Otto Thomsen was born on April 14, 1895 at Rüdenhausen in Unterfranken.  Before the First World War he was an engineering student.  He voluntarily enlisted, and in 1916, he was an Unteroffizier (Corporal) of the 2nd Battery of the 20th Royal Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment.  He was involved in action at Pressoir, (not far from Chaulenes) France on May, 14, 1916:

 

Figure 1-Citation information regarding Thomsen’s actions on May 14, 1916. Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch.

 

According to the citation regarding Thomsen’s actions:

The Wartime-Volunteer, Corporal Thomsen of the 2nd Battery 20th Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment on May 14, 1916 observed the impact of an enemy shell from the observation point near Pressoir, not far from Chaulnes, on the 4th gun of the 2nd Battery. Immediately afterwards he saw a man-high flame erupt from the gun emplacement. He rushes over, sees the ammunition cabinet burning and immediately begins to extinguish it. As soon as he got away from the fire, the Gun Commander joined him with two Gunners. Neither the danger of an explosion nor a heavy caliber impact in the immediate vicinity prevented them from quickly extinguishing the fire in order to prevent further disaster.

For his actions, Unteroffizier (Corporal) Thomsen was awarded the Bavarian Militär-Verdienst-Medaille (Military Merit Medal) in Silver.  Later, in 1918 this award became known as the Bavarian Tapferkeitsmedaille (Bravery Medal).

Also awarded the Bavarian Militär-Verdienst-Medaille (Military Merit Medal) in Silver for this action was Unteroffizier (Corporal) Theodor Veith:

 

Figure 2-Citation information regarding the actions of Theodor Veith on May 14, 1916. Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch.

 

According to the citation regarding Veith’s actions:

On May 14, 1916, at Pressoir not far from Chaulnes, those serving the 4th gun of the 2nd Battery 20th Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment were alerted in their shelter a few steps away from the gun because the gun emplacement and the ammunition cabinet inside it were on fire. The Gun Commander, Corporal Veith, chose two Gunners with whom he, together with Corporal Thomsen, set about extinguishing the fire. They extinguished the fire for a few minutes, despite the great danger that projectiles could explode at any moment, and did not allow a close, heavy-caliber impact to stop them from averting the impending disaster.

 

By 1917, Otto Thomsen had transferred to the Bavarian Air Service, FEA 1b: Flieger-Ersatzabteilung 1 b [Bavarian Aviation Replacement (Training) Detachment 1], and began training as a Pilot at Beobachterschule 1 (Observer’s School 1) at Schleißheim.  On July 9, 1917 he wrote the following letter which mentions the hazards associated with the training program.

 

Figure 3-Cover of letter from Otto Thomsen written to his cousin Anna while he was in training at Schleißheim postmarked July, 10, 1917.  Image from author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 4-Reverse of the cover of letter from Otto Thomsen written to his cousin Anna while he was in training at Schleißheim.  Image from author’s archive.

 

Figure 5-Letter from Otto Thomsen written to his cousin Anna on July 9, 1917.  Image from author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 6-Reverse of the letter from Otto Thomsen written to his cousin Anna on July 9, 1917.  Image from author’s archive.

 

Here is the text of the letter in German:

Schleißheim, 9. Juli 1917

Liebe Anne,

Hiermit schicke ich Dir ein paar Bilder, die mein Beobachter damals bei  meinen Würzburger Überlandflug aufgenommen hat. Leider sind die Reproduktionen sehr unscharf geworden. Ich bin zur Zeit bei der Beobachterschule als Flugzeugführer, werde voraussichtlich Ende Juli oder Anfang August hinauskommen. Vor einiger Zeit hatte ich 14 Tage Urlaub und bin in (unleserlich) mit Karl zusammengetroffen, seit Mai 1915 wieder einmal. Hier geht’s wieder recht übel zu; im Juli hatten wir schon 4 Todesstürze.

Herzliche Grüße an Euch alle.

Dein Vetter Otto

 

Here is the text of the letter in English:

Schleissheim, July 9, 1917

Dear Anne,

I am hereby sending you a few pictures that my Observer took during my Würzburg cross-country flight. Unfortunately the reproductions have become very blurry. I am currently at Observer School as an Aircraft Pilot and will probably be out at the end of July or beginning of August. Some time ago I had a 14 day vacation and went to (unreadable) met Karl again since May 1915. Things are getting pretty bad here again; In July we already had 4 fatal falls.

