Impression from the Cannstatter Wasen
Gordon Bennett Race 1912
It happened on Thursday. Milky clouds rushed along the sky, joined together, became darker and darker and formed black tangles. 10, 15 balloons already had flown off with the helping hands of the soldiers and waved through the air, gaining higher and higher. Then a wurttembergian balloon was carried by. All the friends of the crew gathered around the basket, to give a last farewell to the departing aeronauts. Close to the basket stood an older man in a black civil dress and watched with interest the last handling of the launch masters. The balloon mounted – “Good luck, Good luck, happy landing!” The aeronauts cheered and waved their hats, only the pilot took a bag of ballast with his right hand and emptied it. Totally concentrated, it took some time, until he recognized, that the man in the civil dress lifted his hat, and his passengers saluted and stood still. And the lady on board with the white orange hat gracefully waved the shimmering giant wheel for a cheerful greeting from the air above. With lightening speed the pilot now rose his left hand to his cap, spreading ballast with his right, saluting with his left hand, he stood still, full of joy and respect, until the balloon was out of sight – for the man in the civil dress was his king.
On Sunday at about 3 p.m.: A big noise and a tearing sound – an American balloon burst right in the middle. So proud it had been, so fearless pulling on the ropes, almost full and ready, to fly the sea of air for a lot of miles, now a poor scrap of cloth with a big wound lay on the ground. The pilots had come across the ocean, men, having got rid of every gram of unnecessary fat by year long exercises, men, personifying joy of sports, ambition in their eyes and in every vain, driven only by one thought: the cup must be back to America, even for the price of life. The balloon had lost his life, but with the balloon, the hope for fight and victory was gone. The heroes, prepared to face death with courage, got overwhelmed with shivering and shock. Tears filled their eyes, broken they stepped aside. They did not look back to the wreck, to the place where the balloon, robbed of its power lay. Without emotions they listened to the condole sing words of their comrades. – But suddenly, new life entered these beaten down figures, a word was spread of a German spare balloon. And right, the Germans, full of chivalrously helpfulness put the balloon DÜSSELDORF II, which they could not fly by themselves at their disposal. A wonderful victory of international friendship in sports! Now the eyes of the Americans were gleaming bright again, new energy came to the face of the Yankees, the muscles swelled again: Let’s go to the race in a German balloon!
On the launch field on Sunday. Another American balloon is carried by. In the basket a small, black-haired man with eye glasses makes his last preparations next to his companion, vividly gesticulating, without calm, noisy and excited. Let’s call him Mr. Miller. “Missis Miller, Missis Miller, just a moment please!” His wife approached the basket with their little son on her hand. “Over there, Mister X, he wants to have photos of the last balloon meeting, don’t let me forget it, to mail him some”. The balloon is weighed, photos are taken, ready for take-off. – Attention, hands off! In the very last moment a spectator hands over his card to the lively man. “Stop, Missis Miller, take this card, or I will forget or loose it – good-bye, good-bye – Attention, let go!” The balloon lifts, the restless man shouts “Hurray, Hurray, Württemberg!” with a voice like thunder, joyful echoed from below. But soon the balloon sinks down, two bags of sand are dumped quickly and under the mocking laughter of the soldiers: “He’d shout to much” the balloon jumps up to the element of air.
A balloon from France approaches the launch platform. Look at these two young, fresh characters in the basket! Passing the protective circle of the soldiers is a lady in a black satin coat, guided by a tall man, deeply veiled, a black miniature poodle on her left arm, not caring for the leash hanging to the dust. Her eyes are red from weeping, and from time to time a heart breaking sobbing shakes her body. Why is this beautiful lady weeping so pitiful? Now the balloon rises, on the edge of the basket a tall young man is sitting. Joyful he lifts his cap, all his eyes for the lady. And some little melancholy hushes across his face, on which joy for sports and altitudes is gleaming. In a mixture of youthful enthusiasm for air sports and a tender sympathy with the one who stays back full of sorrows for him, his lips send a quick kiss to the lady. She stands still with whimpering heart, and while a shaking sobbing makes this sensitive body tremble, the lace handkerchief in her white satin glove waves all the sorrows and love to the friend vanishing in the airspace. Au revoir, au revoir! Then with a fatherly gesture the guide of the lady takes her arm and leads her out of the circle, far away the balloon disappears in the distance and another giant ball enters the launch platform.
How the language changes with the times! I discovered these impressions in a newspaper from these days. For good reasons I did not “translate” the impressions of the author to the much more sober language of today. A lot of the air of former thinking and feeling would be lost.Return to 7th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett