Accounts of the 'Knights of the Sky' in the Great War
For those interested in the most outstanding airmen of the Great War, this book will a highly satisfying read. The author has chronicled the aces of the allied forces and has enhanced his narrative with riveting accounts and first hand experiences and reports of the 'High Aces' in action. Within these pages the reader will discover the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille, Roland Garros—possibly the first Ace, Guynemer, Lufbery, Fonck, Pinsard and many others of varied nationalities. The valiant flyers of the bomber force are also covered as is the contribution made by American pilots. The appendix includes a list of the Aces of all nations with their 'kills' and much other vital information. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket. A must for every one interested in the dogfights over the trenches.
Garros for some time had been perfecting an invention which eventually produced a revolution in the fourth arm of all the belligerent countries. It was a method of allowing the pilot to engage in battle without the necessity of being accompanied by an observer.<br>
Homogeneity on board an aeroplane is extremely difficult to obtain. Moreover, the apostle of light aviation was of the opinion that the less dead weight an aeroplane was encumbered with, the easier to handle it would be, and consequently the better able to attack. It was necessary then to find a way to fire through the propeller without fear of breaking it.<br>
After various experiments, many of which were faulty at first, Garros succeeded in finding a solution, thanks to a band of steel in form of a pyramid fixed on each blade at the spot passing before the gun muzzle. The balls that hit the blade were deflected so that the propeller was not damaged at all. This system was adopted by the Germans who later perfected it, basing it on a synchronization permitting the elimination of the bands of steel, and thereby increased the utility of the propeller.<br>
While Garros devoted himself to these experiments, some other pilots distinguished themselves in combats.
Pegoud, on the 9th of February, 1915, accompanied by machine gunner Le Rendu, flew above the region of Grand-Pré, where he engaged in his first combat. Let him tell of the duel:<br>
A Taube came in my direction, I attacked at less than 50 yards with my machine gun. It made a half turn. I followed it at 800 yards while my companion fired without ceasing. After a minute or so of pursuit, the enemy made a long glide on the left wing and fell; the front was enveloped in flames and smoke, fragments of fabrics detached themselves from the wings. It crashed to the south of Grand Pré.<br>
In the same vicinity, I perceived then two Aviatics, of which one flew above the sector northeast of Montfaucon. I attacked the nearest. At the first burst of bullets he dived.<br>
I charge upon him vertically, continuing my fire. I see him neatly hit by a tracer bullet, and he darts into space. I raise my machine to 5000 feet. I regain my altitude, pursue the second Aviatic which flies over the sector east of Montfaucon. I approach, firing my machine gun at him from about 40 yards below him. During fifty seconds, he sustains the combat by shots from his automatic rule, but soon he seems to be hit, and he falls in a spin. I charge in a vertical volplane, shooting my machine gun continuously. And the Aviatic, crippled in the wings and the tail, disappears into space.<br>
Surrounded by the enemy’s shells of all calibre, I safely came to the ground at Sainte-Menehould.<br>
Such is the official account which Pegoud gave of this glorious exploit. One does not do better today!<br> Unfortunately at that time they counted only those machines that fell in our lines.<br>
On March 21, 1916, in the course of a reconnaissance, Sergeant Salze with Lieutenant Moreau brought down an Aviatic above the railroad track near Turckheim nineteen kilometres to the west of Colmar. He was scouting at long range when he was attacked above Munster by two Boches who found themselves below him. He dived on the first, placed himself in a favourable position, and Lieutenant Moreau opened fire at thirty yards. At the second charge, and with the fifth cartridge, the musket triumphs: the enemy pilot is without doubt killed, the Aviatic is crippled in one wing and crashes near Walbach. It falls astraddle a ditch.<br>
Salze descends to 2000 feet to watch the fall, despite the artillery fire which has not ceased to rage during the entire combat, even at the risk of hitting the Boche. The French machine again takes the altitude and goes to attack the second Aviatic, more swift than the first. The two aeroplanes turn the one about the other. At the third turn the adversary flees, diving toward Colmar. Salze comes back above Walbach again to see his victim. A crowd of Boche soldiers are about the wrecked machine. Moreau fires his last cartridges on the group, then the conquerors joyfully return to Belfort, where they are feted as they so richly deserve. Lieutenant Moreau was killed later by a bomb, and Salze, having become Lieutenant and after having received the Médaille Militaire and the Legion of Honour, fell to his death in the trial of an aeroplane on August 22, 1917.