Jump to content
elephant

Gentlemen of the skies

Recommended Posts


I just saw this post at SimQH. That aerial photo supposedly taken by Boelcke is hilarious.

 

War is interesting/insane. You can try to kill a man--wounding him in the process of trying to kill him--but when you fail and are nice to him afterwards, you are "chivalrous."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And don't forget that these Knights of the Sky tried hard to shoot each other in the back, preferably without alerting the victim to the attacker's presence.

 

But I guess it seemed to people like something very chivalrous when compared to the life in the trenches. The same kind of chivalry wasn't restricted only to the air forces. At first, the submarine warfare was quite gentlemanly, with submarines giving time for the crews of the cargo ships to get to their lifeboats and even giving them directions to the nearest port before sinking the ship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd take the insanity of trying your best to kill someone before lunch and then treating them like your brother after lunch over the insanity of industrial slaughter any day.

 

The soldiers of old that used to line up in fields and fire muskets at eachother would probably think what we call war these days is completely insane as well.

Edited by MikeDixonUK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These gestures, sometimes, are nothing more than a way to bring some sanity back to their own life.

"...nothing more than..."?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And about that picture..."don't let the truth ruin a great story".

Really. Someone would have to have been using an ASA 400 film (or better) to stop that prop.

 

I recall reading that a German plane dropped a black wreath on the burial ceremony for Manfred von Richtofen. Does anyone know whether this was common, or an occasional gesture? Either way, it had to be dangerous flying that close to the ground, and that deep into enemy lines.

Edited by Hauksbee

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"...nothing more than..."?

Hauksbee, I'm not sure why you have quote that. But what is so strange about it? I mean bring back some civility, some order to the ruthless reality of war.

It works pretty much like a self-defence mechanism, a way to balance yourself. Of course all these codes of conduct can break a part, depending on the type of war and of the personal basis.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall reading that a German plane dropped a black wreath on the burial ceremony for Manfred von Richtofen. Does anyone know whether this was common, or an occasional gesture? Either way, it had to be dangerous flying that close to the ground, and that deep into enemy lines.

In the beginning of the air war, it was relatively common. But soon it become rare with the escalating attrition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hauksbee, I'm not sure why you have quote that. But what is so strange about it? I mean bring back some civility, some order to the ruthless reality of war.

I only queried that because the phrase "...nothing more than..." carries the sense of something of minor importance. ("The power went out last night all along the whole Eastern Coast, but it was nothing more than a software glitch") I feel that declining to punch somebody out in a heated barroom argument is an act of civility, but deciding to spare the life of somebody who has been trying to kill you is a profound act of humanity

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only queried that because the phrase "...nothing more than..." carries the sense of something of minor importance.

Yes sometimes, it has the whole importance of pure act of humanity. All I'm saying say is that sometimes it's nothing more than a pure self-preservation act, even having to end up put in danger directly their own life to accomplish that.

You see, I don't see things so black and white.

I'm not trying to judge this case specifically. For all I know, Boelcke was a "gentleman". However I doubt that if Boelcke had survived, he would end the war being the same "gentleman" as he was in the beginning.

Please, feel free to disagree.

Edited by Von Paulus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'However I doubt that if Boelcke had survived, he would end the war being the same "gentleman" as he was in the beginning.

Nope. No disagreement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only know, that Manfred von Richthofen made an interesting remark to a man he met on a train ride.

"I am after all only a combat pilot;" von Richthofen said, "but Boelcke, he was a hero."

 

Manfred von Richthofen's 60th victory was a two-seater, and he attacked the crew with his brand-new

Fokker Dr.1 Triplane. His description of the attack ends with a short statement, that shows no shame

or remorse. Von Richthofen said:

"Apparently the adversary had taken me for a British triplane, as the observer stood up in his machine

without making a move to attack me with his machine gun."

 

One does not know the inner feelings or judgements of Manfred von Richthofen, but in his appearance

and speech, he was all the Prussian soldier, who didn't show sentiments about such events.

 

I guess that Boelcke was different. Maybe warmer and with more noticable empathy.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed!

And about that picture..."don't let the truth ruin a great story". :biggrin:

 

Could be one frame from a movie? Just guessing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And don't forget that these Knights of the Sky tried hard to shoot each other in the back, preferably without alerting the victim to the attacker's presence.

