Who's Who - Hans Kirschstein
Hans Kirschstein (1896-1918) scored some 27 victories as a German air ace during the First World War.
Born in Koblenz on 5 August 1896 Kirschstein was prompt in enlisting to serve the German cause upon the outbreak of war in August 1914. In Kirschstein's case he enlisted with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion which brought him early service in Poland and on the Western Front.
Having suffered from malaria in Galicia in 1915 Kirschstein was sent home for a spell of recuperation. Before eventually returning to Galicia in December 1915 Kirschstein developed a fascination with the German air corps and expressed an interest in transferring for air duty, a desire that was formalised in February the following year. In due course his application was approved and Kirschstein was despatched for flying lessons at Schliessheim in May 1916.
Emerging from flight training Kirschstein was assigned to squadron FA19 and was sent on bombing raids in France and Flanders which included the dangerous task of attacking enemy tanks at low altitudes. For his activities as a bomber Kirschstein received the Iron Cross (2nd class).
Continuing as a bomber pilot throughout 1917 - with FA256 and FA3 - Kirschstein expressed a wish to transfer to a fighter squadron in early 1918. Following fighter training he was given a posting to Manfred von Richthofen's Jasta 6. Within days he opened his tally of 'kills' with a victory on 13 March, successfully downing a Sopwith Camel attached to the British RFC.
In May Kirschstein was awarded the Iron Cross (1st class) and the following month - on 10 June he was handed command of Jasta 6 - he was the recipient of the prestigious Pour le Merite.
By this stage Kirschstein had amassed 27 air successes; this was to be his final tally. He was killed while a passenger in a Hannover aircraft, having earlier dropped off his own Fokker aircraft for a service at Fismes. The Hannover, piloted by Johannes Markgraf, crash-landed in July 1918 shortly after takeoff. The accident was blamed on Markgraf's inexperience with flying Hannover aircraft.
A 'Gearsman' was a tank crew member responsible for managing the gears.
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