"Train of Gold" Explodes Under British Attack
June 1918... a German train laden with ammunition and gold bullion was headed east, where it would stop on a bridge and have its cargo loaded onto a barge which would then make its way along a canal to German headquarters. A British two seater unit was scrambled into the air under orders to destroy the Train of Gold at any cost, or at least find a way to prevent the gold and ammunition from reaching its destination. The British flight consisted of two Bristols (Joe, AJ) and a DH 9 (Bob). If they couldn't destroy the train itself, they were ordered to sink the barge or demolish the bridge in order to prevent the gold and ammunition from reaching its destination.
The German Jasta charged with protecting the train's cargo was grounded by a heavy rainstorm, so two ace fighter pilots who were visiting a nearby two-seater squadron were ordered to round up whatever airplanes they could find and get into the air immediately. LTN Nicholson Bob (Ethan, 15/2) found a 160 hp Fokker DVII in a nearby shed while VZFW Gerald Holzhauser (Stephen, 14/3) was offered the unit's only stand-by Fokker DrI.
The Germans tried to engage the attacking British two seaters but were plagued with missed shots. Bob's DH 9 dove into the canal and scored three direct hits followed by Joe's Bristol, which added two more. The barge was decisively sunk before it could even reach its rendezvous point to pick up the gold and ammunition.
AJ's Bristol had circled south to line up a bombing run on the train which turned out to be tremendously successful. With the help of a secondary munitions explosion, his crew took out five of the six cars on the train, leaving only the engine to arrive at the rendezvous bridge two turns later.
But the anti-aircraft fire had taken a toll, especially on AJ and Bob, who were fleeing in opposite directions while the last remaining Britisher (Joe's Bristol) succeeded in destroying the locomotive to make the British victory complete. Nicholson's DVII (Ethan) pursued AJ's Bristol and managed to score two long-distance bursts with maximum damage, but the Bristol refused to go down. Both AJ and Joe would save their crews and return home safely.
But Bob's DH 9 had already sustained four engine hits from Flaming Onion AA fire. Holzhauser's faster Triplane closed the gap and scored 9 hit factors with a 50 foot bottom shot that gave the DH 9 its 6th and 7th engine hits. The engine damage roll turned up a pair of "1's" ("Roll high, Bob!") and the DH 9 disappeared in a massive explosion. And since Bob's De Havilland was the only plane with a mounted camera, the Brits had no photographic proof of their overwhelming victory and their hopes for a bravery medal were snubbed by the English high command.
When the motion picture "The Blue Max" was filmed in the 1960's, a number of special aircraft were built for use in the hit movie. Two of them were full scale Pfalz DIII's, which were featured in the early scenes with actor George Peppard. One of those Pfalz's still flies frequently in air shows around the country, now sporting the historically correct silver paint of an actual German pilot. This airplane accurately represents the sights and sounds common on the Western Front in 1917.
March 26 Game Report
A new player, Joe Humpal, joined us for gaming on March 26, 2022 at the Meister's home in Thorntown, Indiana. Joe is an experience gamer and quickly got the hang of Dawn Patrol. Along with Bob, Joe flew an Albatros DIII in the day's first mission to defend a German balloon at 600 feet altitude. Stephen, AJ and Ethan attacked in French Nieuports with Ethan doing the most damage and winning the cut for victory credit when the balloon exploded.
The second mission featured the same teams in different airplanes. Stephen, Ethan and AJ flew French SPAD VII's while Bob and Joe flew Pfalz DIIIa's in a high altitude battle over the front lines. No kills were scored and the game ended in a draw when both Pfalz's retreated with engine damage.
Gotha Aircraft from the London Bomber to the Flying Wing Jet Fighter
Hard cover, 159 pages
Available at Casemate Publishing
This new hardbound book from author Andreas Metzmacher offers a rare glimpse inside the workings of the famed Gotha aviation firm, which is now synonymous with German heavy bombers of World War I. The text gives a great account of the Gotha G series bombers that were dominant in the war effort and were later featured in numerous films including this memorable scene from "Flyboys."
Interest in heavy bombers among Dawn Patrol players runs deep, making "Gotha Aircraft" a highly recommended volume for aviation gamers across the country.
"The German Army on the Western Front 1915"
Soft cover, 318 pages
Available at Casemate Publishing
If you want to know what it was like to be a front line German soldier in 1915, Jack Sheldon's newest work is for you. The two features that make this book stand out against other similar works in my library are its near-total reliance on first hand battle accounts and its consistent use of maps.
Sheldon has gone to great lengths to present his picture of the German state of affairs in 1915 through the eyes of those who lived it. From the lowest anonymous enlisted man to the memoirs of the Crown Prince, this book is fundamentally built around personal accounts. And we're not talking about one or two sentences. Sheldon offers lengthy quotes that give the reader the full context of the subject and minute details of battles fought long ago that would be impossible to reconstruct by any other means.
Secondly, "The German Army on the Western Front 1915" lets the reader know where he is at with a full slate of maps. Nothing is more frustrating for a North American reader than to see the name of a town or village and know only that it must be somewhere in Europe. Sheldon's hand-drawn maps are scaled appropriately to show the action described in each chapter and let the reader know where they are and how they got there.
The addendums showing a comparison of equivalent ranks in the British and German armies and a short biography of the main characters are icing on the cake that show attention to detail and answer most of the readers' questions before they are asked. This book is an indispensable addition to any World War I library, especially so for our readers who focus on the German side of the war.