28/10/1916 German ace Boelcke’s luck runs out

Oswald Boelcke is one of Germany’s star fighter pilots on the Western Front, having brought down some 40 enemy aircraft. The young pilot is an inspirational figure to the other pilots who serve under him. He has codified his observations on how fighter planes should operating, emphasising that aerial warfare is a group effort. Boelcke also has a reputation for chivalrous behaviour towards his enemies, often visiting wounded British and French fliers that he has brought down.

Boelcke had a friendly rivalry with Max Immelmann, another German fighter pilot. When Immelmann was killed, Boelcke was grounded by the Kaiser, who feared the morale effect of his loss so soon after Immelmann. Boelcke went on a tour of the Balkans and Turkish Empire but he declined a permanent desk job, returning to the skies of the Western Front.

Today Boelcke has made a series of sorties, on the hunt for enemy aircraft. On his sixth flight of the day he is joined by some of his most gifted subordinates, including Manfred von Richthofen and Erwin Böhme. They clash with British fighters. Boelcke and Böhme both pursue the same enemy aircraft, in violation of Boelcke’s own rules of engagement, but then disaster strikes. The two German planes get too close to each other. Boelcke swerves to avoid crashing into Böhme, but Böhme’s wheels clip the upper wing of Boelcke’s plane. Boelcke manages to crash-land but the impact kills him.

Böhme is distraught as having inadvertently killed his mentor. He intends to kill himself, but is dissuaded from doing so. Germany does not have so many fighter pilots that they can be allowed to take their own lives. In any case, the grim statistics governing aerial warfare on the Western Front suggest that it will not be long before he joins Boelcke.

image sources:

Oswald Boelcke (Diesel Punks)

Hall of Fame of the Air

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