Warm greetings to all of you.

Your Cousin Otto

 

Figure 7-An undated photo of Thomsen wearing a Bavarian Air Service Uniform.  The ribbon for the Bavarian Bravery Medal can be seen in his buttonhole.  Image from author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 8-A photo of Thomsen wearing civilian clothing taken in 1919 at München.  Image from author’s archive.

 

By November, 1917 Thomsen was transferred to Bayerischen Flieger-Abteilung A. 294 [Bavarian Aviation-Detachment (Artillery) 294] on the Western Front.  The unit performed reconnaissance and artillery observation patrols.  Otto Thomsen was discharged from service at the end of the war as a Leutnant der Reserve (Reserve Lieutenant).  Sometime after the First World War, Thomsen obtained his Diplom-Ingenieur (Engineering Diploma).  He then worked as a flight instructor at Berlin-Staaken Airport, and some of his notable students were Elly Beinhorn, Hanna Reitsch, and Wernher von Braun.  During his career he also wrote several books regarding aviation-related topics.

 

Figure 9-Thomsen and Dempewolf in the cockpit of their Bf-108 during the Oasenflug 1937. Der Deutsche Sportflieger. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Luftfahrt; April 1937.

 

From February 22, 1937 to February 26, 1937, Thomsen and his Co-pilot Dempewolf flew a Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)/Messerschmitt AG, Bf-108 “Taifun” (Typhoon) in the Oasenflug 1937 (Oasis Flight 1937),  2,300 km competition in Egypt, from Cairo to Ghobit (on the Suez Canal).  They came in at 2nd Place.

At some point, Otto Thomsen may have been involved with a business selling clothing items for aircraft crew members as items have been seen with the label: “Otto Thomsen/ Haus der Fliegerbekleidung/ Berlin-Neutempelhof”.

Otto Thomsen died in 1960.

 

Thank you for your interest. Comments are welcome.

My thanks to Walter Kinast of Karlsfeld for his assistance in deciphering the handwriting of the letter written by Otto Thomsen.

-Lorin

References:

1. Bearbeitet vom Bayerischen Kriegsarchiv. Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch. Verlag Joseph Hyronimus, München, 1928.

2. Der Deutsche Sportflieger. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Luftfahrt; April 1937, Postverlag, Leipzig.

3. Jäger, Andreas. (2023). Verleihungsliste der Träger der bayerischen Militärverdienstmedaillen im Ersten Weltkrieg. Orders and Medals Society of America. https://www.omsa.org/verleihungsliste-der-trager-der-bayerischen-militarverdienstmedaillen-im-ersten-weltkrieg/

4. Probst, Ernst. Königinnen der Lüfte: Biographien berühmter Fliegerinnen wie Elly Beinhorn, Hanna Reitsch, Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Auriol und Valentina Tereschkowa. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg, 2014.

 

 

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6 Comments
  1. Servus Lorin,

    Congratulations on this excellent article about pilot Thomsen, who was awarded the silver bavarian “Tapferkeitsmedaille”. The Schleißheim airfield with the “Flugwerft”, part of the “Deutsches Museum” in Munich, is very close to me. Historic aircraft still take off there in the summer.

    https://www.deutsches-museum.de/en/flugwerft-schleissheim

    Many greetings from Bavaria
    Walter

    • Servus Walter,

      Thank you for your positive comments regarding the article. And, thank you very much for helping with the preparation of the article. The Flugwerft-Schleißheim Museum looks very interesting. I hope to visit there someday.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Bavaria,

      Lorin

    • Servus Walter,

      I also found this on-line information regarding the history of the Schleißheim Flugplatz:

      https://freunde-von-schleissheim.de/museum/1912-1920/1912-1920.html

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Bavaria,

      Lorin

  2. Servus Lorin,

    yes, they are very well organized there. I’m not a member, but I’ll think about it.

    With friendly greetings from Bavaria to the USA

    Walter

  3. Thank you for the informative article.

    In addition to the Silver Medal of Valor, he was also awarded both Iron Crosses and the Military Cross of Merit 2nd Class. He also held the Bavarian Aircraft Pilot’s Badge.

    • Hello Andreas,

      Thank you very much for the information regarding Thomsen’s other awards.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Bavaria,

      Lorin

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