01 September 1916
Source ID: 44
“Are you no longer interested, my young friend, in being a fighter pilot?”, Bölcke asked the incredulous Baron. “Yes, of course, sir” Manfred blurted out. Quickly recovering his usual poise, he waved the Saxon flier to a chair. “Please be seated, Herr Leutnant”.
In a few staccato sentences, Bölcke explained the reason for his visit. The Baron was well aware of the reason but listened politely and with the greatest interest. “Affairs are going badly for our airmen on the Somme Front. The enemy has seized control of the air. You know what that means. Their aircraft are directing artillery fire without interference. Their fighters are incessantly strafing our infantry. The effect on the morale of our men is abysmal. Our flying service is being derided. The front-line troops are saying: ‘May God punish England, our artillery, and our air force.’ And the infantry is asking: ‘Has anybody seen a German airman?’ I have been ordered to recruit a group of select fliers and form a crack squadron and drive the enemy from the air. How about you, Baron, would you like to join me on the Somme and see some real fighting?”