Photo: archiv autora
Wijnendale (Wynendaele) castle which at the beginning of 1918 served as comfortable accommodation for Jasta 7 pilots.
memoirs as he, according to his own words, finally forced his inexperienced opponent to land on
the German side of the frontline. So the situation
from December 12th repeated itself.
“As was our custom, we sent a car to pick him up
and bring him to our airfield, where, in courteous
fashion, he could spend the day with us as an honored guest.”
It turned out that the pilot was the aforementioned, twenty years old Sub-Lieutenant Hubert St.
John Edgerley Youens. His youthful look was a bit
spoiled by the bloodied nose and black eyes suffered during the hard landing. Degelow went to
pick his victim up personally and as he recalled
during the ride to the German airfield, and then
to the castle Wijnendale, the pilots’ lodging, the
British young man was rather depressed. However, in the castle’s colorful environment and
after hot soup and glass of wine he relaxed and
with more glasses of wine the lively conversation
“My knowledge of English, which I had improved
while in America a few years before the war, and
a frequent Pröstichen! (Cheers!) appeared to help
him forget the sorrow of defeat. The candles were
lit and soon no one could tell whether we were
Photo: archiv Simona Youense
Photo: archiv Simona Youense
Victory! Or not?
“We were patrolling the area over Houthulst Forest, the scene of many, many aerial combats.
On this day, however, the weather was not very
welcoming as clouds and haze lowered the visibility. For this reason, the watchword from our
flight leader was: ‘Keep a sharp look out!’ We had
already cruised over the ‘required’ sector of the
Front and were on our way home when, from out
of the sun, a flight of British Sopwith Camels suddenly pounced on us. A number of individual duels soon developed, and I found myself engaged
with a fellow who had caught me by surprise. This
pilot, who did not seem too well acquainted with
the location of the frontlines, belonged, as we later learned, to a group of Dunkirk-based fighter
pilots whom we called the ‘Armstrong Boarding
School’. The fellows were all young and inexperienced, having just arrived from England. To
gain frontline experience, they were assigned to
various sectors of the Front and indoctrinated in
the manner of an English boarding school, hence
the name we gave the group. They were always
welcome adversaries, as their lack of experience
allowed us to trick them into situations that made
them easy prey for us,” recalls Degelow in his
in a German Kasino or an English club. After the
meal, our guest seemed at ease and a few shots
of whisky completed the task of loosening his
tongue. Mr. Youens then declared to us that he
was musically inclined and performed fairly well
on the violin. So, we had a violinist – but no violin.
Just then, the cook, who had been following the
conversation through the half open door, suddenly shouted that Monteur (mechanic) Schmitz
had brought back a violin when he returned from
leave. ‘Let’s have it,’ I said and this ‘Stradivarius’
was brought forth. It was in relatively good condition, except that it lacked an A string. ‘Never
mind,’ said Tommy. ‘I have one right here.’ With
that, he drew from his wallet at least two complete sets of strings for his favorite instrument.
It seems that before taking off the Englishman
had put these necessary parts into his pocket to
be prepared for any eventuality. Mr. Youens busied
himself stringing his fiddle and I took my place at
the piano to assist him in tuning the instrument.
Within ten minutes the international orchestra
was ready to begin and as the opening piece we
played the German national anthem, ‘Deutschland über Alles’. To the delight of all present, my
partner played the song with as much intensity of
feeling as if it were ‘God Save the King’. Our guest
gave us pleasure the entire evening and helped
us pass the time with his musical entertainment.
Eventually, we did play the British national anthem and every German in the room stood at
respectful attention as a sign of comradeship beyond the bounds of national or political affiliation.
Thus, a battlefield defeat was transformed into
a human victory.”
When the party was over Youens was escorted
to his bedroom with nailed windows and in addition he was asked to surrender his suspenders
and boots. To escape without boots holding your
pants at the same time doesn’t sound feasible… In
the morning Youens had breakfast with Jasta 7
pilots and then he was picked up by a car from the
Army Interrogation Unit. His visit was recorded
in Jasta 7 chronicle as follows: “A double victory.
On the one hand the hard-fought air battle that
ended victoriously; and, on the other hand, the
musical pleasure that the loser so bountifully and
cordially provided us.”
For Degelow however the whole event ultimately
came to a bitter end. Not even the victory over
Youens was credited to him because there was
Holzminden POW camp in which Hubert Youens was kept until the end of the war.
A group of British POWs in Holzminden’s camp. Youens is standing
at the extreme right.
INFO Eduard - January 2022