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″The beginnings of aviation in the Valley of Jelenia Góra″

mgr. Jacek Urbańczyk, 26 czerwca 2011 17:18

The dynamic development of aviation, which had taken place soon after the successful flight of the Wright brothers (December 3rd, 1903), was possible thanks to the enthusiasm and determination of those passionate about unhindered flying. They were those who, devoting their time, money, and more often than not even health and life, strived to discover and perfect the best method to counteract the force of gravity. The Valley of Jelenia Góra had played a more than small role towards achieving that goal. Thus study, beside the topographical and geographical description of the valley, shows the first documented hot air balloon flights of the region. It moves on to describe the foundation and development of the Glider School (Szkoła Szybowcowa) in Jeżów Sudecki, as well as the remaining aviation-related activities in the valley. The writing of this article was facilitated by information included in the sparse sources describing the beginnings of aviation in Silesia. Information on this topic may be found in the monthly „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge” (German: The hiker in Karkonosze). These are located in the collection of the library of the museum of Karkonosze in Jelenia Góra. The monthly magazines are collected and made up into yearbooks. For my study I had used information contained in the yearbooks for the years between 1923 and 1940. A second source I used was the „Schlesische Flieger Nachrichten“ (German: Silesian Aviator News), edited by one Gottfried Baron. This magazine was issued five times a year in Bielefeld (Germany) by the Traditionsgemeinschaft Schlesischer Flieger (Union of the Tradition of Silesian Aviators, an organisation caring for the aviation traditions of Silesia). This magazine was published in the form of a brochure of about 35 pages. These were filled with recollections of airmen, aircraft mechanics, and other people linked to Silesian aviation before the war. The article includes selected information stemming from selected volumes of the „Schlesische Flieger Nachrichten“ (1, 2/1986; 1, 2, 3, 4/1989; 1/1990). Knowledge on the described subject is also contained in the book entitled „Grunau – Jeżów kronika gminy” (Grunau - Jeżów, a chronicle of the commune), edited by Edward Dudek, Anna Lityńska and Aniela Borzęcka, published by the commune council in Jeżów Sudecki in 1999. A second interesting item on aviation in the Valley of jelenia Góra is the book entitled „Fliegen - mein Leben” (Flying - my life). It was written by the famous female aviator Hanna Reitsch, who was born in Jelenia Góra. In her book she had included memories overflowing with aviation topics. The Valley of Jelenia Góra is one of the largest valleys in the Sudety mountains. It is surrounded from the North by the Góry Kaczawskie, from the East by the Rudawy Janowickie, from the South by the range of the Karkonosze, and from the West it is closed off by the hills of the Pogórze Izerskie. The Valley has an area of approximately 270 sq km. Its bottom lies at an elevation of approximately 350–420 m above sea level. The highest peak of the mountains surrounding the valley is the Śnieżka (of the Karkonosze – 1602 m above sea level). The terrain and strong foehn winds present here cause favourable upward streams, facilitating aviation-related sport in the valley. The first mention of aviation in the Valley of Jelenia Góra stems from the regional monthly „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge”. It describes the arrival in Jelenia Góra of a balloon, having a diameter of 8 ells and a height of 10 ells. This event had taken place on August 18th, 1785. The balloon's pilot, Resner, had constructed in by himself, and had filled it with warm smoke from burning straw. The author of the mentioned article goes on to describe a further flight, which had taken place on August 21st – „the balloon had risen to a great height, but didn't fly away very far”. Balloon flights in the Valley of Jelenia Góra are also described by Romuald M. Łuczyński in his book entitled „Tropami śląskiego dziedzictwa” (On the traces of Silesian heritage). In the year 1908 the balloon „Schlesien”, with a volume of 1450 cu m, filled with natural gas, had traversed the distance between Wrocław and the Karkonosze. Along its route were such localities as Janowice Wielkie, Kowary and Karpacz. The balloon was property of the Schlesische Verein für Luftschiffahrt (Silesian Aerostatic Society). Interest in flight was so big that the founding of a branch office of the Schlesische Verein für Luftschiffahrt in Jelenia Góra was even being considered - and one was finally founded two years later. Further information on aviation in the Valley may be found in the book published by order of the community of Jeżów Sudecki in the year 1999, entitled „Grunau – Jeżów kronika gminy”. The study presents recollections, reports and stories of people who had participated in the events they described. It described how just after the conclusion of the First World War the „Bund Deutscher Flieger” (Union of German Airmen) was created in Jelenia Góra, the founder of which was the engineer Hans Bruno Andresen. In the year 1921, together with six other former military airmen, he had founded the Bund Deutscher Flieger in Jelenia Góra. The members of this union met to discuss the war time, as well as anything related to