CHAPTER THREE - The Village
19th January 1918
Hauptmann Heidemann’s ego is beyond words. He decided that he needed an aerial portrait of his humble Jasta to put on the wall above his desk. Hard to believe this was really necessary, considering that the office itself is a glorified storage shed.
He knew I could handle a camera and Wili Von Klugermann volunteered to take me up in one of the DFW’s.
I should have suspected something was up when Wili was so eager. Every time I leaned out with my box camera to take a shot, that pouty Prussian would dip the wing so strongly I was almost tossed out.
The photos were a mess, Heidemann was angry and Von Klugermann and Kettering had a great laugh at my expense.
Well the hell with all of them!
Heidemann did not get the aerial of his beloved Jasta, but it’s a quiet night and I have nothing else to do, so I will make my own.
Our Aerodrome is located just east of Beauvin, where two highways and a railroad spur intersect. Beauvin is separated from the Aerodrome by an icy cold river and a stone bridge. Thirteen pilots, twelve tent hangers along with mechanics and staff.
There is a row of poplar trees to the south where we have lost more than a few young pilots who misjudged the clearance when landing.
My desk is in one corner, Heidemann’s in another. We have a pot-bellied stove for heat and fine furniture I scabbed together from leftover packing crates. Thank God we have a few windows or the stink from the peat smoke and wet wool would kill me.
Here is where I get my serious work done.
The town is a shell of what it once was, built around a factory destroyed at the start of the war. Our occupation of the village came with the usual public execution of supposed French spies and then we commandeered the nicest homes for our officers. After all that, the will of the local people broke.
What remains for them is some meager farming and the black market. Pilots have money and when the weather is bad, lots of free time. A perfect combination for corruption! Do you need brandy, women, perhaps some help getting letters back home without censors taking a look? I am a humble clerk, but I offer these important services to the entire Jasta, including our Hauptmann.
There is not much I can’t get done when I meet with the locals behind the Old Factory.