... It seems that the situation was such that we would soon have to part with the aeronautical division. To us - this is to me and my friend Peterson. There is every chance of being seconded back to Wilhelmshaven for a "thick vessel" (battleship. - Transl.) With its dreary inner routine. It could not be otherwise. September 9, we lost the airship L 1, and after a little more than a month - and L 2. We no longer had airships, which means the fleet aeronautical officers are not needed. Something else was added to my mortal chagrin. I was tormented by a remorse related to the fact that I had to trick myself in order to save my reputation at one of the critical moments in the development of an airship.
It all started with the fact that even the direction of me in the aeronautic division did not happen quite perfectly. And it happened so. In the waters of the North Sea near Kiel, maneuvers began, where for the first time an airplane was to participate as a bomber. Pilot Schlegel (for some reason we considered him a "land rat") was looking for a crew in the seaman-observer, who knew the area and water area near Kiel. I immediately volunteered to be a volunteer. Schlegel looked at me skeptically, thought, and with barely disguised sarcasm asked: “Sure, have you already flown?” At that moment I felt my pedestal swayed in hopes and collapsed, burying my innermost dream. And here in me the actor's gift woke up. I was not interested in Aviatic-monoplane, I knew by heart how it works, and to make a flight is just how to eat a second breakfast. I quickly pulled myself together. “It goes without saying ...” - having depicted a lean mine on the face, I answered in an indifferent tone. Schlegel looked at me again, nodded his head in agreement, and left. And I stayed with my heavy thoughts. Naturally, I never even sat on the plane.
I must sincerely admit that this fraud left an unpleasant aftertaste in my soul. The future did not promise anything good. Ahead of me were thousands of dangers and imminent universal shame. In the time remaining before the flight, I frantically tried to learn at least something about the device of the aircraft and, above all, about the duties of the observer pilot. I perfectly understood that any awkwardness in actions would give me away. The situation became completely unpredictable when Schlegel began to consult me on some issues of target use of the aircraft for solving problems during maneuvers, which, in my opinion, as a pilot should have been known to him by definition. Does he check me? That got in history. However, at some point I realized that Schlegel did not set himself the task of bringing me out to the clear water. He consulted with me quite sincerely. This could only mean one thing - in terms of navigation and bombing, he was a newcomer. Here I already sat on a horse. My advice and recommendations immediately gained the significance of the ultimate truth. Schlegel simply fascinated looking into my mouth ...
Two days have passed. And then came the moment when Schlegel and I took our seats in the airplane. The worry was that I was sitting in front, which meant that Schlegel could control all my clumsy actions. Despite everything, my heart was glad in anticipation of an incredible event - my first flight. However, it's time to do business. I plunged into the map, looking for Kiel Bay. Meanwhile, Schlegel started the engine, and the plane moved forward. The wind taut hit in the face. The apparatus was shaking and shaking in all its joints, the earth was rushing towards us all faster. The shaking gradually diminished and at some point ceased altogether. In perplexity, I shook my head. The earth slowly went down. In my heart everything started to swell with delight ... Fly! Fly!
However, soon my enthusiasm was replaced by growing alarm. I had to find a ship on the fjord road — the goal of our bombardment. Oh my God! How this world looked familiar from above! Like a map. And if so, then it will be possible to find the ship without much difficulty. Something, and I could read the map. Looking around, I saw the characteristic curves of the Gulf of Kiel. So fly there! I make a sign to Schlegel, and the plane smoothly turns in the right direction. Soon I saw the target. We proudly passed over the ship, and I threw a fake bomb. Half an hour after landing, we were informed that the bomb had precisely hit the target. Task completed! In the evening we celebrated this event well in the officer casino. I was presented with a prize - a huge silver bowl for a hook. The funny thing about this story was that I could not take this cup with me. It simply could not be carried away, and there was no place to store it on our “fat one”.
A few days after the departure of Schlegel, I received a telegram with the following content: “I have the honor to offer you to continue further service in the aeronautic division. Freyer. At that time, the battlecruisers were transferred to the base in Wilhelmshaven, and we stayed with our vessel in Kiel, cursing our fate and fearing that future big naval battles would take place without us. The telegram brought some excitement to my boring life. Although I was absolutely sure that this is a delicate rally of one of my fellow friends. I put it in my bag and began to think about the response. In my head, it is true, sometimes a frightening thought slipped through, and if it is real? Friends behaved calmly and did not respond to my cautious leading questions. I went to headquarters and went to the telegraph office, where, to my deep embarrassment, I became convinced that the fact of the arrival of the telegram from Berlin was recorded in the ledger. The prospect of dragging out a miserable existence on the “fat one” did not suit me, and flying with Schlegel gave birth to a completely unfamiliar feeling — the desire to fly. The answer to Lieutenant Freyer left immediately: “I agree. Please speed up the transfer to your unit. ”
At night, I did not close my eyes. The decision cut short habitual way of life. The future seemed unknown and, at the same time, beautiful. So I did not sleep at night, like a dead man? This happened to me for the first time. In the morning, the chief of staff called me and said that he was reading my telegram and that I threw these stupid airships out of my head. In parting, he pointedly hinted that he would closely monitor my service. It was a disaster. On cotton feet, I left the office and trudged along a long corridor. Suddenly, a head popped out of the telegraph door and shouted: “Buttlar, another telegram for you!” Not believing my ears, I drop into the room. The telegrapher thrust a piece of paper in his hand, I read: “By order of the fleet commander, you immediately assign a detachment to serve in the aeronautical division of the navy. Freyer. ”To tell the truth, I didn’t tell my friends anything about the content and even the availability of these telegrams, for fear of getting into a ridiculous situation if the matter does not burn out. However, the next day came confirmation from headquarters.
