Jasta 17 in Belgium (1917)
The Prussian Royal Aviation's Jagdstaffel 17 is officially created on the 23rd of October 1916, being based at Metz-Frescaty (territory included in the German Reich from 1871). The new Squadron assembles men from various units: its Staffelkapitän, Rittmeister Heinz von BREDERLOW, comes from a bomber unit. Its future greatest ace, Vizefeldwebel Julius BUCKLER, was first an infantryman before being trained as observer, pilot and finally instructor. Vizefeldwebel, Georg STRASSER, another future ace, flew some months in a recce unit (claiming a Caudron – but not attributed) And so on...
The Squadron is operational as off 11 November 1916, fighting seven months in France (on 1st March 1917, it had moved to St Quentin le Petit).
Mid June 1917, the remaining pilots claimed the following scores:
-Vfw Julius BUCKLER: seven victories.
-Vfw Georg STRASSER: three victories.
-Lt Jakob WOLFF: three victories.
-Lt Günther SCHUSTER: two victories.
-Lt Albrecht CRÜSEMANN: one victory.
In the same period, Jasta 17 suffered two KIA (including its 2nd Kapitän) and two WIA. According to STRASSER's notes, the unit's Albatros fighters were inferior to the enemy Spads!
On 17th June 1917, arrival of two newcomers: Vfw. Gustav SCHNEIDEWIND (future ace) and Leutnant Wilhelm BECKER, both coming fresh from training-schools. On 19 June, arrival of the new (the third) Staffelkapitän, Leutnant Ernst WENDLER (ex-bomber pilot).
In the Oostende area
Two days later, Jasta 17 flies to Rethel (Northern France) apparently to load planes and material on trains. Indeed, the Squadron moves to Belgium on Ghijstele (Gistel) airfield, near Oostende. Things go very fast, as on the 25th of the month, Georg STRASSER mentions in his Flugbuch his first flight from Belgian territory. The operations-area is delimited by the Diksmuide/Nieuwpoort/Oostende/Zeebrugge perimeter. The end of the month remains quiet and the area of Jasta 17 is extended to the zone of Oostende/Brugge/Ghent. To give some information on the operations, STRASSER's Flugbuch mentions a dog-fight with a Spad over Diksmuide on the 6th of July. But, Ghijstele (Gistel) Flugplatz being near the front line, it is often the target of enemy bombers... Soon, Jasta 17 pilots will operate around three times a day, as in France!
On the 8th of July, arrival in Flanders of Leutnant Otto FITZNER, also arriving from a flying school. He soon will become very well-known! On the 10th of July, Vfw Georg STRASSER is flying his 3rd mission of the day over Ypres (Ieper) Canal: "Escorting KG 1 bombers. Dog-fighting with Nieuports and Sopwiths. At 3.500 meters height, I shoot down a Sopwith using 300 bullets. My fourth aerial victory". (presumably a Camel of 66 Sq. crashed S. of Nieuwpoort ). That day, arrival from a school of Vfw Adolf WERNER.
Fighting occurs mainly over Nieuwpoort and Brugge. If STRASSER claimed the first "Flemish" victory, his good comrade and colleague Julius BUCKLER will soon claim many Abschüsse:
-11st July: a triplane S.E. of Zillebeke at 8H50 (8th claim);
-13rd July: a FE2d over Stuyvekenskerke at 13H20 (9th claim);
-14th July: a BE2 over Leffinge at 17H50 (10th claim);
-17th July: a N° 9 Squadron Pup at Keiem at 7H30 (11st victory). He himself is wounded in this fight but wants to remain in the unit.
On 17th July, Vfw Adolf WERNER claims his first victory (a BE2b over Middelkerke at 9H30), just a week after joining the Staffel! (Apparently, aircraft A7166 of 48 Squadron which force-landed on the beach near Nieuwpoort – the pilot dies, while the observer becomes POW).
On 13rd, STRASSER attacked a Sopwith over Brugge but that claim seems to have been "stolen" by a pilot of Jasta 20 who operated in the same area.
On 21st July,Uffz. Gustav SCHNEIDEWIND, one of the "green" pilots, is credited with his first Luftsieg: a 66 Squadron Sopwith Pup at 15H30 at Noordschoote. On 27th, second claim of Vfw Adolf WERNER, another young pilot shooting down a twin-seated plane S. of Diksmuide at 15H15. That same date, Lt Jakob WOLFF claims his 4th (but last) Sopwith (or a Farman?) at 16H35 S.W. of Diksmuide.
But WOLFF is himself wounded by the returning fire and had to leave Jasta 17 (it seems that he never flew again in a front-line unit).
On 28th, Vfw Georg STRASSER flies over Nieuwpoort with BUCKLER and Lt Albrecht CRÜSEMANN. CRÜSEMANN attacks a Spad but his manoeuvre is that brutal that a wing is torn off his plane and the Albatros plunges in the sea N.W. of Nieuwpoort pier. Its pilot could not jump.
