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When there was still some Chivalry in the Air War

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Vizefeldwebel Fritz Engmann (Pilot) and Oberleutnant Georg Haupt-Heydemarck (Observer)

forced Sous-Lieutenant Jean Raty in this French Nieuport fighter to land on German held terrain.

Raty wrote a note, which they encapsuled and dropped over the French lines.

The note reads:


To the captain and leader of the Nieuport-Squadron 38 in Chalons:

The Second-Lieutenant Raty has, after a first aerial combat over Mézières,

attacked three Fokker to defend a Caudron. After he had fired his ammunition drum,

and forced down to 200 meters above the ground, he was forced to land due to a jam.

He is sound and well. He was received very kindly by the pilots of the Fokker-Staffel.

He asks to notify Mr. Perchot, Rue de l'Abbé de Beaumont, No. 16, Paris, and

Miss Darnys, Rue de Tocqueville No. 67 in Paris.


Warm greetings to all comrades!

Jean Raty 6 June 1916.




This info was from the fine website "Flieger-Album": www.flieger-album.de



Edited by Olham

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There were still some few examples of such chivalric stories during WW2: the brotherhood of pilots above the rest. One of the best known of such stories concerns of course the legendary British ace Douglas Bader, the man who flew with two prosthetic legs. Shot down over Northern France in 1941, he could eject with one leg less, and was captured. He was respectfully visited by the most prominent German aces from JG2 and JG26, including General Galland, who took contact with the British to negotiate a safe passage for a RAF bomber to drop a new leg for Bader on an airfield, an unprecedented operation approved by Göring himself. Less chivalric, the RAF took advantage of the safe passage to launch a strike nearby!


Quite recently, I stumbled on several shocking pics of Vichy French pilots hitting it on with German Nazi airmen. I thought it at first a disgusting example of Vichy collaboration, but it was rather a private affair between pilots. During the Phoney War, two French pilots from GC III/6 had shot down a Do 17, and in the finest traditions of WW1, had brought back the German officer to their mess to offer him a last fine dinner before he was sent to a POW camp (for a few months only, actually). Late May 1941, the GC III/6 sent to Syria transited through German-occupied Athens, and was unexpectedly welcomed there by this German officer, whose bomber unit was quartered nearby, who had heard of the arrival of his former hosts, and who was eager to return the favour. The French pilots were honoured guests for a couple of days, guided by welcoming German airmen in the city of Athens (the Parthenon as well as the night clubs), and taking with them the memory of how drunken and noisy a German night party can be! Just one week later, the GC III/6 had to face RAF and RAAF in Syria, with cruel losses on both sides.

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There's still some chivalry even in modern war. For example, in my little war 20 years ago, there was this big wall of sand bulldozed up for many miles to mark the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We called it "the Berm". The terrain as far as you could see on either side was flat as a billiards table, so the Berm was an important tactical feature. If you were on top of it, you could see what the other guys were doing, but if you weren't, they were invisible. And in the early days of the war, it was sort of the center of No-Man's-Land. The opposing main forces were all some distance behind it so the Berm was where patrols and raids skirmished. Thus, ownership of particular sections of the Berm changed hands all the time and usually alternated every mile or so along its length.


Anyway, one day I went out on another patrol to look over the Berm. As usual, there was nothing to see on the other side, because both sides kept their main forces back out of observation distance. In fact, at first there was only 1 thing to see. About 1 mile away to my left atop the berm was a party of Iraqis on the same pointless mission as us. Now, nobody went to the Berm without something that could shoot that far and/or the ability to call in arty or air. But being as we were out of smallarms range and neither of us was doing any good anyway, there was usually a live-and-let live attitude. So we waved at the Iraqis and they waved at us, and we pretended to ignore each other.


But after a while, a Hummer approached the Berm from my side, about halfway between me and the Iraqis. When it got within about 500m of the Berm, it turned left and paralleled it, doing I guess about 60mph. So, its occupants had proven themselves not to be another pointless Berm patrol but were Doing Something (Lord knows what). This made them a valid target under the Rules of the Berm. And the Iraqis down the way had brought a mortar along for just such occasions. But this was a crossing target, with not only bearing changing but also range, and both rapidly. This isn't the sort of things mortars were designed to hit. However, particularly skillful mortarmen can "free tube" the mortar, holding it in their hands instead of relying on the bipod, to hit moving targets. And that's what these Iraqis proceeded to do. The 1st shot was long but on for bearing, the 2nd was short but on for bearing, and the 3rd was a direct hit. This all happened over about 15-20 seconds at most.


The bomb hit the back of the Hummer and scattered cases of Stinger AAMs all over the desert. The 4 guys in the Hummer bailed out and lay there for a while, then got up and started walking back the way they'd come. The Iraqis didn't shoot at them any more. And all in my party stood up and started clapping our hands over our heads and yelling "GOOD SHOT!" Seriously, what else was there to do? We didn't have a mortar ourselves and by the time we'd whistled up air support, that Iraqi could have put a round in each of our hip pockets, he was that good. The Iraqis soon looked at us, doubtless in fear we'd retaliate, and saw us all clapping. And damn if the morterman didn't stand up and take a bow!


Later on, when things got a lot more serious, I rained destruction on scores of Iraqui mortarmen. But I've always hoped that particular bastard survived and today is bouncing grandbabies on his knee.

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Good stuff, Capitaine and Bullethead.

War is a very ambiguous chimera, it seems to me. So many contradicting feelings and events.

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War is a very ambiguous chimera, it seems to me. So many contradicting feelings and events.


Absolutely. I think the real brutalities of war are the result of civilization (one reason among many that I'm an anarchist). Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were tough bastards who took every adversity in stride or we wouldn't be here. Of course, they typicaally had blood feuds lasting centuries with the tribe across the river, but that had its rules. It was only after folks started farming that you see total massacres of rival villages. But even then, old habits took a while to disappear. For instance, all the Trojan notables attended Achilles' funeral and nobody took the opportunity to wheck thenm upside the head.

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