This is my After-Action-Report from Flanders in Flames XXIIb Campaign Session 1.
Session 1, Saturday 10th October 2015 – 18:00GMT
A week ago we got our travel orders to Czism airfield near Rosil’na in Galicia. We, that is the Königlich Preußische Jagdstaffel 99. It was a hell of a work to move all our Equipment, our Planes, our support staff and last but not least our personal equipment from the Western Front to the Eastern Front, about 1000 miles straight to the East – or about 1300miles by train and by car, in that short amount of time.
When we arrived Rosil’na, we got some urgent operational orders from the local army command. We had to support a local offensive initiative the next day starting early at 0600am. So we and our mechanics and riggers started immediately to assemble our aircraft – Roland Whales and Fokker Eindeckers. Unfortunately we noticed that we were missing a crucial thing to assemble our Eindeckers – somewhere on that 1300miles we must have lost the 16 Oberursel U.I rotary engines. A complete railway carriage with our E.III engines, packed in large wooden boxes. What a mess.
Our CO went to the army HQ to discuss the situation – flying this sortie without fighter escort wouldn’t be a brilliant idea. Our XO started his search for the Fokker engines while the rest of us continued to assemble the Rolands. After two more hours, our CO was back from the HQ. HQ insisted on flying the planned attack the next day, even without fighter escort. They said, that there are several Fokker squads in the air the next day sweeping the skies. And at least the Russian only had some Sikorsky S-16 and some old F.E.2. The F.E.2 we knew from the Western Front. They can carry a pretty bomb load, but they are slow and not very maneuverable. Not a real match for our planes in a fight and at least our Rolands were able to run away at any time since they are much faster. But we haven’t heard much about that S-16, except that they were very maneuverable. At 1030pm we had assembled 8 Rolands for the upcoming sortie and I went to the local tavern for a beer and a chat – trying to find out something about that S-16. And, the lucky guy I am, I really found an Austrian 2nd Lieutenant wearing the uniform of the K.u.K Fliegertruppe. I bought him a beer and asked him about the S-16. He confirmed that this plane was quite maneuverable – ‘It can swirl around you like a fly’ he said. He showed my his left leg with a long scar around his knee and told me that this was a souvenir from his last flight. His Aviatik B.II was shot down by a S-16 and he got wounded. Now he had a stiff leg, used a walking stick and worked as a liaison Officer in the German army HQ. Poor guy, I really can’t and more I won’t imagine to be bound to earth like him. But he also told me some good news. Since the S-16 was about 20km/h faster than his old and outdated Aviatik, it’s maximum speed was only about 120km/h. That meant, that we always had the option to avoid a dogfight with these nimble crates by running away, because our Rolands had a maximum speed of 165km/h – a total of 45km/h faster than the S-16. Phew! That was a lot and these news helped me to find some good sleep that night.
The next day I started early together with my CO Himmelhund and the 2nd XO von Bu. The flight leader was a guy from another sqad, Wrongway was his name, who had flown several sorties in that region and knew the area very well. Von Bu faced some engine trouble during start, so he took off about 20 later. Not a good Omen at all. We got the orders to destroy a Bridge deep in enemy territory and on success destroy petrol tanks of an airfield and as a third target a factory near by. Our Rolands were equipped each with four of these 12,5kg bombs and Otto, my observer, got a twin Parabellum MG. We headed South West until we reached Nadvornaya and then we went East. I had the first run on the Bridge. And after 15-20 minutes constantly climbing we had the bridge in sight, directly ahead at our 12 o’clock. Wrongway did a really good job! I must admit, I was a bit doubtful about that because of his name.
Now it was my turn. While Wrongway and Himmelhund stayed at their altitude, I reduced throttle to minimum and entered a steep, slipping dive. Finally I approached the bridge from the South-West with a maximum speed, still diving. Holy crap! There stood a FLAK truck at the base of the bridge. And suddenly I heard a loud BANG! A FLAK shell exploded next to me. For some moments I heard nothing, not knowing where I am, I felt a sharp pain at my forehead and noticed blood running over my goggles. But I was still conscious, the plane and Otto were OK. However, I dropped the bomb and destroyed the bridge. Over the woods I climbed and turned in a hammerhead starting an additional approach on the FLAK truck. Diving on him I opened Fire from my Spandau and finally dropped a bomb on him. After I passed the truck I looked back and saw him crumbling to dust in a dozen of explosions. The bomb must have hit some of his FLAK shells.
My wound seemed not to be serious, but it gave me a hell of a headache and my reactions seemed to be a bit slow. So I decided to go back home. I fired a yellow flare and rocked my wings while heading West, signaling Wrongway and Himmelhund that I was returning to base.They continued their way to the Russian airfield while Otto and I flew in the opposite direction and soon we lost sight of them. I started to climb to cross the lines as high as possible. Coming from the Western Front, I found that Eastern Front quite odd since there’s no No-Mans-Land of mud and clouds of the constantly exploding shells. From an altitude of 1500meters and higher it all looked the same: Huge and small Rivers winding from South to North, forests, small villages, green fields and hills. Nothing down there looked like there was a bloody war ongoing. Now, after a while, half an hour or so, I had a safe landing on Czism field. I went to the squads nurse, Käthe, to get my head wound bandaged. Gentlemen I tell you, Käthe is a lovely maid and I would really like to spend some time with her.
When I walked out of the medics hut, I ran into our Deputy CO. He looked at me, noted my bandaged head and asked me if I could do an additional flight. From a spy behind the lines the HQ got a radio message, that Wrongway and Himmelhund failed to destroy the factory. The spy had picked up Himmelhund, but so far there was no sign of life from Wrongway. Now the HQ insisted in sending an additional Roland to the factory to totally destroy it. I took a deep breath and nodded my head, then turned back into the medics hut to ask Käthe for some more Aspirin.
Thirty minutes later I was in the air again, climbing to the North-East. My Idea was to cross the lines at Markovsky and pass the Russian airfield at Pjnko North, turning South-East behind Pjnko and approaching the factory from North-West. Although we passed Pjnko field in a very close distance, we didn’t have had any contact during the whole flight. OK, that was the easy part, I thought when the factory came in sight. In the meantime I have climbed up to 1700 meters and for the second time this day I reduced throttle to minimum and entered a steep dive. Wrongway and Himmelhund already did most of the work, since there was only one building left. I approached that building from the West side in a diving attack. Flying through FLAK clouds popping up around me I concentrated on my target. The I released one single bomb and BAM! Direct full hit. That must have been some kind of ammunition depot, since the whole big building exploded.
Mission accomplished, run for home, Otto shouted into my ears from behind, so I turned West and started to climb again. After a few minutes we noticed an airfield and Otto identified it as Udschtera field, the Russian bomber base. There were two other Rolands hanging around like hungry wolves. obviously waiting for a F.E.2 or one of these Russian big birds, the S-22, to show up. We have had plenty of fuel, 500 rounds in the front gun, 1000 for Ottots twin Parabellum and still three 12.5er. We were not alone and faster than anything else in the air. So we decided to stay a while aroung that airfield with the two other Rolands before going home. Unfortunately none of the 2-Seaters or heavy bombers showed up, so we dropped our payload on the airfield hangars before we started our way back zo Czism field after a long but successful day.