“Russian pilots are more dangerous enemies than the French. In their attacks, perhaps, there is no planned character, but in the air they are unshakable and can suffer great losses without panic. Russian pilot remains a terrible opponent
Military columnist for the Austrian newspaper Pester Loyd, 1915 year.
Military columnist for the Austrian newspaper Pester Loyd, 1915 year.
Modern researchers believe the First World War aces of all the pilots who shot down five or more enemy aircraft. Despite the relatively small number of air battles on the eastern front (compared to the western one), 15 pilots earned this honorary title in Russia. One of them was Yuri Vladimirovich Gilsher.
Yuri Gilscher with his fellow squadrons. South-Western Front, Galicia, winter 1916 – 1917
He was born on November 14, 1894 (all dates are indicated according to the old style) in the family of Moscow pillar nobles. He received a good education by graduating from the Moscow Alekseevsk Commercial School. Contemporaries say that Yuri was smart, handsome, well-built and really liked the girls. But in the courtyard, 1914 came, and the First World War began. Gilscher, not wanting to sit out in the rear, on November 30 entered the Nikolaev Cavalry School. Studying is easy for him, since he grew up with horses since childhood and was an excellent rider. In addition, he opens up other talents - in competitions in rifle shooting, Yuri takes second place in the entire school. Already on May 7, 1915, Gilscher became a junker, and on June 1, with the rank of ensign, he graduated with honors. But to participate in violent cavalry attacks Gilscher did not happen. At the same time, he met with pilots and listens to their stories about flying in the sky. The Imperial Air Fleet was growing stronger, and he urgently needed pilots. Gilscher decides to devote himself to this cause and, having received the go-ahead from his superiors, goes to Gatchina aviation school. He mastered piloting an airplane without difficulty and already in August began to fly independently. As a sign of special trust, the school leadership sends him to guard from the air of the imperial residence - Tsarskoye Selo as part of a special squadron. On September 9, Gilscher successfully passes the exams and on October 17 received the title of “military pilot”. Soon after saying goodbye to his family, he goes to the front as part of the fourth army squadron. On his first Voyazen-type aircraft, on November 7, among others, Gilscher arrives to receive his first combat mission to the Stankovo estate, where the Army headquarters was located at that time. To prevent the motors from freezing from the cold, the pilots took turns starting them in their cars. By a stupid accident, during one such launch, when giving the handle back, Yuri does not have time to remove his hand, resulting in a closed fracture of both bones of the right forearm and a bruise of the hand. After first aid, the pilot is sent to a field hospital, where gypsum is applied. Since it was temporarily impossible to fly in this condition, Gilscher was sent to his relatives in Moscow, where he works at the Duks factory in the spare parts acceptance department.
The work was not difficult and, as soon as Yury’s hand went on the mend, on January 31 of 1916, he wrote a letter to the detachment commander: “In view of my health condition, which does not allow me to fly in wartime at the present time and wanting to use this time to train at high-speed bimonoplanes of the Nyupor, Moran and Sopvich systems, please send me to the Military Aviation School. ”
The management agreed, sending it to the Odessa Aviation School. 8 March Gilscher graduated from retraining and finally healed his hand. 22 March, he already met with his new commander, Second Lieutenant Ivan Orlov, who heads the seventh aviation fighter squad. Gilscher received in control a new aircraft designed by Igor Sikorsky "C-16". This lightweight unit has been fully developed in Russia. There were five variants of the fighter, distinguished by engines, equipment and chassis (wheeled, ski or float). The C-16 was armed with a Vickers machine gun. For a couple of study flights, Yuri figured out in his management. 4 April Orel fighter squad was finally formed and flew to the front.
This accident led to the amputation of the left leg.
On April 20, Warrant Officer Gilscher first participated in a group air battle. Due to the small number of pilots, it was necessary to fly daily, often several times a day. On April 27, Yuri Gilscher opened an account for his air victories, having shot down an Austrian scout over Burkanow. Bullets damaged the control of the machine, disabled the observer's machine gun and wounded the pilot in the leg. A plane of an Austrian pilot bleeding blew over the front line. According to the decree of the Imperial Air Force Fleet determining only the vehicles that fell at our location or confirmed by ground forces that were shot down, the victory was not officially counted to Gilscher. Ironically, on the same day, Yuri again had to fly out on an evening patrol with the observer pilot, warrant officer Kvasnikov. The pilots were already returning home when the aileron control system jammed. The plane rolled over several times in the air and fell into a tailspin. From a height of a thousand meters, the airplane crashed to the ground. The first Russian infantrymen to arrive at the crash site retrieved the pilots from the wreckage. Only thanks to a miracle, both aviators were alive, but received a great many wounds. Gilscher tore off the foot of his left foot and broke his head. In the hospital, he had to amputate his leg to the knee.
After that, endless hospital days flowed again. It was clear to everyone that the aviation was over for the young guy. At this time, Yuri received a letter stating that by the Highest order from 30 March 1916, he was made into cornets. When the leg healed, Gilscher acquired a wooden prosthesis and began to re-learn to walk. Again everything turned out surprisingly easy for him. First crutches, then a cane, and soon Yuri walked with a prosthesis so that only the initiates could notice a slight limp. And he decided to return to the front and start flying again. Gilscher got an audience with the head of the Directorate of the Air Force, Major General N.V. Pnewski and persuaded him to assist in the return to the system in the form of a petition to the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. Doctors also allowed the cornet to continue service in aviation, because they considered that it would not require any special physical strength from the young pilot. Only this Gilscher and waited. October 30 1916, Yuri returned to his squad.