flying. During one such meeting, in 1921, it was decided to organise active glider flights on the mountain „Galgenberg” (Góra Szybowcowa, the German name means 'Gallows mount', the Polish 'Glider mount') in Jeżów Sudecki, similarly to their colleagues from Wasserkuppe/Rhön and Rossitten. The location was selected based on an opinion of Walter Blume (born 10.01.1896 in Jelenia Góra - died 27.05.1964 in Duisburg, co-founder of the branch office of the Bund Deutscher Flieger in Jelenia Góra), who had noticed that the last hills of the Góry Kaczawskie will be advantageous for gliding and for manned flights. For the support received from count Schaffgotsch, constituting 40 cu m of wood, in 1923 an old exhibition hall was purchased in Görlitz. The hall was placed on the western end of the middle part of the village. It served as the first workshop/hanger, and also housed office and accommodation space. Soon the constructors and teachers from Rhön, necessary to commence operations of the gliding school, came to Jeżów Sudecki. They were Edmund Schneider and Gottlob Espenlaub. The first flight trials were undertaken already in 1923. However, the official opening of the gliding school had only taken place a year later, i. e. in 1924, during an 'aviation week' organised by the Bund Deutscher Flieger. Thanks to financial assistance from the local government in the amount of 10 000 Mk, in the year 1927/28 a large hall was built on the flat top of the Góra Szybowcowa. The hall, measuring 31 m in length and 16 m in width, was transferred to use in the year 1929. It was also planned to construct another hangar there. This was because the flat hilltop, located at 550 m above sea level, with slopes to the South, East and North, was ideal for conducting air training. The gliding school of Jeżów Sudecki attracted youths from all over Germany. A sensation had taken place when the first female student completed the training course. It was an eighteen-year-old daughter of a manufacturer from Saxony. In the 1933 the name of the school was changed to „Reichsschule für Segelflugsport” (Glider sport school of the German Reich). Existing buildings were expanded and new gliders were bought. With time, the take-offs using rubber rope was replaced by take-offs with a winch, a tow line behind a car or a plane. Towed flights were conducted on the airfield of Jelenia Góra, which was in existence since 1927, where the Reichschule für Segelflugsport had its branch. The illustration below presents the methods of towing glider planes. The advertisement below shows a KLEMM-type plane, with the registration number D 2121. The described period shows interest in this new, unknown atmospheric phenomenon, enabling glider pilots to stay aloft for hours on end, and to reach rather impressive heights. We are speaking here of the „mountain wave”, present during strong southern winds. The uncovering the mystery of the „wave of Karkonosze” was the duty of i. e. the head of the glider school of Jeżów Sudecki at that time, Wolf Hirth, and the famed German Glider pilot, Hans Deutschmann. Jeżów Sudecki is not only the glider school, not only training to become a pilot, about thermal and wave flights, but also the glider manufacture plant. The mentioned glider craft factory was founded by Edmund Schneider in the year 1928. The year 1934 saw an expansion of the plant, the factory also started a branch plant in Piechowice. The activity of the plant commenced with the construction of the beginner glider of type „Grunau 9”, other glider craft were being built there as well. In the years 1929/31, the owner of the „Wiesenbaude” mountain hut - Eugen Bönsch - had ordered several very modern planes. This event was reported in the „Wanderer im Riesengebirge”, describing it in one of the articles. It was written that the gliders will receive the following names: „Wiesenbaude”, and another one - „Krummhübel”(pl. Karpacz). From 1886 on, the owners of the „Wiesenbaude” mountain hut was the Bönsch family. Eugen Bönsch, born in 1897, participated in World War One as a military pilot, and had 17 air victories. After the war he worked at the „Wiesenbaude” mountain hut, organising glider training courses. He cooperated with the glider factory of Edmund Schneider. The hut was burned down on 02.10.1938 by retreating Czech soldiers. Eugen Bönsch died in 1951. The Schneider works also built a glider for the Aviation Association of Legnica. The christening of this plane was described in the „Wanderer im Riesengebirge”. The article's author wrote that on November 10th, 1929, in Jeżów Sudecki, in the participation of local authorities and a large number of guests, the S-4 type glider, belonging to the association from Legnica, was christened. The speech given on that occasion by the chief of the government (Regierungspräsident), Dr Voeschel, referred to it as a „milestone” on the road of development of aviation in Legnica. The author goes on to describe that Dr Voeschel noticed the fact that the aviation associations of Germany number just 30.000 members together, whereas neighbouring countries outnumber the German associations. Russia was given as an example, with it declaring officially, that it has two million members in its aviation association. The Regierungspräsident had then named the new craft „Wabi”. After a grand ceremony, in favourable weather conditions, flights of the new S-4 as well as all other aircraft have commenced. The development of transport in the world, and developing tourist traffic in the region