Albatros D III
In August, STRASSER flies only eleven times until 26th (not a lot for such a veteran!). Julius BUCKLER has, as usual, some claims:
-on 9th August, 12th victory on a Camel S.E. of Nieuwpoort at 7H45. N°3870 of 10 Sq. RNAS flown by Lt WOODHOUSE is seen diving towards earth in flames.
-on 11th August,13rd victory (RE8 4645 of 52 Squadron shot down in flames) around 14H15. W. of Spermalie.
On 12nd August, Vfw Julius BUCKLER ran out of his usual luck, when injured again, he is forced to leave Jasta 17 for more or less four weeks..
The following day, his comrade STRASSER becomes an ace: "At 2.000 meters, I attack a Martinsyde hitting its engine". That plane (presumably of 55 Squadron) crashes near Oostduinkerke around 9H25.
On 14th, Lt Otto FITZNER (who arrived at Jasta 17 the preceding month) shoots down Sopwith B3280 of n° 9 Squadron (his 1st claim) at 18H50 W of Slijpe.
Two days later, Leutnant R. EHLERS (who also arrived in July) is WIA but will remain only a short time in a Lazarett.
On 17th August, Leutnant Wilhelm BECKER is credited with his first aerial victory at 21H25 (a Sopwith claimed N.E. of Kortemark). Two days later, Lt Walter BRACHWITZ (pilot in Jasta 17 since the 8th of July) also claims his 1st Luftsieg (BF2b A7171 of 48 Squadron shot down in early morning near Oudenberghe - pilot KIA, observer POW).
On 22nd August, Vfw STRASSER writes in his Flugbuch: "GROSS KIA". Indeed, Leutnant Wilhelm GROSS is lost at 11H05 over Vlissegem. Excellent pilot, he had been (in France) member of a team (composed of STRASSER, BUCKLER and himself) specialized in aerobatic flight. Interestingly, in spite of his flying abilities, GROSS only claimed one victory.
On the last day of its first stay in Belgium (26th August 1917) Jasta 17 loses another pilot: Uffz. Carl CONRADT shot down and KIA between Slijpe and Vlissegem. The poor young man joined the Staffel only twelve days before...
On 27th, Jasta 17 returns back to France, moving to Wasquehal airfield (Lille), in the vicinity of the French/Belgian border. In the beginning, flights are limited to one a day. But from the 3rd of September onward, Georg STRASSER operates three times daily. On 7th September, at least two new pilots arrive to fill up the losses: Lt Richard GRÜTER and Herbert SCHRÖDER (GRÜTER coming directly from a school while SCHRÖDER operated before in Jasta 1). On 10 September, Leutnant Günther SCHUSTER (credited with two Luftsiege) is transferred to Jasta 29.
If the unit is based in France, nevertheless its pilots operate over Belgium. So, on 14th of September, Vfw Gustav SCHNEIDEWIND claims his 2nd victory near the Belgian town of Menin (Sopwith B2333 of 70 Sq. - pilot POW). 48 hours later Leutnant Otto FITZNER is credited with his second victory, later acknowledged as a SE 5 (of 60 Sq, pilot DOW). But that 16th September will be costly for Jasta 17. As STRASSER writes in his Flugbuch: "War flight. Dog-fighting over enemy lines with many Sopwiths. Lt BAUER shot down. Lt WENDLER et GRÜTER crash-landed. Lt FITZNER shoots down a Sopwith". Indeed, Leutnant Alfred BAUER's Albatros crashes in Flanders (at St Jans-Kapelle, pilot KIA), victim of 60 Squadron.
On 21st, Vfw Gustav SCHNEIDEWIND will take revenge for comrade by shooting down a Sopwith (A4857 of 56 Squadron) E. of Ypres (Ieper) (pilot KIA).
BUCKLER comes back at that time and claims many Luftsiege but mainly over France. STRASSER's Flugbuch is full of information about combats against Spads: near Arras, over Lens; and so on...
On 1st October, Lt Ernst WENDLER, the Staffelkapitän, is shot down again. But this time he is injuries are that serious that he had to leave the unit (becoming later C.O. of a second line unit). At Jasta 17, he is succeeded by Oberleutnant Rudolf von ESEBECK, an ex-infantry officer coming from Jasta 8, where he had been credited with a single claim.
The sole "Belgian" victory at the end of October will be claimed by Vfw Julius BUCKLER who, on 29 October, shoots down a British balloon in the morning over France and, a n° 1 Squadron Nieuport in the afternoon near Houtem (22nd victory, pilot KIA).
sojourn in Belgium
On the 6th of November, Jasta 17 begins its move to Erkegem, near Brugge. The second stay in Belgium will be shorter (around two weeks). If Vfw Georg STRASSER and his comrades fight continuously against enemy planes, they claim no victory. Vfw Julius BUCKLER, the Staffel's daredevil, on the other hand will add many "flemish" claims:
-12th November: a RE8 at 15H45 over Oostkerke (25th victory);
-15th November: another RE8 (of 21 Sq.) N.E. of Ypres (Ieper) at 8h45 (crew KIA) (26th victory);
-18th November: a British balloon at 9H10 at Ypres (Ieper) (27th victory);
another balloon at Dikkebus at 9H25 (28th victory);
a RE8 (of 9 Sq.?) at Bikschote at 14H15 (29th victory)
A sole German pilot will be WIA. On 15th November, indeed, Leutnant der Reserve EHLERS is wounded at Erkegem. Leaving Jasta 17, he will later be transferred to Jasta 26.
