Lt Kurt Wintgens OPM

The son of an army officer, Kurt Wintgens was born in Neustadt on 1 August 1894. At the age of 19 he became a cadet with Telegraphen Battalion Nr.2 in Frankfurt and was sent to the military academy at Heersfeld to start his career, when war broke out, whereupon he immediately rejoined his unit and was soon in action against Allied forces; by the end of 1914 he had been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Aviation was becoming the new challenge amongst young German officers and Kurt Wintgens was not slow to see the advantages and excitement it had to offer. He applied to be transferred to the aviation section and was accepted as an observer but, because of his experience in telegraphy, was attached to the AOK IX (Army Wireless Abteilung). His first experiences were on the Western Front, then Poland, then in March 1915 he was accepted for pilot training and to Jastaschule at Schwerin. This selection of Wintgens was unusual as he wore glasses, but within four months he had qualified as a pilot, exhibiting exceptional skills that had him immediately posted to a fighter squadron, FFA 67 flying Fokkers then on to FFA 6b. On 1 July 1915 he opened his tally when he shot down a Morane Parasol whilst on patrol east of Luneville. The claim was unconfirmed but had it been verified it would have been the first German fighter kill in history. A second claim for another Morane Parasol on 4July was also unconfirmed.

Portrait ofLeutnant Kurt Wintgens wearing his Pour Ie Merite.

Four days later he was posted to FFA 48 and ostensibly given a roving commission. On 15 July 1915 he shot down another Morane Parasol which this time was confirmed -Kurt Wintgens had officially opened his score. On 9 August 1915 he accounted for a Voisin over Gondrexange, raising his tally to two and it was then that he fell ill with influenza and various other minor ailments, subsequently curtailing his flying. But on his return in January 1916 he resumed his scoring by shooting down a Caudron G.IV. By the end of June 1916 he had raised his tally to eight and was awarded the Pour le Mérite, only the fourth German pilot to be honoured with it. He was posted to FA 23's Kek Vaux, and then on to Jasta 4 when it was amalgamated. Three weeks later came another award, the Iron Cross 1st Class, which was quickly followed by the Knight's Cross with Swords of the Hohenzollern House Order and the Bavarian Military Merit Order 4th Class with Swords. His tally had risen by the end of September to 19 and with it came the award of the Saxon Albrecht Order, Knight 2nd Class with Swords.

Leutnant Kurt Wintgens in the cockpit ofhis Fokker Eindecker wearing his glasses.

On 25 September 1916, whilst flying escort to a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft, he fought off an attack by aircraft from the French Escadrille N.3 but in doing so was shot down in flames by the French ace Lieutenant Hurteaux. It is said that the observer in the German two-seat aircraft that Wintgens protected so valiantly was Josef Veltjens who was later to become a pilot and an ace. Kurt Wintgens was just 22 years old when he died.

© German Knights of the Air, Brassey's

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