Y. Gilsher. December 1916
A new page in the biography of Gilscher has begun. Flying almost every day, he carried out various tasks: he reconnoitered the positions of the enemy, covered the ground forces from the air, conducted air battles.
From one letter from Yuriy home: “The last time I was on the 80 meters from the German, but I had a machine gun stuck, and I barely dodged his bullets: the enemy machine guns are terribly unpleasantly cracking.”
When, in November, the commander of a detachment, Orlov, goes on a business trip to France, then, thanks to his authority, among the other pilots, Gilscher is appointed to perform the duties of a commander. In winter, because of the cold weather, the planes rarely flew and the pilots, without losing time in vain, went on the hunt, shot at targets. Yuri studied Morse code, fiddling with horses, adapting to ride a horse. After the results of the inspection, which required an increase in the accuracy of the detachment's shooting, Gilscher designed a special swinging simulator that simulates the shooting of an airplane. All pilots were required to train on it. January 31 Yuri during a ten-minute battle, after shooting all the ammunition, was unarmed under enemy fire. Only the masterly possession of the plane entrusted to him, composure and sober calculation allowed him to leave and return to the airfield unharmed. In March, 1917 was returned by Second Lieutenant Orlov, and Gilscher handed him the command of the detachment.
Gilscher in July 1916 after receiving the Order of St. Vladimir for the first victory
31 march in the evening, patrolling over the front line, he shot down a German plane, damaging his radiator. However, the enemy's apparatus, releasing a plume of white smoke, fell on its territory and again was not counted.
2 in the morning at 8 in the morning in the area of Yezupol Yuri waylaid the enemy plane Oeffag C-III of the 11 of the Austrian aviation fleet, which regularly flew the same route over our positions at the same time. He damaged the enemy's machine gun, but the German, I must give him his due, did not stop the battle, continuing to shoot from a signal pistol. Only after the stock of missiles ended, and our pilot’s dominance in the sky was beyond doubt, did the Austrian sign for permission to land. Of course, Yuri did not finish off the enemy. However, it did not save the German. After his damaged aircraft landed on the ground, he was immediately bombed by Russian artillery. This time the victory was counted, and Orlov introduced Yuri to the award of the Order of St. George of the fourth degree. Also, for participating in intense May fights, the command decided to submit Cornet Gilscher to the rank of “lieutenant”. But in higher instances they judged differently, and the rank of lieutenant Yuri was not given. And on June 17, in the unequal air battle with two opponents, the commander of the detachment Ivan Orlov was killed. Gilscher led the squad, despite the fact that there were officers above him in rank.
The commander of the Seventh Aviation Division gives him the following description: “The temporary commander of the 7 fighter squadron cornet Gilscher is an excellent combat pilot, cold-blooded. He passionately loves aviation. Being the commander of a detachment, maintains discipline and order in the detachment. High moral qualities are taken seriously and in good faith to the task at hand. Outstanding. I consider it a worthy candidate for the post of commander of the detachment. ”
Since June 18, in connection with the outbreak of hostilities on the ground, heavy battles took place in the air. The enemy sent a huge number of scouts, figuring out information about the maneuvers of the Russian troops. The pilots made five sorties per day. July 4 Gilscher in the area Posukhova shot down his fourth plane, for which later awarded Georgievsky weapons. But soon the offensive of the German troops began, which entered into history as "Tarnopolsky breakthrough." The soldiers of the 7 of the Russian Army are on strike and refuse to fight, retreating arbitrarily and randomly in front of the Pruszhem enemy in the south-east direction. As a result of the general confusion at the airfield in the city of Tarnopol, seven retreating squadrons gathered (more than 50 units), the entire airfield was packed with airplanes. Of course, the Germans could not fail to notice this by undertaking an operation to destroy the entire Russian air force.
In the evening of July 7, a squadron of German and Austrian 16 aircraft (8 fighters and 8 bomber) approached the city. Only five Russian planes managed to rise to meet her, three of which were from the seventh aviation squad led by Yuri Gilsher. They almost immediately converged with the eight of the German "Fokkers" - the most maneuverable and well-armed fighters of the time. In his last battle over the city blocks, Yuri won his fifth victory and died heroically. Five of the planes thwarted the plans of the Germans, the bombs fell around the city.
The description of the last battle of Gilscher is described in detail in a letter to father Yuri by the battle participant Ensign Yanchenko: “Dear Vladimir Ivanovich. I, as a participant in this fight and an eyewitness to the heroic death of your son, take it upon myself to describe this glorious battle, where your son, through the death of the brave, imprinted a life full of heroism. ... a squadron of 16 airplanes surrounded us, avoiding the battle would be shameful, Tarnopol would have been destroyed by bombs, and we accepted the battle. ... I saw how the enemy opened fire and the smoke paths, clearly visible by me, lay down along your son's plane. Attacked at this time from above by the rest of the enemy's airplanes, and looking up, I saw about 10 airplanes above me, at this time Gilscher’s cornet engine broke out of the frame and flew forward, the wings of his plane folded and it went down like a stone. The device is partly already crumbled in the air. ... the body was taken out from under the rubble, and I sent it to Tarnopol, from there to our division, where it was sealed in a coffin and solemnly buried in the city of Bugach in Galicia. It was impossible to send the body to Russia, because during the stampede of our troops it was impossible to get the wagons. Aviation will not forget its glorious fighters. "
Yuri Gilscher was just 22 of the year.