were the impulse for the local authorities of Jelenia Góra to include the city in the aircraft transport grid. The opening of the airport in 1927 was an event of great pride for the city inhabitants. The field was built approximately 3 km to the East from the centre of Jelenia Góra, between the localities Grabary and Łomnica, along roads leading towards Wrocław and Łomnica. Thanks to this decision the city gained direct, regular connections by air with other airports. The City Hall of Jelenia Góra bestowed care for the airport in the hands of councilman Elger and municipal construction officer Latzke. Planes from the discussed airport initially flew on the route Berlin - Cottbus - Görlitz - Jelenia Góra - Wrocław. The coming years saw an expansion of the route to Nysa and Gliwice, as well as to Dresden and Leipzig. Initially passenger traffic was scarce. In the year 1928, three planes a day started and took off, in the following year the number of arrivals and departures increased to five craft. This was seasonal transport (operating between May and September). Lines were serviced by Junkers F 13-type craft, taking aboard four passengers and two crew members. In years fruitful for air transport Jelenia Góra was visited by approximately a thousand passengers, and approximately 750 travellers departed. Apart from passenger traffic and post transport also advertisement flights and training flights were carried out, leaflets were dropped, air photography was practiced. Aviation in the valley, apart from Jeżów Sudecki and Jelenia Góra, also took place in the Karkonosze. The majestic mountain range had lured airmen wanting to test their knowledge and flying skills. The undoubted advantages of the Karkonosze were already noticed earlier by Hans Bruno Andresen, who had also tried to make use of them. He believed that the flat land at the foot of the Śnieżka, with a snow cover of six months, is perfect for flight training under all possible wind directions. He believed that executing flights in the direction of the valley is only possible during north, north-western or north-eastern wind. Hans Bruno Andresen aimed to contact the appropriate authorities in Prague in order to classify engineless gliders as sports equipment. This would enable unhindered border crossing, and in practice would enable making flights from the flat plain at the foot of the Śnieżka practically all year round in all directions. On May 7th, 1927, Andresen had executed a glider flight, taking off using rubber ropes at the (today not existing) Prinz-Henrich-Baude mountain hut (image 10-1). Less than a month later, supported by aviation specialists from Berlin, on June 2nd, 1927, Andresen executed a start from the top of the Śnieżka (image 10-3) as the first pilot in history. This event was described in the „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge”: „On June 2nd, 1927, at 16.35, engineer Andresen executed a take-off from the Snieżka using the glider „Burkbraun”, and, after a twenty-five-minute flight, landed in the locality of Łomnica near Jelenia Góra. During the entire day there was southern wind, and the possibility of the flight was not probable. Afterwards the wind changed directions and weakened. The glider was transported from the „Prinz-Heinrich-Baude” to the starting point using the Jubilee Route. The event was recorded on film...” The second known flight from the Śnieżka was done by Andresen on August 20th, 1927. He landed after five minutes, between Miłkowo and Mysłakowice. Engineer Andresen took off from Snieżka again on July 21st, 1928, and after seventeen minutes of flight landed close to Karpacz. Also on this day, the world record holder for the longest flight, Mr Schulz took off from the „Strzecha Akademicka” (roughly meaning 'Academic Thatch', probably a reference to it being meant for or popular among members of the academia or students) hut. He was, however, unlucky, hitting an overhead power line, severely damaging his craft in the process. The gently inclined plain at the „Strzecha Akademicka” was again witness to glider flights in the Summer of 1929. By initiative of the Bund Deutscher Flieger Hirschberg, in the period between 11.07. and 05.08. of 1929 a trip to the Karkonosze was organised. The „Breslauer Modell- und Segelflugverein Goldene Adler” (The Wrocław Model and Glider club Golden Eagles) was invited to participate. The task handed to the airmen was to try out advantageous places for take-offs and flights under different wind conditions. The gliders were transported to the designated flight locations by cars. The trials saw the participation of two gliders brought from Wrocław: „Dr Friedel” and „Lilo”, as well as two craft owned by airmen from Jelenia Góra: „Bad Warmbrum” and „Burkbraun”. The following flights were conducted as part of these proceedings:
- Bei Saalfeld neben Kynast (in the vicinity of Zachełmie and Sobieszów)
- Im Gräbergebirge – starting point: Stirnberg - 800 m above sea level (location not recognised)
- at the Rabenbergen close to Karpacz vom Riesengebirgskamm (from the ridge of the Karkonosze) – 1300 m above sea level (starting point close to the „Strzecha Akademicka”, image 10-4)
- Auf den Brunnenbergen – starting point was the Brandkoppe - 1560 m above sea level (Studnični hora, image 10-5)
- All flights on the grounds of the glider school of Jeżów Sudecki were successful. After the financial resources were exhausted, the participants returned home on August 5th, 1929, enriched with new experiences.