On 20, Jasta 17 leaves Belgium for the last time to be attached to II.Armee and operate, first from Valenciennes and later from Neuvilly (Le Cateau).
17 pilots in Belgium
BAUER Alfred, Lt: arrived on 7th September 1917; KIA on 16th September 1917.
BECKER Wilhelm, Lt: arrived on 17th June 1917 from AFP 1; a claim on 17th August 1917 + another over France; transferred on 26th August 1918 to a Beobachterschule.
BRACHWITZ Walter, Lt: arrived on 8th July 1917 from AFP 4; a claim on 19th August 1917 + another over France; shot down on 1st December 1917 and deceased on 23rd December.
BRENDLE Konrad, Vfw: arrived in November 1917; quickly transferred to Jasta 45 where he will claim nine victories; KIA 2 September 1918.
BUCKLER Julius, Vfw/Lt: an infantryman in 1914; in Jasta 17 from the beginning; claimed 36 victories (a dozen over Flanders); "Pour le Mérite" Träger; Jasta 17's C.O. on 22 September 1918; Deceased on 23 May 1960.
CONRADT Karl, Uffz: in the unit on 14th August 1917; KIA 26 August 1917.
CRÜSEMANN Albrecht, Lt: an infantryman in 1914; joined Jasta 17 on 14 May 1917 from AFP 1; a claim in France; KIA 28th July 1917.
EHLERS ??????, Lt: joined the unit on 8th July 1917 from AFP 4; WIA on 16th August and 15th November 1917; transferred to Jasta 26 (two claims there)
ESEBECK (Frhr von) Rudolf, Hptm: infantryman in 1914; a claim in Jasta 8 (over Flanders on 6th February 1917); C.O. of Kest 7, then Jasta 17's C.O. on 4th October 1917; KIA on 27th May 1918.
FITZNER Otto, Lt: joined the unit on 8th July 1917 from AFP 4; two claims over Flanders; transferred on 19th March 1918 to Jasta 65 as its C.O.; survived the war with nine claims.
GROSS Wilhelm, Lt: in 1915, as a mechanical specialist in FA 27; in Jasta 17 from the beginning; a claim over France and another not attributed; KIA on 22nd August 1917.
GRÜTER Richard, Lt: infantryman in 1914; joined the unit on 7th September 1917 from Jastaschule I; KIA on 1st April 1918.
KOCH ??????, Vfw: arrival in November 1917; left the unit in March 1918.
RUDNO-RUDZINSKI (Frhr von) ??????, Oblt: joined the unit on 5th October 1917 from AFP 4; became Jasta 60's C.O. on 5th January 1918.
SCHREDER Adolf, OfStv: joined the unit on 18th August 1917 from Jastaschule I; KIA on 17th March 1918 (one claim).
SCHUSTER Günther, Lt: joined the unit on 23 December 1916; two claims; transferred to Jasta 29 on 10 September 1916 where he claimed three additional victories; Jasta 17's C.O. on 28 May 1918; a claim; WIA on 1st August 1918; did not fly again.
SRASSER Georg, Vfw: pilot in FA 44 (recce unit); one claim non attributed; in Jasta 17 from the beginning; seven claims (two over Flanders); transferred to Fea 3 in September 1918; killed in a flying accident on 4th December 1925 (test-pilot by Junkers in Dessau).
TRÄGER Alfred, Lt: in the unit from 30th January 1917 from a bombardment unit; transferred to Idflieg on 25th June 1918.
WENDLER Ernst, Lt: C.O. from 19th June 1917, coming from JB; WIA 1st October 1917; then Kest 1b's C.O.
WERNER Adolf, Vfw: joined the unit on 10th July 1917 from AFP 4; two claims over Flanders; transferred to FEA 9 on 29 May 1918.
WOLFF Jakob, Lt: in the unit from the beginning; four claims (one over Flanders); WIA on 27th July 1917; did no more fly; deceased on 4th December 1926.
ZENTZYTZKI Stanislaus, Lt: artilleryman in 1914; joined the unit on 5th July 1917; severely WIA on 18th December 1917 and DOW.
ZSCHUNKE Erich, Lt: arrival on 21st March 1917 from AFP 7; left the unit on 29th May 1918
With our best thanks to Mr. Karl STRASSER who gave us many valuable documents in relation to his uncle Georg.
Last updated 06/11/11 15:11 by Daniel Brackx
Last updated 06/11/11 15:11 Daniel Brackx