Dieselpunks

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Knights of the Air: Something Different

Meet Oberleutnant Max (Maximilian Karl) Hesse.

Here he is, holding a dog, with Leutnant Rudolf Stanger. Hesse was not an ace but he had an illustrious war career, crash-landing in the enemy territory in 1914 and being the pilot of the first plane in history which corrected artillery fire through wireless messages (Jan. 12, 1915). Promoted to Hauptmann, he was in command of a bomber squad and then a bomber group, Fliegergruppe G. Hesse survived the war and settled in his home region which became a part of Czechoslovakia. (Source)

Hesse's Albatros B.I two seater looked more or less like this:

We can endlessly discuss the flaws and virtues of famous WWI aircraft, we can recall brilliant aces of the Great War again and again. But the main objective of our Knights of the Airseries is to expose a complex and sometimes surprising picture of the air war.

Recently, I stumbled upon a blog (highly recommended to all of you) specializing in forgotten pages of aviation history. The author, Gary C. Warne, wrote: "I am often surprised when I talk with people about the Great War by their lack of knowledge regarding the nations involved. If they know anything about it, they usually claim the only combatants were the U.S., Germany, England, and on occasion, some will say France. They are genuinely surprised when I mention countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Japan, Rumania, Turkey, or Austria-Hungary. I have even been challenged on that last one by one person claiming such a country didn’t exist. "

Well, we dieselpunks do not doubt the Danube Monarchy's existence and know something about Austro-Hungarian (as well as Belgian, Russian, Bulgarian and Italian) air force. To some of us the emblem at right speaks a lot. But what do we know about two-seater aces?

Back to Mr. Warne's blog: "... when I discuss two-seater aces, I usually get blank stares, as if such a thing couldn’t exist, or is hard to believe. The discussion is then something along the lines of “How did they fly two-seaters like pursuit planes? Weren’t they usually heavier, slower, and less maneuverable? Weren’t they supposed to be flying reconnaissance or bombing missions instead of attacking other aircraft?” Yes, I’ll say…but that didn’t stop the RFC/RAF’s McKeever and Powell, the US’ Erwin and Easterbrook, Germany’s Huffzky and Ehmann, and for Austria-Hungary, it was Heyrowsky and Hauser/Purer/Safar (or occasionally with Fiala, Wagener or Lerch). "

All names mentioned don't instantly spring in mind when we talk about WWI aviation. Each and every one of them deserves a special entry here. Some day they will enter the Dieselpunk Hall of Fame. Right now, only one name: "Adolf Heyrowsky was the highest scoring two-seater ace with the Austro-Hungarian Air Service, finishing the war with 12 official victories. "

Read his biography on the Warnepieces blog: "At the outbreak of the war, he <...> established his legend only weeks later when he bombed a pontoon bridge to prevent Serbian forces from crossing the Save river into Austro-Hungarian territory. Flying his Albatros B.I with the control column gripped by his knees, he lit the fuses on the hand-held bombs he carried, dove on the bridge, timing it to just before the fuses burned down, and tossed them over as he passed six hundred feet over the bridge. Astoundingly, his bombs hit it and exploded, destroying the center section. The Serbian thrust was thereby thwarted. "

"November 9, 1914 saw his promotion to commanding officer of Flik 9 and it was with this unit that he scored his first victory, a Serbian observation balloon near Belgrade on February 22, 1915. Ten days later he and his observer Oskar Safar did it again, downing a second balloon near Belgrade. For his leadership and aggressiveness, he was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and awarded the Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd class. "

"In August (1915), he was made CO of the newly formed Flik 12, and in 1916, given command of Flik 19 which would establish a reputation as one of the finest two-seater outfits in the Austro-Hungarian Army Air Service with at least six of the pilots who served in the unit going on to become aces in their own right. The unit was soon established on the Isonzo front facing Italian forces. "

Heyrowsky began flying the Hansa Brandenburg C.1 with Flik 19 and scored most of his remaining victories in this type of machine. On May 14, 1916, with Benno Fiala as his observer, he downed the Italian airship “M4” near Merna for his third victory. "

And more...

One of Heyrowsky's awards, the Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd class:

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Comment by Komissar Hass on February 3, 2012 at 5:13am

Something different indeed! 

Comment by Elvisrocks59 on February 2, 2012 at 7:34pm

A real eyeopener. Well done Lord K.

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