The Karkonosze also witnessed plane landings. Such a landing is reported on by „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge”. It happened in 1926, on the crest of the Karkonosze. and the event was described as follows: „A passenger plane from Jelenia Góra landed on 17.09. at 5.00 in the afternoon on the plain at the Śnieżka, between the „Wiesenbaude” and the „Prinz-Henrich-Baude”, close to the border. It took off again after a short time, and after passing by the „Prinz-Henrich-Baude”, and further over the Great Lake (Wielki Staw) and Karpacz, returned to Jelenia Góra again”. Another article from „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge” from September 1931 describes an acrobatics pilot from Wrocław, Edgar Gotthold, landing a Junkers plane between the huts „Weisenbaude” and „Prinz- Henrich-Baude”. The author of the article wrote that it was the first time this was achieved using a plane. The take-off also went without problems. Among people executing brave flights in the Karkonosze may be counted also Gottlob Espenlaub, who took off with a glider at the „Prinz-Henrich-Baude”, Hanna Reitsch, who after another record flight, had landed at the „Wiesenbaude”, and took off again in the evening on that same day (image 10-2). The take-off was done using rubber ropes dropped from a „Klemm” plane. This craft was piloted by Wolf Hirth. It was at the same time the first night flight in Karkonosze. Wolf Hirth towed gliders on numerous occasions from the airport in Jelenia Góra towards Karpacz. This was described in „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge” in an article entitled "Segelflug um die Schneekoppe” (Glider flight around the Śnieżka) from August of 1932. Interesting aviation events took place in the Karkonosze in the Summer of 1932. They were described as follows: „A Czech plane came in on August 27th from the direction of Königgraβ via the „Czarny Grzbiet” (Black Ridge), and circled the „Wiesenbaude” thrice. During an attempt at landing on the meadow (by the hut) the biplane impacted the swamp. Three persons on board suffered minor injuries. On August 21st, a plane came in over the „Wiesenbaude” again, where a joint German-Czech nature festival was taking place. The plane circled above the festivities' visitors, who numbered about 8000. From the plane, flying at an altitude of approx. 1600 m, a black point separated, and descended straight into the gathering using a parachute. Upon landing the jumper transformed into the female sports pilot and parachute jumper Lola Schröter of Chemnitz. She was the first person to land in the Karkonosze using a parachute” (on the ridge of the Karkonosze). The article goes on to describe also the first time a civilian car rode up the Snieżka. The interesting tourist values of the region of the Śnieżka and the plain of the Śnieżka was noticed already earlier. A funny vision of the future was presented on an old postcard, included below. Noticeable are the numerous airborne flying craft.

1. Article describing the first balloon flight in Jelenia Góra on August 19th, 1785. Photograph from the monthly „Der Wanderem im Riesengebirge”, Breslau, January 1940, vol. 60, p. 6.
2. Photograph taken from book – R. M. Łuczyński, Tropami śląskiego dziedzictwa, Wrocław 2006, p. 263.
3. Bruno Andresen, in the monthly „Schlesische Flieger Nachrichten“, vol. 7, no. 3/1989, Andresen was presented as a pioneer, a 'first hour' man of the German Airmen Association of Jelenia Góra. During the First World War he fought in the same squadron as Göring and E. Udet. He arrived in Jelenia Góra after the war, fascinated with the beauty of the surroundings, and elected to remain there. Photograph from the monthly „Schlesische Flieger Nachrichten” vol. 7, no. 3/1989, p. 3.
4. Advertisement of the glider school of Jeżów Sudecki/Grunau. The inscription says: Beside gliding, one can also learn flying in tow at the aviation school of Grunau. Photograph from the „Schlesiesche Flieger Nachrichten”, vol. 7, no. 1/1989.
5. Advertisement of the glider works of Edmund Schneider. Photograph from the „Schlesiesche Flieger Nachrichten”, vol. 7, no. 1/1989, p. 34.
6. The „Wiesenbaude“ mountain hut. Photograph from the book – J. Ratajski, "Karkonosze na dawnych widokówkach” (Karkonosze on old postcards), Jelenia Góra 2005, p. 182.
7. The airport of Jelenia Góra. Photograph from calendar – C. Wiklik, Jelenia Góra 2008.
8. Locations of trial take-offs of gliders in the Karkonosze.
9. Gliders on the field at the mountain hut „Strzecha Akademicka”. Photograph from the monthly „Schlesiesche Flieger Nachrichten”, vol. 4, no. 1/1986, p. 23.
10. Vision of the future on a postcard from the year 1910. Photograph from book – J. Ratajski, "Karkonosze na dawnych widokówkach” Jelenia Góra 2005, p. 174.