, Udet was commissioned as a Leutnant der Reserve ( lieutenant of reserves ). The same month Jasta 15 re-equipped with the Albatros D.III, a new fighter with twin synchronized machine guns. During his service with Jasta 15, Udet later wrote he had encountered Georges Guynemer, a notable French Ace, in single combat at 16.000ft. Guynemer who preferred to hunt the enemy alone, was at this time the leading French Ace with over 30 victories. Udet saw Guynemer and they circled each other, looking for an opening and testing each other’s flying abilities. They were close enough for Udet to read the “Vieux” of “Vieux Charles” written on Guynemer’s Spad.S.VII. The two opponents tried every aerobatic trick they knew and Guynemer fired a burst through Udet’s upper wing but they still manoeuvred for advantage. Once Udet had Guynemer in his sights, he was just about to fire when his machine guns jammed, he carried on with the pretence of a dogfight while hammering on his guns trying to free them. Guynemer realised his predicament and instead of pressing home his advantage, simply waved a farewell and flew away. Udet wrote of the fight, “For seconds, I forgot that the man across for me was Guynemer, my enemy. It seemed as though I were sparring with an older comrade over my own Airfield” Udet felt that Guynemer had spared him because he wanted a fair fight. While other’s have suggested that the French Ace was impressed with Udet’s skills and hoped that they might meet again on equal terms.
Eventually every pilot in Jasta 15 was killed except Udet and his commander, Heinrich Gontermann who said to Udet, “The bullets fall from the hands of God …. sooner or later they will hit us” Udet applied for a transfer to Jasta 37, and Gontermann was killed three months later when the upper wing of his new Fokker Dr.I tore off as he was flying it for the first time.
To Be Continued……………..
(C) Damian Grange 2019