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Carl Degelow WW1 Pilot

Discussion in 'World War One Forum' started by Jim, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Jim

    Jim Active Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    via War44
    On the evening of 24 September 1918, Leutnant Carl Degelow, commander of Jagdstaffel 40, led his pilots against ten Armstrong Whitworth FK 8 bombers of No 82 Sqn RAF, escorted by SE 5a fighters of No 41 Sqn. The Fokker D VIIs climbed to attack the higher-flying escorts. In his memoirs Germany’s Last Knight of the Air - The Memoirs of Major Carl Degelow, translated and edited by Peter Kilduff, Degelow wrote;

    Carl Degelow celebrates his awarding of the Knight’s Cross of the Royal Hohenzollem House Order, seen above his left tunic pocket, and is pictured here with his ‘white stag’ D VII. The stag has golden yellow hooves and antlers. The pale rib tapes are quite evident on the five-colour fabric wing covering, and a tubular gun sight is mounted between the guns. (via Greg VanWyngarden)


    ‘Toward evening the Staffel would start out on patrol. We knew from experience that at this time of day British bombing squadrons would cross our lines in an attempt to saturate strategic points in the army sector with their dangerous cargo. To stop them, we would have to catch them unawares, and our approach flight was arranged accordingly. We knew they would expect us to attack from above, so we would alternate our plan and put off “making altitude”, as we called it whenever we tried to reach great heights of 5000 metres or so, and catch them from below. ‘Such flights during clear weather were always a pleasure, offering no better sport. We could fly a wide course, looking for our prey. Now came a reconnoitring and searching of the heavens for enemy aircraft. Puffs of anti-aircraft smoke in the distance were enough to tell even the novice that intruders were over our territory.

    Carl Degelow (fourth from right in light-coloured tunic) is pictured with his pilots in front of their black Jasta 40 warbirds. The first five D Vlls from the right have been identified as Degelow’s machine, with its stag and white diagonal stripe on the upper wing, Rosenstein’s, with a white chord-wise stripe, Jeschonnek’s with a rampant bull, Gilly’s, with its white swastika and Frodien’s, with a hawk’s head. (via Greg VanWyngarden)


    ‘During such a flight on the evening of 24 September we came upon an enemy bombing squadron near Menin. The flight consisted often bombing aircraft protected by eight single-seaters. Our tactic was to first attack the fighters, since they flew higher then their bomb-laden companions. We gained altitude and caught the British SE 5s from the least expected point - right beneath their floorboards. I closed in on a fellow with a big white “Y” painted on his top wing. This “Mister Y” was a very skilful flier, and he avoided my attack through a series of very deft turns. ‘Nothing I did could entice him to come down to my level.
    So, after we had wildly stormed round and round each other a few times, I tried to bluff him. I pulled my Fokker straight up, and for one advantageous moment I had the SE 5 squarely in front of my guns. I pressed the buttons of my machine guns, really only to intimidate my partner by the fire, and hopefully get him to give up his advantageous altitude and dive for the ground. But, in so doing, some of my shots, which were surely accidental hits, went into the reserve fuel tank of the enemy aircraft.

    High spirits in the Jasta 40 Officer’s Kasino as the Staffelführer is placed under severe ‘threat’. Seated, from left to right, are Hermann Gilly, Carl Degelow, Hans Jeschonnek, Willy Rosenstein and Frodien. (via Greg VanWyngarden)


    ‘Bright flames immediately burst from the emergency fuel supply on the top wing, where it was located on the SE. I was very pleased by my bluff, and believed the enemy now to be finished. “Mister Y” had, however, pulled far away, as there was no way for him to bring the aerial battle to a favourable end. Then, with his machine glowing with fire, he dived right at me, all the while maintaining a murderous stream of fire from his machine guns. I must say that this unexpected attack upset me, to put it mildly, but at the same time the fellow’s fool hardiness aroused my fighting spirit.


    ‘The Englishman suddenly made a violent dive, during which the rush of air almost snuffed out the inferno over his head. But as soon as he resumed level flight, the fire broke out with great intensity. After a last futile attack, and recognising the hopelessness of continued fighting, he decided to withdraw from the encounter and tried to slip away from me. But I was not yet ready to give up the fight. I pursued him doggedly, and was soon joined by another gentleman of my Staffel, who added a few shots to the effort to ensure that “Mister Y” did not reach his lines intact. Severely battered by our attack, the enemy aircraft exploded at low altitude and broke up close to the edge of Zillebeke Lake.’

    Despite Carl Degelow’s mistaken belief, his opponent, Capt C Crawford of No 41 Sqn RAF, somehow survived the absolute destruction of his fighting scout to be taken prisoner by German troops.

    Pilot Biography of Carl Degelow

    Carl Degelow was born in January 1891 in Müsterdorf. Pre-war, he had worked in the USA as an industrial chemist, and therefore spoke English well. Degelow returned to Germany shortly before the outbreak of war to enlist in the second Nassauischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr 88, seeing action in France and Russia. Commissioned in July 1915, he transferred to the aviation service the following year, and was sent to Fl. Abt. (A) 216 on the Somme at the beginning of 1917. Degelow’s aggressive flying got him moved to fighters, and Jasta 7, and by mid-May 1918 he had scored a handful of victories prior to his transfer to Jasta 40. After the death, on 9 July, of previous leader Helmuth Dilthey, Degelow took over the unit.

    Fokker D VII (Alb) of Ltn d R Carl Degelow. Jasta 40, Lomme, August 1918 Jasta 40’s D Vlls all sported black fuselages, augmented by a white tail unit. Cabane and landing gear struts and wheel covers were also black. The wings of this Albatros-built D VII are covered in five-colour fabric, with blue rib tapes and a diagonal white stripe on the top wing to identify the Staffelführer. Degelow’s ‘white stag’ emblem displays golden yellow antlers and hooves.


    He picked up his first Fokker D VII on 25 June 1918. After having Staffel mechanics check it over and load the ammunition, Degelow took it up for a brief hop. During this ‘test flight’ he encountered a scrap between Camels and D Vlls of another Jasta, and duly downed a Sopwith attacking one of the Fokkers, it was his sixth victory. Degelow’s claims from July onwards were attained with the D VII, six aircraft falling to his guns in that first month. He was on leave in August, but added six more victories in September, ten in October and one - his 30th and last, on 4 November. Degelow survived the war to write a short memoir, Mit dem weissen Hirsch durch dick und dünn (With the White Stag through Thick and Thin). In 1979, nine years after Degelow’s death, historian Peter Kilduff expanded on this work, using extensive interviews and additional material to produce Germany’s Last Knight of the Air, which provides an excellent view of 4th Army D VII operations.

    Aircraft of The Aces Legends of The Skies by Tony Holmes

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