A Cup of Tea Before You Go

Image BNPSOswald-Boelcke-and-Robert-Wilson - WW1

I mentioned Captain Oswald Boelcke in my previous post.   He was one of the first ace fighters and a hero within Germany.   He was a great aerial tactian and became a huge influence in the air.   His fame was only outmatched by the Red Baron.  He was also one of the ‘Gentlemen of the Sky’ in that he visited one of his ‘victims’ in hospital, and like the British did when Immelman died Boelcke managed to drop a letter to a downed pilot behind British Lines.    It was not only the British who admired him for Boelcke jumped into a channel and saved a drowning 14 year old French boy in 1915.

This story concerns Captain Wilson but it has been told that he did the same to other pilots as well who were shot down and survived.  Wilson was forced to land near the front lines of the Somme in September 1915 and was shadowed by Boelcke all the way down.  Upon getting out of the plane he was not met with a gun but a handshake and taken to his mess for a cup of coffee and a tour of his aerodrome.  The German wrote about this saying – his machine was wobbling badly…..because I had shot his elevator to pieces. …it was buring when the pilot jumped out and he beat his arms and legs about because he was on fire too……………..took him to coffee in the mess and showed him our aerodrome whereby I had a very interesting conversation with him.

Captain Wilson at the end of war said that ‘it was the greatest day of my life even though it ended badly for me’.

On 28 October 1916, Boelcke and his best friend Erwin Bohme flew four sorties over the front that morning. They were playing Chess when they received a call that British planes were coming overhead.  The day was rainy and misty and Bohme and Boelcke had lost sight of each other whilst fighting a british plane.   Although they saw each other at the last minute they managed to clip each others planes.  Bohme survived and Boelcke might have survived if he had worn a helmet!

A lone British aircraft dropped a wreath at his funeral with the inscription ‘To the memory of Captain Boelcke, our brave and chivalrous foe. From the British Royal Flying Corp’   Even Captain Wilson managed to send a wreath to the funeral.

Captain Wilburg, the staff officer for the airmen of Germany’s First Army said:

A mighty hero, a noble warrior,
A pure soul, our Boelcke has fallen,
His deeds are immortal,
His name is imperishable,
May his spirit be our spirit.

The infamous Manfred von Richthofen (Red Baron) said “I am only a fighting airman, but Boelcke was a hero.

#unexpectedhero #Boelcke #WW1


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