• flying heroes

    As a child, Herbert Sulzbach was an enthusiastic admirer of aircraft. When the early Zeppelins made their first runs from Friedrichshafen, near the German/Swiss border, they would frequently pass over Frankfurt – sometimes flying immediately over the Sulzbach house.

    He kept a careful tally of air successes and disasters during the First World War, using military communiqués and newspapers. In particular, he admired the characteristics of the airmen – their courage and daring, and the 'fine spirit of chivalry' of the skies. He respected the actions of an airman when, in September 1915, the famous French airman Pégoud was killed in action. The following day the German who shot him down dropped a wreath behind the French lines:

    'To the dead Pégoud, a hero - from his adversary'.

    Pégoud died aged 26. Most of the airmen in the First World War – German, French and British – were young men in their twenties.

    The many recorded air victories of Manfred von Richthofen (the 'Red Baron'), and the hero cult around him, persuaded Sulzbach that he would like to join the German Flying Corps, especially when Ludendorff appealed for more volunteers. In July 1917 he passed the medical examination to be a pilot – but there was also a severe shortage of artillery officers such as himself, so his application was refused.

    Sulzbach retained his enthusiasm for flying, and his admiration for airmen in combat. During the Second World War, when he wore a British uniform, he watched the planes fly overhead on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

    'Today I woke early, conscious that I had been hearing the powerful humming of our planes while I was half asleep. The guards explained that masses of gliders and troop carriers had been overhead. Before midnight they had seen the most fantastic sight in the world as hundreds and hundreds of powerful bombers, all – until they reached the Channel – lit up with red and green lights so that they didn't ram each other as they flew through the night. The sky was black, and I felt myself holding my breath and wishing the brave men up there “God bless”'.

    (photo: a Zeppelin airship flies over the Sulzbach house, possibly 1906)

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