Not believing my happiness to the end, I went to Berlin, where I soon had to see my airship close by. At that time, I only knew about the L 1 - the first naval airship, which killed 9 on September 1913 during maneuvers. Despite this tragic event, the desire to fly in an airship was overwhelming. Nevertheless, I perfectly understood that this dream was completely unrealizable, therefore I tried my best to get rid of it. And now my dream was coming true. Incredible!
I will never forget that all-consuming excitement when October 1 1913 in 8.00 in the Jollingnistylee slipway, next to L 2, I presented myself on the occasion of arrival in the squadron. The tension in the soul began to subside only when the commander announced that we would immediately relocate to Dresden, where the Hansa airship, chartered by the naval fleet from DELAG, was waiting for us. Hooray! Bearing on the "fatty" melted like a mirage. Two days later, we went by train to Dresden. The very next morning, the temporary crew of the Hansa was organized, and after several training flights, we gained complete confidence in our unusual military vehicle. Our 7 Saxon aeronautic unit spent several weeks in Dresden, conducting intensive training flights. During the breaks in our classes, we made several flights with passengers on board.
One day it was announced to us that the King of Saxony August III expressed a desire to visit our squad. I will never forget this visit. We lodged in the vicinity of the castle Uubegau (locals said - Iibihau), the country residence of the king. Anyone who has ever participated in such events knows that they look like a dramatized show. We were built on the parade ground, and soon the king appeared. He went up to a small podium and briefly greeted us in a creepy local dialect: “I am very glad I am here in Drezd that is going to greet!” Weihelbier standing next to me, a former carpenter, an honest Eastern Prussian, started and made an inarticulate sound. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his eyes climb out of orbits, and his face was covered with red spots. What was peeing, he struggled with a fit of laughter, trying to maintain the solemnity of the moment. The comic situation suddenly struck me. With an incredible effort of will, we restrained laughter, tearing at will. The king noticed a slight excitement in our ranks and, after a short pause, added, addressing our commander: "I am especially pleased, Mr. Captain, that your people made good impressions on me." Our faces and Weigelbier merged with the color of our blue uniforms. At the end of the celebrations, we were served a glass of champagne and a light snack. At the banquet, all the officers and Dr. Eckener (the legendary creator of the airships and the ally of Count Zeppelin - Translation.) Were present. In the conversation, the king asked the doctor at which faculty he received a degree. When Eckener replied that he was studying the national economy, the king, sensing his soul mate and feeling deeply in his heart, said a historical phrase: "Perhaps you are not very good at aeronautics."
Our time in Dresden was coming to an end. "Hansa" was sent to Hamburg to a new location. To serve the airship in this flight was our crew. Eckener and Lehmann, who, at Strasser’s request, engaged in our training, used the slightest opportunity to give us training in the management of an airship. At three o'clock in the morning, the Hansa was supposed to start. We prepared to bring the ship out of the boathouse, but a strong headwind did not allow it. Night again. This time the weather was perfect, but Hamburg was drowned in heavy fog. Hang up ... The next night. Finally, with the weather all the way more or less normal. Quickly take places on schedule. According to the staff of the crew, I took the place of the course helmsman near the compass. In anticipation of a magnificent flight, my heart beat joyfully in my chest. But the weather gave us a surprise. In the area of Torgau it became overcast and snowflakes whirled in the air. And the further we flew, so they became more and more. Soon the horizon disappeared in the snowy mist, the wind increased. The air freshened, died in winter.
Three sleepless nights for nothing did not pass and made themselves felt. I yawned sweetly ... The interior of the gondola moved apart to infinity ... My friend Peterson and the lady sailed slowly past ... "We are flying to the North Pole," he threw over his shoulder ... Here I woke up. I fell asleep at the helm? Horrified, I looked around. The commanders strained overboard into the snow dregs. They did not notice anything. Thank God! But the ship noticed it. We were heading south-west, instead of heading north-west. So, I slept the whole 8 rhumb! My hands spontaneously shifted the steering wheel to the desired course. No devil could read in my eyes that something had happened.
About three o'clock in the afternoon we passed Welzen. Soon Lüneburg appeared. The high towers of Hamburg made us climb and dive into the clouds. After passing the city, we fell. It was quickly getting dark, and soon we plunged into the night. All attempts to find a boathouse were unsuccessful. The world around us has disappeared. In the distance, the lights of the city floated in a light gray puree, and here impenetrable darkness reigned. Dr. Eckener was lost in thought. After a brief discussion of the situation, it was decided to sit here in the field. We went down and turned in the wind. The earth was already very close when a shout came from behind: “Caution! Wires! ”But it was too late - the keel touched the wires. A bright flash lit up the neighborhood, snatching nearby space from the darkness. My heart sank into boots, we froze, expecting the worst ... But nothing happened. Harsh teams of urgent mooring could be heard, mooring anchors stuck into the ground with a thud, and a few minutes more - and the airship stopped, firmly connected to the ground. At dawn, we took off, and soon were at the base.