 

But I guess it seemed to people like something very chivalrous when compared to the life in the trenches. The same kind of chivalry wasn't restricted only to the air forces. At first, the submarine warfare was quite gentlemanly, with submarines giving time for the crews of the cargo ships to get to their lifeboats and even giving them directions to the nearest port before sinking the ship.

And don't forget that these Knights of the Sky tried hard to shoot each other in the back, preferably without alerting the victim to the attacker's presence.

 

But I guess it seemed to people like something very chivalrous when compared to the life in the trenches. The same kind of chivalry wasn't restricted only to the air forces. At first, the submarine warfare was quite gentlemanly, with submarines giving time for the crews of the cargo ships to get to their lifeboats and even giving them directions to the nearest port before sinking the ship.

René Fock once reported that about to machine-gun a German two-seater who had not noticed him, he suddenly felt guilty (even while he had done that countless times before), and decided to retain fire until the observer could notice him and fire a first and only burst at him. But in this case it was less chivalry than trying to spice the sport!

 

Good comment about the sub warfare too, Hasse Wind. I have recently watched a fine TV film about the true story of the sinking of RMS Laconia in 1942, with nearly 2,000 Italian POWs aboard, by Hartenstein's U-156, and then the efforts by the German subs to save as many victims as possible, in spite of hazardous conditions, attacks by US planes, and strict opposite orders. Really an amazing story, restoring hope in mankind. Sadly, I can't see any counterpart for the US sub total war in the Pacific, not to speak about dramatic sinkings by the Soviets in the Baltic Sea in 1945.

 

About chivalry in the sky, and the moment to switch from merciless slaughter to chivalric spirit, an American unit commander during WW2, whose name and unit I can't remember at the moment, had once summoned his men and warned them that he would court-martial any pilot who would fire on a parachute. But with a discreet wink, he added something like: "But as long as the bastard is still sitting in his crate, spray him with everything you have!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I guess that Boelcke was different. Maybe warmer and with more noticable empathy.

 

that's actually not the case olham. They were similarly prussian soldiers. in boelcke's book he wrote how he disabled an enemy twoseater. don't remember what happened, if the pilot was wounded or whatever. however, the observer stood up waving to him desperately begging for their lifes and to stop shooting since they were disarmed and helpless. he felt sorry for them, he wrote, but war is war, so he fired another burst into their crate until it broke apart and of course they died.

 

MvR was also known for caring for his downed enemies who survived. he sent them cigars, and getwell postcards or even visited them personally in the hospital or prison camp. he took care that they got all they needed. but in the air there is no such hollywood romantic aviation blah. kill or be killed. disarming your enemy is no reason to let him escape. they are enemies and were treated as such in the heat of battle. those guynemer/udet stories or similar happened very very rarely, also strafing downed pilots was very common and nothing unfair. it's rather the romantic literature and movies which created the chivalry stuff and which made the people think (many decades after the war) that those very rare occasions when an enemy got spared, was something common, or by unwritten rule or whatever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think 'Chivalry' is...and always has been..a bit of a myth.

 

Where does the term come from?...yup, the Medieval Knights.... though, there was nothing very chivalrous about them.

A bunch of Rich Playboys, whose idea of Warfare, was to charge, fully armoured..and atop an armoured Horse, into a wad of lightly armed peasant conscripts, armed with little more than Farming tools, hacking and slashing as they went!....even if unhorsed, they had a very good chance of survival, as the enemy would want them alive for ransom.

 

As for WW1 flyers?...well, there must have been a bit of "well, if I'm nice to them, when they've survived perhaps they'll be nice to me if the shoe is on the other foot?"

 

They all were of coarse 'Human Beings' also....and contrary to popular belief...unlike animals..we DO have empathy for each other (we're social animals after all)...but it has little to do with Chivalry (imho)

Edited by UK_Widowmaker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I prefer to think that if someone is considered to be chivalrous or honourable because of their actions then they should be considered as being a chivalrous or honourable person - the only people that truely know why they acted in the way they did are the people themselves, so any other way of reasoning their actions is just peoples personal opinions - which in some cases might belittle their actions, seeing as honour and chivalry aren't tangible objects.

Edited by MikeDixonUK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..