That contemporary aviation historians in Germany concentrate chiefly on the Luftwaffe in World War II is readily understandable. But it is nice to know that a spark of enthusiasm for the fliers and exploits of World War I still exists within the German aviation community--much to this reviewer's surprise and pleasure.
In a tidy little volume, the daughter of the famous "Bagdadflieger" Hans Hesse has presented his life story as recorded by him before his death in a bombing attack in March 1945. And what an adventure it is. Hesse began his career in 1911, first flying balloons and then cutting his teeth on Rumpler Taubes at Döberitz. He was mobilized with Feldflieger-Abteilung12 and performed reconnaissance missions over Belgium. On 19 August 1914, flying alone in Albatros Taube A.29/13, Hesse had engine trouble and, with the last reserve of power, he managed to land in Holland, rather than in Belgium, where he thought his eyes would be punched out and his ears trimmed. Interned, he signed an agreement not to escape, but, realizing after several months that the war would not end by Christmas, Hesse escaped by train to Germany. Upon informing his commanding officer of his signed agreement and, after much fuss and bother, Hesse was ordered by the General Staff to return to Holland, which he did, only to escape again, this time with the assistance of a German businessman and his speedy automobile. This time Hesse had been careful not to sign an agreement.
Hesse joined the Inspektion der Fliegeretruppen [Inspectorate of Military Aviation] at Adlershof, where he tested captured aircraft, including Nieuport, REP, Caudron and Farman types. Courageously or foolishly (depending on how you look at it), in 1915 Hesse was among the first to perform a parachute jump. After French pilot Roland Garros capture revealed his primitive deflector wedge device for shooting through the propeller arc, Hesse was charged with copying the idea for use in German aircraft. Anthony Fokker got wind of the news and, according to Hesse, came to Adlershof to present his idea of shooting through the propeller arc without using a deflector wedge. Since Fokker felt that "the perfection of his idea would take some time," Hesse continued to experiment with the deflector wedge. During a firing demonstration, the bullets blasted the propellor asunder and caused the running engine to tear loose from the test framework with nearly disastrous consequences for the spectators.
Hesse tested the new, streamlined Prüfanstalt und Werft [Test Establishment and Workshop] bombs at Döberitz, investigated Aviatik machines that had been suffering from wing failures and finally, at his request, was assigned to Feldflieger-Abteilung 57 in Serbia, where he shared some adventures with Austro-Hungarian naval pilots. Then Hesse went back in Germany to evaluate new aircraft on the Western Front until the fall of 1916, when he joined Jagdstaffel 25 in Macedonia. Next he became technical officer of Kampfstaffel 2, in which, when it arrived on the Western Front, he was instrumental in its preparations for night operations.
Assigned to command the St. Stefano Airfield in Turkey, Hesse had an Albatros B.II fitted with a 500-liter fuel tank in the front cockpit. He flew it solo to Baghdad via Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia, Constantinople, Aleppo, Mosul and other stops in between. More adventures in Iraq followed. Hesse returned to Darmstadt in the summer of 1918 and to command Flieger-Ersatz-Abteilung 9. At wars end, Hesse fought in the revolution in Berlin and then went on to fly Junkers float planes in South America.
This memoir is written in German. It contains a number of photographs and a map of Baghdad. Hesse's story could have been enhanced by a more detailed time scale and by recording dates when certain events occurred. The latter aspect makes it difficult to place the happenings within a definite time frame.
submitted by Peter M. Grosz