Who's Who - Fritz Bernert

Fritz Bernert Fritz Otto Bernert (1893-1918) scored 27 victories as an air ace with the German Air Service between 1916-17, including five in the space of thirty minutes in April 1917.

Born in Ratibor in Upper Silesia on 6 March 1893 the son of a Burghermeister, Bernert was already serving with the 173rd Infantry Regiment by the time war broke out in August 1914; he received his commission shortly afterwards.

Having received wounds in both November and December 1914 - the latter a bayonet wound which severed a key nerve in his left arm, rendering it effectively useless - Bernert was discharged from military ground service following a spell in hospital.

Undaunted he instead applied to act as an air observer and graduated from training to spend some six months performing reconnaissance missions during the first half of 1915.  Determined to fly combat missions Bernert applied for pilot's training in the summer of 1915, meanwhile successfully disguising the extent of the wound to his left arm.

Emerging with a pilot's license in March the following year Bernert lost little time in gaining his inaugural air 'kill': on 17 April 1916 while attached to Kek Vaux he brought down an Allied Nieuport aircraft.

Late August brought Bernert a posting to Jasta 4; his second aerial victory followed within two weeks.  From this point his tally of kills inched gradually upwards: his three successes on 9 November brought his total to nine.

Attached to Jasta 2 from February 1917 and the recipient of the Iron Class (1st Class), Bernert rapidly accelerated the rate of his aerial victories.  On both 1 April and 2 April he brought down four Allied aircraft.  Later that month, on 23 April, he was awarded the prestigious Pour le Merite (or Blue Max).  On the following day he brought down no fewer than five British aircraft attached to 9 Squadron within thirty minutes, a record.

The start of May saw Bernert given command of Jasta 6, now with 24 victories.  A month later he was transferred to command of Jasta 9 with his tally at 27.  Within two months, on 18 August 1917, his air career was over, the result of another wound which kept him in hospital for three months.

Promoted to Oberleutnant upon his release from hospital Bernert's war was over.  He was not to survive the conflict however: he died in his home town on 18 October 1918 from the influenza pandemic at that time sweeping the world.

In WW1 an "ace" was a pilot who scored five confirmed "kills".

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