Air Aces of World War One

Rittmeister Karl Bolle – German Ace – 1893 / 1955

Karl Bolle was born in Berlin on the 20th of June 1893, to a family who owned a well-known diary. He studied at the University of Oxford in 1912, and he was also known for his athletic prowess, playing ice hockey whilst there. He returned home to Germany to enlist as a Leutnant in the 7th Magdeburg Cuirassiers ‘von Seydlitz Regiment’ in 1913 as a one -year volunteer. At the start of World War One his regiment served on the Western Front, seeing fighting in both Belgium and the First Battle of the Marne. It was then transferred to the Eastern Front. Bolle seeing action in Poland and in Courland in Latvia. By the end of 1915, Bolle had won an award for bravery, the Iron Cross, Second Class and a transfer to the Luftstreitkrafte.

He undertook his initial training at Johannisthal, then was forwarded to Fliegerersatz – Abtielung 5 in Hannover, Germany. Later he trained to become a fighter pilot at Valenciennes, France, at Jastaschule 1. The standard German practice at this time was to be trained initially and then serve initially in a two-seater unit, in this instance Kampfgeshwader der Oberste Heeresleitung IV in July 1916, and then later transferred for training as a fighter pilot at a Jastaschule where they would be closely tutored by experts with frontline experience. They also had access to captured British and French fighters to familiarise themselves with their opponents aircraft.

Bolle was wounded in October 1916, in combat with five French fighters. He crash landed in German lines and despite his own injury managed to drag his observer to safety, out of the range of the shellfire directed at their fallen aircraft. Upon his recovery he was assigned to Kampfstaffel 23 of Kampfgeschwader der Oberste Heeresleitung IV, Lothar von Richtofen was assigned as his observer / gunner. It was about this time that Bolle was awarded the Kingdom of Wurttemberg’s 2nd Class Order of the Knight;s Cross of the Friedrich Order. He was the only German fighter ace to be given this award.

Bolle went to Jastaschule ( Fighter Pilot’s Training ) in early 1917. He joined Jagdstaffel 28 in April 1917, while still recovering from a leg wound, whilst engaged as a non-flying adjutant he began tutelage on the fighter pilot’s craft with two aces, Karl Emil Schaefer and Otto Hartmann as well as Bolle’s friend Max Ritter von Mulzer. In July he commenced operational flying with Jagdstaffel 28. His first victory was over an Airco D.H.4 of No. 57 Squadron R.F.C. on the 8th of August 1917. He scored once more in August and victories in December and January 1918 made him an ace by January the 30th 1918.

He was then promoted to Oberleutant and transferred to command Jagdstaffel 2 on the 20th of February 1918 at Marcke, France. This was the Squadron that Oswald Boelcke had commanded as he invented the first fighter tactics, strategy and organisation. It was being re-equipped with Fokker DR.1 Triplanes as it was being incorporated into Jagdgeschwader 3. It was a dispirited Squadron having lost three consecutive Pour le Merite holding commanding officers killed in combat. Despite his seemingly modest credentials, Bolle proceeded to make his mark on the Squadron. The Fokker Triplane suppled was an aircraft of limited speed but great manoeuvrability and climb rate. Its slower speed made it more difficult to close to short distance for gunnery against faster fighters. Bolle’s solution was the use of an Oigee telescopic sight for his guns. He also had painted distinctive white stripes on his upper wing to denote his leadership role, along with a yellow fuselage band edged with black and white to honour his old cavalry regiment. His command of English turned out to be useful on occasion, when he questioned British Empire fliers.

He opened his tally with Jagdstaffel 2 on the 25th of April 1918, as part of a huge Air offensive to support the ground assault on Kemmel Ridge. He then began a steady collection of single and double victories, with five in May, seven in June, nine in July and three in August 1918. When he had scored 28 victories he was awarded the Military Merit Cross and the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern; The Pour le Merite ( Blue Max ) was awarded on the 28th. Bolle did not score again until the 1st of November, on the 4th of November he downed four British fighters, two RAF S.E.5a’s of No.56 Sqdn. and two Sopwith Snipes of No.4 Sqdn AFC. The Snipes were shared with Leutnant Ernst Bormann were flown by Aces, Captain Thomas Baker ( 12 victories ) and Lt.A.J.Pallister ( 7 victories ) These were Bolle’s final victories. A week later he and his pilot’s defiantly marked their Fokker D.VII’s with their names and victory scores before surrendering them into British hands at Nivelles, Belgium. Bolle’s final score of 36 victories included a preponderance of victories over enemy fighters, he had downed 25. The other 11were two – seater reconnaissance, ground attack and bomber aircraft. More importantly, he led Jagdstaffel 2 through the intense battles of 1918 to the second highest victory total in the German Air Force, with a total of 336 victories to the Jasta.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

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