Prof. Dr. Wegener visits Jasta 11
Event ID: 557
12 April 1917
Source ID: 33
On the evening of 11 April, Prof Dr Georg Wegener, a correspondent for Die Kölnische Zeitung, had arrived at La Brayelle. To impress this guest, Richthofen had a telescope set up so that Wegener could watch the Staffel head out for its first mission of the following day. As it transpired, the journalist had a front-row seat for one of Jasta 11’s great triumphs.
Initially, Prof Dr Wegener observed with great fascination the line-up of colourful aircraft and the young aerial warriors who flew them into battle:
… One after the other until take-off was determined they climbed into their flight clothing, which looked like a combination of a diver’s suit and a Dutch fisherman’s outfit, and, with their hands in their deep pockets, laughing and joking, sauntered amongst their groundcrews preparing their machines for take-off or over to the big telescope to carefully observe the sky. Even Richthofen had already put on his gear and carefully scrutinized the heavens with his naked eye.
All of a sudden – I myself saw not the slightest movement up in the clear blue – quickly he turned to a bell hanging nearby and sounded the alarm. In an instant all of the mechanics ran to their machines; each pilot hurried to his own, climbed into the seat, the propellers thundered, one after the other the small fast aeroplanes ran along a stretch of the ground, lifted up and quickly climbed up into the blue. The last one was Richthofen’s machine….
…”The good friend down on the ground was more than a little astonished”, Richthofen later wrote. “He had imagined the event quite different, much more dramatic. He thought it all looked quite harmless until suddenly some of the aeroplanes, one of them burning like a rocket, came crashing down. I have gradually become accustomed to the sight, but I must say that the first Englishman I saw go roaring down made a frightful impression on me and I dreamed about it for a long time.”…
…Prof Dr Wegener joined the Staffel members as they welcomed their returning comrades. He reported:
…”No one was injured. It all looked like it could have been a successful sporting event. But Richthofen’s machine showed how little it was really like that. An enemy machine-gun burst hit the left lower wing and the fabric for about a metre and a half looked like it had been slashed open by the swipe of a big knife. And on the outer wooden covering close to the pilot’s seat ran a second scar showing that another shot came close to taking his life.”
After a late breakfast Richthofen was off again, this time over British lines to catch RFC aircraft returning from missions over German emplacements.